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Massachusetts' Bay, we may possibly be checked | mit us to import into the confederated Cantons in our career of reduction. We may be reduced such products as they do not raise, and such mato peace upon equal terms, or driven from the nufactures as they do not make, and cannot buy western continent, and forbidden to violate a cheaper from other nations, paying like others second time the happy borders of the land of the appointed customs; that if an English ship liberty. The time is now perhaps at hand, which salutes a fort with four guns, it shall be answered Sir Thomas Browne predicted between jest and at least with two; and that if an Englishman be inclined to hold a plantation, he shall only take an oath of allegiance to the reigning powers, and be suffered, while he lives inoffensively, to retain his own opinion of English rights, unmolested in his conscience by an oath of abjuration.

earnest,

When America should no more send out her treasure,
But spend it at home in American pleasure.

If we are allowed upon our defeat to stipulate conditions, I hope the treaty of Boston will

per

PHILOLOGICAL TRACTS.

THE PLAN

OF AN

ENGLISH DICTIONARY.

To the Right Honourable PHILIP DORMER, Earl | my way any temptation to disturb the quiet of others by censure, or my own by flattery.

of CHESTERFIELD, one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State.

I had read indeed of times, in which princes and statesmen thought it part of their honour to promote the improvement of their native tongues; and in which dictionaries were written under the protection of greatness. To the patrons of such undertakings I willingly paid the homage of believing that they, who were thus solicitous for the perpetuity of their language, had reason to expect that their actions would be celebrated by posterity, and that the eloquence which they promoted would be employed in their praise. But I consider such acts of beneficence as prodigies, recorded rather to raise wonder than expectation; and content with the terms that I had stipulated, had not suffered my imagination to flatter me with any other encouragement, when I found that my design had been thought by your Lordship of importance sufficient to attract your favour.

Whether this opinion, so long transmitted, and so widely propagated, had its beginning from truth and nature, or from accident and prejudice; whether it be decreed by the authority of reason, or the tyranny of ignorance, that of all the candidates for literary praise, the unhappy lexicographer holds the lowest place, neither vanity nor interest incited me to inquire. It appeared that the province allotted me was, of all the regions of learning, generally confessed to be the least delightful, that it was believed to produce neither fruits nor flowers; and that after a long and laborious cultivation, not even the barren laurel had been found upon it.

How far this unexpected distinction can be rated among the happy incidents of life, I am not yet able to determine. Its first effect has been to make me anxious, lest it should fix the attention of the public too much upon me, and, as it once happened to an epic poet of France, by raising the reputation of the attempt, obstruct the reception of the work. I imagine what the world will expect from a scheme, prosecuted under your lordship's influence; and I know that expectation, when her wings are once expanded, easily reaches heights which performance never will attain; and when she has mounted the summit of perfection, derides her follower, who dies in the pursuit.

Yet on this province, my Lord, I entered, with the pleasing hope, that, as it was low, it likewise would be safe. I was drawn forward with the prospect of employment, which, though Not therefore to raise expectation, but to renot splendid, would be useful; and which, press it, I here lay before your Lordship the Plan though it could not make my life envied, would of my undertaking, that more may not be dekeep it innocent; which would awaken no pas-manded than I intend; and, that before it is too sion, engage me in no contention, nor throw in

far advanced to be thrown into a new method, I may be advertised of its defects or superfluities. emulation with which those, who desire the Such informations I may justly hope, from the praise of elegance or discernment, must contend in the promotion of a design that you, my Lord,

MY LORD,

WHEN first I undertook to write an ENGLISH DICTIONARY, I had no expectation of any higher patronage than that of the proprietors of the copy, nor prospect of any other advantage than the price of my labour. I knew that the work in which I engaged is generally considered as drudgery for the blind, as the proper toil of artless industry; a task that requires neither the light of learning, nor the activity of genius, but may be successfully performed without any higher quality than that of bearing burdens with dull patience, and beating the tract of the alphabet with sluggish resolution.

*This is noticed by Lord Orrery, as one of the few inaccuracies in this address, the laurel not being bar. ren, but bearing fruits and flowers. Boswell's Life,

vol. i.

have not thought unworthy to share your atten-nal is forgotten, as in equator, satellites ; or of the tion with treaties and with wars. change of a foreign into an English termination, and a conformity to the laws of the speech into which they are adopted; as in category, cachery, peripneumony.

