Correspondence of John Stephen Farmer and W. E. Henley on Their Slang Dictionary 1890-1904

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Slang and its Analogues is a classic of its kind, completed in seven volumes between 1890 and 1904, and has not been superseded. It was last reprinted in 1987. This study sheds light on its compilation through an examination of the correspondence of the two editors. The letters illustrate the nature of the Farmer-Henley relationship, which appears to be quite formal, and the amount of work involved in such an enterprise. Apart from slang, the book provides an insight into the second half of Farmer’s literary career as an editor of early English drama texts.


“These meticulously edited letters illuminate an unexplored and surprisingly colourful area of late nineteenth century letters, the world of dictionary-making and textual reprinting. The collaboration of W. E. Henley and J. S. Farmer on the seven-volume Slang and its Analogues marked the conjunction of two highly idiosyncratic and energetic literary entrepreneurs ... Their published correspondence adds significantly to the portrait of W. E. Henley revealed in Dr. Damian Atkinson’s acclaimed edition of The Selected Letters of W. E. Henley.” – Professor Joanne Shattock, Victorian Studies Centre, University of Leicester

"The second half of the nineteenth century brought forth an amazing number of lexicographers, most of them from humble backgrounds and nearly all self-educated ... The best remembered of these is James Murray ... and Joseph Wright ... A tier, or perhaps two, below them in the ranks of lexicographers are James Platt and John Farmer ... Now comes the author with a detailed life of Farmer in the introduction to a collection of correspondence devoted to Slang and its Analogues ... Farmer and [W.E. Henley] were a remarkable pair, and this collection helps illuminate the mystery of the collaboration between them on Slang and its Analogues ... This volume provides valuable grounding for an inevitable history of lexicography flourishing around the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) ... So fine a literary detective is Dr. Atkinson that one would like to see him keep up the pursuit for the elusive John Stephen Farmer ..." - Richard W. Bailey, The University of Michigan “[The author] has managed to provide an insight into both the unknown personal life of Farmer and the problems concerned with the composition of the dictionary. The dictionary was a major literary achievement, and Dr. Atkinson’s book is the first that draws on the correspondence between the two editors. In addition, Dr. Atkinson has thrown some light on Farmer’s later editorial work on English drama.” – Deborah Hayward Eaton, Librarian, St. Edmund Hall, Oxford

Table of Contents

Sources of Letters, Abbreviations and Short Titles
The Letters
Appendix: Reviews and Correspondence
A Bibliography of John Stephen Farmer
Index of Correspondents

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