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a triumph, from a contest with united academies, and long successions of learned compilers. I cannot hope, in the warmest moments, to preserve so much caution through so long a work, as not often to sink into negligence, or to obtain so much knowledge of all its parts as not frequently to fail by ignorance. I expect that sometimes the desire of accuracy will urge nie to superfluities, and sometimes the fear of prolixity betray me to omissions: that in the extent of such variety, I shall be often bewildered; and in the mazes of such intricacy, be frequently entangled: that in one part refinement will be subtilised beyond exactness, and evidence dilated in another beyond perspicuity. Yet I do not despair of approbation from those who, knowing the uncertainty of conjecture, the scantiness of knowledge, the fallibility of memory, and the unsteadiness of attention, can compare the causes of error with the means of avoiding it, and the extent of art with the capacity of man; and whatever be the event of my endeavours, I shall not easily regret an attempt which has procured me the honour of appearing thus publicly,
and most humble servant,
TT is the fate of those who toil at the lower em
I ployments 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 difgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.
Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom niankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths through which Learning and Genius press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other author may alpire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to efcape reproach, and even this negative recompence has been yet granted to very few.
I have, notwithstanding this discouragement, attempted a Dictionary of the English language, whicha,
while it was employed in the cultivation of every species of literature, has itself been hitherto neglected ; suffered to spread, under the direction of chance, into wild exuberance; resigned to the tyranny of time and fashion ; and exposed to the corruptions of ignorance, and caprices of innovation.
When I took the first survey of my undertaking, :/ I found our speech copious without order, and ener
getick without rule: wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled and confufion to be regulated ; choice was to be made out of boundless variety, without any established principle of selection ; adulterations were to be detected, without
a settled test of purity; and modes of expression to ; be rejected or received, without the suffrages of any * writers of classical reputation or acknowledged authority.
Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied myself to the perufal of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to afcertain or illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a dictionary, which, by degrees, I reduced to method, establishing to myself, in the progress of the work, such rules as experience and analogy suggested to me; experience, which practice and observation were continually increasing; and analogy, which, though in some words obscure, was evi. dent in others.
In adjusting the Orthography, which has been to this time unsettled and fortuitous, I found it necessary to distinguish those irregularities that are inherent in our tongue, and perhaps coëval with it,
from others which the ignorance or negligence of later writers has produced. Every language has its anomalies, which though inconvenient, and in themfelves once unnecessary, must be tolerated among the imperfections of human things, and which require only to be registered, that they may not be increased, and ascertained, that they may not be confounded : but every language has likewise its improprieties and ab. surdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe.
As language was at its beginning merely oral, all words of necessary or cominon use were spoken before they were written ; and while they were unfixed by any visible signs, must have been spoken with great diveráty, as we now observe those who cannot read to catch sounds imperfectly, and utter them negligently. When this wild and barbarous jargon was first reduced to an alphabet, every penman endea, voured to express, as he could, the sounds which he was accustomed to pronounce or to receive, and vi tiated in writing such words as were already vitiated in fpeech. The powers of the letters, when they were applied to a new language, must have been vague and unsettled, and therefore different hands would exhibit the same found by different combinaz tions.
From this uncertain pronunciation arise in a great part the various dialects of the same country, which will always be observed to grow fewer, and less different, as books are multiplied; and from this arbitrary representation of lounds by letters proceeds that diversity of spelling, observable in the Saxon reVOL. II.
mains, and I suppose in the first books of every na. tion, which perplexes or destroys analogy, and produces anomalous formations, which, being once incorporated, can never be afterward dismissed or reformed.
Of this kind are the derivatives length from long, strength from strong, darling from dear, breadth from broad, from dry, drought, and from high, height, which Milton, in zeal for analogy, writes highth : Quid te exempta juvat spinis de pluribus una? to change all would be too much, and to change one is nothing.
This uncertainty is most frequent in the vowels, which are so capriciously pronounced, and so differently modified, by accident or affectation, not only in every province, but in every mouth, that to them as is well known to etyinologists, little regard is to be shewn in the deduction of one language from another,
Such defects are not errours in orthography, but spots of barbarity impressed so deep in the English language, that criticism can never wash them away : thele, therefore, must be permitted to remain untouched; but many words have likewise been altered by accident, or depraved by ignorance, as the pronunciation of the vulgar has been weakly followed ; and some still continue to be variously written, as authors differ in their care or skill : of thele it was proper to enquire the true orthography, which I have always considered as depending on their derivation, and have therefore referred them to their original languages : thus I write enchant, enchantment, ens chanter, after the French, and incantation after the