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Home arrow Types of source arrow 18th-century arrow Anna Seward arrow Unrecorded (poetry) arrow New words or senses
First quotations
This page begins with some introductory observations on first quotations (with specific reference to Seward), under the headings General remarks, Caveat, and Significance of first quotations, and then discusses Seward's first quotations in more detail and provides a complete list.

General remarks
As a historical dictionary which sets out to record the history of a word 'from cradle to grave', i.e. from its first to its last use, OED tries particularly hard to identify the earliest example, in a printed source, of any particular usage. So it is always significant when we find that a particular author or text furnishes such examples of first use, or as we call them on EOED 'first quotations', several times or more in OED.

Quite what is signified is less clear however. Jürgen Schäfer showed long ago that a substantial number of OED's first quotations from Shakespeare, for example, owed their position not to the intrinsic qualities of the word whose use they evidenced - and by inference, to Shakespeare's lexical creativity - but instead to the lexicographers' enthusiasm for citing Shakespeare rather than the less famous but similarly lexically creative Thomas Nashe, in whose earlier writings the words could also be found (Schäfer 1980). In other words, when OED quotes Shakespeare as its first example in an entry, that does not necessarily mean that Shakespeare made the word up. Rather it tells us of the OED's special fondness for Shakespeare as a quotation source, meaning that the lexicographers found first quotations in his works because they looked for such vocabulary there rather than in previously published texts.

Anna Seward is a different kettle of fish from Shakespeare, however. She was not a highly regarded author at the time the OED was compiled, partly because no female authors were highly regarded over this period (great writers were thought to be male by definition, as we can see both from contemporary literary histories and from the distribution of OED quotations), and partly because her literary style had fallen out of favour (see her original DNB entry). She was not a favourite OED source therefore, and was quoted in far fewer numbers than Shakespeare (c. 240 times compared with c. 33,000). Nevertheless, a full half of her citations are first quotations, while the proportion for Shakespeare is less than a sixteenth (under 2,000 first quotations).

As noted on the previous page (Seward's letters), Seward's proportion of first quotations in OED is extraordinarily high. It is unmatched in EOED's experience to date: we thought that Richardson's first quotation rate of around 8.5% was high when we identified it here some years ago; Seward's is 50%. The OED quoted from Seward's (male) contemporaries in large numbers over this period (see graphs at Fe/male sources), so these first quotations are not to be attributed to a dearth of contemporary quotation sources; however, it may be that the comparative paucity of quotations from Seward overall has distorted the proportions of her linguistic profile as recorded in OED (see next paragraph). Even if this is so, 112 is, in absolute terms, a significant number (as well as proportion) of first quotations in OED's record of Seward. Moreover, where OED3 has revised the relevant entry, her usage has usually retained its position as first recorded use; see list below and on next page. Therefore, OED's evidence does seem to point to the conclusion that her writing was genuinely innovative.

Caveat: difference in OED treatment of male and female sources?
There is some indication that OED editors treated male and female quotation sources differently from each other. Clearly, they far preferred male to female sources for a number of different reasons, including relative availability and quantity as well as the then-prevalent cultural preference for male over female writers. But they also seem to have tended to quote female authors far more for their singular or striking examples of language use than for their attestation of 'bread-and-butter' usages, i.e the standard usage of the day. To evidence such general vocabulary, the lexicographers were more likely to turn to male quotation sources, whether well known or not. If this turns out to be consistently true, as seems likely, the large proportion of singular usages in Seward's OED quotations may look less remarkable. It is hard to think that it will affect the existing evidence for her special lexical creativity, however. EOED is working further on this tricky question; meanwhile see Brewer 2009d.

