We all know the Dr Johnson portrayed in the classic Blackadder episode and we all use his book, the Dictionary, every day. This book explores the life and background of Johnson, as well as his struggle to write the world's first English dictionary. A great subject for a book but in places, quite boring and unreadable.
For readers who are linguists or lexicographers, you would probably give this book 5 stars, because a lot of the book examines the definitions that Johnson gave to words, its original Latin or Greek roots, arguments for and against Johnson's definitions and so on. For those of us who are not linguists or lexicographers, these pages come across as rather dry, pedantic, and downright boring. I wanted the book to be a straightforward history book / biography but instead we get a lesson in lingustics, word formation and quotes from literature.
I was however amused and perhaps a little impressed by Hitchings including the Blackadder episode in the book and I liked parts of the book where he wrote clearly, fluently and concisely. I also liked how he named each book chapter after a word in Johnson's dictionary along with Johnson's definition. That was rather clever.
This book is highly interesting and in places extremely fascinating. But the author has the tendency to ramble on and on in places which will make you start to flip pages. So only buy this if you are truly interested in the subject of linguistics, the history of the English language and a fan of biographies in general. Otherwise you may end up disappointed.
Wer sich schon immer gefragt hat, was Samuel johnson dazu bewegt hat sein Jahrhundertwerk zu verfassen ist bei diesem Buch an der richtigen Stelle. Mit dem nötigen ernst aber auch humor beschreibt Hitchings hier sehr eindrücklich die Bestrebungen Johnsons ein Standard-Wörterbuch der Englischen Sprache zu verfassen. So Manchem mag dieses Buch womöglich etwas zu detailliert erscheinen. Meinen Zwecken, nämlich dem Staatsexamen in Englisch, hat dieses Buch sehr genüge getan.