صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

readily given to propriety, and I have often endeavoured to direct the choice.

Thus have I laboured by fettling the orthography, difplaying the analogy, regulating the ftructures, and afcertaining the fignification of English words, to perform all the parts of a faithful lexicographer: but I have not always executed my own scheme, or fatisfied my own expectations. The work, whatever proofs of diligence and attention it may exhibit, is yet capable of many improvements: the orthography which I recommend is ftill controvertible; the etymology which I adopt is uncertain, and perhaps frequently erroneous; the explanations are fometimes too much contracted, and fometimes too much diffused, the fignifications are diftinguished rather with fubtilty than fkill, and the attention is haraffed with unneceffary minuteness.

The examples are too often injudiciously truncated, and perhaps fometimes, I hope very rarely, alleged in a mistaken sense; for in making this collection I trusted more to memory, than, in a state of difquiet and embarraffment, memory can contain, and purposed to supply at the review what was left incomplete in the first transcription.

Many terms appropriated to particular occupations, though neceffary and fignificant, are undoubtedly omitted; and of the words most studiously confidered and exemplified, many senses have escaped obfervation.

Yet these failures, however frequent, may admit extenuation and apology. To have attempted much is always laudable, even when the enterprize

is above the frength that undertakes it: To reft below his own aim is incident to every one whose fancy is active, and whofe views are comprehenfive; nor is any man fatisfied with himfelf because he has done much, but becaufe he can conceive little. When firft I engaged in this work, I refolved to leave neither words nor things unexamined, and pleafed myfelf with a profpect of the hours which I fhould revel away in feats of literature, the obfcure receffes of northern learning which I fhould enter and ranfack, the treafures with which I expected every fearch into thofe neglected mines to reward my labour, and the triumph with which I fhould difplay my acquifitions to mankind. When I had thus enquired into the original of words, I refolved to fhow likewife my attention to things; to pierce deep into every fcience, to enquire the nature of every fubftance of which I inferted the name, to limit every idea by a definition ftrictly logical, and exhibit every production of art or nature in an accurate defcription, that my book might be in place of all other dictionaries whether appellative or technical. But thefe were the dreams of a poet doomed at laft to wake a lexicographer. I foon found that it is too late to look for inftruments, when the work calls for execution, and that whatever abilities I had brought to my tafk, with thofe I muft finally perform it. To deliberate whenever I doubted, to enquire whenever I was ignorant, would have protracted the undertaking without end, and, perhaps, without much improvement, for I did not find by my first experiments, that what I had not of my own

was

was easily to be obtained: I saw that one enquiry only gave occafion to another, that book referred to book, that to fearch was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to purfue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chafe the fun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to reft, was still beheld at the fame distance from them.

I then contracted my defign, determining to confide in myself, and no longer to folicit auxiliaries, which produced more incumbrance than affiftance; by this I obtained at least one advantage, that I fet limits to my work, which would in time be ended, though not completed.

Defpondency has never fo far prevailed as to deprefs me to negligence; fome faults will at laft appear to be the effects of anxious diligence and perfevering activity. The nice and fubtle ramifications of meaning were not easily avoided by a mind intent upon accuracy, and convinced of the neceffity of difentangling combinations, and feparating fimilitudes. Many of the diftinctions which to common readers appear ufelefs and idle, will be found real and important by men verfed in the fchool philofophy, without which no dictionary can ever be accurately compiled, or fkilfully examined.

Some fenfes however there are, which, though not the fame, are yet fo nearly allied, that they are often confounded. Moft men think indistinctly, and therefore cannot speak with exactnefs; and confequently fome examples might be indifferently put to either fignification: this uncertainty is not to be imputed to me, who do not form, but register the

language;

language; who do not teach men how they fhould think, but relate how they have hitherto expreffed their thoughts.

The imperfect fenfe of fome examples I lamented, but could not remedy, and hope they will be compenfated by innumerable paffages felected with propriety, and preferved with exactnefs; fome fhining with fparks of imagination, and fome replete with treasures of wisdom.

The orthography and etymology, though imperfect, are not imperfect for want of care, but becaufe care will not always be fuccefsful, and recollection or information come too late for ufe.

That many terms of art and manufacture are omitted, must be frankly acknowledged; but for this defect I may boldly allege that it was unavoidable: I could not vifit caverns to learn the miner's language, nor take a voyage to perfect my skill in the dialect of navigation, nor vifit the warehouses of merchants, and fhops of artificers, to gain the names of wares, tools and operations, of which no mention is found in books; what favourable accident, or cafy enquiry brought within my reach, has not been neglected; but it has been a hopeless labour to glean up words, by courting living information, and contefting with the fullennefs of one, and the roughness of another.

To furnish the academicians della Crufca with words of this kind, a series of comedies called la Fiera, or the Fair, was profeffedly written by Buonaroti; but I had no fuch affiftant, and therefore was content to want what they must have wanted likewife, had they not luckily been fo fupplied.

Nor

[ocr errors]

Nor are all words which are not found in the vocabulary, to be lamented as omiffions. Of the laborious and mercantile part of the people, the diction is in a great measure cafual and mutable; many of their terms are formed for fome temporary or local convenience, and though current at certain times and places, are in others utterly unknown. This fugitive cant, which is always in a ftate of increafe or decay, cannot be regarded as any part of the durable materials of a language, and therefore must be suffered to perish with other things unworthy of preservation.

Care will fometimes betray to the appearance of negligence. He that is catching opportunities which feldom occur, will fuffer thofe to pafs by unregarded, which he expects hourly to return; he that is fearching for rare and remote things, will neglect. thofe that are obvious and familiar: thus many of the most common and curfory words have been inferted with little illuftration, because in gathering the authorities, I forbore to copy thofe which I thought likely to occur whenever they were wanted. It is remarkable that, in reviewing my collection, I found the word fea unexemplified.

Thus it happens, that in things difficult there is danger from ignorance, and in things eafy from confidence; the mind, afraid of greatnefs, and difdainful of littlenefs, haftily withdraws herself from painful fearches, and paffes with fcornful rapidity over tasks not adequate to her powers, fometimes too fecure for caution, and again too anxious for vigorous effort; fometimes idle in a plain path, and Some

« السابقةمتابعة »