Significance of first quotations
If we set aside the qualifications identified above, that first quotations may reflect the methodology and cultural preferences of the lexicographers as much as the intrinsic characteristics of a usage, what can we say about these examples of language? Here it is important to distinguish between hapax legomena - i.e., once-off locutions that seem never to have been repeated - and first examples of a usage which subsequently bears fruit in the language and is taken up by other writers and speakers (44 of Seward's first quotations are hapax legomena and are listed and discussed on the next page).

Even if OED's first quoted author cannot be securely identified as inventor of a particular usage, it is invariably interesting that he or she is its first evidenced user. First quotations, especially if found consistently in any individual writer, may witness his or her alertness to the language's potential for creativity and renewal, or reflect special sensitivity to current language use; perhaps, as sometimes seems to be the case with some of Austen's first quotations, the author had a ready ear for a locution that was in oral circulation and had yet to be written down (for more on Austen see here). First quotations may also point to the writer's status in the (educated and literate) language community at large, especially if they are to be found in widely read sources that may have shaped language use more generally.

Seward
Since OED's record of Seward's first quotations is overwhelmingly derived from her letters, addressed to individuals, it is difficult to say that these usages were directly influential on any wider language community (NB Seward wrote extensively for periodicals, and it would certainly be worth analysing her language in these sources to see whether it was similarly innovative). One way or another, however, bearing in mind the qualifications rehearsed at the begnning of this page, her usage was innovative in a way that reflected general tendencies to language innovation and (as OED's own documentation shows) her locutions caught on.

Seward herself strongly approved of neologisms. She wrote in a letter of 1788, 'All new words, that are at once forcible and harmonious, do surely enrich and adorn our language'. On 'the importation of Latin derivatives' specifically, she added,
It appears to me that we ought to receive them thankfully, from our recollection, that every word, not of English origin, now mature, and received into our dictionaries, and understood even by the misses, had its infancy...The more the English tongue incorporates with the Latin, the more sweet and sonorous becomes our rhythm, the more round and full the periods of our prose; the more easily is it acquired, and pronounced by foreigners; the more widely will our works of genius spread over the neighbouring nations, and, consequently, the higher will rise the reputation of English literature. (Letters, vol. 2, p. 155)
As can be seen from the list below, Seward's first quotations as documented in OED are often writerly (or readerly); especially notable are Dantean, Popian (recently antedated by OED3), Richardsonian and Spenseric, which speak for themselves and mark Seward's status as a critic as well as a writer, one acutely aware of a tradition of English poetry (see Seward's conventional poetic diction).

But she also uses a good number of vigorous pithy terms which smack of colloquial orality at the same time as communicating a literate relish in language: manify, noddle, rubbishy, should-be (noun), sorryish.

Her first quotations exhibit a variety of neologistic techniques, including:

  • grammatical conversion, i.e. use of a word in a different grammatical function from normal: elapse as a noun instead of a verb (or, one of her hapax legomena, crescent as a verb instead of a noun). At times she extends this technique in non-standard ways: e.g. turning a more complex verb form (auxiliary plus infinitive) into a noun as in should-be


  • a combination of those two methods of word-formation: e.g. gothicize, which turns the adjective into a verb by adding a suffix



  • coinage based on knowledge of Latin or Greek (on the 'importation of Latin derivatives' see her views quoted above): e.g. gradatory (for which three quotations from Seward are cited[1]), petrific.

See list below or go to next page on Seward's hapax legomena.

