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whence the French is apparently derived. | they cannot be reduced to rules, must be Where a Saxon root cannot be found, the defect learned from the dictionary rather than the may be supplied from kindred languages, which grammar. will be generally furnished with much liberality by the writers of our glossaries; writers who deserve often the highest praise, both of judgment and industry, and may expect at least to be mentioned with honour by me, whom they have freed from the greatest part of a very laborious work, and on whom they have imposed, at worst, only the easy task of rejecting superfluities.
The verbs are likewise to be distinguished according to their qualities, as actives from neuters; the neglect of which has already introduced some barbarities in our conversation, which if not obviated by just animadversions, may in time creep into our writings.
Thus, my Lord, will our language be laid down, distinct in its minutest subdivisions, and And resolved into its elemental principles. who upon this survey can forbear to wish, that these fundamental atoms of our speech might obtain the firmness and immutability of the primogenial and constituent particles of matter, that they might retain their substance, while they alter their appearance, and be varied and compounded, yet not destroyed.
But this is a privilege which words are scarcely to expect: for, like their author, when they are not gaining strength, they are generally losing it. Though art may sometimes prolong their duration, it will rarely give them perpetuity; and their changes will be almost always informing us, that language is the work of man, of a being from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived.
Words having been hitherto considered as separate and unconnected, are now to be likewise examined as they are ranged in their various relations to others by the rules of syntax or construction, to which I do not know that any regard has been yet shown in English dictionaries, and in which the grammarians can The syntax of this langive little assistance. guage is too inconsistent to be reduced to rules, and can be only learned by the distinct consideration of particular words, as they are used Thus, we say, according by the best authors. to the present modes of speech, The soldier died of his wounds, and the sailor perished with hunger and every man acquainted with our language would be offended by a change of these particles, which yet seem originally assigned by chance, there being no reason to be drawn from grammar why a man may not, with equal propriety, be said to die with a wound, or perish of hunger.
By tracing in this manner every word to its original, and not admitting, but with great caution, any of which no original can be found, we shall secure our language from being overrun with cant, from being crowded with low terms, the spawn of folly or affectation, which arise from no just principles of speech, and of which therefore no legitimate derivation can be shown.
When the etymology is thus adjusted, the analogy of our language is next to be considered; when we have discovered whence our words are derived, we are to examine by what rules they are governed, and how they are inflected through their various terminations. The terminations of the English are few, but those few have hitherto remained unregarded by the writers of our dictionaries. Our substantives are declined only by the plural termination, our adjectives admit no variation but in the degrees of comparison, and our verbs are conjugated by auxiliary words, and are only changed in the preter tense.
To our language may be with great justness applied the observation of Quintilian, that speech was not formed by an analogy sent from heaven. It did not descend to us in a state of uniformity and perfection, but was produced by necessity, and enlarged by accident, and is therefore composed of dissimilar parts, thrown together by negligence, by affectation, by learning, or by ignorance.
Our syntax therefore is not to be taught by and general rules, but by special precedents; in examining whether Addison has been with
Our inflections therefore are by no means constant, but admit of numberless irregularities, which in this Dictionary will be diligently noted. Thus for makes in the plural fores, but or, makes oxen. Sheep is the same in both numbers. Adjectives are sometimes compared by changing the last syllable, as proud, prouder, proudest and sometimes by particles prefixed, as ambitious, more ambitious, most ambitious. The forms of our verbs are subject to great va-justice accused of a solecism in this passage, riety; some end their preter tense in ed, as I love, I loved, I have loved: which may be called the regular form, and is followed by most of our verbs of southern original. But many depart from this rule without agreeing in any other; as I shake, I shook, I have shaken, or shook, as it is sometimes written in poetry; I make, I made, I have made; I bring, 1 brought; I wring, I wrung; and many others, which, as
The poor inbabitant
Starves in the midst of nature's bounty curst
it is not in our power to have recourse to any established laws of speech; but we must remark how the writers of former ages have used the same word, and consider whether he can be acquitted of impropriety, upon the testi
mony of Davies, given in his favour by a similar passage.
