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Værk, hvis Betydning bedst kan vurderes deraf, at den engelske Lexikografi, efter over hundrede Aars Forløb, endnu staar der, hvor Johnson efterlod den. Akademiet Della Crusca i Florents ydede Forfatteren den høieste Ros, da det erklærede det for umuligt, at et saadant Værk kunde være udført i saa kort en Tid af en enkelt Mand. Johnson havde overtaget dette Arbeide efter Opfordring af en Forening af de fornemste lon oske Boghandlere; Ordbogen skulde være færdig i Løbet af tre Aar, og Forfatteren have et Honorar af 1575 €. Johnson brugte næsten otte Aar; af Honoraret, som ikke blev forhøiet, maa en stor Del være gaaet med til hans sex Amanuenser og Anskaffelse af de nødvendige Bøger.

Til Forstaaelse af det nedenfor indtagne Brev til Lord Chesterfield er at bemærke, at Johnson i 1747, efterat han allerede havde arbeidet et Aar paa Ordbogen, offentliggjorde en Prospektus over Arbeidets Plan, og dedicerede denne til Lord Chesterfield, dengang Statssekretær. Dette laa nær; thi Lord Chesterfield var med Rette anseet ikke blot som den slebne Verdensmand, men ogsaa som en smagfuld Kunstdommer og udmærket Parlamentstaler. Han modtog med Fornøielse Johnsons Kompliment. og kvitterede for den, som Macaulay udtrykker det, med et Par Guineer, men lod sin Tjener nægte sig hjemme de Gange, Johnson bankede paa hans Dør. Da Ordbogens Udgivelse forestod, læstes i Slutningen af 1754 to Opsatser i Tidsskriftet The World, som i varme Udtryk henledede Publikums Opmærksomhed paa det vigtige Værk. Alle vidste, at de vare skrevne af Lord Chesterfield, som udentvivl mente det vel. Men Johnson fandt denne sildige Anerkjendelse lidet værd, og skrev det berømte Brev til Lorden. Da han havde læst de omtalte Artikler, yttrede han til Garrick: „I have sailed a long and painful voyage round the world of the English language, and does he now send out two cock-boats to tow me into harbour ?

I 1762 modtog Johnson gjennem Toryministeren Lord Bute en Statspension paa 300 € som Anerkjendelse for sine literære Fortjenester. Han

nu fri for Næringssorger og kunde føre et meget komfortabelt Liv. Hans vigtigste Arbeide efter denne Tid er Lives of Eminent English Poets (1779–81), en Række Biografier til en Samling af engelske Digtere, som londonske Boghandlere havde forenet sig om at udgive. En kritisk Udgave, som han besørgede af Shakspeare, var udkommen i 1765. I 1773 foretog han i Boswells Selskab en Reise til Skotland og Øerne paa den skotske Vestkyst, hvilken han beskrev i sin Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland.

De sidste tyve Aar af Johnsons Liv vare væsentlig optagne af selskabeligt Samkvem og Underholdning med Tidens literære og kunstneriske Berømtheder. Det mundtlige Ordskifte var hans høieste Lyst, og heri udfoldede hans Egenskaber sig bedst. Han stiftede i 1763 sin bekjendte Klub, The Club, undertiden ogsaa kaldet Johnsons Klub eller den literære Klub, hvilken endnu bestaar under det oprindelige Navn, uden noget bestemt Formaal, som et Samlingspunkt for fremragende Mænd. Blandt Stifterne yare, foruden Johnson selv, Goldsmith, Burke og Maleren Sir Joshua Reynolds. I 1765 gjorde han Bekjendtskab med den fortræffelige Familie Thrale, hvis Hus

var

efterhaanden blev hans egentlige Hjem. Samtidig vedblev han i sin Bolig i Fleet Street at underholde en liden Kreds af hjælpeløse Væsener, som uden hans Godhed vilde været aldeles forladte.

Den Anseelse, Johnsons Skrifter nøde hos Samtiden og den nærmeste Eftertid, har tabt sig, men Forfatteren er ligesaa anseet og vel kjendt, som han var i levende Live. Dette eiendommelige Forhold hidrorer fra den Omstændighed, at han i James Boswell har fundet en saa uforlignelig Biograf. Boswell, en ung skotsk Advokat, bemærket ved sin Orm for at stifte notable Bekjendtskaber, blev i 1763 indført til Johnson og besluttede fra det Øieblik at hellige ham sin udelte Opmærksomhed. Naar Retsferierne kom, ilede han til London, færdedes sent og tidlig om Johnson og optegnede utrætteligt, alt, hvad han hørte ham yttre i de tyve sidste Aar af hans Liv. I denne Skildring staar Manden levende for os med alle sine Synderligheder, sine Svagheder og Fordomme, men tillige med sine store Dyder: sin massive sunde Forstand, sit moralske Mod, sit Vid, sin Styrke og Slagfærdighed i Samtalen, Egenskaber, der lige saa meget som hans Skrifter gjorde ham til Midtpunktet i Datidens literære Samfund. Han indtog her saa ubestridt den første Plads som ingen før eller efter ham; hans Yttringer vare ligesaa mange Dekreter. Men hans Virksomhed strakte sig langt udover den snævre literære Kreds, til hele det engelske Samfund. Den gik afgjort i Retningen af den bestaaende Ordens Bevarelse i Statens og Kirkens Forfatning, og det tilskrives for en stor Del hans Indiydelse, at de revolutionære Ideer i England aldrig fik det Herredømme over Gemytterne som i det franske Samfund.

