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Monica Barsi
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Laura Pinnavaia

La ‘citazione d’autore’ nei dizionari

Literary quotations in Charles Richardson’s A New Dictionary Of The English Language (1836-7): a sophisticated lexicographical method

Laura Pinnavaia

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1If words and meanings are the backbone of dictionaries, illustrative examples are their flesh. If examples of use give life and vitality to lexicography, we might venture to say that English monolingual lexicography truly comes alive in the eighteenth century, and especially with Johnson’s Dictionary (1755, 1773). Although it was not the first monolingual work, nor was it uninfluenced by important predecessors, “it surpassed the aims and achievements of other dictionaries of his day, combining the best features of current lexicography in what may be considered the first modern dictionary of English” (Cowie 2009: 156). Besides the noteworthy two-volume format and the lengthy preface, what was particularly innovative among other elements was the inclusion of thousands of literary quotations to testify to the objectivity of the definitions provided: a method that had already been practised by the Italian and Spanish academies (1612 and 1729-39), the French (Richelet, 1680, Furetière, 1690), and the Germans (J.L. Frisch, 1741) (Cowie 2009: 158), but not the English. Therefore, in having introduced the practice of adding multiple quotations from English authors, not simply to illustrate the usage of words but to derive meanings therefrom, Samuel Johnson established a whole new model for English lexicography in the mid-eighteenth century.

2This trend was duly taken up by his successors and first and foremost by Charles Richardson, who eighty years later included in his lexicographical work an expanded corpus of illustrative examples: if Johnson included quotations from authors writing in the latter half of the sixteenth century to the Restoration of 1660, in A New Dictionary of the English Language (1836-7), Richardson quoted from authors writing in the early fourteenth right up to the late nineteenth century. However, although in the Preface he claims to have used quotations “for the purpose of exemplifying, confirming, and illustrating the explanations which precede them” (1836-7: 51), Richardson, unlike Johnson, never accompanies them with comments and explanations. For this reason, his work has been criticized as lacking “precision in the definitions and discrimination between forms” (Reddick 2009: 177) and as being “out of touch with the developments in historical linguistics that were beginning to take place at the time” (Béjoint 2010: 83). It is largely this not-so-positive reception in the history of lexicography that has consequently resulted in few scholars writing about it (such as Beal 2004; Dolezal 1989, 2000; Fowler 2004; Pinnavaia 2008, 2010; Sacerdoti-Mariani 1994; Zgusta 1986, 1989). It is our aim to shed a little more positive light on Richardson and his New Dictionary, and to show how, through one exemplary lemma nice, his selection and use of quotations was a finely thought out and sophisticated lexicographical method.

2. Charles richardson and his new dictionary

3Not much is known about Charles Richardson. According to the Dictionary of National Biography (Marchant 1896/2004), he was born in 1775 in Tulse Hill and died at Feltham in 1865. Although he studied to become a lawyer, he became a teacher instead. While keeping a well-known school in Clapham Common, he was an ardent philologist of the school of Horne Tooke, which led him to write a critique of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary entitled Illustrations to English Philology in 1815, and later the Diversions of Purley in defence of Tooke. As a lexicographer, Richardson began his career in 1817 when he took charge of what was to be a “Philosophical and Etymological Lexicon of the English language”, a section of the Encyclopaedia metropolitana whose publication was to be superintended by Coleridge. The lexicon was initially published serially as part of the Encyclopaedia (Aarsleff 1967/1983: 250), but eventually issued with revisions as two separately bound volumes in 1836 and 1837. From then the two-volume set went into multiple editions with both British and North American printings. The last edition seems to have been a London quarto of 1875 (Dolezal 2000: 126).