List of Seward's first quotations
Note: In the list below, an asterisk indicates a hapax legomenon identified by manual searching of Seward's 237 quotations in OED2, while unasterisked terms are those identified by checking through the electronic search results for 'first cited author' - for details see First quotations by author; Seward is cited variously as 'A. Seward', 'Anna Seward', and 'Miss Seward'. OED labels/definitions etc. are given in single quotation marks. The text and attribution of the Seward quotation is copied and pasted from OED2 as represented on OED Online. EOED comments, if any, are added in square brackets.
  1. addio [tramlined] ('A formula of civility, used in the subscription of letters, or at parting'): 1789 A. SEWARD Let. 5 Feb. (1811) II. 236 Ask again about the quotation for Mr Croft. Adio!...
  2. *crimp, a. (sense 3: 'Said of hair, feathers, etc.: Crimped'): 1764 A. SEWARD in Poet. Wks. (1810) I. p. cxv, A bag wig, in crimp buckle, powdered white as the new shorn fleece....
  3. *Dantean, a. ('Of or relating to Dante or his writings; resembling Dante's style or descriptions. Also n. A student or admirer of Dante.'): 1785 A. SEWARD Let. 25 Aug. (1811) I. 77 The Dantean Angel of Vengeance is diabolically insatiable... [cf. Popian, Richardsonian, and Spenseric]
  4. *elapse, n. (sense 2: 'Expiration, lapse, passing away (of time)'): 1793 A. SEWARD in Parr's Wks. (1828) VIII. 464 The distinctions of Whig and Tory..have lost their force during the elapse of many years....
  5. girlhood ('The state of being a girl; the time of life during which one is a girl'): 1785 A. SEWARD Let. Boswell 25 Mar. Lett. I. x. 38 My mother passed her days of girlhood with an uncle at Warwick....
  6. gradatory ('1. Proceeding by steps or grades. rare.'): 1793 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 202 The chain of subordination, which binds the various orders of national society in one common form of polity; that gradatory junction, which can alone give vigour and effect to the laws. Ibid. 243 Could this gradatory apostasy [of Macbeth] have been shown us. Ibid. 253. [plus one further quotation, dated 1843]
  7. *gothicize (sense 2b: 'To give an architecturally Gothic character to; to transform after a Gothic type'): 1798 A. SEWARD Let. 2 Oct. (1811) V. 155 The tenements are to be gothicized....
  8. *groan, v. ( sense 7a: 'To express disapproval of by means of groans'): 1799 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 205 They would be hissed, groaned, and cat-called....
  9. *haze, v.2 (sense 2: 'To make hazy, to involve in a haze. Hence hazed ppl. a.'): 1801 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 353 The noble mountains..are here [i.e. in the picture] softened and hazed away into indistinctness....
  10. *high-toned, a. (sense 2: 'High-strung, tense'): 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 49 His high-toned expectations...
  11. *ice, v. (sense 4a: 'To make cold; to freeze, chill. Chiefly fig.'): 1804 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 137 That unfortunate..proneness to scepticism, which iced his affections...
  12. impermanence ('The fact or condition of being impermanent; want of permanence or continued duration'): 1796 A. SEWARD Lett (1811) IV. 264 Melancholy impermanence of human blessings!...
  13. impersonify ('To represent in personal form; to personify. Hence imper sonified...'): 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 186 An impersonified individual....
  14. *impersonize ('rare...'To personify, impersonate. Also absol.'): 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 188 She impersonizes too lavishly. Ibid. 203 The impersonized elements received her.... [Seward supplies three out of four of the quotations for this head word; see impersonization in list of her hapax legomena and compare impersonify above)]
  15. invalidism ('The state or condition of being a recognized or confirmed invalid; chronic infirmity or ill health that prevents activity'): 1794 A. SEWARD Lett. 25 Oct. (1811) IV. 19 Social and melodious exertions, trying enough to invalidism...
  16. *jockey, v. (sense 2a: 'To ride as a jockey (in quot. 1767 contemptuous)...'): 1767 A. SEWARD Poems, etc. (1810) I. p. cxcvii, She reads no curtain-lectures upon his jockying over to Nottingham to read the news three times a week... [NB this quotation would have been a valuable addition to the OED evidence for curtain-lecture, '"A reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed" (Johnson)', which is illustrated with quotations dated 1633, 1660, 1710, 1846, 1851]
