Today we celebrate the 270th birthday of James Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson. In tribute, here are two anecdotes about the Dictionary of the English Language, from The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.:
His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general definitions of words, while at the same time the original meaning of the words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Pension, Oats, Excise and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of capricious and humourous indugence. Talking to me upon this subject when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still stronger instance of the predominance of his private feelings in the composition of this work, than any now to be found in it. "You know, Sir, Lord Gower forsook the old Jacobite interest. When I came to the word Renegado, after telling it meant 'one who deserts to the enemy, a revolter,' I added, Sometimes we say a GOWER." Thus it went to the press; but the printer had more wit than I , and struck it out."
Dr. Johnson ... said, that "he always felt an inclination to do nothing." I observed, that it was strange to think that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious work, The English Dictionary.