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THE PLAN

OF AN

ENGLISH DICTIONARY.

To the Right Honourable Philie Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State.

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likewise would be safe. I was drawn forward Wuen first I undertook to write an ENGLISH with the prospect of employment, which, DICTIONARY, I had no expectation of any though not splendid, would be useful; and higher patronage than that of the proprietors of which, though it could not make my life enthe copy, nor prospect of any other advantage vied, would keep it innocent; which would than the price of my labour. I knew that the

awaken no passion, engage me in no contention, work in which I engaged is generally considered nor throw in my way any temptation to disturb as drudgery for the blivd, as the proper toil of the quiet of others by censure, or my own by artless industry; a task that requires neither the flattery. light of learning, nor the activity of genius, but

I had read indeed of times, in which princes may be successfully performed without any and statesmen thought it part of their honour higher quality than that of bearing burdens with to promote the improvement of their native dull patience, and beating the tract of the alpha-tongues ; and in which dictionaries were written bet with sluggish resolution.

under the protection of greatness. To the paWbether this opinion, so long transmitted, and

trons of such undertakings I willingly paid the 80 widely propagated, had its beginning from bomage of believing that they, who were thus truth and nature, or from accident and preju- solicitous for the perpetuity of their language, dice; wbether it be decreed by the authority of

had reason to expect that their actions would be reason, or the tyranny of ignorance, that of all celebrated by posterity, and that the eloquence the candidates for literary praise, the unhappy which they promoted would be employed in lexicographer holds the lowest place, neither their praise. But I consider such acts of benevanity vor interest incited me to inquire. It ficence as prodigies, recorded rather to raise appeared that the province allotted me was, of

wonder than expectation; and content with the all the regions of learning, generally confessed to

terms that I had stipulated, had not suffered my be the least delightful, that it was believed to imagination to flatter me with any other encourproduce neither fruits nor Howers; and that agement, when I found that my design bad after a long and laborious cultivation, not even

been thought by your Lordship of importance the barren laurel had been found upon it.

sufficient to attract your favour. Yet on this province, my Lord, I entered,

How far this unexpected distinction can be with the pleasing hope, that, as it was low, it 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 This is noticed by Lord Orrery, as one of the few

attention of the public too much upon me, and, inaccuracies in this address, the laurel not being as it once happened to an epic poet of France, barren, but bearing fruits and flowers. Boswell's | by raising the reputation of the attempt, obstruct Life, vol. i.

Oo

wars.

the reception of the work. I imagine what the ly terms of art; which, therefore, experience world will expect from a scheme, prosecuted has taught my predecessors to spread with a under your Lordship's influence; and I know kind of pompous luxuriance over their produc that expectation, when her wings are once ex- tions. panded, easily reaches heights which perform- The academicians of France, indeed, rejected ance never will attain; and when she has terms of science in their first essay, but found mounted the summit of perfection, derides her afterwards a necessity of relaxing the rigour of follower, who dies in the pursuit.

their determination; and, though they would Not therefore to raise expectation, but to re

not naturalize them at once by a single act, perpress it, I here lay before your Lordship the mitted them by degrees to settle themselves Plan of my undertaking, that more may not be among the natives, with little opposition ; and demanded than I intend; and that, before it is it would surely be no proof of judgment to imitoo far advanced to be thrown into a new tate them in an error which they have now reinethod, I may be advertised of its defects or tracted, and deprive the book of its chief use, by superfluities. Such informations I may justly scrupulous distinctions. hope, from the emulation with which those, Of such words, however, all are not equally who desire the praise of elegance or discernment, to be considered as parts of our language; for must contend in the promotion of a design that some of them are naturalized and incorporated, you, my Lord, have not thought unworthy to but others still continue aliens, and are rather share your attention with treaties and with auxiliaries than subjects. This paturalization

is produced either by an admission into common In the first attempt to methodise my ideas I speech, in some metaphorical signification, found a difficulty, which extended itself to the which is the acquisition of a kind of property whole work. It was not easy to determine by among us; as we say, the venith of advancement, what rule of distinction the words of this Dic- the meridian of life, the cynosure* of neighbourtionary were to be chosen. The chief intent of ing eyes; or it is the consequence of long interit is to preserve the purity, and ascertain the mixture and frequent use, by which the ear is meaning, of our English idiom ; and this seems accustomed to the sound of words, till their to require nothing more than that our language original is forgotten, as in equator, satellites; or be considered, so far as it is our own ; that the of the change of a foreign into an English terwords and phrases used in the general inter- mination, and a conformity to the laws of the course of life, or found in the works of those speech into which they are adopted; as in calewhom we commonly style polite writers, be gory, cachery, perimeumony. selected, without including the terms of par

Of those which still continue in the state of ticular professions; since, with the arts to which aliens, and have made no approaches towards they relate, they are generally derived from assimilation, some seem necessary to be retained : other nations, and are very often the same in all because the purchasers of the Dictionary will the languages of this part of the world. This expect to find them. Such are many words in is, perhaps, the exact and pure idea of a gram- the common law, as capias, habeas corpus, matical dictionary; but in lexicography, as in præmunire, nisi prius : such are some terms of other arts, naked science is too delicate for the controversial divinity, as hypostasis ; and of purposes of life.

