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I seem to recall a trope or literary character representing someone working on a dry, boring work of abstruse scholarship. I thought it might be Middlemarch's Casaubon, but I don't think he quite fits the bill (he was actually something of a sham, not having the necessary German...)

The person I have in mind would be an ivory tower academic working on, for example, a ten-volume history of earthworms; not entirely pointless, but totally disconnected from any real-world relevance.

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  • Perhaps a scholar? Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 0:51
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    I have in mind Gradgrind from Dickens' Hard Times. Not sure he quite fits your description though. Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 19:51

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A harmless drudge?

When, in 1755, Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language, after seven years of solitary toil, he included this definition:

Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words

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  • I like it, though it's not what I was thinking of... Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 7:13

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