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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 thein, 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 iinpure and barbarous.
Words of general use will be known by having no sign of particularity, and their various senses will be fupported by authorities of all ages.
The words appropriated to poetry will be distin. guilled by some mark prefixed, or will be known by having no authorities but those of poets.
Of antiquated or obsolete words, none will be inserted but such as are to be found in authors who wrote since the accession of Elizabeth, from which we date the golden age of our language ; and of these many might be omitted, but that 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 confeffed and established models of stile. 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 hien that has used them; but such will be omitted, unless either their propriety, elegance, or force, or the reputation of their authors, affords lome extraordinary reason for their reception.
Words used in burlesque and familiar compofitions, 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 hur?’d, Tis' these that early taint the female soul, In Addison :
Attend to what a leffer muse indites. And in Dryden,
A dreadful quiet felt, and worfer far
Than arms 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 fince determined, by your Lordship’s opinion, to interpose my own judgment, and shall therefore endeavour to support what appears to me moft confonant to grammar and reafon. Aufonius thought that modesty forbad him to plead inability for a task to which Cæfar had judged him equal.
Cur me pose negem poffe quod ille pittat ? 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 delegáte 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 fentences, as, besides their immediate use, may give pleasure or instruction, by conveying fome elegance of language, or some precept of prudence, or piety.
It has been asked, on some occasions, who shall judge the judges ? And fince, with regard to this defign, 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 alledged, 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, Miltou may be cited,
- The mountain oak Stands scath'd to heaven
- He with broad fails Winnow'd the buxom airBy 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 a 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 di&tionary 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 thoughi, 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 likewife 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 tongues, have formed i chaotic dialect of heterogeneous phrases ; and awaken to the care of purer diction fome men of genius, whose attention to argument makes them negligent of stile, or whose rapid imagination, like the Peruvian torrents, when it brings down gold, mingles it with land.
When I survey the Plan which I have laid before you, I cannot, my Lord, but contels, that I am frighted at its extent, and, like thie soldiers of Gelar, look on Britain as a new world, which it is almost madness to invade. But I hope, that though I should not complete the conqueft, I shall at least discover the coast, civilize part of the inhabitants, and make it ealy for some other adventurer to proceed farther, to reduce theni 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, I 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