Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Poems and quotations

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6842 (Published 26 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6842
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Dr Johnson famously defined a lexicographer as a harmless drudge, a maker of dictionaries; his own dictionary contained 100 000 quotations from English authors, illustrating the early use of words from written examples. This was perhaps a feat of erudition unequalled in the history of philology, but there have been many learned anthologists who deserve our admiration, even if mere compilation is not the highest form of literary art.

Among them is Henry G Bohn, one of the giants of 19th century publishing and bookselling. He invented cheap and commercial editions of the classics. Emerson said of him that he had done for books what railways had done for travel. But he also compiled a Dictionary of Poetical Quotations, with …

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