4Here follows an entry from his work:

Nice
Nicely
Niceness
Nicety
Nice is more various and extensive in its application than Nesh; though they are the same word differently written and spoken. See Nesh
Soft, tender, delicate; delicately sensitive, fastidious, scrupulous; curiously exact or refined; tender to excess; effeminate; weak; simple; silly, foolish
_____ For he was nyce and knowthe no wisdom
                         R. Gloucester, p.106
Sir Hugh of Crissengham he did nycely & mys,
The tresore with him he nam.      R. Brunne, p.297
He halt hit a nycete and a foul shame
To beggen other to borwe bote of God one
                         Piers Ploughman, p. 297
But as I geese, Alla was not so nice,
To him that is so soveraine of honour,
As he that is of cristen folk the flour,
Send any child, but it is bet to deme
He went himself, and so it may wel seme.
                Chaucer. The Man of Lawes Tale, v. 5508
But say that we ben wise and nothing nice.
                Id. The Wif of Bathes Tale v. 6520
This miller smiled at hir nicetee
And thought, “All this n’is don but for a wile”
               Id. The Reeves Tale v. 4044
And though it shulde him well beseme,
That he all other men can deme,
And hath foryete his owne vice,
A tale of them that be so nice,
And feignen them selfe to be wise,
I shall the tell in suche a wise. _____Gower. Con. A. b.i.
Of which if I the propertee
Shall telle, after the nicetee
So as it worcheth non no man. Id. Ib. b. v.
Surely we cannot but here confesse the trouth, these
nice and wanton words do not very well wyth vs, but we
must pray God and you to pardon vs.
                    Sir T. More, Workes, p. 306.
[I have seen some men] as nettles which if they be nicely
handled, sting and prick; but if hard and rough pressed,
are pulled up without harm.
                   Bp. Hall. Meditations and Vows, Cent 2., 12
And eke that Age despysed nicenesse vaine,
Enur’d to hardnesse, and to homely fare
                   Spenser, Faerie Queen, b, iv. c. 8
And there Marcus Cato, that never made ceremony or
niceness to praise himself openly, nor reckoned it any shame
to do it, did take a present occasion for it.
                   North. Plutarch, p. 295
But human frailty nicely to unfold,
Distinguishes a satyr from a scold
                   Buckinghamshire. Essay on poetry.
You see how the scribes of the law, with much anxiety
And niceness confine themselves to the letter of Moses.
                         South, vol. iv. Ser. 1
It being very well known that they were never bred to the
niceties of logic, either in making syllogisms or dilemmas.
                         Id. Vol. viii. Ser. 11
By his own nicety of observation, he had already formed
such a system of metrical harmony, as he had never afterwards
much needed, or much endeavoured to improve.
                       Johnson. Life of Waller

5As can be seen from the example of the adjective nice above, the first information provided for all lemmas is the meaning and the source, which Richardson reputed are unequivocally linked. In this case, the reader is informed that nice is a variant of nesh and means “Soft, tender, delicate; delicately sensitive, fastidious, scrupulous; curiously exact or refined; tender to excess; effeminate; weak; simple; silly, foolish”. Also listed under the adjective nice are the adverbial nicely and substantives niceness and nicety. This method of grouping headwords together stemmed from his belief that words of the same origin are semantically dependent, thus not necessitating separate entries. This methodology is explained in the last section of the New Dictionary’s Preface in which “one comprehensive interpretation, adapted to the whole” is privileged to avoid “the tediousness of incessant repetitions, by no means necessary for the rational use of a Dictionary” (53). The headwords and the definition are then followed by sixteen literary quotations that illustrate the meaning of all four headwords.

6Richardson introduced illustrations from a broad range of historical works placed in chronological order starting from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. He wished to account for a wide temporal spectrum of every word’s semantic, morphological, and orthographic development, directing the reader’s view “first to the etymology and literal meaning; second to the metaphorical application of this meaning; third, to the application consequent or inferred from the literal meaning; and fourth, to the application consequent or inferred from that which is metaphorical” (1836-7: 44), thus with the intent to provide a perfect and logical evolutionary linguistic history for every lemma. It is this objective that won him the label of “descriptivist before descriptivism”, (Zgusta 1986: 88), and the claim that his work is “the only historical dictionary in the nineteenth century that [could] handle chronology in [a] mechanically objective way” (Zgusta 1989: 208), foreshadowing the Oxford English Dictionary.

