There were those who did yearn for a truly 'standard' English, notably Dryden, Pope and Addison, a literary establishment that slightly preceded Johnson's own celebrity, but their emotions were as much nationalistic as linguistic. The French Academie had delivered its own dictionary in 1694 and then, as now, the work indeed aimed at 'fixing' French. To London's literati, such efficiency was deemed a threat from the nation's foe: it must be countered.
But Johnson's preface puts his own position. He had, he admits, 'flattered' himself for a while that such fixing was possible, but had, in compiling his great work, begun to 'fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify'. One cannot, he concludes, 'embalm' a language, and the lexicographer who makes such claims should be derided as soundly as the quack doctor purveying his nostrums for eternal youth.
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