To the Right Honourable Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, one of His Majefty's Principal Secre taries of State.



*HEN 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 Profpect of any other Advantage than the Price of my Labour. I knew that the Work in which engaged is generally confidered as Drudgery for the Blind, as the proper Toil of artlefs Industry; a Task that requires neither the Light of Learning, nor the Activity of Genius, but may be fuccessfully performed without any higher Quality than that of bearing Burthens with dull Patience, and beating the Track of the Alphabet with fluggifh Refolution.

Whether this Opinion, so long tranfmitted, and fo 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 Praife, the unhappy Lexicographer holds the lowest Place, neither Vanity nor Interest incited me to enquire. It appeared that the Province allotted me was, of all the Regions of Learn

ing, generally confeffed to be the leaft 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.

Yet on this Province, my Lord, I entered, with the pleafing Hope, that, as it was low, it likewife would be fafe. I was drawn forward with the Profpect of Employment, which, though not fplendid, would be ufeful; and which, though it could not make my Life envied, would keep it innocent; which would awaken no Paffion, engage me in no Contention, nor throw in my Way any Temptation to disturb the Quiet of others by Cenfure, or my own by Flattery.

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 Greatnefs. To the Patrons of fuch Undertakings I willingly paid the Homage of believing that they, who were thus folicitous for the Perpetuity of their Language, had Reason to expect that their Actions would be celebrated by Pofterity, and that the Eloquence which they promoted would be employed in their Praife. But I confider fuck Acts of Beneficence as Prodigies, recorded rather to raise Wonder than Expectation; and content with the Terms that I had ftipulated, had not fuffered my Imagination to flatter me with any other Encouragement, when I found that my Defign had been thought by your Lordship of Importance fufficient to attract your Favour.

How far this unexpected Diftinction can be rated among the happy Incidents of Life, I am not yet able to determine. Its firft Effect has been to make me anxious, left it should fix the Attention of the Public too much upon me, and, as it once happened


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to an Epic Poet of France, by raifing the Reputation of the Attempt, obftruct the Reception of the Work. I imagine what the World will expect from a Scheme, profecuted under your Lordship's Influence; and I know that Expectation, when her Wings are once expanded, eafily reaches Heights which Performance never will attain; and when the has mounted the Summit of Perfection, derides her Follower, who dies in the Purfuit.

Not therefore to raife Expectation, but to reprefs it, I here lay before your Lordship the Plan of my Undertaking, that more may not be demanded than I intend; and that, before it is too far advanced to be thrown into a new Method, I may be advertised of its Defects or Superfluities. Such Informations I may juftly hope, from the Emulation with which thofe, who defire the Praife of Elegance or Difcernment, muft contend in the Promotion of a Defign that you, my Lord, have not thought unworthy to fhare your Attention with Treaties and with Wars.

In the first Attempt to methodise my Ideas I found a Difficulty, which extended itfelf to the whole Work. It was not easy to determine by what Rule of Diftinction the Words of this Dictionary were to be chofen. The chief Intent of it is to preferve the Purity, and afcertain the Meaning of our English Idiom; and this feems to require nothing more than that our Language be confidered, fo far as it is our own; that the Words and Phrafes ufed in the general Intercourfe of Life, or found in the Works of thofe whom we commonly ftile polite Writers, be felected, without including the Terms of particular Profeffions; fince, with the Arts to which they relate, they are generally derived from other Nations, and are very often the fame 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 muft be estimated by its Ufe: It is not enough that a Dictionary delights the Critic, unless, at the fame Time, it inftructs the Learner; as it is to little Purpose that an Engine amufes the Philofopher by the Subtilty of its Mechanifmn, if it requires fo 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 mifcellaneous Idea, and they that take a Dictionary into their Hands, have been accuftomed to expect from it a Solution of almost every Difficulty. If foreign Words therefore were rejected, it could be little regarded, excepted by Critics, or those who afpire to Criticifm; and however it might enlighten thofe that write, would be all Darkness to them that only read. The Unlearned much oftner consult their Dictionaries for the Mean ing of Words, than for their Structures or Formations; and the Words that moft want Explanation are generally Terms of Art; which, therefore, Experince has taught my Predeceffors to spread with a Kind of pompous Luxuriance over their Produc


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The Academicians of France, indeed, rejected Terms of Science in their first Effay, but found afterwards a Neceffity of relaxing the Rigour of their Determination; and, though they would not naturalize them at once by a fingle Act, permitted them by Degrees to fettle themfelves among the Natives, with little Oppofition; and it would furely be no Proof of Judgment to imitate them in an Error which they have now retracted, and deprive the Book of its chief Ufe, by fcrupulous Diftinctions.

On fuch Words, however, all are not equally to be confidered as Parts of our Language; for fome of them are naturalized and incoporated, but others ftill continue Aliens, and are rather Auxiliaries then VOL. II. D


Subjects. This Naturalization is produced either by an Admission into common Speech, in fome metaphorical Signification, which is the Acquifition of a Kind of Property among us; as we fay, the Zenith of Advancement, the Meridian of Life, the* Cy. nofure of neighbouring Eyes; or it is the Confequence of long Intermixture and frequent Ufe, by which the Ear is accustomed to the Sound of Words, till their Original is forgotten, as in Equator, Satellites; or of the Change of a foreign into an English Termination, and a Conformity to the Laws of the Speech into which they are adopted; as in Catego ry, Chachexy, Peripneumony.

Of those which fill continue in the State of Aliens, and have made no Approaches towards Affi milation, fome feem neceffary to be retained; be, cause the Purchasers of the Dictionary will expect to find them. Such are many Words in the Common Law, as Capias, Habeas Corpus, Pramunire, Nift Prius: Such are fome Terms of Controverfial Di vinity, as Hypoftafis; and of Phyfick, as the Names of Diseases; and in general, all Terms which can be found in Books not written profeffedly upon par ticular Arts, or can be fuppofed neceffary to those who do not regularly ftudy them. Thus, when a Reader not skilled in Phyfick happens in Milton upon this Line,

pining Atrophy, Marafmus, and wide-wafting Peftilence,

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he will, with equal Expectation, look into his Dic tionary for the Word Marafmus, as for Atrophy, or Peftilence; and will have Reason to complain if he does not find it.

It seems neceffary to the Completion of a Dictionary defigned not merely for Critics, but for popular Ufe, that it fhould comprife, in fome Degree,



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