Quote: Not, sir, from your dictionary (Gilbert Stewart to Samuel Johnson 1826 [diary entry 1824])

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 2 00:48:27 UTC 2011

Joel S. Berson asked about a citation to an anecdote involving the
dictionary maker Samuel Johnson and the American painter Gilbert
Stewart aka Gilbert Stuart. The partial information that Joel gave led
to a citation in 1834. I have now located an interesting earlier
citation in 1829. This newspaper article purports to reprint a diary
entry dated October 11th, 1824. (Joel may already have this

Date: 1829 June 6
Paper: Newport Mercury
Article: Miscellany
Page: 1
Column: 3

<Begin excerpt>
Dr. Johnson and Gilbert Stewart, the American Painter.-A friend of the
editor of the Salem Observer, who was intimately acquainted with the
late celebrated painter, Gilbert Stewart, (formerly of this Town) has
furnished him, from his diary, with the following interesting anecdote
relative to Stewart's introduction to Dr. Samuel Johnson. It deserves
a place among the memorabilia which Boswell has preserved of this
great man :-

"Oct. 11th, 1824. - I this day visited that eminent painter, Mr.
Stewart, whose excellent portraits have conferred an honor on the
country that gave him birth. In the course of conversation, I inquired
of him if he had ever been, while in London, acquainted with Dr.
Johnson! He replied that he had, and that their acquaitance commenced
with something like a quarrel.

<Text omitted. Skipping closer to the punchline.>

When I had finished speaking, the Doctor asked Mr. West how it
happened that the Americans excelled the English in speaking their own
language. Mr. West then asked the Doctor if it could be so? To which
the Doctor replied, "You may find, Sir, that it is so from the
conversation of this gentleman." The Doctor immediately turned to me,
and asked from what source I had derived my knowledge of the English
language? Not yet having got over my irritation, I replied, "Not Sir
from your Dictionary," The Doctor now burst in so violent a fit of
laughter, that he shook the whole room, and almost the house. Ever
after this we were on the best terms."
<End excerpt>

As always, please double-check this text against the scans (or the original).

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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