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This is specious, but not always practicable; kina, dred Senses may be so interwoven, that, the Perplexity cannot be disentangled, nor any Reason be alligned why one should be ranged before the other. When the radical Idea branches out into parallel Ramifications, how can a consecutive Series be formed of Senses in their Nature collateral? The Shades of Meaning sometimes pass imperceptibly into each other; so that though on one side they apparently differ, yet it is impossible to mark the Point of Contact. ideas of the fame Race, though not exactly alike, are sometimes so little different, that no Words can express the Diffimilitude, though the Mind eafily perceives it, when they are exhibited together ; and sometimes there is such a Confusion of Accep tations, that Discernment is wearied, and Distinction puzzled, and Perseverance herself hurries to a End, by crouding together what she cannot separate.
These Complaints of Difficulty will, by those that have never considered Words beyond their popular Use, be thought only the Jargon of a Man willing to magnify his Labours, and procure Veneration to his Studies by Involution and Obscurity. But every Art is obscure to those that have not learned it: This Uncertainty of Terms, and Commixture of Ideas, is well known to those who have joined Philosophy with Grammar; and if I have not expressed them very clearly, it must be remembered that I am speaking of that which Words are insufficient to explain.
The original Sense of Words is often driven out of Use by their metaphorical Acceptations, yet must be inserted for the sake of a regular Origination. Thus I know not whether Ardour is used for material Heat, or whether flagrant, in English, ever signifies the fame with burning ; yet such are the primitive Ideas of these Words, which are therefore set first, though without Examples, that the figurative Senses may be commodiously deduced.
Such is the Exuberance, of Signification which many Words have obtained, that it was scarcely possible to collect all their Senses; sometimes the Meaning of Derivatives must be fought in the Mother Term, and sometimes deficient Explanations of the Primitive may be supplied in the Train of Derivation. In any Case of Doubt or Difficulty, it will be always proper to examine all the Words of the same Race; for some Words are slightly passed over to avoid Repetition, some admitted easier and clearer Explanation than others, and all will be better understood, as they are considered in greater Variety of Structures and Relations.
All the Interpretations of Words are not written with the same Skill, or the same Happiness: Things equally easy in themselves, are not all equally easy to any single Mind. Every Writer of a long Work commits Errours, where there appears neither Ambiguity to mislead, nor Obscurity to confound him; and in a Search like this, many Felicities of Expresfion will be casually overlooked, many convenient Parallels will be forgotten, and many Particulars will admit Improvement from a Mind utterly unequal to the whole Performance.
But many seeming Faults are to be imputed rather to the Nature of the Undertaking, than the Negligence of the Performer. Thus some Explanations are unavoidably reciprocal or circular ; as Hind, the Female of the Stag; Stag, the Male of the Hind: Sometimes eafier Words are changed into harder ; as Burial into Sepulture or Interment, drier into desiccative, Dryness into Siccity' or Aridity, Fit into Paroxylın; for the easiest Word, whatever it be, cannot be translated into one more easy. But Easiness and Difficulty are merely relative; and if the present Prevalence of our Language should invite Foreigners to this Dictionary, many will be assisted by those Words which now seem only to encrease or procure Obscu
rity. For this Reason I have endeavoured frequently to join a Teutonick and Roman Interpretation, as to CHEER, to gladden, or exhilirate, that every Learner of English may be assisted by his own Tongue.
The Solution of all Difficulties, and the Supply of all Defects, must be sought in the Examples, subjoined to the various Senses of each Word, and ranged according to the Time of their Authours.
