Friday, September 18, 2009

A Birthday and Constitution Day Tribute to Samuel Johnson

You may have gathered that the Law Writer values history and context as part of the craft. And, will take any opportunity to add historical notes to the process of drafting law. Yesterday was Constitution Day, so the Law Writer will use that excuse, and the gentleman's 300th birthday, to pay homage to  Samuel Johnson, the English author, critic, and lexicographer (1709 - 1784).

Dr. Johnson took nine years to produce his Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755 -- the most commonly used text of its kind for 150 years until the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. Dr. Johnson's work had a major impact on Modern English and is widely considered one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship. Particularly important to the Law Writer is the fact that Dr. Johnson's esteemed work influenced the framers of the U. S. Constitution as his was the dictionary of the Revolutionary Era.

The Law Writer must confess that complete appreciation for Dr. Johnson's significance was somewhat lacking when the Law Writer was required to read James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson during undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. Now, many years later and after acquiring more seasoned biographical reading tastes, the Law Writer has placed Boswell's masterpiece on the short range reading list.

Happy 300th Birthday to Dr. Samuel Johnson &
A Belated Happy 222nd Birthday to the Constitution
of the United States of America.

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it". Samuel Johnson. 

Recommended Reading: NYT Op-Ed on "Dr. Johnson's Revolution" by Jack Lynch, the editor of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work That Defined the English Language.

[Note: Another important dictionary in American history -- Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.]

No comments:

Post a Comment