3. Richardson’s selection of quotations

7Richardson is in fact the only lexicographer mentioned in the Preface to the Oxford English Dictionary (from now on OED) and if this is so it is only really “because of [his] quotations and because of his desire to write the history of each word” (Béjoint 2010: 83), as we will try to demonstrate by returning to the example of nice above. By selecting the first quote from the Rhyming Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester (1300), in which the adjective “nyce” is coordinated with “knowthe no wisdom”, Richardson cleverly manages to illustrate its first historical meaning, which regards the foolishness of people and their actions. While this meaning is not contemplated by Johnson in his dictionary, it can be found in the OED, corresponding to the first two senses of the adjective Nice:

A. adj. ?1.
a. Of a person: foolish, silly, simple; ignorant. Obsolete.

c1300 St. Mary Magdalen (Laud) 493 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 476 (MED)
Bote ich þe [seide] hou heo heold mi lif, for-soþe ich were nice.
a1375 William of Palerne (1867) 491 (MED) Ich am vn-wis & wonderliche nyce.
c1400 (▸?a1300) Kyng Alisaunder (Laud) (1952) 652 (MED) He dude þe childe habbe noryce, Gentil leuedyes and nouȝth nyce.
a1450 (▸c1410) H. LOVELICH Hist. Holy Grail xlii. 73 They seiden he was a fool..and that they sien neuere so Nise A man.
a1500 (▸c1477) T. NORTON Ordinal of Alchemy (BL Add.) (1975) 50 (MED) He that is not a grete clerke Is nyse & lewde to medle with that werke.
▸ ?a1513 W. DUNBAR Poems (1998) I. 78 Quha that dois deidis of petie..Is haldin a fule, and that full nyce.
?1567 M. PARKER Whole Psalter xlix. 141 As well the wyse: as mad and nyse, to others leave theyr port. 1617 in W. B. Armstrong Bruces of Airth (1892) 51 Many a nyse wyfe and a back doore Oft maketh a riche man poore.

b. Of an action, utterance, etc.: displaying foolishness or silliness;
absurd, senseless. Obsolete.

a1393 GOWER Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) VII. 2801 So is it bot a nyce Sinne Of gold to ben to covoitous.
c1400 (▸?c1390) Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) 323 (MED) Þyn askyng is nys..þou foly hatz frayst.
c1405 (▸c1390) CHAUCER Reeve’s Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 362 Hys wyf..wiste no thyng of this nyce
[v.rr. nyse, nesy] stryf. a1475 J. RUSSELL Bk. Nurture (Harl. 4011) in Babees Bk. (2002) I. 149 Cookes with þeire newe conceytes, choppynge..new curies..provokethe þe peple to perelles of passage..þrouȝ nice excesse of suche receytes.
a1513 R. FABYAN New Cronycles Eng. & Fraunce (1516) I. ccxvi. f. cxxxvi A nyce folysshe Couenaunte ought nat to be holden.
1575 J. ROLLAND Treat. Court Venus I. f. 14 argu]mentis, and diuers questionis.
a1657 G. DANIEL Poems (1878) II. iii. 222 Curiosities, To dispute Misteries.
[Quha did] reheirs ane certane nyse Sermonis, [With Prye not into his secrets; ‘tis a nice And foolish Itch…]

8By looking at the example above, we can appreciate Richardson’s choice to start with a thirteenth-century quotation that antedates the first fourteenth-century examples employed in the OED, underscoring his precious lexicographical insight. In this way, Richardson not only was anticipating the way the OED documents the evolution of the meaning of words, but also the orthographical changes, as the spelling nyce attested in both dictionaries shows. Particularly interesting is the way Richardson entered the successive quotations from Chaucer’s The Man of Lawes Tale and The Wif of Bathes Tale and from Gower’s Confessio Amantis to illustrate the adjectival use, opting for the spelling that ultimately became the fully-established one, nice. Even though both spellings were legitimate at the time Chaucer and Gower were writing – as testified to the fourteenth and fifteenth-century quotations reported above in the OED – this decision seems to underline further Richardson’s intention to provide a concise and yet precise historical plan of every one of his lemmas.

