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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FOURTH
THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY.
Many are the works of human industry, which to begin and finish are hardly granted to the same
He that undertakes to compile a dictionary, undertakes that, which, if it comprehends the full extent of his design, he knows himself unable to perform. Yet his labours, though deficient, may be useful, and with the hope of this inferior praise, he must incite his activity, and solace his weariness.
Perfection is unattainable, but nearer and nearer approaches may be made; and finding my dictionary about to be reprinted, I bave endeavoured, by a revisal, to make it less reprehensible. I will not deny that I found many parts requiring emendation, and many more capable of improvement. Many faults I have corrected, some superfluities I have taken away, and some deficiencies I have supplied. I have methodised some parts that were disordered, and illuminated some that were ob
Yet the changes or additions bear a very small proportion to the whole. The critic will now have less to object, but the student who has bought any of the former copies needs not repent; he will not, without nice collation, perceive how they differ; and usefulness seldom depends upon little things.
For negligence or deficience, I have perhaps
not need of more apology than the nature of the work will furnish : I have left that inaccurate which never was made exact, and that imperfect which never was completed.
PREFACE TO THE OCTAVO EDITION
THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY. Having been long employed in the study and cultivation of the English language, I lately published a Dictionary like those compiled by the academies of Italy and France, for the use of such as aspire to exactness of criticism, or elegance of style.
But it has been since considered that works of that kind are by no means necessary to the greater number of readers, who, seldom intending to write or presuming to judge, turn over books only to amuse their leisure, and to gain degrees of knowledge suitable to lower characters, or necessary to the common business of life: these know not
other of dictionary than that of adjusting orthography, and explaining terms of science, or words of infrequent occurrence, or remote derivation.
For these purposes many dictionaries have been written by different authors, and with different degrees of skill; but none of them have yet fallen into my hands by which even the lowest expectations could be satisfied. Some of their authors wanted industry, and others literature: some knew not their own defects, and others were too idle to supply them.
For this reason a small dictionary appeared yet to be wanting to common readers ; and, as I may
without arrogance claim to myself a longer acquaintance with the lexicography of our language than any other writer has had, I shall hope to be considered as having more experience at least than most of my predecessors, and as more likely to accommodate the nation with a vocabulary of daily use. I therefore offer to the Publick an Abstract or Epitome of my former Work.
In comparing this with other dictionaries of the same kind, it will be found to have several advantages.
1. It contains many words not to be found in
II. Many barbarous terms and phrases by which other dictionaries may vitiate the style, are rejected from this.
III. The words are more correctly spelled, partly by attention to their etymology, and partly by observation of the practice of the best authors.
IV. The etymologies and derivations, whether from foreign languages or from native roots, are more diligently traced, and more distinctly noted.
V. The senses of each word are more copiously enumerated, and more clearly explained.
VI. Many words occurring in the elder authors, such as Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, which had been hitherto omitted, are here carefully inserted; so that this book may serve as a glossary or expository index to the poetical writers.
VII. To the words, and to the different senses
of each word, are subjoined from the large dictionary the names of those writers by wbom they have been used; so that the reader who knows the different periods of the language, and the time of its authors, may judge of the elegance or prevalence of any word, or meaning of a word; and without recurring to other books, may know what are antiquated, what are unusual, and what are recommended by the best authority.
The words of this Dictionary, as opposed to others, are more diligently collected, more accurately spelled, more faithfully explained, and more authentically ascertained. Of an Abstract it is not necessary to say more; and I hope it will not be found that truth requires me to say
TRAGEDY OF MACBETH :
- Enter three Witches. In order to make a true estimate of the abilities and merit of a writer, it is always necessary to examine the genius of his age, and the opinions of his contemporaries. A poet who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief erents by the assistance of supernatural agents, would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability, he would be banished from the theatre to the nursery, and condemned to write Fairy Tales instead of Tragedies; but a survey of the notions that prevailed at the time when this play was written, will
that Shakespeare was in no danger of such censures, since he only turned the system that was then universally admitted to his advantage, and was far from overburthening the credulity of his audience.
The reality of witchcraftorenchantment, which though not strictly the same, are confounded in this play, has in all ages and countries been credited by the common people, and in most by the learned themselves. These phantoms have indeed appeared more frequently, in proportion as the darkness of ignorance has been more gross; but it cannot be shown, that the brightest gleams of knowledge have at any time been sufficient to drive them out of the world. The time in which this kind of credulity was at its height, seems to have been that of the holy war, in which the Christians imputed all their defeats to enchantment or diabolical opposition, as they ascribe their success to the assistance of their military saints; and the learned Mr. Warburton appears to believe (“ Sup. to the Introduction to Don Quixote”) that the first accounts of enchantments were brought into this part of the world by those who returned from their eastern expeditions. But there is always some distance between the birth and maturity of folly as of wickedness: this opinion had long existed, though perhaps the application of it had in no foregoing age been so frequent, nor the recep