Frederick Barlow and Charles Marriott:

Radical Lexicographers in Eighteenth-Century England

Linda C. Mitchell

San José State University


Today we expect dictionaries to provide mostly linguistic information with just a sprinkling of other topics, but dictionaries in

eighteenth-century England might include radical statements on religion, politics, and social injustices.  Earlier seventeenth-century dictionaries had been crude affairs with little codification.  In the eighteenth century, even though lexicons were becoming codified, they still offered rich, diverse commentaries on contemporary cultural issues.  Several lexicographers, like Frederick Barlow and Charles Marriott, used their dictionaries to voice radical opinions on current issues.  They were an interesting contrast to their more conventional peers like William Kenrick or John Kersey who were also publishing dictionaries. 


 Frederick Barlow establishes his linguistic authority straightaway in The Complete English Dictionary (1772) by opening with a prescriptive grammar.  In the dictionary itself, some of his entries are commentaries on controversial subjects that, at times, run for almost two pages.  Barlow does not hesitate to argue that the Pope is greedy and dishonest, or that Methodists are imposters.  Eight years later, in The New Royal English Dictionary (1780), Charles Marriott plagiarized most of Barlow’s material and slanted much of the content to reflect his own different but still highly prejudiced views.  Marriott targets foreigners as a threat to the mother tongue.  He is less critical of the Pope, but he lashes out more bitingly at Methodists.  Marriott includes colorful but frank commentary on the history of kings and queens and their misuse of power.  He also adds travel information about geographical areas, markets days, manufactured items, and special attractions.  Thus, Barlow and Marriott use their dictionaries as a venue to argue opinions on such topics as religious sects, political groups, and even tourism.





Linda C. Mitchell, Associate Professor

Department of English and Comparative Literature

San Jose State University

San Jose, CA 95192-0090

Office: (408) 924-4453  Fax: (408) 924-4580