The value of a work must be physic, as the names of diseases; and in general, estimated by its use; it is not enough that a all terms which can be found in books not writdictionary delights the critic, unless, at the ten professedly upon particular arts, or can be same time, it instructs the learner; as it is to supposed necessary to those who do not regularlittle purpose that an engine amuses the philoso- ly study them. Thus, when a reader not skillpher by the subtilty of its mechanism, if it re- ed in physic, happens in Milton upon this line, quires so much knowledge in its application as to be of no advantage to the common workman.

-piping atrophy, The title which I prefix to my work has long

Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence, conveyed a very miscellaneous idea, and they he will, with equal expectation, look into his that take a dictionary into their hands have been dictionary for the word marasmus, as for atrophy, accustomed to expect from it a solution of al- or pestilence; and will have reason to complain most every difficulty. If foreign words there- if he does not find it. fore were rejected, it could be little regarded, It seems necessary to the completion of a dice except by critics, or those who aspire to criti- tionary designed not merely for critics, but for cism; and however it might enlighten those popular use, that it should comprise, in some that write, would be all darkness to them that degree, the peculiar words of every profession; only rearl. The unlearned much oftener consult that the terms of war and navigation should be their dictionaries for the meaning of words, than for their structures or formations; and the words tbat most want explanation, are general

• Milton.

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inserted, so far as they can be required by The great orthographical contest bas long subreaders of travels and of history; and those sisted between etymology and pronunciation. of law, merchandise, and mechanical trades, It has been demanded, on one hand, that men 80 far as they can be supposed useful in the should write as they speak; but as it has been occurrences of common life.

shown that this conformity never was attained But there ought, however, to be some distinc- in any language, and that it is not more easy to tion made between the different classes of words ; persuade men to agree exactly in speaking than and therefore it will be proper to print those in writing, it may be asked with equal propriety, which are incorporated into the language in the why men do not rather speak as they write. In usual character, and those which are still to be France, where this controversy was at its greatconsidered as foreign, in the italic letter.

est height, neither party, however ardent, durst Another question may arise with regard to adhere steadily to their own rule; the etymoloappellatives, or the names of species. It seems gist was often forced to spell with the people ; of no great use to set down the words horse, dog, and the advocate for the authority of pronuncat, willow, alder, daisy, rose, and a thousand ciation found it sometimes deviating so capriciothers, of which it will be hard to give an ously from the received use of writing, that he explanation, not more obscure than the word was constrained to comply with the rule of his itself, yet it is to be considered, that, if the adversaries, lest he should lose the end by the names of animals be inserted, we must admit means, and be left alone by following the crowd. those which are more known, as well as those When a question of orthography is dubious, with which we are, by accident, less acquainted; that practice has, in my opinion, a claim to preand if they are all rejected, how will the reader ference which preserves the greatest number of be relieved from difficulties produced by allu- radical letters, or seems most to comply with sions to the crocodile, the chameleon, the ichneu- the general custom of our language. But the mon, and the hyæna ? If no plants are to be chief rule which I propose to follow is, to make mentioned, the most pleasing part of nature will no innovation, without a reason sufficient to be excluded, and many beautiful epithets be balance the inconvenience of change; and such unexplained. If only those which are less reasons I do not expect often to find. All known are to be mentioned, who shall tix the change is of itself an evil, which ought not to limits of the reader's learning ? The importance be hazarded but for evident advantage; and as of such explications appears from the mistakes inconstancy is in every case a mark of weakwhich the want of thein has occasioned. Had ness, it will add nothing to the reputation of Shakspeare had a dictionary of this kind, he had our tongue. There are, indeed, some who denot made the woodbine entwine the honeysuckle ; | spise the inconveniences of confusion, who nor would Milton with such assistance, have seem to take pleasure in departing from custom, disposed so improperly of his ellops and bis and to think alteration desirable for its own sake; scorpion.

and the reformation of our orthography, which Besides, as such words, like others, require these writers have attempted, should not pass that their accents should be settled, their sounds without its due honours, but that I suppose they ascertained, and their etymologies deduced, they hold a singularity its own reward, or may dread cannot be properly omitted in the dictionary. the fascination of lavish praise. And though the explanations of some may be The present usage of spelling, where the censured as trivial, because they are almost present usage can be distinguished, will, thereuniversally understood; and those of others as fore, in this work be generally followed ; yet unnecessary, because they will seldom occur; there will be often occasion to observe, that it yet it seems not proper to omit them, since it is is in itself inaccurate, and tolerated rather than rather to be wished that many readers should chosen ; particularly when, by a change of one find more than they expect, than that one should letter, or more, the meaning of a word is obmiss what he might hope to find.