  17. juvenescence ('The state of becoming young or youthful; youthful state or condition, youth'): 1800 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 275 Two impossible attainments, that of making gold by transmutation, and of renewing juvenescence by an elixir...
  18. learned (sense 2e: '¶e. transf. Of an animal trained to make a show of intelligence'): 1784 A. SEWARD Let. 29 Oct. in H. Pearson Swan of Lichfield (1936) 71 That amusing part of this conversation, which alluded to the learned Pig, and his demi-rational exhibitions, I shall transmit to you hereafter... [This quotation, taken from a biography of Seward written after the completion of OED1, was added to the entry by Burchfield in the OED Supplement volume of 1976, along with other examples from Cowper and Conrad]
  19. lenience ('lenient action or behaviour, indulgence'): 1796 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 163, I am indebted rather to this skiey-lenience, than to any great decrease in the complaint itself...
  20. *limitary (sense 3: 'Serving as a limit or boundary'): 1807 A. SEWARD in Athenæum Mar. (1895) 282/1 Where the horizon's limitary line Meets the gloom'd sea...
  21. maidenism ('maidenish bearing and behaviour; a maidenish notion or peculiarity'): 1790 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 38 When he confessed these maidenisms, I despaired of his suiting the pleasant, prancing, pop-gun situation of butler at Prior's Lea... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 retains as first quotation]
  22. mal-influence: 1792 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 117 The mal-influence upon your nerves from marine damps 1796 Ibid. IV. 289 The mal-influence of a violent cold.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 retains as first quotation]
  23. manify ('To make man-like'): 1799 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 220, I have always seen genius manified, and imagination, or fancy, womanized... [OED3 draft revision September 2000 has antedated with quotation from F Burney: 1799 F. BURNEY Jrnl. 28 Sept. (1973) IV. 337 My Alex is well, & to be manified on the wedding Day. (Note to appear in trousers rather than petticoats.)]
  24. *mass, n.2 (sense 7a: 'in mass = EN MASSE, bodily, all at once'): 1798 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 133 Our nation has almost risen in mass... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 has antedated the phrase with example from Donne]
  25. *Methodistically ('in accordance with the principles of Methodism or the practice of Methodists'): 1787 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 301 And so Mr. talks methodistically.... [OED3 (June 2008) retains as first quotation]
  26. *model, n. (sense 12: 'A person or thing eminently worthy of imitation; a perfect exemplar of some excellence'): 1788 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 104 A man [sc. Johnson] who, hating dissenters of all denominations, held up the writings of Clarke and the life of Watts as models of perfection.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 antedates to a1586]
  27. *monarchial (= monarchal): 1788 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 104 A man..who worshipped the monarchial claims and despised the parental ones.... [OED3 draft revision June 2008 retains as first quotation]
  28. mornless ('rare'): 1795 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 97 Before the long and mornless night descends.... [OED3 draft revision December 2002 retains as first quotation]
  29. *mother, v. (figurative use of sense 3: 'To profess to be the mother of; to acknowledge (truly or falsely) the maternity of (a child)'): 1788 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 41 The congenial rants which pretend to reply to them, are from the same pen, whoever Mr. Merry may persuade to mother them.... [OED3 draft revision June 2009 retains as first quotation]
  30. *noddle, v.2 (sense 1b: 'To bring into (a state) by noddling; to beat (time) by nodding the head'): 1788 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 90 The profession of this personage is music,..his height and proportion..well enough by nature, but fidgeted and noddled into an appearance not over prepossessing.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 retains as first quotation]
  31. novel-reading: 1789 A. SEWARD Let. 17 Aug. (1811) II. 319 The contemptible rage for *novel-reading, is a pernicious and deplorably prevalent taste.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 has antedated with '1782 V. KNOX Ess. 68 (title), On *novel reading.' and dropped Seward quotation, unfortunate since the substitute '1802 E. PARSONS Myst. Visit II. 172 Very unlike a novel-reading Miss' scarcely communicates the same animosity]