When first I collected these Authorities, I was de. firous that every Quotation Thould be useful to come other End than the Illustration of a Word; I there. fore extracted from Philofophers Principles of Science; from Historians remarkable Facts; from Chymifts complete Proceffes; from Divines striking Exhortations; and from Poets beautiful Descriptions. Such is Design, while it is yet at a Distance from Execution. When the Time called upon me to range this Accumulation of Elegance and Wisdom into an alphabetical Series, I soon discovered that the Bulk of my Volumes would fright away the Student, and was forced to depart from my Scheme of including all that was pleasing or useful in English Literature, and reduce my Transcripts very often to Clusters of Words, in which scarcely any Meaning is retained ; thus to the Weariness of Copying, I was condemned to add the Vexation of Expunging. Some Passages I have yet spared, which may relieve the Labour of verbal Searches, and intersperse with 'Verdure and Flowers the dusty Desarts of barren Philology.
The Examples, thus mutilated, are no longer to be considered as conveying the Sentiments or Doctrine of their Authours; the Word for the Sake of which they are inserted, with all its appendant Clauses, has been carefully preserved; but it may fometimes happen, by hasty Detruncation, that the general Tendency of the Sentence may be changed ; The Divine may desert his Tenets, or the Philosopher his System.
Some of the Examples have been taken from Writers who were never mentioned as Masters of Elegance or Models of Stile ; but Words muft be fought where they are used; and in what Pages, eminent for Purity, can Terms of Manufacture or Agriculture be found? Many Quotations serve no other Purpose, than that of proving the bare Existence of Words; and are therefore selected with less Scrupulousness than those wbich are to teach their Structures and Relations.
My Purpose was to admit no Testimony of living Authours, that I might not be misled by Partiality, and that none of my Cotemporaries might have Reason to complain; nor have I departed from this Resolution, but when some Performance of uncommon Excellence excited my Veneration, when my Memory fupplied me, from late Books, with an Example that was wanting, or when my Heart, in the Tenderness of Friendship, solicited Amiffion for a favourite Name.
So far have I been from any Care to grace my Pages with modern Decorations, that I have studiously endeavoured to collect Examples and Authorities from the Writers before the Restoration, whose Works I regard as the Wells of English undefiled, as the pure Sources of genuine Diction. Our Language, for almost a Century, has, by the Concurrence of many Causes, been gradually departing from its original Teutonick Character, and deviating towards a Gallick Structure and Phraseology, from which it ought to be our Endeavour to recal it, by making our ancient Volumes the Ground-work of Style, admitting among the Additions of later Times, only such as may supply real Deficiencies, such as are readily adopted by the Genius of our Tongue, and incorporate easily with our native Idioms.
But as every Language has a Time of Rudeness antecedent to Perfection, as well as of false Refine
ment and Declension, I have been cautious left my *Zeal for Antiquity might drive me into Times too remote, and croud my Book with Words now no longer understood. I have fixed Sydney's Work for the Boundary, beyond which I make few Excurfions. From the Authours which rose in the Time of Elizabeth, a Speech might be formed adequate to all the Purposes of Use and Elegance. If the Language of Theology were extracted from Hooker and the Translation of the Bible ; the Terms of Natural Knowledge from Bacon; the Phrafes of Policy, War, and Navigation, from Raleigh; the Dialect of Poetry and Fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the Diction of common Life from Shakespeare ; few Ideas would be lost to Mankind, for want of English Words, in which they might be expreffed.
It is not sufficient that a Word is found, unless it be fo combined as that its Meaning is apparently determined by the Tract and Tenour of the Sentence; fuch Passages I have therefore chosen ; and when it happened that any Authour gave a Definition of a Term, or such an Explanation as is equivalent to a Definition, I have placed his Authority as a Supplement to my own, without Regard to the chronological Order, that is otherwise observed.
Some Words, indeed, stand unfupported by any Authority, but they are commonly derivative Nouns or Adverbs, formed from their Primitives by regular and constant Analogy, or Names of Things seldom occurring in Books, or Words of which I have Reafon to doubt the Existence.
There is more Danger of Censure from the Multiplicity than Pacuity of Examples ; Authorities will fometimes seem to have been accumulated without Necellity or Use, and perhaps some will be found, which might, without Loss, have been omitted. But a Work of this kind is not hastily to be charged with Superfluities. Those Quotations which to care