Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

The Words appropriated to Poetry will be diftin guifhed by fome Mark prefixed, or will be known by having no Authorities but thofe of Poets.

Of antiquated, or obfolete Words, none will be inferted but fuch as are to be found in Authors who wrote fince the Acceflion of Elizabeth, from which we date the golden Age of our Language; and of thefe many might be omitted, but that the Reader may require, with an Appearance of Reason, that no Difficulty fhould be left unrefolved in Books which he finds himself invited to read, as confessed and established Models of Stile. These will be likewife pointed out by fome Note of Exclufion, but not of Difgrace.

The Words which are found only in particular Books, will be known by the fingle Name of him that has used them; but fuch will be omitted, unless either their Propriety, Elegance, or Force, or the Reputation of their Authours affords fome extraordinary Reason for their Reception.

Words used in burlesque and familiar Compofitions, will be likewife mentioned with their proper Authorities; fuch as dudgeon, from Butler, and leafing, from Prior; and will be diligently characterised by Marks of Distinction.

Barbarous, or impure Words and Expreffions, may be branded with fome Note of Infamy, as they are carefully to be eradicated wherever they are found; and they occur too frequently even in the best Writers: As in Pope:

--in endless Error hurl'd,
'Tis these that early taint the female Soul.

In Addifon:

Attend to what a leffer Mufe indites.

And

And in Dryden.

A dreadful Quiet felt, and worfer far
Than Arms--

If this Part of the Work can be well performed it will be equivalent to the Propofal made by Boileau to the Academicians, that they should review all their polite Writers, and correct fuch Impurities as might be found in them, that their Authority might not contribute, at any diftant Time, to the Depravation of the Language.

With Regard to Questions of Purity, or Propriety, I was once in doubt whether I should not attribute too much to myself, in attempting to decide them, and whether my Province was to extend beyond the Propofition of the Question, and the Difplay of the Suffrages on each Side; but I have been fince determined, by.your Lordship's Opinion, to interpose my own Judgment, and shall therefore endeavour to fupport what appears to me moft confonant to Grammar and Reafon. Aufonius thought that Modefty forbad him to plead Inability for a Task to which Cæfar had judged him equal.

Cur me poffe negem poffe quod ille putat ?

And I may hope, my Lord, that fince you, whose Authority in our Language is fo generally acknowledged, have commiffioned me to declare my own. Opinion, I fhall be confidered as exerciûing a Kind of vicarious Jurifdiction, and that the Power which might have been denied to my own Claim, will be readily allowed me as the Delegate of your Lordfhip.

In citing Authorities, on which the Credit of every Part of this Work muft depend, it will be proper to obferve fome obvious Rules; fuch as of preferring Writers of the firft Reputation to thofe of an inferior Rank; of noting the Quotations with AccuE 2 racy;

racy; and of felc&ing, when it can be conveniently done, fuch Sentences, as, befides their immediate Ufe, may give Pleasure or Inftruction, by conveying fome Elegance of Language, or fome Precept of Prudence, or Piety.

It has been afked, on fome Occafions, who fhalt judge the Judges? And fince, with regard to this Defign, a Queftion may arife by what Authority the Authorities are felected, it is neceffary to obviate it, by declaring that many of the Writers whofe Teftimonies will be alledged, were felected by Mr. Pope; of whom, I may be juftified in affirming, that were he ftill alive, follicitous as he was for the Success of this Work, he would not be difpleafed that I have undertaken it.

It will be proper that the Quotations be ranged according to the Ages of their Authours; and it will afford an agreeable Amufement, if, to the Words and Phrafes which are not of our own Growth, the Name of the Writer who firft introduced them can be affixed; and if, to Words which are now antiquated, the Authority be fubjoined of him who last admitted them. Thus, for feathe and buxom, now obfolete, Milton may be cited.

-Thee Mountain Oak-
Stands feath'd to Heaven-

-He with broad Sails
Winnow'd the buxom Air--

By this Method every Word will have its History, and the Reader will be informed of the gradual Changes of the Language, and have before his Eyes the Rife of fome Words, and the Fall of others. But Observations fo minute and accurate are to be desired rather than expected: And if Ufe be carefully supplied, Curiofity muft fometimes bear itsDifappointments.

8

This,

[ocr errors]

This, my Lord, is my Idea of an English Dictionary; a Dictionary by which the Pronunciation of our Language may be fixed, and its Attainment facilitated; by which its Purity may be preferved, its Use ascertained, and its Duration lengthened. And though, perhaps, to correct the Language of Nations by Books of Grammar, and amend their Manners by Difcourfes of Morality, may be Tafks equally difficult; yet, as it is unavoidable to wifh, it is natural likewife to hope, that your Lordship's Patronage may not be wholly loft; that it may contribute to the Prefervation of ancient, and the Improvement of modern Writers; that it may promote the Reformation of thofe Tranilators, who, for Want of understanding the characteristical Difference of Tongues, have formed a chaotic Dialect of heterogeneous Phrafes; and awaken to the Care of purer Diction fome Men of Genius, whofe Attention to Argument makes them negligent of Stile, or whofe rapid Imagination, like the Peruvian Torrents, when it brings down Gold, mingles it with Sand.

When I furvey the Plan which I have laid before you, I cannot, my Lord, but confefs, that I am frighted at its Extent, and, like the Soldiers of Cafar, look on Britain as a new World, which it is almoft Madnefs to invade. But I hope, that though I should not complete the Conqueft, I fhall at leaft difcover the Coaft, civilize Part of the Inhabitants, and make it eafy for fome other Adventurer to proceed farther, to reduce them wholly to Subjection, and fettle them under Laws.

[ocr errors]

We are taught by the great Roman orator, that every Man fhould propofe to himself the highest Degree of Excellence, but that he may ftop with Honour at the Second or the Third: Though therefore my Performance fhould fall below the Excellence of other Dictionaries, I may obtain, at leaft, the Praise of having endeavoured well; nor fhall I think it any E 3 Reproach

Reproach to my Diligence, that I have retired without a Triumph, from a Conteft with united Academies, and long Succeffions of learned Compilers. I cannot hope, in the warmest Moments, to preferve fo much Caution through so long a Work, as not often to fink into Negligence, or to obtain fo much Knowledge of all its Parts, as not frequently to fail by Ignorance. I expect that fometimes the Defire of Accuracy will urge me to Superfluities, and fometimes the Fear of Prolixity betray me to Omiffions; that in the Extent of such Variety, I fhall be often bewildered; and in the Mazes of fuch Intricacy, be frequently entangled; that in one Part Refinement will be fubtilifed beyond Exactnefs, and Evidence dilated in another beyond Perfpicuity. Yet I do not defpair of Approbation from those who, knowing the Uncertainty of Conjecture, the Scantinefs of Knowledge, the Fallibility of Memory, and the Unfteadiness of Attention, can compare the Causes of Error with the Means of avoiding it, and the Extent of Art with the Capacity of Man; and whatever be the Event of my Endeavours, I fhall not easily regret an Attempt which has procured me the Honour of appearing thus publickly,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's most obedient,

And moft humble Servant,

SAM, JOHNSON,

« ElőzőTovább »