The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXV. Scholars

§ 6. John Pickering

Closely associated with DuPonceau both by personal friendship and by the broad humanism of his work was John Pickering (1777–1846), a son of the more celebrated Timothy Pickering. In Salem and in Boston John Pickering continued his literary studies, becoming by 1806 “an adept in the Hebrew and probably in one or two Semitic tongues beside,” but declining an appointment as Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages at Harvard. He likewise declined (1814) the newly established Eliot Professorship of Greek Literature, of which Edward Everett thereupon became the first incumbent. Pickering’s Greek and English Lexicon (1826)—a translation of Schrevelius projected and partly executed in 1814—just misses being the earliest of all the Greek-English lexicons. Acquainted with Oriental languages, including Chinese and a number of African and Pacific dialects, Pickering was one of the founders and was the first president of the American Oriental Society. He was deeply versed as well in the American Indian languages, and his treatise On the Adoption of a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North America (Memoirs of the American Academy) excited much interest abroad. He lectured to popular audiences upon Champollion’s discoveries concerning the hieroglyphic language of Egypt. Today he is best remembered by his work on Americanisms, as presented to the American Academy in 1815 and published the next year in enlarged form—an invaluable record of American speech in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.