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It was based on careful examination of many examples of the use of words, a collection of best examples, a selection of literature from Sidney to Pope (Johnson didn't use examples from living writers), and careful distinction between competing meanings.His etymologies are generally very accurate as well.
Like Pope and Swift (fellow Tories), Johnson is an outsider who gained insider status with his literary genius.
He was a bright youngster and made it into Oxford, but had to drop out after two years because he couldn't afford the school fees.
The paper began as one separated into four sections of news but then gradually included a more essay-type style.
It’s stated purpose was to inform readers of political news and to provide entertainment.
His edition is best known for its excellent Preface (p. He celebrates Shakespeare for his "just representations of general nature" (2755), but also identifies what he perceives as faults in Shakespeare, including the famous attack on Shakespeare's puns ('quibbles'); see p. Johnson was also an accomplished poet, and many people prefer his poetry to Pope's because Johnson, while he celebrates the universal and generic in human characteristics, ties them to actual human beings--for instance, the humble 'doctor' Robert Levet (p.
2701) whose "virtues walked their narrow round, / Nor made a pause, nor left a void; / And sure th' Eternal Master found / The single talent well employed." In his most famous poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes, like The Essay on Man a Juvenalian satire, he looks at the falls of great historical personages and how every man's life, in some way, can be reduced to its barest characteristics, as in Charles XII of Sweden (who remembers him now?
These principles are set out in the preface to the Dictionary (Longman p.
2731 ff.) If you go to the Stanford library page referenced above, you can see some of his best (and funniest) definitions.
The edition provides in popular form the amplest selection available of Johnson’s essays, ranging from his great moral pieces to the valuable essays on literary criticism. Bate provides a concise summary of the publication history of the essays and probes in detail the moral vision that pervades most of them.
The text is that of the authoritative Yale Edition and includes full annotation.