Trench was an Anglican clergyman of the mid-nineteenth century. He eventually became the Archbishop of Dublin in the Church of Ireland. That was his day job, and his wonderful book On the Study of Words had its origins in lectures given to seminarians. Trench believed that words were “the guardians of thoughts,” and that the English lexicon, properly understood from an historical perspective, was in itself a nearly complete syllabus of truths human and divine. Some of his individual lectures were entitled “On the Poetry in Words,” “On the Morality in Words,” and “On the History in Words.” No reader can stick a thumb into this philological pie without coming up with a succulent plumb. Words that one has used all one's life—such as cheat, guinea, pagan, sham, tawdry, along with a thousand more—gain a new vivacity in Trench’s offhand remarks. Who knew that ringleader was once a term of respect and a genuine compliment?
A lean, mean lexicographical machine
James Murray at OEDHQ, early 20th century (the Honus Wagner card)