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over Talks not adequate to her Powers ; fometimes too secure for Caution, and again too anxious of vigorous Effort ; sometimes idle in a plain Path, and fometimes distracted in Labyrinths, and dislipated by different Intentions.
A large Work is difficult because it is large, ever though all its Parts might fingly be performed witli Facility; where there are many Things to be done; each must be allowed its Share of Time and Labour, in the Proportion only which it bears to the Whole ; nor can it be expected that the Stones which form the Dome of a Temple, should be squared and polished like the Diamond of a Ring.
Of the Event of this Work, for which, having laboured it with so much Application, I cannot but have some Degree of parental Fondness, it is natural to form Conjectures. Those who have been perfuaded to think well of my Design, require that it should fix our Language, and put a Stop to those Alterations which Time and Chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without Opposition. With this Confequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while ; but now begin to fear thať I have indulged Expectation, which neither Reafon nor Experience can justify. When we fee Men grow
old and die, at a certain Time, one after an. other, from Century to Century, we laugh at the Elixir that promises to prolong Life to a thousand Years; and with equal Justice may the Lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no Example of a Nation that has preserved their Words and Phrases from Mutability, shall imagine that his Dictionary can embalm his Language, and secure it from Corruption and Decay; that it is in his Power to change fublunary Nature, or clear the World at once from Folly, Vanity, and Affectation.
With this Hope, however, Academies have been instituted, to guard the Avenues of their Languages,
to retain Fugitives, and repulse Intruders ; but their Vigilance and Activity have hitherto been vain , Sounds are too volatile and subtle for legal Restraints ; to enchain syllables, and to lash the Wind åre equally the Undertakings of Pride, unwilling to measure its Desires by its Strength. The French Language has visibly changed under the Inspection of the Academy: the Stile of Amelot's Translation of Father Paul is observed by Le Courayer to be un peu passé ; and no Italian will maintain, that the Diction of any modern Writer is not perceptibly different from that of Boccace, Machiavel, or Caro.
Total and sudden Transformations of a Language seldom happen ; Conquests and Migrations are now very rare; but there are other Causes of Change, which, though slow in their Operation, and invisible in their Progress, are perhaps as much superior to human Resistance, as the Revolutions of the Sky, or Intumescence of the Tide. Commerce, however neceffary, however lucrative, as it depraves the Manners, corrupts the Language ; they that have frequent Intercourse with Strangers, 'to whom they endeavour to accommodate themselves, must in Time learn a mingled Dialect, like the Jargon which serves the Traffickers on the Mediterranean and Indian Coasts. This will not always be confined to the Exchange, the Warehouse, or the Port, but will be communicated by Degrees to other Ranks of the People, and be at last incorporated with the current Speech.
There are likewise internal Causes equally forcible. The Language most likely to continue long without Alteration, would be that of a Nation raised a little, and but a little, above Barbarity, secluded from Strangers, and totally employed in procuring the Conveniences of Life: either without Books, or, like some of the Mahometan Countries, with very few : Men thus bulied and unlearned, having only VOL. II.
such Words as common Use requires, would pero haps long continue to express the same Notions by the fame Signs. But no such Constancy can be expected in a People polished by Arts, and claffed by Subordination, where one Part of the Community is sustained and accommodated by the Labour of the other. Those who have much Leisure to think, will always be enlarging the stock of ideas, and every Increase of Knowledge, whether real or fancied, will produce new Words, or Combinations of Words. When the Mind is unchained from Necessity, it will range after Convenience ; when it is left at Jarge in the fields of Speculation, it will shift Opinions; as any Custom is disused, the words that expressed it must perish with it; as any Opinion grows popular, it will innovate Speech in the same Proportion as it alters Practice.