In the first attempt to methodise my ideas I found a difficulty, which extended itself to the whole work. It was not easy to determine by what rule of distinction the words of this Dictionary were to be chosen. The chief intent of it is to preserve the purity, and ascertain the meaning, of our English idiom; and this seems to require nothing more than that our language be considered, so far as it is our own; that the words and phrases used in the general intercourse of life, or found in the works of those whom we commonly style polite writers, be selected, without including the terms of particular professions; since, with the arts to which they relate, they are generally derived from other nations, and are very often the same in all the languages of this part of the world. This is, perhaps, the exact and pure idea of a grammatical dictionary; but in lexicography, as in other arts, naked science is too delicate for the purposes of life. The value of a work must be estimated by its use; it is not enough that a dictionary delights the critic, unless, at the same time, it instructs the learner; as it is to little purpose that an engine amuses the philosopher by the subtlety of its mechanism, if it requires so much knowledge in its application as to be of no advantage to the common workman.

The title which I prefix to my work has long conveyed a very miscellaneous idea, and they that take a dictionary into their hands have been accustomed to expect from it a solution of almost every difficulty. If foreign words therefore were rejected, it could be little regarded, except by critics, or those who aspire to criticism; and however it might enlighten those that write, would be all darkness to them that only read. The unlearned much oftener consult their dictionaries for the meaning of words than for their structures or formations; and the words that most want explanation, are generally terms of art; which, therefore, experience has taught my predecessors to spread with a kind of pompous luxuriance over their productions.

The academicians of France, indeed, rejected terms of science in their first essay, but found afterwards a necessity of relaxing the rigour of their determination; and, though they would not naturalize them at once a mitted them by degrees to settle themselves among the natives, with little opposition; and it would surely be no proof of judgment to imitate them in an error which they have now retracted, and deprive the book of its chief use, by scrupulous distinctions.

Of those which still continue in the state of aliens, and have made no approaches towards assimilation, some seem necessary to be retained: because the purchasers of the Dictionary will expect to find them. Such are many words in the common law, as capias, habeas corpus, præmunire, nisi prius: such are some terms of controversial divinity, as hypostasis; and of physic, as the names of diseases; and in general, all terms which can be found in books not written professedly upon particular arts, or can be supposed necessary to those who do not regularly study them. Thus, when a reader not skilled in physic, happens in Milton upon this line, -pining atrophy, Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence,

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But there ought, however, to be some distinc tion made between the different classes of words; and therefore it will be proper to print those which are incorporated into the language in the usual character, and those which are still to be considered as foreign, in the italic letter.

Another question may arise with regard to appellatives, or the names of species. It seems of no great use to set down the words horse, dog, cat, willow, alder, daisy, rose, and a thousand others, of which it will be hard to give an explanation, not more obscure than the word itself, yet it is to be considered, that, if the names of animals be inserted, we must admit those which are more known, as well as those with which we are, by accident, less acquainted; and if they are all rejected, how will the reader be relieved from difficulties produced by allusions to the crocodile, the chameleon, the ichneumon, and the hyena? If no plants are to be mentioned, the most pleasing part of nature will be excluded, and many beautiful epithets be unexplained. If only those which are less known are to be mentioned, who shall fix the limits of the reader's learning? The importance of such explications appears from the mistakes which the want of them has occasioned. Had Shakspeare had a dictionary of this kind, he had not made the woodbine entwine the honeysuckle; nor would Milton, with such assistance, have disposed so improperly of his ellops and his scor

Of such words, however, all are not equally to be considered as parts of our language; for some of them are naturalized and incorporated, but others still continue aliens, and are rather auxiliaries than subjects. This naturalization is produced either by an admission into common speech, in some metaphorical signification, which is the acquisition of a kind of property among us; as we say, the zenith of advancement, the meridian of life, the cynosure of neighbouring eyes; or it is the consequence of long intermix-pion. ture and frequent use, by which the ear is accustomed to the sound of words, till their origi

* Milton.

Besides, as such words, like others, require that their accents should be settled, their sounds ascertained, and their etymologies deduced, they cannot be properly omitted in the dictionary.

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And though the explanations of some may be censured as trivial, because they are almost universally understood; and those of others as unnecessary, because they will seldom occur; yet it seems not proper to omit them, since it rather to be wished that many readers should find more than they expect, than that one should miss what he might hope to find.

trace back the orthography of different ages, and show by what gradations the word departed from its original.

Closely connected with orthography is pronunciation, the stability of which is of great importance to the duration of a language, because the first change will naturally begin by corruptions in the living speech. The want of certain rules for the pronunciation of former ages, has made us wholly ignorant of the metrical art of our ancient poets; and since those who study their sentiments regret the loss of their numbers, it is surely time to provide that the harmony of the moderns may be more permanent.

