Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary

by Brenda S. Cox

“. . . like my dear Dr. Johnson, I believe I have dealt more in notions than facts.”—Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra, Feb. 8, 1807, quoting from a letter from Johnson to Boswell.

What would it be like to write a dictionary?

Samuel Johnson, one of Jane Austen’s favorite writers, put together the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language. For the story, see my post in Jane Austen’s World, “Jane Austen and Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.”

Johnson was mainly known as a moral writer, and an orthodox Anglican. So it’s not surprising that Jane called him her “dear Dr. Johnson.” You can read more about his moral writings in this review.

My apologies to my readers that I haven’t written for a while. Currently I’m involved both in moving and in working on my book and searching for a publisher. I hope to begin blogging more regularly again in a month or two. Thanks for your patience!

Image is a portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds, 1775, public domain, wikimedia. Johnson is concentrating on the words in a book; no doubt he did this many, many times in preparing his dictionary!

11 thoughts on “Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary

  1. How fascinating! I had no idea that Austen collaborated with Johnson!
    And what is your book about? Would love to know more.


    1. Thanks, Amy! No, I guess you saw now, they didn’t collaborate. I expect Austen would have thought Johnson way out of her league, though now it’s Austen we admire, and have mostly forgotten Johnson!
      My book is Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, about the church in Austen’s novels and life, and about all the exciting things that were happening in the English church during Austen’s day. I hope to find a publisher soon, Lord willing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Johnson is a thoroughly fascinating historical figure. I really enjoyed your article for Jane Austen’s World last month and it sent me down a few rabbit holes, so you can be sure it sparked an interest.

    Good luck with the book and finding a publisher, this seems like a daunting task to me. And I do not envy your having to deal with moving, not at all. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of moving and this after 3 1/2 yrs. Granted major heath issues got in the way for both of us which put all that on the back burner. But we’re here to chastise ourselves and that’s the blessing.

    I don’t know where you live but be safe and hold on; spring and vaccines are right around the corner if they haven’t already started for you.


    1. Thanks, Michelle, I appreciate your encouragement! Yes, it is often a discouraging task, searching for a publisher. But I keep trying. And moving is certainly a challenge! We are mostly overseas so haven’t bought a place in the US before, so it’s all a new adventure to us. But with covid most of our work (my husband and I do training) is online, so best to have a base here, we think. We’ve already had one room flooded and had to get new flooring for it, and we’re not even moved in yet. But hoping to do that this week, Lord willing. Blessings to you.


      1. Oh, does this mean the new house is in the South? My heart goes out to you no matter where you live or why the flooding, but we know so many are in difficulty in TX, LA, etc. Best of luck moving in this week. God Bless.


  3. Hi, Brenda! Yes, sounds like you have a lot on your plate at the moment. Where are you moving? Good luck on finding that elusive publisher. That would be awesome if it happens. Otherwise, join the rest of us on the indie side. Blessings!


  4. I’m in Atlanta, and so far we’ve been spared the worst of the storms, thankfully. But praying for those who have been suffering in Texas and elsewhere.
    Sorry that was confusing–the flooding was just from a leaky valve which flooded one room of the condo over a weekend!


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