Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Selections from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: “E”

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Unread Classics, Assistant Polo Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Louche Landlady (the Olney Community College Press).

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq for “penmarq™ polymorphic productions”.

to begin selections from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

for previous selection from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

to begin at the beginning of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

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Eagle. A bird of prey, which, as it is reported, renews its age when it grows old. But some think that this recovery of youth happens no otherwise in the eagle than in other birds, by casting their feathers every year in the moulting season, and having others in their room. It is also said not to drink at all, like other birds with sharp claws. It is given out, that when an eagle sees its young so well grown as to venture upon flying, it hovers over their nest, flutters with its wings, and excites them to imitate it, and take their flight; and when it sees them weary, or fearful, it takes and carries them upon its back. Eagles are said to be extremely sharp-sighted, and, when they take flight, spring perpendicularly upward, with their eyes steadily fixed upon the sun, mounting 'till, by their distance, they disappear.

Egotist. One that is always repeating the word ego, I; a talker of himself.

“A tribe of egotists, for whom I have always had a mortal aversion, are the authors of memoirs, who are never mentioned in any works but their own.” Spectator, № 562.

Elaterium. An inspissated juice, in fragments of flat and thin cakes, seldom thicker than a shilling. It is light, of a friable texture; pale, dead, whitish colour, and an acrid and pungent taste. It is procured from the fruit of the wild cucumber; the seeds of which swim in a large quantity of an acrid and almost caustick liquor. It is a very violent and rough purge.

Electricity. “A property in some bodies, whereby, when rubbed so as to grow warm, they draw little bits of paper, or such like substances, to them.” John Quincy.

Such was the account given a few years ago of electricity; but the industry of the present age, first excited by the experiments of Gray, has discovered in electricity a multitude of philosophical wonders. Bodies electrified by a sphere of glass, turned nimbly round, not only emit flame, but may be fitted with such a quantity of the electrical vapour, as, if discharged at once upon a human body, would endanger life. The force of this vapour has hitherto appeared instantaneous, persons at both ends of a long chain seeming to be struck at once. The philosophers are now endeavouring to intercept the strokes of lightning.

Elephant. The largest of all quadrupeds, of whose sagacity, faithfulness, prudence, and even understanding, many surprising relations are given.

This animal is not carnivorous, but feeds on hay, herbs, and all sorts of pulse; and it is said to be extremely long lifed. It is naturally very gentle; but when enraged, no creature is more terrible.

He is supplied with a trunk, or long hollow cartilage, like a large trumpet, which hangs between his teeth, and serves him for hands: by one blow with his trunk he will kill a camel or a horse, and will raise a prodigious weight with it. His teeth are the ivory so well known in Europe, some of which have been seen as large as a man's thigh, and a fathom in length. Wild elephants are taken with the help of a female ready for the male: she is confined to a narrow place, round which pits are dug; and these being covered with a little earth scattered over hurdles, the male elephants easily fall into the snare.

In copulation the female receives the male lying upon her back; and such is his pudicity, that he never covers the female so long as any one appears in sight.

Elf. A wandering spirit. Supposed to be seen in wild unfrequented places.

“The king of elfs and little fairy queen,

Gambol’d on heaths, and danc’d on ev’ry green.” Dryden

Encomium. Panegyrick; praise; elogy.

“A vile encomium doubly ridicules; 
                      There's nothing blackens like the ink of fools.” Pope.

Epistle. A letter. This word is seldom used but in poetry, or on occasions of dignity and solemnity.

Eremite. One who lives in a wilderness; one who lives in solitude; an hermit; a solitary.

Ereptation. A creeping forth

Err. To miss the right way; to stray.

“We have erred and strayed like lost sheep.” Common Prayer.

Escargatoire. A nursery of snails.

“At the Capuchins I saw escargatoires, which I took the more notice of, because I do not remember to have met with any thing of the same kind in other countries. It is a square place boarded in, and filled with a vast quantity of large snails that are esteemed excellent food, when they are well dressed.” Addison

Escritoir. A box with all the implements necessary for writing.

Eyetooth. The tooth on the upper jaw next on each side to the grinders; the fang.

(Our adaptation of Boswell’s Life of Johnson will continue next week. This blog is made possible in part through the generous sponsorship of Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Many are the times I have sought solace in the smoky dimnesss of Bob’s Bowery Bar. I am particularly fond of the house ‘basement-brewed’ bock.” – Horace P. Sternwall, poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist and inspirational speaker.)


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