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comınits errours, where there appears neither ambi. guity to mislead, nor obscurity to confound him; and in a search like this, many felicities of expreffion will be casually overlooked, many convenient parallels will be forgotten, and many particulars will admit improvement from a mind utterly unequal to the whole performance.
But many seeming faults are to be imputed rather to the nature of the undertaking, than the negligence of the performer. Thus some explanations are unavoidably reciprocal or circular, as bind, the feinale of the stagi fteg, the male of the hind: fometimes easier words are changed into harder, as burial into jepulture or interment, drier into deficcative, dryness into ficcity or aridity, fit into paroxyfm ; for the easiest word, whatever it be, can never be translated into one inore easy. But easiness and difficulty are merely relative; and if the present prevalence of our language should invite foreigners to this Dictionary, many will be affitted by thole words which bow seein only to increase or produce obscurity. For this reason I have endeavoured frequently to join a Teutonick and Roman interpretation, as to cheer, to gladden, or exbilarati, that every learner of Eng. 11) may be allied hy his own tongue. ,
The solution of all difficulties, and the supply of all deleis, must be fought in the examples, subjoined to the various fenfes of each word, and ranged according to the time of their authors. .
When I first collected these authorities, I was slefirous that every quotation should be useful to some other end than the illustration of a word; I therefore extracted from philosophers principles of
science; Science; from historians remarkable facts; from chymists complete processes; from divines striking exhortations; and from poets beautiful descriptions. Such is design, while it is yet at a distance from execution. When the cime called upon me to range this accumulation of elegance and wisdom into an alphabetical series, I soon discovered that the bulk of my volumes would fright away the student, and was forced to depart froin my scheme of including all that was pleasing or useful in English literature, and reduce my transcripts very often to clusters of words, in which scarcely any meaning is retained; thus to the weariness of copying, I was condemned to add the vexation of expunging. Some passages I have yet spared, which may relieve the labour of verbal searches, and intersperse with verdure and Aowers the dusty desarts of barren phi, lology.
The examples, thus mutilated, are no longer ta be considered as conveying the sentiments or doctrine of their authors; the word for the sake of which they are inserted, with all its appendang clauses, has been carefully preserved; but it may sometimes happen, by hafty detruncation, that the general tendency of the sentence may be changed: the divine may desert his tenets, or the philofopher his system.
Some of the examples have been taken from writers who were never mentioned as masters of elegance or models of style; but words must be fought where they are used; and in what pages, eminent for purity, can terms of manufacture or agriculcure be found ? Many quotations serve no
other purpose, than that of proving the bire exit. ence of words, and are therefore selected with lei scrupulousness than those which are to teach the structures and relations.
My purpose was to admit no testimony of living authors, that I might not be mined by partial , and that none of my cotemporaries might have reson to complain; nor have I departed from this re. solution, but when some perforinance of uncom:1:01 excellence excited my veneration, when my memory supplied me, from late books, with an exam; le that was wanting, or when my heart, in the tenderneis cf friendthip, solicited admission for a favourite na.ns.
So far have I been from any care to grace ry pages with modern decorations, that I have ftudi. ously endeavoured to collect examples and authorities from the writers before the restoration, whore works I regard as the weils of Englib unified, as the pure fources of genuine diction. Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its original Teutonick character, and deviating towards a Gallick structure and phraseology, from which it ought to be our endeavour to recal it, by making our ancient volumes the ground-work of style, al. mitting among the additions of later times, only such as may supply real dcticiencies, such as are readily adopted by the genius of our tongue, and incorporate easily with our native idioins.
But as every language has a time of rudencis ante. cedent to perfection, as well as of false refinement and declension, I have been cautious left my zeal for antiquity might drive me into tiines too reinote,
and crowd my book with words now no longer understood. I have fixed Sidney's work for the boundary, beyond which I make few excursions. From the authors which rose in the time of Elizabeth, a speech might be formed adequate to all the purposes of use and elegance. If the language of theology were ex. tracted from Hooker and the translation of the Bible; the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war, and navigation from Raleigh; the dialect of poetry and fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakespeare, few ideas would be lost to mankind, for want of English words, in which they might be expreffed.
It is not sufficient that a word is found, unless it be so combined as that its meaning is apparently de. termined by the tract and tenour of the sentence; such passages I have therefore chosen, and when it happened that any author gave a definition of a term, or such an explanation as is equivalent. to a definition, I have placed his authority as a supple. ment to my own, without regard to the chronological order, that is otherwise observed.
Some words, indeed, stand uniupported by any authority, but they are commonly derivative nouns or adverbs, formed from their primitives by regular and constant analogy, or names of things seldom occurring in books, or words of which I have rea. son to doubt the existence.
There is more danger of censure from the multiplicity than paucity of examples; authorities will sometimes seem to have been accumulated witbout necessity or use, and perhaps some will be found, „which might, without loss, have been omitted.
But a work of this kind is not hastily to be charged with superfluities : those quotations, which to careless or unskilful perulers appear only to repeat the same sense, will often exhibit, to a more accurate examiner, diversities of fignification, or, at least, afford different shades of the same meaning: one will shew the word applied to persons, another to things; one will express an ill, another a good, and a third a neutral sense; one will prove the expression genuine from an ancient author; another will hew it elegant from a modern : a doubtful authority is corroborated by another of more credit; an ambigu. ous fentence is ascertained by a passage clear and determinate; the word, how often foever repeated, appears with new associates and in different combinations, and every quotation contributes some. thing to the stability or enlargement of the language.
When words are used equivocally, I receive them in either sense; when they are metaphorical, I adopt them in their primitive acceptation.
I have sometimes, though rarely, yielded to the temptation of exhibiting a genealogy of sentiments, by shewing how one author copied the thoughts and diction of another: such quotations are indeed little more than repetitions, which might justly be censured, did they not gratify the mind, by affording a kind of intellectual history.
The various syntactical structures occurring in the examples have been carefully noted; the licence or negligence with which many words have been hitherto used, has made our style capricious and indeterminate; when the different combinations of the fume word are exhibited together, the preference is