9It is the necessity for precision and concision that induced Richardson to combine the semantic evolution of words with their orthographical and morphological ones. It seems to explain why the quotations that illustrate the adverb nycely and the substantive nycete are introduced straight after the first quotation exemplifying nyce, with which they coincide semantically. Both nycely and nycete in fact refer to the oldest – and now obsolete – sense of the lemma nyce, as the fourteenth-century quotations from Robert de Brunne’s Chronicle and from William Langland’s Piers Ploughman confirm. Therefore, when Richardson subsequently provided the quotations from Chaucer and Gower to exemplify the orthography nice, he endorsed this orthographic evolution with more quotations from the same two authors, in order to exemplify the new spelling nicetee.

10While the orthographical and morphological changes occurring in the history of the English language are graspable at a glance in this entry – just as they are in all the other entries of Richardson’s New Dictionary – not so are the changes in meaning; hence the importance of the quotations. Only by reading carefully the quotations can the different senses of the words be understood, thus underscoring Richardson’s ability to select and include a series of appropriate and well-suited examples of use for each word. For instance, by choosing the following citation from Bishop Hall’s 1647 work Meditation and Vows in which nicely is contrasted to “hard” and “pressed”, the sense “weak” (and penultimate sense of nice in Richardson’s definition) clearly emerges:

[I have seen some men] as nettles which if they be nicely
handled, sting and prick; but if hard and rough pressed,
are pulled up without harm.

11Similarly, by introducing Johnson’s quotation from the Life of Waller (1779-81):

By his own nicety of observation, he had already formed
such a system of metrical harmony, as he had never afterwards
much needed, or much endeavoured to improve […].,

the first sense of nicety is clearly illustrated (“soft, tender, delicate; delicately sensitive, fastidious, scrupulous”), which converges with the favorable and positive context created by the words “metrical harmony”.

12In sum, it is especially in the meticulous selection of quotations that Richardson’s lexicographical talent might be appreciated. There can be no doubt that to illustrate the evolution of the meaning and form of each lemma Richardson invested most of his time and energy on the choice of the most appropriate quotation from his wide array of highly esteemed authors. Owing to his belief that in Johnson’s Dictionary “the quotation subjoined to the explanation might with equal propriety have occupied another position” (1836-7: 39), he was eager to provide in his New Dictionary one sense only for each quotation, which would necessarily have had to be carefully read to arrive at “intelligible deduction of usages” (1836-7: 53). Such a strategy elucidates his plan to enlighten readers not only with linguistic knowledge but also and especially with literary and cultural awareness. By including so many well-chosen quotations, Richardson indeed “[aspired] to the pretension of presenting to the English reader an insight into some interesting and instructive portions of a history of his native tongue” (1836-7: 53).

4. Richardson’s use of quotations

13It is therefore from the authors that Richardson set out on his adventure to illustrate the evolution of thought and language over such a vast period of English history. In the third section of the preface to his work he announces the four periods that will be covered; namely, the first commencing with the Rhyming Chronicles of Robert of Gloucester and of Brunne in the thirteenth century, continuing through the reign of Henry VII and his immediate successors; the second extending from the accession of Queen Elizabeth I to the return of Charles II, or from Hooker and Spenser to Milton and Bishop Taylor; the third, from the Restoration to the establishment of the House of Hanover, or from Waller to Barrow to Pope and Samuel Clarke; the fourth from the reign of George II to the beginning of the nineteenth century. But what is particularly striking is not that Richardson adhered to this historical and chronological plan, but that, wherever possible, he relied on the same authors whose quotations he relentlessly included in each entry in the same strict order:

The quotations that have been selected from Gloucester, Brunne, Peers Plouhman always take their place at the head of the array. Then follow Wyclif, supported wherever possible by an early translator of the Bible; next in rank and order Chaucer and Gower free, as the great patriarchs of our speech, from any intermixture with their successors […]. After these will be found, in due arrangement, a host of writers whose works have never been before ensearched for the important service of lexicography: our matchless translator of the Bible Tindale; Udal and his associates, the translators of the Commentaries of Erasmus, Berners, of Froissart, Sir Thomas More, the Chronicles of Fabyan and the Voyages of Hakluyt, with many others, whose compositions, small in size, but of inestimable worth have hitherto been placed upon the shelves of the collectors, as rarities to gaze at […] more especially, Daniel, Drayton, Holland, the translator of Pliny, Livy, Plutarch, &c.; North’s Lives of Plutarch, Chapman, Beaumont and Fletcher (1836-7: 51).

