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commits errours, where there appears neither ambi. guity to mislead, nor obscurity to confound him ; and in a search like this, many felicities of expression will be casually overlooked, many convenient parrallels will be forgotten, and many particulars will admit improvement from a mind utterly unequal to the whole performance.
But many leemug 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 hind, the female of the frag; stag, the male of the hind: fome. times easier words are changed into harder, as burial into fepulture, or interment, drier into deficcative, dryness into ficcity or aridity, fit into paroxysm; for the easiest word, whatever it be, can never be translated into one more 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 assisted by those words which now seem 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 exhilarate, that every learner of English may be assisted by his own tongue.
The solution of all difficulties, and the supply of all defcets muít be fought in the examples, subjoined to the various senses of each word, and ranged according to the time of their authors.
When I first collected these authorities, I was desirous that every quotation should be useful to fome other end than the illustration of a word; I therefore extracted from philosophers principles of
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 time called upon me to range this accumulation of elegance and wisdom into an alphabetical series, I foon discovered that the bulk of my volumes would fright away the ftudent, and was forced to depart from 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 nieaning is retained; thus to the weariness of copying, I was condemned to add the vexation of expunging. Some paffages I have yet spared, which may relieve the labour of verbal searches, and intersperse with verdure and flowers the dusty desarts of barren philology.
The examples, thus mutilated, are no longer to be considered as conveying the sentiments or doctrine of their authors; the word for the sake of which they are inserted, with all its appendant 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 philosopher 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 agriculture be found? Many quotations serve no
other purpose than that of proving the bare existence of words, and are therefore selected with less scrupulousness than those which are to teach their structures and relations.
My purpose was to admit no testimony of living authors, that I might not be misled by partiality, and that none of my cotemporaries might have reafon to complain; nor have I depated from this resolution, but when some performance of uncommon excellence excited my verieration, when my memory supplied me, from late books, with an example that was wanting, or when my heart, in the tenderness of friendhip, solicited admission for a favourite naine.
So far have I been from any care to grace my pages with modern decorations, that I have studiously endeavoured to collect examples and authorities from the writers before the restoration, whose works I regard as the wells of English undefiled, as the pure sources of genuine diction. Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many caufes, been gradually departing from its original Tentonick character, and deviating towards a Gallick ftructure and phraseology, from which it ought to be our endeavour to recal it, by making our ancient volumes the ground-work of style, admitting among the additions of later times, only such as may supply real deficiencies, such as are readily adopted by the genius of our tongue, and incorporate easily with our native idioms.
But as every language has a time of rudeness ante- cedent to perfection, as well as of false refinement
and declension, I have been cautious lest my zeal for antiquity might drive me into times too remote,
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 extracted 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 Sid. ney; 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 expressed.
It is not sufficient that a word is found, unless it be fo combined as that its meaning is apparently determined 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 supplement to my own, without regard to the chronological order, that is otherwise observed.
Some words, indeed, stand unsupported 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 reason to doubt the existence,
There is more danger of censure from the mul. tiplicity than paucity of examples; authorities will sometimes seem to have been accumulated without 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 fuperfluities; those quotations, which to careless or unskilful perusers appear only to repeat the fame sense, will often exhibit, to a more accurate examiner, diversities of signification, or, at least, afford different shades of the same meaning: one will shew the word applied to perfons, another to things; one will exprefs an ill, another a good, and a third a neutral sense; one will prove the expression genuine from an ancient author; another will shew it elegant from a modern: a doubtful authority is corroborated by another of more credit; an ambiguous sentence is ascertained by a passage clear and determinate: the word, how often soever repeated, appears with new associates and in different combinations, and every quotation contributes something 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 thewing 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 ufcd, has made our style capricious and indeterminate; when the different combinations of the fame word are exhibited together, the preference is