As by the Cultivation of various Sciences a Language is amplified it will be more furnished with Words deflected from their original Sense ; the Geometrician will talk of a Courtier's Zenith, or the excentrick Virtue of a wild Hero ; and the Physician of fanguine Expectations, and phlegmatick Delays. Copioufness of Speech will give Opportunities to capricious Choice, by which fome Words will be preferred, and others degraded ; Viciffitudes of FaThion will enforce the Use of new, or extend the Signification of known Terms. The Tropes of Poetry will make hourly Encroachments, and the metaphorical will become the current Senfe : Pronunciation will be varied by Levity or Ignorance, and the Pen must at length comply with the Tongue; illiterate Writers will at one Time or other, by publick Infautation, rise into Renown; who, not knowing the original Import of Words, will use them with colloquial Licentiousness, confound Distinction and forget Propriety. As Politeness increases, some Expressions will be considered as too gross and vul
gar for the Delicate, others as too formal and ceremonious for the Gay and Airy; new Phrases are therefore adopted, which must, for the same Rea, sons, be in Time dismified. Swift, in his petty Treatise on the English Language, allows that new Words must sometimes be introduced, but proposes that none should be suffered to become obsolete. But, what makes a Word obsolete, more than general Agreement to forbear it? And how shall it be continued, when it conveys an offensive Idea, or recalled again into Mouths the Mankind, when it has once by Disuse become unfamiliar, and by Unfamiliarity unpleasing.
There is another Cause of Alteration more prevalent than any other, which yet, in the present State of the World, cannot be obviated. A Mixture of two Languages will produce a Third, distinct from both, and they will always be mixed, where the chief Part of Education, and the most confpicuous Accomplishment, is Skill in ancient or in foreign Tongues. He that has long cultivated another Language, will find its Words and Combinations croud upon his Memory; and Haste and Negligence, Refinement and Affectation, will obtrude borrowed Terms and exotick Expressions.
The great Pest of Speech is Frequency of TranNation. No Book was ever turned from one Lan. guage into another, wtthout imparting something of its native Idiom ; this is the most mischievous and comprehensive Innovation ; single Words may enter by Thousands, and the Fabrick of the Tongue continue the same, but new Phraseology changes much at once ; it alters not the single Stones of the Build, ing, but the Order of the Columns. If an Academy should be established for the Cultivation of our Stile, which I, who can never wish to see Dependance multiplied, hope the Spirit of English Liberty will hinder or destroy, let them, instead of con
piling Grammars and Dictionaries, endeavour, with all their Influence, to stop the Licence of Tranflatours, whose Idieness and Ignorance, if it be fuffered to proceed, will reduce us to babble a Dialect of France.
If the Changes that we fear be thus irrefiftible what remains but to acquiesce with Silence, as in the other insurmountable Distreffes of Humani. ty? It remains that we retard what we cannot repel, that we palliate what we cannot cure. Life may be lengthened by Care, though Death cannot be ultimately defeated: Tongues, like Governments, have a natural Tendency to Degeneration; we have long preserved our Conftitution, let us make some Struggles for our Language.
In Hope of giving Longevity to that which its own Nature forbids to be immortal, I have devoted this Book, the Labour of Years, to the Honour of my Country, that we may no longer yield the Palm of Philology to the Nations of the Continent. The chief Glory of every People arises from its Authours! Whether I shall add any Thing by my own Writings to the Reputation of Englijo Literature, must be left to Time : Much of my Life has been loft under the Prefsures of Diseafe ; much has been trifled away; and much has always been fpent in Provision for the Day that was pafling over me ;
but I shall not think my Employment useless or ignoble, if by my Allistance foreign Nations, and distant Ages, gain Access to the Propagators of Knowledge, and understand the Teachers of Truth ; if my Labours afford Light to the Repofitories of Science, and add Celebrity to Bacon, to Hooker, to Milton and to Boyle.
When I am animated by this Wish I look with Pleafure on my Book, however defective, and deliver it to the World with the Spirit of a Man that has endeavoured well. That it will immediately be