1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anna Seward to Mrs. Mompessan, 14 June 1791; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 3:71-72.



You remember my observing to you how much our language had become, even in common conversation, Latinized, since Dr. Johnson's writings were familiar to people, and since his fine style had been so generally adopted by ingenious writers. I heard some ladies at Burton, who neither have, nor pretend to bookish knowledge, use the following words with prompt spontaneity in conversing on common topics, viz. "literature, literary, hilarity, stipulate, excruciating, delusive, juvenile, temerity, contemporary, phenomenon, popular, conservatory," &c. &c. Twenty years ago, scarce one of those words would have been understood, much less used by the generality of private gentle-women.