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Jess 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 fame 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 Authour; another will shew it elegant from a modern : A doubtful Authority is corroborated by another of more Credit; an ambi. guous Sentence is ascertained by a Passage clear and determinate ; the Word, how often soever repeated, appears with new Affociates 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 exhibitinga 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 same Word are exhibited together, the Preference is readily given to Propriety, and I have often endeavoured to direct the Choice.
Thus have I laboured to settle the Orthography, display the Analogy, regulate the Structures, and alcertain the Signification of English Words, to perform all the Parts of a faithful Lexicographer: But I have not always executed my own Scheme, or fa
tisfied fied 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 still controvertible, the Etymology which I adopt is uncertain, and perhaps frequently erroneous ; the Explanations are sometimes too much contracted, and sometimes too much diffused; the Significations are distinguished rather with Subtility than Skill, and the Attention is harrassed with unneceffary Minuteness.
The Examples are too often injudiciously truncated, and perhaps sometimes, I hope very rarely, alledged in a mistaken Sense; for in making this Col. lection I trusted more to Memory, than, in a State of Disquiet and Embarrassment, Memory can contain, and purposed to supply at the Review what was left incomplete in the first Transcription.
Many Terms appropriated to particular Occupa, tions, though necessary and significant, are undoubtedly omitted; and of the Words most studiously conGidered and exemplified, many Senses have escaped Observation.
Yet these Failures, however frequent, may admit Extenuation and Apology. To have attempted much is always laudable, even when the Enterprize is above the Strength that undertakes it : To reft below his own Aim is incident to every one whose Fancy is active, and whose Views are comprehensive ; nor is any Man satisfied with himself because he has done much, but because he can conceive little. When first I engaged in this Work, I resolved to leave neither Words nor Things unexamined, and pleased myself with a Prospect of the Hours which I should revel away in Feasts of Literature, the obscure Recesses of Northern Learning which I should enter and ransack, the Treasures with which I expected every Search into those neglected Mines to reward my Labour, and the Triumph with which I should display my Acquisitions to Mankind. When I had thus
enquired into the Original of Words, I resolved to
Despondency has never so far prevailed as to de. press me to Negligence: Some Faults will at last appear to be the Effects of anxious Diligence and persevering Activity. The nice and subtle Ramifications of Meaning were not easily avoided by a Mind intent upon Accuracy, and convinced of the Ne
cefsity of disentangling Combinations, and separat. ing Similitudes. Many of the Distinctions which to common Readers appear useless and idle, will be found real and important by Men versed in the School Philosophy, without which no Dictionary ever shall be accurately compiled, or skilfully examined.
Some Senses however there are, which, though not the same, are yet so nearly allied, that they are often confounded. Most Men think indistinctly, and therefore cannot speak with Exactness; and consequently some Examples might be indifferently put to either Signification: This Uncertainty is not to be imputed to me, who do not form, but register the Language ; who do not teach Men how they should think, but relate how they have hitherto expressed their Thoughts.
The imperfect Sense of some Examples I lamented, but could not remedy, and hope they will be compensated by innumerable Passages selected with Propriety, and preserved with Exactness; some shining with Sparks of Imagination, and some replete with Treasures of Wisdom.
The Orthography and Etymology, though imperfect, are not imperfect for want of Care ; but because Care will not always be successful, and Recollection or Information come too late for Use.
That many Terms of Art and Manufacture are omitted, must be frankly acknowledged; but for this Defect, I may boldly alledge that it was unavoidable ; I could not visit Caverns, to learn the Miner's Language, nor take a Voyage, to perfect my Skill in the Dialect of Navigation ; nor visit the Warehouses of Merchants, and Shops of Artificers, to gain the Names of Wares, Tools, and Operations, of which no Mention is found in Books ; what favourable Accident, or easy Enquiry, brought within my Reach, has not been neglected ; but it had been a hopeless Labour to glean up Words, by
courting courting living Information, and contesting with the Sullenness of one, and the Rougliness of another.
To furnish the Academicians della Crusca with Words of this Kind, a Series of Comedies, called la Fiera, or the Fair, was professediy written by Buonarcti; but I had no such Asliftant, and therefore was content to want what they must have wanted likewise, had they not luckily been so supplied.
Nor are all Words which are not found in the Vocabulary, to bę lamented as Omissions. Of the laborious and mercantile Part of the People, the Diction is in a great Measure casual and mutable; many of their Terms are formed for some 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 State of Increase 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 sometimes betray to the Appearance of Negligence. He that is catching Opportunities which seldom occur, will suffer those to pass by unregarded, which he expects hourly to return; he that is searching for rare and remote Things, will neglect those that are obvious and famiiar: Thus many of the most cominon and curfory Words have been inserted with little Illustration, because in gathering the Authorities, I forbore to copy those which I thought likely to occur whenever they were wanted. It is remarkable that, in reviewing my Collection, I found the Word Sea unexemplified.
Thus it happens, that in Things difficult there is Danger from Ignorance, and in Things easy from Confidence; the Mind, afraid of Greatness, and disdainful of Littleness, hastily withdraws herself from painful Searches, and passes with scornful Rapidity