Johnsons Stil er aldeles eiendommelig; den har faaet et eget Navn: Johnsonese. Den er, især i hans tidligere Skrifter, stærkt latiniseret og har en langsom, pompøs Gang: Sætningerne balancere hinanden med rythmisk Regelmæssighed, helst i Antithesens Form. Den var længe det ufravigelige Mønster, som alle eller næsten alle fulgte, fra den alvorlige Moralist til den lette Novelleforfatter; selv Agronomen, som skrev om Turnips, bevægede sig i Johnsons afmaalte Perioder. Hans Skrifter fra den senere Tid ere meget bedre; Sproget i Johnsons Lives of the Poets er langtfra saa latiniseret som f. Ex. i en Leder i det . nuværende Times. Han var selv opmærksom paa sine Feil og stræbte at forbedre sig: „If Robertson's style be faulty“, sagde han til Boswell, „he owes it to me: that is, having too many words, and those too big ones“. I Samtalen, det Element, hvori han ret følte sig hjemme, var ogsaa hans Stil bedst: let, simpel, naturlig.

Johnson døde den 13de December 1784 og hlev begravet i Westminster Abbedi. En sort Marmortavle med Navn, Fødsels- og Dødsaar viser Stedet, hvor han blev lagt.

I. FROM THE PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH

DICTIONARY.

1. Orthography. In adjusting the Orthography, which has been to this time unsettled and fortuitous, I found it necessary to distinguish those irregularities that are inherent in our tongue, and perhaps coeval with it, from others which the ignorance or negligence of later writers has produced. Every language has its anomalies, which, though inconvenient, and in themselves once unnecessary, must be tolerated among the imperfections of human things, and which require only to be registered, that they may not be increased, and ascertained, that they may not be confounded: but every language has likewise its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe.

In this part of the work, where caprice has long wantoned without control, and vanity sought praise by petty reformation, I have endeavoured to proceed with a scholar's reverence for antiquity, and a grammarian's regard to the genius of our tongue. I have attempted few alterations, and among those few, perhaps the greater part is from the modern to the ancient practice; and I hope I may be allowed to recommend to those, whose thoughts have been perhaps employed too anxiously on verbal singularities, not to disturb, upon narrow views, or for minute propriety, the orthography of their fathers. It has been asserted, that for the law to be known, is of more importance than to be right. >Change«, says Hooker, »is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better«. There is in constancy and stability a general and lasting advantage, which will always. over balance the slow improvements of gradual correction. Much less ought our written language to comply with the corruptions of oral utterance, or copy that which every variation of time or place makes different from itself, and imitate those changes, which will again be changed, while imitation is employed in observing them.

This recommendation of steadiness and uniformity does not proceed from an opinion, that particular combinations of letters have much influence on human happiness; or that truth may not be successfully taught by modes of spelling fanciful and erroneous: I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.

2. Etymology. The two languages from which our primitives have been derived are the Roman and Teutonic: under the Roman I comprehend the French and provincial tongues; and under the Teutonic range the Saxon, German, and all their kindred dialects. Most of our polysyllables are Roman, and our words of one syllable are very often Teutonic.

For the Teutonic etymologies I am commonly indebted to Junius and Skinner, the only names which I have forborn to quote, when I copied their books; not that I might appropriate their labours or usurp their honours, but that I might spare a perpetual repetition by one general acknowledgment. Of these, whom I ought not to mention but with the reverence due to instructors and benefactors, Junius appears to have excelled in extent of learning, and Skinner in rectitude of understanding. – Skinner is often ignorant, but never ridiculous: Junius is always full of knowledge, but his variety distracts his judgment, and his learning is very frequently disgraced by his absurdities.

The votaries of the northern muses will not perhaps easily restrain their indignation, when they find the name of Junius thus degraded by a disadvantageous comparison; but . whatever reverence is due to his diligence, or his attainments, it can be no criminal degree of censoriousness to charge that etymologist with want of judgment, who can seriously derive dream from drama, because life is a drama, and a drama is a dream; and who declares with a tone of defiance, that no man can fail to derive moan from uóvos, monos, single or solitary, who considers that grief naturally loves to be alone.

Our knowledge of the northern literature is so scanty, that of words undoubtedly Teutonic, the original is not al

ways to be found in any ancient language; and I have therefore inserted Dutch or German substitutes, which I consider not as radical, but parallel, not as the parents, but sisters of the English.

The words which are represented as thus related by descent or cognation, do not always agree in sense; for it is incident to words, as to their authors, to degenerate from their ancestors, and to change their manners when they change their country. It is sufficient, in etymological enquiries, if the senses of kindred words be found such as may easily pass into each other, or such as may both be referred to one general idea.

3. Changes of Speech. Of the event of this work, for which, having laboured it with so much application, I cannot but have some degree of parental fondness, it is natural to form conjectures. Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, will require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, and clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.

Total and sudden transformations of a language seldom happen; conquests and migrations are now very rare: but there are other causes of change, which, though slow in their operation, and invisible in their progress, are perhaps as much superiour to human resistance, as the revolutions of the sky, or intumescence of the tide. Commerce, however necessary, however lucrative, as it depraves the manners, corrupts the language; they that have frequent intercourse with strangers, to whom they endeavour to accomodate themselves, must in time learn a mingled dialect, like the jargon which serves the traffickers on the Mediterranean and Indian coasts. This

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