Music amidst the tumult

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Johnson’s Dictionary bears a complicated relation to literary language. A large proportion of the illustrative quotations that Johnson used came from poetry. However, comments in the Preface, and elsewhere show that he had ambivalent feelings towards poetic language. When reading the Dictionary against a Concordance of Johnson’s own poems and plays, mediated by his explanations of what types of words were omitted in the Preface, it becomes clear that Johnson did not include in the Dictionary several words that he himself had used in his own poetry and plays. I list these words, with a short explanation of why words from Johnson’s active vocabulary might not have made it into the Dictionary.


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