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Archive for October, 2006

Going once! Going twice! Sold!

The sale of Johnson’s library packed the auction house of James Christie in February 1785, three months after his death. This copy of the catalog belonged to Johnson’s friend, the noted translator of Italian literature, John Hoole. We know from the annotations in the Isham copy of the catalog (now at Yale) that Hoole bought several lots at the sale, including Johnson’s copy of Giuseppe Baretti’s Italian-English dictionary.

Johnson sale catalog

Published in:John Overholt |on October 22nd, 2006 |Comments Off on Going once! Going twice! Sold!

A repre-hensible false-hood

This rare broadside commemorates an even rarer occurrence— Samuel Johnson publicly caught in a mistake. The satirist and agitator John Wilkes seized upon Johnson’s remark in the Dictionary that the letter H “seldom, perhaps never, begins any but the first syllable.” Wilkes gleefully composed a letter to the Public Advertiser which employed no fewer than 27 counterexamples. Even Boswell, always Johnson’s stoutest defender, was forced to concede, “The position is undoubtedly expressed with too much latitude.”

Wilkes letter

Published in:John Overholt |on October 14th, 2006 |Comments Off on A repre-hensible false-hood