14This order we can see in fact exemplified in the entry nice, in which Richardson next to the well-known Gloucester, Brunne, Piers Ploughman, Chaucer and Gower, Sir Thomas More, and Spenser includes also the authors of lesser fame Plutarch, Hall, Buckingham, and South. Richardson’s insistence upon the same large selection of authors for his lemmas not only seems to mark his concern for the uses of every word, but more importantly to put into action a systematic lexicographical practice of word exemplification.

15From the middle of the eighteenth century, lexicographers had in fact started to use corpora of authentic texts to find confirmation for their linguistic intuitions (Béjoint 1994: 97); a practice that was however far from systematic (Read 1986: 32). Indeed, Johnson himself, who is the first major employer of quotations to illustrate usage, does not always provide a quotation for every definition in his Dictionary: terms like labiated, lachrymation, lady- bedstraw, lady-bird, lady-cow, lamina, landfall, lanneret, languet, lanigerous, lansquenet, lanuginous, neckbeef, pict, pignoration, and pilewort are among the many words not supported by quotations (Pinnavaia 2010: 206). Besides showing a clear lack of systematicity, the insertion of definitions without quotations is also indicative of a lexicographical practice based upon the addition of quotations a posteriori following a very much intuitive preparation of definitions; a method that not only Johnson seems to have employed but that the OED may have done too originally (Béjoint 1994: 98). Judging by the way the New Dictionary is compiled, it would appear Richardson opted for the more difficult and more modern approach, analyzing his whole corpus in search of meanings. By compiling a dictionary which systematically represents and gives voice to the language of his authors, Richardson drew every word and sense from his authentic texts, thus foreshadowing in some way the twentieth-century lexicographic practice of a non-selective and more objective description of language. Even though Richardson (1836-7: 56) admitted to having “availed [himself] of the large store of materials accumulated by Johnson and his editor Mr. Todd”, he excluded from Johnson’s work what he could not find in his corpus of texts, such as the lemmas listed above, because unsupported by quotations in Johnson’s Dictionary; alternatively he included other lemmas defined and illustrated with quotations, such as lab, labile, laburnum, lache, lainer, lateen, nedder, numerous, neology, neomeny, piccadel, and pindarick, absent from Johnson’s work.

16While Richardson’s dependence upon authentic texts to cull and define words seems indeed to have been a revolutionary and pioneering lexicographical practice in the mid-nineteenth century, it still cannot be considered as objective and descriptive as we know it today. Richardson’s wordlist was, after all, only literary, reflecting what has been referred to as the ‘good’ uses of English (Béjoint 1994: 97). But Richardson’s idea of a dictionary was not what we now define a dictionary: “a reference resource which provides information about words and their meanings, uses, and pronunciations” (MED s.v. dictionary) for a vast and unlimited readership. Instead, Richardson had in mind a dictionary that would be “a copious and careful record of the Language from its earliest state”, containing “the choicest sentiments of English wisdom, poetry, and eloquence,” (1836–1837, 61), in order to educate his readership in the history of the language of literature and directly from the citations taken from his favourite writers’ works. Quotations after all create more than a simple syntactic and semantic context. There is also the context of authorship, literary value, and literary typology: we see how the word is used, by whom it is used, and in what sort of literature it is used (Dolezal 2000: 148).

5. Conclusions

17Richardson’s New Dictionary has generally been acclaimed as having collected the literary expressions of some of the best and most well-known authors of the English language from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. As we have modestly tried to underline here, each author’s voice helps settle the meaning and form of each word at a precise moment in time, so that when readers reach the end of the entry they have a complete picture of each word’s semantic meanings, along with the varying morphological and orthographical forms developed in history.

