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Thursday, 31 January 2013
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18c sources
Some major eighteenth-century sources

18c sources

The eighteenth century is the project's first area of study (how and why was it less quoted than surrounding centuries in the OED? See Brewer 2006, 2007a). As one might expect, OED1 favours canonical literary authors as main sources of quotations. Bailey (the dictionary writer) is an interesting anomaly demanding further investigation...(Johnson is mostly quoted from his non-dictionary writings). To some extent this line-up reflects late-nineteenth-century/early-twentieth-century literary tastes: there are only 80 quotations from Blake, for example, for work published in the eighteenth century (107 quotations in all).

Pope's translations of Homer
  • 5,804 total quotations of Pope in OED2
  • 1,478 (25%) from Odyssey (1725-6)
  • 866 (15%) from Iliad (1715-18)

  • Homer therefore accounts for 40% of Pope's total quotations in OED2

With all these major sources, we are homing in to see what works in particular are quoted in what sorts of ways. Here is an example of what one can find: Pope is the most quoted author from the eighteenth century, but it turns out that 40% of these quotations are from translations of classical epic – not necessarily representative of the contemporary lexicon therefore?

NB that Pope shared his translation of the Odyssey with two collaborators, Elijah Fenton and William Broome, who between them were responsible for half the books (Fenton taking I, IV, XIX and XX, and Broome II, VI, VIII, XI, XII, XVI, XVIII and XXIII). Pope translated the rest and revised the whole: Johnson commented, 'How the two associates performed their parts is well known to the readers of poetry, who have never been able to distinguish their books from those of Pope'. Nevertheless, were there any stylistic – or lexical – differences? Recent work for OED3 shows that only 666 of the OED1 quotations from the translation of the Odyssey come from Pope himself (although all were attributed to Pope).

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 May 2007 )
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