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Thursday, 31 January 2013
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S. Richardson
Samuel Richardson, epistolary novelist
Interestingly enough, various critics have picked up on Richardson's lexical productivity (see previous page), and have noted that his writings contain numerous antedatings to OED's own first quotations (see Tieken-Boon van Ostade 1991). We are looking into this further: e.g. how thoroughly did OED readers comb Clarissa, Richardson's most quoted work, for appropriate quotations? Can words first recorded in the OED with quotations from Richardson be antedated in other sources, whether or not read by OED? Do letters comprise a high proportion of first quotation sources in OED? Can we use material from other linguistic sources – e.g. the Helsinki letter corpus studied in Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 2003 - to help us assess the character of OED documentation? Is it significant that 'Letters' is the most frequently cited generic title in Burchfield's Supplement (Willinsky 1994: 147)?


Image from Samuel Richardson, Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded, 4 vols. (London, 1742), vol. 3, opp. page 161. Engraved by Hubert Francois Gravelot (1699-1773) after a drawing by Francis Hayman (1708-1776). Reproduced courtesy of McMaster University Library.

Richardson & OED
OED1: 2,804 quotations from Richardson in total:
  • Clarissa: 1,155
  • Pamela: 960
  • Grandison: 618
  • Correspondence (ed. 1804): 27
OED3 has added new quots from Richardson as follows:
  • Clarissa: 108
  • Pamela: 26
  • Grandison: 57
  • Correspondence (ed. 1804): none

The revised portion of the OED has already found rich pickings in Clarissa: of the 108 new quotations from the novel added to date,* 15 antedate OED1's existing evidence (though conversely, of OED1's 127 first quotations from Clarissa, six have now been antedated in earlier sources).

Richardson's real-life correspondence, which contained letters both to and from the novelist, was published in a six volume edition by Anna Laetitia Barbauld in 1804 and furnished a comparatively small number of quotations for the first edition of OED. So far these letters have not been additionally quoted by the current lexicographers for their revision of OED1: might they prove a valuable lexicographical source? (NB OED3 has added 8 quotations from Richardson's letters from other sources.)

* i.e., by March 2005, in the alphabet range m-Papua New Guinean.
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