18While the refusal to anticipate the quotations with definitions and comments has been strongly criticized by scholars in lexicography, one cannot but recognize an avante-garde attempt at dictionary-making. By basing the inclusion of entry words on an authentic corpus of literary works and their definitions on a careful selection of quotations from it, Richardson ideated a completely new kind of dictionary that would inspire the making of OED and lexicographical works to come. Compared to his predecessors, Richardson managed to compile a New Dictionary that not only gave voice to a more substantial corpus of literary authors, but also one in which his own personal preferences (or antipathies) largely remained non-expressed. Even though the New Dictionary carries Richardson’s name, he is a far more invisible lexicographer than any of his predecessors, which is more typical of modern-day lexicography. It is his quotations that speak for him, which is why it is no surprise that, besides being a landmark in the history of English lexicography, Richardson’s New Dictionary of the English Language has also been defined as a “Dictionary of quotations” (Fowler 2004: 54).

Bibliographie

Primary sources

Johnson, Samuel, 1996 [1755, 1773], A Dictionary of the English Language (on CD-Rom) edited by Anne McDermott. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Richardson, Charles, 1837-8, A New Dictionary of the English Language, Combining Explanation with Etymology: and Illustrated by Quotations from the best Authorities, London, Pickering.

MED: Macmillan English Dictionary (online) accessible at https://www.macmillandictionary.com

OED: Simpson, John / Weiner, Edmund (eds) (online), Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Secondary sources

Aarsleff H., 1967/1983, The study of language in England, 1780–1860 [reprint of the 1st ed., with new preface], Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, London, Athlone Press.

Beal J.C., 2004, English in Modern Times 1700-1945, London, Arnold.

Béjoint H., 1994, Tradition and innovation in modern English dictionaries, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Béjoint H., 2010, The Lexicography of English, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cowie, A., ed., 2009, The Oxford History of English Lexicography, vol. 1, General purpose dictionaries, and vol. 2, Specialized dictionaries, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Dolezal F., 1989, “The Bibliography of Words and Notions”, in Dolezal, Fredric (ed.), The Dictionary as Text, International Journal of Lexicography 2/3: 167-175.

Dolezal F., 2000, Charles Richardson’s New Dictionary and Literary Lexicography, Being a Rodomontade upon Illustrative Examples, “Lexicographica” 16: 104-151.

Fowler R., 2004, Text and Meaning in Richardson’s Dictionary, in J. Coleman & A. McDermott (eds.), Dictionary History and Historical Lexicography, Tübingen, Niemeyer: 53-62.

Marchant E. C., 1896/2004, Richardson, Charles (1775–1865), lexicographer, Rev. by John D. Haigh [from the original Dictionary of National Biography notice, first published 1896], Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Pinnavaia L., 2008, Charles Richardson: Prescriptivist or Descriptivist? An Analysis Based on A New Dictionary of the English Language (1836-7), in J. Beal, C. Nocera & M. Sturiale (eds), Perspectives on Prescriptivism, Bern, Peter Lang: 147-164.

Pinnavaia L., 2010, The lost and found in Richardson’s A New Dictionary of the English Language (1867): an insight into the state of the vocabulary, in J. Considine (ed), Adventuring in Dictionaries: New Studies in Historical Lexicography, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 197-211.

Read A. W., 1986, The history of Lexicography, in R. Ilson (ed.), Lexicography: An Emerging International Profession, Manchester, Manchester University Press: 28-50.

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Auteur

È professore ordinario di Lingua e Linguistica Inglese presso la Facoltà di Studi Umanistici dell’Università degli Studi di Milano. I suoi studi sincronici e diacronici in ambito lessicologico e lessicografico hanno prodotto più di quaranta articoli, una curatela: Insights into English and Germanic lexicology and lexicography: past and present perspectives (2010), e quattro monografie: The Italian Borrowings in the OED: A Lexicographic, Linguistic and Cultural Analysis (Roma: Bulzoni 2001), Sugar and Spice … Exploring Food and Drink Idioms in English (Monza: Polimetrica 2010), Introduzione alla Linguistica Inglese (Roma: Carocci 2015), Food and drink idioms in English: A little bit more sugar and lots more spice (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2018).

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