She loathes the watery glass wherein she gazed, And shuns it still, although for thirst she dye.
When the construction of a word is explained, it is necessary to pursue it through its train of phraseology, through those forms where it is used in a manner peculiar to our language, or in senses not to be comprised in the general explanations; as from the verb make arise these phrases, to make love, to make an end, to make way; as, he made way for his followers, the ship made way before the wind; to make a bed, to make merry, to make a mock, to make presents, to make a doubt, to make out an assertion, to make good a breach, to make good a cause, to make nothing of an attempt, to make lamentation, to make a merit, and many others which will occur in reading with that view, and which only their frequency hinders from being generally remarked.
The great labour is yet to come, the labour of interpreting these words and phrases with brevity, fulness, and perspicuity; a task of which the extent and intricacy is sufficiently shown by the miscarriage of those who have generally attempted it. This difficulty is increased by the necessity of explaining the words in the same language, for there is often only one word for one idea; and though it be easy to translate the words bright, sweet, salt, butter, into another language, it is not easy to explain them.
With regard to the interpretation, many other questions have required consideration. It was some time doubted whether it be necessary to explain the things implied by particular words; as under the term baronet, whether, instead of this explanation, a title of honour next in degree to that of baron, it would be better to mention more particularly the creation, privileges, and rank of baronets; and whether, under the word barometer, instead of being satisfied with observing that it is an instrument to discover the weight of the air, it would be fit to spend a few lines upon its invention, construction, and principles. It is not to be expected, that with the explanation of the one the herald should be satisfied, or the philosopher with that of the other; but since it will be required by common readers, that the explications should be sufficient for common use; and since, without some attention to such demands, the Dictionary cannot become generally valuable, I have determined to consult the best writers for explana
tions real as well as verbal; and perhaps I may
at last have reason to say, after one of the augmenters of Furetier, that my book is more learned than its author.
In explaining the general and popular language, it seems necessary to sort the several
senses of each word, and to exhibit first its natural and primitive signification; as,
To arrive, to reach the shore in a voyage: he arrived at a safe harbour.
Then to give its consequential meaning, to arrive, to reach any place, whether by land or sea; as, he arrived at his country seat.
Then its metaphorical sense, to obtain any thing desired; as, he arrived at a peerage.
Then to mention any observation that arises from the comparison of one meaning with another; as it may be remarked of the word arrive, that, in consequence of its original and etymological sense, it cannot be properly applied but to words signifying something desirable: thus we say, a man arrived at happiness; but cannot say, without a mixture of irony, he arrived at misery.
Ground, the earth, generally as opposed to the air or water. He swam till he reached ground. The bird fell to the ground.
Then follows the accidental or consequential signification in which ground implies any thing that lies under another; as, he laid colours upon a rough ground. The silk had blue flowers on a red ground.
Then the remoter or metaphorical signification; as, the ground of his opinion was a false computation. The ground of his work was his father's manuscript.
After having gone through the natural and figurative senses, it will be proper to subjoin the poetical sense of each word, where it dif fers from that which is in common use; as wanton, applied to any thing of which the motion is irregular without terror; as,
In wanton ringlets curl'd her hair.
To the poetical sense may succeed the familiar; as of toast, used to imply the person whose health is drank; as,
The wise man's passion and the vain man's toast. POPE.
The familiar may be followed by the burlesque; as of mellow, applied to good fellowship.
In all thy humours, whether grave or mellow. ADDISON.
Or of bite, used for cheat:
More a dupe than wit, Sappho can tell you how this man was bit. PoPE.
And lastly, may be produced the peculiar sense, in which a word is found in any great
author; as faculties, in Shakspeare, signifies the
powers of authority:
-This Dancan Has born his faculties so meek, has been So clear in his great office, that, &c.
The signification of adjectives may be often ascertained by uniting them to substantives; as, simple swain, simple sheep. Sometimes the sense of a substantive may be elucidated by the epithets annexed to it in good authors: as, the boundless ocean, the open lawns: and where such advantage can be gained by a short quotation, it is not to be omitted.