  32. *olive (sense 3b: 'A child (= OLIVE-BRANCH 2)'): 1803 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 114, I hope..that the fair convalescent and her young olives are well.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 retains as first quotation]
  33. orphanize: 1797 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) V. 17 Women and children, widowed and orphanized, alas! by the obstinacy of Dutch resistance... [OED3 draft revision December 2007 retains as first quotation]
  34. *petrific (sense 2: 'Loosely in passive sense: Petrified, stony'): 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 214 Marble and other petrific substances.... [OED3 draft entry December 2008 antedates with quotation of 1759]
  35. *pictorial (sense 2: 'Consisting of, expressed in, or of the nature of, a picture or pictures'): 1807 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 329 Not the wealthy..who exhibit in their boudoirs and drawing rooms, new publications in the luxury of pictorial ornaments.... [OED3 draft revision June 2009 aptly antedates with quotations of 1791 from Seward's mentor and friend E. Darwin]
  36. poeticize: 1804 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 141, I think its author has poeticized, if I may be allowed the word, the new and fortunate subject.... [OED3 draft revision March 2008 retains as first quotation]
  37. Popian ('Of or pertaining to the poet Alexander Pope (or his poetry)'): 1802 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 33 The ear may be contented to want the luxury of the Popean numbers... [OED3 draft revision March 2007 now antedates to 1730]
  38. prosaicism: 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 266 Those long trains of comparative prosaicism, over which we yawn.... [OED3 draft revision June 2007 retains as first quotation]
  39. prosaism: 1787 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 352 Ever have you found me ready to acknowledge the prosaism of many lines which you have pointed out in my most favourite poets....[OED3 draft revision December 2007 retains as first quotation]
  40. re-energize: 1803 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 108 You, my friend, have..affectionate interests, which combine to reenergize your mind.... [OED3 draft revision September 2009 retains as first quotation]
  41. re-slay: 1791 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 49, I am not at all tempted..to..re-slay the already slain....
  42. re-stimulate: 1796 A. SEWARD Let. 11 Dec. (1811) IV. 282 Mr. B. will succeed in his design to re-stimulate the public mind to continue the war....
  43. Richardsonian: 1786 A. SEWARD Let. 29 Mar. (1811) I. 135 Miss Reeves' reply to my Stricture on her Richardsonian absurdity, is at once weak and artful....
  44. rubbishy: 1795 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 143 The fruit-trees, to whose luxuriance the rocky, and..rubbishy soil, below the surface, has proved very inauspicious....
  45. safe-hold: 1793 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 332 That misleading enthusiasm which led her..far from the safe-holds of her native country....
  46. should-be: 1790 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 35 What says Prior, when he describes the should-be of artists' conduct to each other!...
  47. sorryish: 1793 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 330 You would be sorryish to hear, that poor Moll Cobb..is gone to her long home....
  48. *Spenseric: 1795 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 113 That gay town, which Shenstone, in his Spenseric poem, the Schoolmistress, has so beautifully apostrophized....
  49. steedless: 1795 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 93 When the horses have drawn us to the ocean's brim, they are taken off, and we pursue our needleworks in the steedless vehicle....
  50. steeply ('quasi-Comb. with adj. or ppl. adj.'): 1793 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 261 That steeply-sloping field at Eyam....
  51. styleless: 1796 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 196 An abode which, though a mansion..spacious to my utmost wish, breathes of nothing above the level of mere common and stileless life....
  52. *subacid, a. (sense 1: 'Subacid quality or flavour, subacidity'): 1785 A. SEWARD Let. 7 June (1811) I. 75 That tetchy unprovoked spleen..clouding and staining the lustre of fine talents, and many excellent qualities... Let us all take warning, and correct our acids and sub-acids of every sort.... [for some reason this first quotation, the earliest in the enty, is not picked up by an OED Online electronic search for first cited author]
