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ment and Declension, I have been cautious left my Zeal for Antiquity might drive me into Times too remote, and croud my Book with Words now no longer understood. I have fixed Sydney's Work for the Boundary, beyond which I make few Excurfions. From the Authours 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 Sidney; 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 expreffed.
It is not sufficient that a Word is found, unless it be so 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 Authour 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 ReaCon to doubt the Existence.
There is more Danger of Censure from the Multiplicity than Pacuity of Examples ; Authorities will sometimes seem to have been accumulated without Necessity or Ufe, 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 Superfluities. Those Quotations which to care
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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 ambiguous Sentence is ascertained by a Paffage clear and determinate ; the Word, how often foever 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 Senfe ; when they are metaphorical, I adopt them in their primitive Acceptation.
I have sometimës, though rarely, yielded to the Temptation of exhibitinga Genealogy of Sentiments, by shewlng 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 à 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 hi. therto 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 afcertain the Signification of English Words, to pera form all the Parts of a faithful Lexicographer: But I have not always executed my own Scheme, or fafied 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 some times too much contracted, and fometimes too much diffused; the Significations are distinguished rather with Subtility than Skill, and the Attention is harrassed with unnecessary Minuteness.
The Examples are too often injudiciously truncated, and perhaps sometimes, I hope very rarely, alledged in a mistaken Sense; for in making this Collection 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 Occupations, though necessary and significant, are undoubtedly omitted; and of the Words most studiously conGdered 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 rest 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 fhow likewise my Attention to Things ; to pierce deep in every Science, to enquire the Nature of every Substance of which I inserted the Name, to limit every Idea by a Definition strictly logical, and exhibit every Production of Art or Nature in an accurate Description, that my Book might be in Place of all other Dictionaries, whether appellative or technical. But these were the Dreams of a Poet, doomed at last to wake a Lexicographer. I soon found that it is too late to look for Instruments, when the Work calls for Execution ; and that whatever Abilities I had brought to my Talk, with those I must finally perform it. To deliberate whenever I doubted, to enquire whenever I was ignorant, would have protracted the Undertaking without End, and, perhaps, without much Improvement ; for I did not find by my first Experiments, that what I had not of my owu was easily to be obtained : I saw that one Enquiry only gave Occasion to another, that Book referred to Book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed ; and that thus to pursue Perfection, was, like the first Inha. bitants of Arcadia, to chace the Sun, which, when they had reached the Hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same Distance from them.
I then contracted my Design, determining to confide in myself, and no longer to solicit Auxiliaries, which produced more incumbrance than Affistance : By this I obtained at least one Advantage, that I set Limits to my Work, which would in Time be finilhed, though not completed.
Despondency has never so far prevailed as to depress me to Negligence: Some Faults will at last appear to be the Effects of anxious Diligence and perfevering 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 lamente ed, but could not remedy, and hope they will be compensated by innumerable Passages selected with Propriety, and preserved with Exactness; some thining 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 Recol. lection 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 iny Skill in the Dialect of Navigation; nor vilit the Warehouses of Merchants, and Shops of Artificers, to gain the Names of Wares, Tools, and Operacions, 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