Saturday, 19 September 2009

Happy Birthday To Us

Johnson's definition of LexicographerI almost share a birthday with Samuel Johnson.

The great man was born 300 years ago, yesterday, and has been rightly celebrated this week (in the UK media, at any rate) as the lexicographer par excellence, whose wonderful Dictionary of the English Language (extract above) finally appeared, after nine years of drudgery, in 1755.

Commentators have been virtually unanimous in deploring the fact that, for nine years' work, Johnson was paid only 1,500 guineas. How awful! Personally, if I didn't receive an emperor's stipend, I'm not sure that I could manage on £220,000 (today's equivalent of Johnson's fee) across nine years. Why, that's no better than the average UK wage! No wonder Johnson classified himself as "a harmless drudge".

For actual archive footage of Dr Johnson, click here.

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