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Aftermath Robert K. Barnhart .Long before The Century Dictionary was completed and all the volumes were published, it was attracting notice on both sides of the Atlantic. Reviews of the first volume appeared in major magazines and newspapers in Great Britain and the United States. In fact, several publications printed reviews on more than one occasion. The general tone of the remarks was very favorable. Indeed, British commentators—except for the Times—were unusually accepting ofan American dictionary. That may have been, in part, because the new American dictionary was based on the British ImperialDictionary (Ogilvie 1850), though it may not have occurred to some that Ogilvie had in turn based his work on the American dictionary made by Noah Webster. Whatever the reason, two American reviews set the scene for the appearance of the great Century Dictionary, which was curiously to become in 30 years' time a lost ark in American lexicography. The latest of the great dictionaries may justly be valued as a splendid triumph of editorial and publishing organization. Its foundations have been laid deep and broad. We must, at the outset, give the thanks of all educated Americans to a firm, which honors the demands of scholarship by projecting so vast a scheme, and carrying it forward with unflagging zeal and swiftness of movement. . . . Americanisms, provincialisms, colloquialisms, slang, are all duly treated in the Century. ... In carrying out this purpose, the editors have certainly done well. . . . Let us admit that the arrangement of the quotations, as regards the eye and ease in using them, surpasses that of any of the earlier dictionaries . They are not crowded together, verse and prose, as in the Oxford. ... In breadth of selection the 'Century Dictionary' seems to rival, if not to surpass, the Oxford. It only remains to be said that the Century Dictionary is as beautiful to the eye as it is satisfying to the inquiring mind; and, as it will be completed in two years, every one who can afford a high-priced diction- The Century Dictionary: Aftermath1 1 7 ary will, necessarily, buy it rather than wait; even if his preference runs that way, for the New English Dictionary. (Atlantic Monthly 1889) We close . . . with the generaljudgment that the work thus far meets all reasonable expectations, and when completed it will be the most comprehensive and satisfactory book of general reference yet produced —a book which every one will want, and which ought to have a place in every public library. (The Nation 1889) And so Dr. Murray's fears of commercial crowding in the American dictionary market were fueled and fanned, raised to the point of injudiciousness in his scathing remarks about the scholarship of the Century and alleged borrowing from the New Englhh Dictionary (NED) , so much so that the American philologist, Francis March, the elder, coordinator of the American reading program for Oxford, warned Murray off in a letter written 30 May 1890, which is well-known to readers of Miss Elizabeth Murray's biography of her grandfather (K.M.E. Murray 266-67). Dr. Murray's statements about plagiarism were also assailed by C.A.M. Fennell, who himselfhad been attacked by Murray for plagiarism in The Stanford Dictionary of Anglicized Words and Phrases. Fennell was prompted to write to Whitney in March 1890: In the strictest confidence I think I can explain the disgraceful article on the 'Century' Dictionary in last Saturday's Times. I have very good reason to believe that the accusation of excessive use of the New English Dictionary is traceable to Dr. Murray himself. I know he wrote to that effect to one reviewer, and suspect he did so to several papers. Of course a reviewer who has no special qualifications forjudging of your work would be almost afraid not to endorse Dr. Murray's opinion. It seems to me that the Athenaeum reviewer has proved what was prima facie obvious, that the 'Century' is thoroughly independent. I know that most competent judges are delighted with the first volume of the 'Century,' and of course the Times article will make little impression. I hope Dr. Murray's absurd vanity will not raise any resentment on your side of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 116-125
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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