A new pronunciation will make almost a new speech; and therefore, since one great end of this undertaking is to fix the English language, care will be taken to determine the accentuation of all polysyllables by proper authorities, as it is one of those capricious phenomena which cannot be easily reduced to rules. Thus there is no antecedent reason for difference of accent in the words dolorous and sonorous; yet of the one Milton gives the sound in this line:

When all the words are selected and arranged, the first part of the work to be considered is the orthography, which was long vague and uncertain; which at last, when its fluctuation ceased, was in many cases settled but by accident; and in which, according to your lordship's observation, there is still great uncertainty among the best critics; nor is it easy to state a rule by which we may decide between custom and reason, or between the equiponderant authorities of writers alike eminent for judgment and accuracy.

The great orthographical contest has long subsisted between etymology and pronunciation. It has been demanded, on one hand, that men should write as they speak; but as it has been shown that this conformity never was attained in any language, and that it is not more easy to persuade men to agree exactly in speaking than in writing, it may be asked with equal propriety, and that of the other in this, why men do not rather speak as they write. In France, where this controversy was at its greatest height, neither party, however ardent, durst adhere steadily to their own rule: the etymologist was often forced to spell with the people; and the advocate for the authority of pronunciation found it sometimes deviating so capriciously from the received use of writing, that he was constrained to comply with the rule of his adversaries, lest he should lose the end by the means, and be left alone by following the crowd.

When a question of orthography is dubious, that practice has, in my opinion, a claim to preference which preserves the greatest number of radical letters, or seems most to comply with the general custom of our language. But the chief rule which I propose to follow is, to make no innovation, without a reason sufficient to balance the inconvenience of change; and such reasons I do not expect often to find. All change is of itself an evil, which ought not to be hazarded but for evident advantage; and as inconstancy is in every case a mark of weakness, it will add nothing to the reputation of our tongue. There are, indeed, some who despise the inconveniences of confusion, who seem to take pleasure in departing from custom, and to think alteration desirable for its own sake; and the reformation of our orthography, which these writers have attempted, should not pass without its due honours, but that I suppose they hold a singularity its own reward, or may dread the fascinanation of lavish praise.

For Swift and him despised the farce of state, The sober follies of the wise and great. Pope. As if misfortune made the throne her seat, And none could be unhappy but the great. Rowe. The care of such minute particulars may be censured as trifling; but these particulars have not been thought unworthy of attention in more polished languages.

The present usage of spelling, where the present usage can be distinguished, will, therefore, in this work be generally followed; yet there will be often occasion to observe, that it is in itself inaccurate, and tolerated rather than chosen; particularly when, by a change of one letter, or more, the meaning of a word is obscured; as in farrier, or ferrier, as it was formerly written, from ferrum, or fer; in gibberish for gebrish, the jargon of Geber, and his chemi-adjusted, the etymology or derivation is next to cal followers, understood by none but their own be considered, and the words are to be distribe. It will be likewise sometimes proper to tinguished according to the different classes,

The accuracy of the French, in stating the sounds of their letters, is well known; and, among the Italians, Crescembeni has not thought it unnecessary to inform his countrymen of the words which, in compliance with different rhymes, are allowed to be differently spelt, and of which the number is now so fixed, that no modern poet is suffered to increase it.

When the orthography and pronunciation are

He pass'd o'er many a region dolorous;

Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds.

licenses, such as contractions, generous, gen'rous; It may likewise be proper to remark metrical reverend, rev'rend; and coalitions, as region, question.

But it is still more necessary to fix the pronunciation of monosyllables, by placing with them words of correspondent sound, that one may guard the other against the danger of that variation, which, to some of the most common, and wind, as they are now frequently pronounced, has already happened; so that the words wound will not rhyme to sound and mind. It is to be remarked, that many words written alike are differently pronounced, as flow and brow: which may be thus registered, flow, wo; brow, now; given by a distich: thus the words tear, or laceor of which the exemplification may be generally rate, and tear, the water of the eye, have the same letters, but may be distinguished thus, tear,

dare; tear, peer.

Some words have two sounds which may be

equally admitted, as being equally defensible by authority. Thus great is differently used.

whether simple, as day, light; or compound, as day-light; whether primitive, as, to act, or derivative, as action, actionable, active, activity. This will much facilitate the attainment of our language, which now stands in our dictionaries a confused heap of words without dependence, and without relation.

