Quote: Not, sir, from your dictionary (Gilbert Stewart to Samuel Johnson 182[9] [diary entry 1824])

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Oct 2 16:51:23 UTC 2011

Garson's find will, I'm sure, be of more than a little interest to
Johnsonites, and I will pass it on.  (I had not specifically looked
for the earliest occurrence of the tale, since I was interested in
something written about it in 1914, and I only looked in Google Books.)

Fred, does "not Sir from your dictionary" belong in the YBQ?

I see that the Newport Mercury is also available in Early American
Newspapers (NKA - now known as - America's Historical Newspapers),
and can confirm Garson's extract from its scan.  The portion Garson
omitted explains Stuart's "irritation" -- Johnson had originally
directed a question to Stuart addressing him as "My little fellow"!

One might hypothesize that the tale can be found a little earlier in
the Salem Observer (which I learn is in EAN Series 7), since the
Newport Mercury article begins with an attribution to "a friend of
the editor of the Salem Observer."  But my newspaper access is
limited from home.


At 10/1/2011 08:48 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>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

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

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