scured; as in furrier, or ferrier, as it was forWhen all the words are selected and arranged, merly written, from ferrum, or fer; in gibberish the first part of the work to be considered is the for gebrish, the jargon of Geber, and his cheorthography, which was long vague and uncer- micai followers, understood by none but their tain; which at last when its fiuctuation ceased, own tribe. It will be likewise sometimes proper Was in many cases settled but by accident; and to trace back the orthography of different ages, in which, according to your lordship’s observa- and show by what gradations the word departed tion, there is still great uncertainty among the from its original. best critics ; nor is it easy to state a rule by Closely connected with orthography is prowhich we may decide between custom and rea- nunciation, the stability of which is of great Bon, or between the equiponderant authorities importance to the duration of a language, beof writers alike eminent for judgment and cause the first change will naturally begin by accuracy

corruptions in the living speech. The want of

certain rules for the pronunciation of former of which the number is now so fixed, that no ages, has made us wholly ignorant of the metri- modern poet is suffered to increase it. cal art of our ancient poets; and since those who When the orthography and pronunciation are study their sentiments regret the loss of their adjusted, the etymology or derivation is next to numbers, it is surely time to provide that the be considered, and the words are to be distinbarmony of the moderns may be more perma- guished according to the different classes, nent.

whether simple, as day, light ; or compound, as A new pronunciation will make almost a new day-light ; whether primitive, as, to act, or derispeech; and therefore, since one great end of vative, as action, actionable, active, activity. This this undertaking is to fix the English language, will much facilitate the attainment of our lancare will be taken to determine the accentuation guage, which now stands in our dictionaries a of all polysyllables by proper authorities, as it confused heap of words without dependence, is one of those capricious phenomena which and without relation. cannot be easily reduced to rules. Thus there When this part of the work is performed, it is no antecedent reason for difference of accent will be necessary to inquire how our primitives in the words dolorous and sonorous; yet of the are to be deduced from foreigu languages, which one Milton gives the sound in this line :

may be often very successfully performed by the

assistance of our own etymologists. This search He pass'd o'er many a region dolorous;

will give occasion to many curious disquisitions,

and sometimes perhaps to conjectures, wbich to and that of the other in this,

readers unacquainted with this kind of study, Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds.

cannot but appear improbable and capricious.

But it may be reasonably imagined, that what It may likewise be proper to remark metrical is so much in the power of men as language, will licenses, such as contractions, generous, gen'rous; very often be capriciously conducted. Nor are reverend, rev’rend; and coalitions, as region, these disquisitions and conjectures to be conquestion.

sidered altogether as wanton sports of wit, or But it is still more necessary to fix the pro- vain shows of learning; our language is wellnunciation of monosyllables, by placing with known not to be primitive or self-originated, but them words of correspondent sound, that one to have adopted words of every generation, and, may guard the other against the danger of that either for the supply of its necessities, or the invariation, which, to some of the most cominon, crease of its copiousness, to have received addihas already happened; so that the words wound tions from very distant regions; so that in search and wind, as they are now frequently pro- of the progenitors of our speech, we may wannounced, will not rhyme to sound and mind. der from the tropic to the frozen zone, and find It is to be remarked, that many words written some in the valleys of Palesting, and some upon alike are differently pronounced, as flow and the rocks of Norway. brow: which may be thus registered, flow, woe ; Beside the derivation of particular words, brow, now; or of which the exemplification may there is likewise an etymology of phrases. Exbe generally given by a distich : thus the words pressions are often taken from other languages; tear, or lacerate, and tear, the water of the eye, some apparently, as to run a riske, courir un have the same letters, but may be distinguished risque ; and some even when we do not seem to thus, lear, dare; tear, peer.

borrow their words; thus, to bring aboul or acSome words bave two sounds which may be complish, appears an English phrase, but in equally admitted, as being equally defensible by reality our native word about has no such imauthority. Thus great is differently used. port, and is only a French expression, of which

we have an example in the common phrase venir For Suift and him despised the farce of state, à bout d'une affaire. The sober follies of the wise and great. РОРЕ. .

In exhibiting the descent of our language, our As if misfortune made the throne her seat,

etymologists seem to have been too lavish of And none could be unhappy but the great. Rowe. their learning, having traced almost every word

through various tongues, only to show what The care of such minute particulars may be was shown sufliciently by the first derivation. censured as trifling; but these particulars have This practice is of great use in synoptical lexinot been thought unworthy of attention in more cons, where mutilated and doubtful languages polished lan ages.

are explained by their affinity to others more The accuracy of the French, in stating the certain and extensive, but is generally, supersounds of their letters, is well known; and, fluous in English etymologies. When the word among the Italians, Crescembeni has not thought is easily deduced from a Saxon original, I soall it unnecessary to inform his countrymen of the not often inquire further, since we know words which, in compliance with different not the parent of the Saxon dialect; but when rhymes, are allowed to be difierently spelt, and it is borrowed from the French, I shall show

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