The difference of signification in words generally accounted synonymous, ought to be carefully observed; as in pride, haughtiness, arrogance: and the strict and critical meaning ought to be distinguished from that which is loose and popular; as in the word perfection, which, though in its philosophical and exact sense it can be of little use among human beings, is often so much degraded from its original signification, that the academicians have inserted in their work, the perfection of a language, and, with a little more licentiousness, might have prevailed on themselves to have added the perfection of a dictionary.
There are many other characters of words which it will be of use to mention. Some have both an active and passive signification; as fearful, that which gives or which feels terror; a fearful prodigy, a fearful hare. Some have a personal, some a real meaning; as in opposition to old, we use the adjective young, of animated beings, and new of other things. Some are restrained to the sense of praise, and others to that of disapprobation; so commonly, though not always, we exhort to good actions, we instigate to ill; we animate, incite, and encourage indifferently to good or bad. So we usually ascribe good but impute evil; yet neither the use of these words, nor, perhaps, of any other in our licentious language, is so established as not to be often reversed by the correctest writers. I shall therefore, since the rules of style, like those of law, arise from precedents often repeated, collect the testimonies on both sides, and endeavour to discover and promulgate the decrees of custom, who has so long possessed, whether by right or by usurpation, the sovereignty of
It is necessary likewise to explain many words by their opposition to others; for contraries are best seen when they stand together. Thus the verb stand has one sense, as opposed to fall, and another as opposed to fly; for want of attending to which dictinction, obvious as it is, the learned Dr. Bentley has squandered his criticism to no purpose, on these lines of Paradise Lost:
In heaps Chariot and charioteer lay overturn'd, And fiery foaming steeds. What stood, recoil'd, O'erwearied, through the faint satanic host, Defensive scarce, or with pale fear surprized, Fled ignominious
"Here," says the critic, "as the sentence is now read, we find that what stood, fled:" and therefore he proposes an alteration, which he might have spared if he had consulted a dictionary, and found that nothing more was affirmed than that those fled who did not fall.
In explaining such meanings as seem accidental and adventitious, I shall endeavour to give an account of the means by which they were introduced. Thus, to eke out any thing, signifies to lengthen it beyond its just dimensions, by some low artifice; because the word eke was the usual refuge of our old writers, when they wanted a syllable. And buxom, which means only obedient, is now made, in familiar phrases, to stand for wanton; because in an ancient form of marriage, before the Reformation, the bride promised complaisance and obedience, in these terms; "I will be bonair and buxom in bed and at board.”
I know well, my Lord, how trifling many of these remarks will appear separately considered, and how easily they may give occasion to the contemptuous merriment of sportive idleness, and the gloomy censures of arrogant stupidity; but dulness it is easy to despise, and laughter it is easy to repay. I shall not be solicitous what is thought of my work by such as know not the difficulty or importance of philological studies; nor shall think those that have done nothing, qualified to condemn me for doing little. It may not, however, be improper to remind them, that no terrestrial greatness is more than an aggregate of little things; and to inculcate, after the Arabian proverb, that drops, added to drops, constitute the ocean.
There remains yet to be considered the distribution of words into their proper classes, or that part of lexicography which is strictly critical.
The popular part of the language, which includes all words not appropriated to particular sciences, admits of many distinctions and subdivisions; as, into words of general use, words employed chiefly in poetry, words obsolete, words which are admitted only by particular writers, yet not in themselves improper; words used only in burlesque writing; and words impure and barbarous.
the reader may require, with an appearance of reason, that no difficulty should be left unresolved in books which he finds himself invited to read, as confessed and established models of style. These will be likewise pointed out by some note of exclusion, but not of disgrace.
The words which are found only in particular books, will be known by the single name of him that has used them; but such will be omitted, unless either their propriety, elegance, or force, or the reputation of their authors, affords some extraordinary reason for their reception.
Words used in burlesque and familiar compositions, will be likewise mentioned with their proper authorities; such as dudgeon, from Butler, and leasing, from Prior; and will be diligently characterised by marks of distinction.
