At the Johnson seminar on July 24, I read people a picture of Johnson through the eyes of Fanny Burney. She noted his likes and dislikes; how he despised the Whigs and their policies, how loyal he was to Oxford University and how derisive of Cambridge men; his poor opinion of the Scots, and so on. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed the anecdote I found in Simon Winchester’s book The Meaning of Everything which I have just finished reading.
The book tells the story of the publication of the huge Oxford English Dictionary, and the years of labour by James Murray and his team to bring it into existence. A skilled amateur philologist, Murray was the son of a linen draper, a lowland Scot and a Calvinist. He claimed to have had a dream that illustrated Samuel Johnson’s likely reaction to Murray’s appointment in 1879 as the editor of the Dictionary.