  53. *summered: 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 337 The seas of glass, the noble rocks, the ever-summered gales....
  54. *super-worldly: 1785 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 86 Freedoms, not much calculated to the meridian of *super~worldly refinement....
  55. *that was (s.v. that, rel. pron., 1c: 'added when a married woman is referred to by her maiden name'): 1785 A. SEWARD Let. 31 Dec. (1811) I. 97 Miss Jenny Harry that was, for she afterwards married ... [the only other quotation is 1872 GEO. ELIOT Middlem. IV. VIII. lxxiv. 201, I am not so sorry for Rosamond Vincy that was, as I am for her aunt]
  56. *tinkler, n.2 ('That which tinkles'): 1767 A. SEWARD Let. in Poet. Wks. (1810) I. 195 A Spinnet.., the little tinkler is a wretched substitute for my dear harpsichord....
  57. *tint, v. ('To impart a tint to; to colour, esp. slightly or with delicate shades; to tinge'): 1799 A. SEWARD Sonn. i. Poet. Wks. 1810 III. 122 No more young Hope tints with her light and bloom The darkening scene.... [Seward supplies the first figurative example]
  58. unbetraying: 1788 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 8 It is either genuine, or assumed with guarded and unbetraying art....
  59. unexisting: 1785 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 18 What you tell us is an unexisting circumstance....
  60. unfoliaged: 1795 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) IV. 91 The pale unfoliaged ruins of Castle Dinas Bran. 1804 Mem. Darwin 123 There, indeed, we see rocks piled on rocks, unfoliaged and frowning.... [plus Southey only]
  61. ungrammatic: 1806 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 258 All modes of phraseology within the limits of the immodest, the disgusting, and the ungrammatic.... [plus Browning only]
  62. unimitative: 1807 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) VI. 334 The original unimitative compositions of James H.... [NB the word can be further antedated from Seward's own work, a footnote (p. 168) to her Original Sonnets (1799): 'To give that essence in increased quantity, and in the freedom of unimitative numbers, is attempted in this selection', in which she is defending her practice of paraphrasing rather than translating Horace]
  63. unindignant: 1789 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 299 A well-informed woman..will at once find these volumes..too vulgar for her unindignant endurance....
  64. unlofty: 1790 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) II. 384 [They] wore their dark hair in reverse curls upon their naturally unlofty foreheads....
  65. unpropertied: 1793 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) III. 217 The protecting influence of represented property, extending to the unpropertied....
  66. verbalism: (sense 1: 'A verbal expression; a word or vocable'): 1787 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 372, I always write in too much haste to pause for best-possible verbalisms. 1799 Ibid. V. 207 This propensity has probably left several erroneous verbalisms in myself-revised sheets....
  67. villaed: 1791 A. SEWARD Let. 30 July (1811) II. xxix. 95 A pretty little lawn..admits the near hill, so magnificently villaed. [followed by Graham Greene only]
  68. will-less (s.v. 2: 'Having no will; destitute of the faculty of volition'): 1804 A. SEWARD Mem. Darwin 89 Reasonless, will-less instinct, limited but undeviating....
  69. *witness, v. (s.v. 4b, fig.: 'Of a place, time, etc.: To be associated with (a fact or event); to be the scene or setting of; to "see"'): 1785 A. SEWARD Lett. (1811) I. 78 That immortal fountain and valley, which had witnessed the beauty of Laura... [NB this entry is full of great poets and writers as quotation sources].

Footnote
[1] Seward's DNB entry contends that Seward 'knew no Latin', but though she paraphrased rather than translated Horace she defended this practice on aesthetic grounds (see Seward 1799, e.g. pp. 105-6, and long footnote running pp. 166-9). There is no need to infer that she was completely ignorant of Latin (see her remarks above on neologisms formed from Latin ) - and any reader of Milton, a poet Seward knew intimately, would have picked up a basic knowledge of the main vocabulary, including gradus = 'step'.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 December 2009 )
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