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a triumph, from a contest with united academics,
and most humble servant,
IT 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 cenfure, without hope of praise to be disgraced 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 mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the Nave 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 beitowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape 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, VOL. IX.
which, 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 energetick without rule: wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion 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 ary writers of classical reputation or acknowledged authority.
Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied mylelf to the perulil of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain 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 evident in others.
In adjusting the Oribugrapby, which has been to this time unsettled and fortuitous, I found it necefsary 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 themselves 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 absurdities, 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 common use were spoken before they were written; and while they were unfixed by any visible signs, must have been spoken with great diversity, 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 endeavoured 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 speech. 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 combina. 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 sounds by letters, proceeds that diversity of spelling observable in the Saxon re02
mains, mains, and I suppose in the first books of every nstion, which perplexes or destroys analogy, and produces anomalous formations, that, being once in corporated, can never be afterward difinitled or reformed.
Of this kind are the derivatives length from Icnt, Nrength from strong, darling from dear, bread:b from broad, from dry, drought, and from higb, beicht, which Milton, in zeal for analogy, writes bigbib:
Quid te exempta juvat Spinis de pluribus unu? 10 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 differe ently modified, by accident or affectation, not only in every province, but in every mouth, that to them, as is well known to etymologists, 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 Eng!i,5 language, that criticisin can never wash thein away: there, 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 kill: of theie 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 cncbaii!, cakunt
m i, ( kantor, alter the fronal, and notation after the