Barbarous, or impure words and expressions may be branded with some note of infamy, as they are carefully to be eradicated wherever they are found; and they occur too frequently even in the best writers; as in Pope,
in endless error hurl'd.
'Tis there that early taint the female soul.
Attend to what a lesser muse incites.
And in Dryden,
A dreadful quiet felt, and worser far Thanrans
If this part of the Work can be well performed, it will be equivalent to the proposal made by Boileau to the academicians, that they should review all their polite writers, and correct such impurities as might be found in them, that their authority might not contribute at any distant time, to the depravation of the language.
With regard to questions of purity or propriety, I was once in doubt whether I should not attribute too much to myself, in attempting to decide them, and whether my province was to extend beyond the proposition of the question, and the display of the suffrages on each side; but I have been since determined, by your Lordship's opinion, to interpose my own judgment, and shall therefore endeavour to support what appears to me most consonant to grammar and reason. Ausonius thought that modesty forbad him to plead inability for a task to which Cæsar had judged him equal.
Cur me posse negem, posse quod ille putat!
And I may hope, my Lord, that since you, whose authority in our language is so generally acknowledged, have commissioned me to declare my own opinion, I shall be considered as exercising a kind of vicarious jurisdiction, and that the power which might have been denied to my
own claim, will be readily allowed me as the delegate of your Lordship.
In citing authorities, on which the credit of every part of this Work must depend, it will be proper to observe some obvious rules such as of preferring writers of the first reputation to those of an inferior rank; of noting the quotations with accuracy; and of selecting, when it can be conveniently done, such sentences, as, besides their immediate use, may give pleasure or instruction, by conveying some elegance of language, or some precept of prudence, or piety.
It has been asked, on some occasions, who shall judge the judges? And since, with regard to this design, a question may arise by what authority the authorities are selected, it is necessary to obviate it, by declaring that many of the writers whose testimonies will be alleged, were selected by Mr. Pope; of whom I may be justified in affirming, that were he still alive, solicitous as he was for the success of this work, he would not be displeased that I have undertaken it.
It will be proper that the quotations be ranged according to the ages of their authors; and it will afford an agreeable amusement, if to the words and phrases which are not of our own growth, the name of the writer who first introduced them can be affixed; and if to words which are now antiquated, the authority be subjoined of him who last admitted them. Thus, for scathe and buxom, now obsolete, Milton may be cited,
The mountain oak Stands scathed to heaven
He with broad sails Winnow'd the buxom air
By this method every word will have its history, and the reader will be informed of the gradual changes of the language, and have before his eyes the rise of some words, and the fall of others. But observations so minute and accurate are to be desired, rather than expected; and if use be carefully supplied, curiosity must sometimes bear its disappointments.
This, my Lord, is my idea of an English Dictionary; a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated; by which its purity may be preserved, its use ascertained, and its duration lengthened. And though, perhaps, to correct the language of nations by books of grammar, and amend their manners by discourses of morality, may be tasks equally difficult; yet, as it is unavoidable to wish, it is natural likewise to hope that your Lordship's patronage may not be wholly lost; that it may contribute to the preservation of ancient, and the improvement of modern writers; that it may promote the reformation of those translators, who, for want of
understanding the characteristical difference of | from a contest with united academies, and long
When I survey the Plan which I have laid before you, I cannot, my Lord, but confess, that I am frighted at its extent, and, like the soldiers of Cæsar, look on Britain as a new world, which it is almost madness to invade. But I hope, that though I should not complete the conquest, I shall at least discover the coast, civilize part of the inhabitants, and make it easy for some other adventurer to proceed farther, to reduce them wholly to subjection, and settle them under laws.
We are taught by the great Roman orator, that every man should propose to himself the highest degree of excellence, but that he may stop with honour at the second or third: though therefore my performance should fall below the excellence of other dictionaries, 1 may obtain, at least, the praise of having endeavoured well; nor shall I think it any reproach to my diligence, that I have retired without a triumph,
It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.
their progress. Every other author may aspire
I have, notwithstanding this discouragement,
When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetic without rule; wherever I