When the etymology is thus adjusted, the analogy of our language is next to be considered; when we have discovered whence our words are derived, we are to examine by what rules they are governed, and how they are inflected through their various terminations. The terminations of the English are few, but those few have hitherto remained unregarded by the writers of our dictionaries. Our substantives are declined only by the plural termination, our adjectives admit no variation but in the degrees of comparison, and our verbs are conjugated by auxiliary words, and are only changed in the preter tense.

To our language may be with great justness applied the observation of Quintilian, that speech was not formed by an analogy sent from heaven. It did not descend to us in a state of uniformity and perfection, but was produced by necessity, and enlarged by accident, and is therefore composed of dissimilar parts, thrown together by negligence, by affectation, by learning, or by ignorance.

Our inflections therefore are by no means constant, but admit of numberless irregularities, which in this Dictionary will be diligently noted. Thus fox makes in the plural foxes, but ox, makes oxen. Sheep is the same in both numbers. Adjectives are sometimes compared by changing the last syllable, as proud, prouder, proudest: and Ex-sometimes by particles prefixed, as ambitious, more ambitious, most ambitious. The forms of our verbs are subject to great variety; some end their preter tense in ed, as I love, I loved, I have loved; which may be called the regular form, and is followed by most of our verbs of southern original. But many depart from this rule without agreeing in any other; as I shake, I shook, I have shaken, or shook, as it is sometimes written in poetry; I make, I made, I have made; I bring, I brought; I wring, I wrung; and many others, which, as they cannot be reduced to rules, must be learned from the dictionary rather than the grammar.

The verbs are likewise to be distinguished according to their qualities, as actives from neuters; the neglect of which has already introduced some barbaritics in our conversation, which if not obviated by just animadversions, may in time creep into our writings.

Thus, my Lord, will our language be laid down, distinct in its minutest subdivisions, and resolved into its elemental principles. And who upon this survey can forbear to wish, that these fundamental atoms of our speech might obtain the firmness and immutability of the primogenial and constituent particles of matter, that they might retain their substance, while they alter their appearance, and be varied and compounded, yet not destroyed.

When this part of the work is performed, it will be necessary to inquire how our primitives are to be deduced from foreign languages, which may be often very successfully performed by the assistance of our own etymologists. This search will give occasion to many curious disquisitions, and sometimes perhaps to conjectures, which to readers unacquainted with this kind of study, cannot but appear improbable and capricious. But it may be reasonably imagined, that what is so much in the power of men as language, will very often be capriciously conducted. Nor are these disquisitions and conjectures to be considered altogether as wanton sports of wit, or vain shows of learning; our language is well known not to be primitive or self-originated, but to have adopted words of every generation, and, either for the supply of its necessities, or the increase of its copiousness, to have received additions from very distant regions; so that, in search of the progenitors of our speech, we may wander from the tropic to the frozen zone, and find some in the valleys of Palestine, and some upon the rocks of Norway.

Beside the derivation of particular words, there is likewise an etymology of phrases. pressions are often taken from other languages; some apparently, as to run a risk, courir un risque; and some even when we do not seem to borrow their words; thus, to bring about, or accomplish, appears an English phrase, but in reality our native word about has no such import, and is only a French expression, of which we have an example in the common phrase venir à bout d'une affaire.

the spawn of folly or affectation, which arise from no just principles of speech, and of which therefore no legitimate derivation can be shown.

In exhibiting the descent of our language, our etymologists seem to have been too lavish of their learning, having traced almost every word through various tongues, only to show what was shown sufficiently by the first derivation. This practice is of great use in synoptical lexicons, where mutilated and doubtful languages are explained by their affinity to others more certain and extensive, but is generally superfluous in English etymologies. When the word is easily deduced from a Saxon original, I shall not often inquire further, since we know not the parent of the Saxon dialect; but when it is borrowed from the French, I shall show whence the French is apparently derived. Where a Saxon root cannot be found, the defect may be supplied from kindred languages, which will be generally furnished with much liberality by the writers of our glossaries; writers who deserve often the highest praise, both of judgment and industry, and may expect at least to be mentioned with honour by me, whom they have freed from the greatest part of a very laborious work, and on whom they have imposed, at worst, only the easy task of rejecting superfluities.

By tracing in this manner every word to its original, and not admitting, but with great caution, any of which no original can be found, we shall secure our language from being overrun with cant, from being crowded with low terms,

But this is a privilege which words are scarcely to expect: for, like their author, when they are not gaining strength, they are generally losing it. Though art may sometimes prolong their duration, it will rarely give them perpetuity; and their changes will be almost always informing us, that language is the work of man, of a being from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived.

Words having been hitherto considered as

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