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accentuation, some parts of which sufficiently evince an inclination to that kind of inquiry, which has here been further pursued. I particularly noticed some modes of accentuation employed by early writers, which had since been entirely disused.
Thus prepared, when I began to take notes of words and phrases requiring explanation, in Shakespeare, and writers near his time, I was still upon my favorite ground; and it may easily be supposed that, in reading for that purpose some writings which otherwise, probably, I might not have read, I was enjoying an amusement very congenial to my inclinations. The perusal of the best authors of those times was, indeed, its own reward, without reference to any other object; but still the contemplation of another purpose to be answered by it, was a further motive to encourage perseverance.
I had made some progress in my collections, and even in the arrangement of them, when occupations came upon me which soon left me no time to employ in such amusements. The undertaking, therefore, was of necessity laid aside; and occasional reading, in a desultory manner, with hasty memorandums of passages, was all that could, for many years, be made subservient to it. At length, comparative leisure gave an opportunity for resuming the design. The materials collected were finally arranged; and being thought by some competent judges to be such as would be welcome to the public, the determination to give them to the press was formed without reluctance.
It will be found, I fear, after all, that the Work has many deficiencies ; which the mode of its compilation may explain, but cannot entirely excuse. My only defence is, that my attempt was not to collect all that could possibly be bad, but to preserve and arrange all that I had been able to collect. The former would have been a serious task ; the latter, as it was at first, so it always continued to be, an amusement. If what I have collected prove worthy of the notice of the public, the public is welcome to it; and should any more successful compiler be able to supply its defects, his full share of the credit shall by me be readily conceded. Many works I have certainly read, belonging to the period here comprehended, but not always with the minute attention which would have been necessary for noting every peculiarity. To have laboured through all the productions of that time would have been a task neither suited to my taste nor compatible with my occupations. I have therefore avoided the title of Dictionary, which seemed to me to imply a more perfect collection. Much, however, the volume does contain; and much that will, I trust, entertain the reader, no less than it has amused the writer.
I have carefully abstained from inserting the words and phrases of an earlier period than the reign of Elizabeth, except where the writers of her time at all affected the phraseology of Chaucer; which affectation, in my opinion, is almost the only blemish of the beautiful poems of Spenser. My reason was this: that to complete the rational view and knowledge of our language, a separate Dictionary must be required for the works of Chaucer, Gower,
Lydgate, Occleve, and all those writers who can properly be called English ; that is, who wrote when the language was no longer Saxon. A Saxon Dictionary of the same form, with all the examples at length, would complete the historical view of our national speech. The British, and its dialects, belong to another family.
Verum hæc ipse equidem, spatiis exclusus iniquis,
I have neither length of life, nor perseverance in study remaining, to undertake either of those tasks.
Our illustrious countryman, Johnson, has shown us that no Dictionary can be satisfactory without a copious selection of examples, and has given us the most convenient form ; his plan and method have, therefore, been followed here, as far as seemed necessary in a work less scientific. The Chaucerian and the Saxon Dictionaries, whenever formed, ought surely to adopt a similar arrangement.
If such a plan should ever be completed, it may then, perhaps, be advisable to throw out from Johnson's Dictionary all the words not actually classical in the language at that time; so as to make it a standard of correct phraseology. Johnson has no small number of words which were completely out of use when he compiled his Dictionary. That number has been greatly augmented by his editor, Todd; with the very laudable design of comprising the whole history of our language, if possible, in that one work. The inconvenience arising from this method is certainly not great ; and chiefly affects foreigners, who may sometimes be puzzled to decide what words are actually in use, and what are obsolete. The separation of the Dictionaries, as here suggested, would make all clear ; but, perhaps, it is a plan more specious in theory, than likely to be realised in practice.
It may be objected, that, according to this notion, I have not even perfected my own link of the philological chain. This I shall not attempt to deny ; but, probably, enough is here done to encourage others to complete the undertaking; enough, too, for immediate use, till something more perfect shall appear. To diversify the work, I have not confined it to words, but have included phrases, proverbial sayings, with allusions to customs, and even to persons, when something of their history seemed necessary to illustrate my authors. I have also made it occasionally a vehicle for critical observations on the text of our general favorite, Shakespeare; especially in such passages as have been most disputed by his commentators. I have thus endeavoured to make it not merely a book of reference, but also an occasional amusement for literary leisure. The authors most studiously illustrated are those who are most likely to attract the general reader; and if others are occasionally quoted, t is chiefly for the sake of the light they throw upon those of primary consideration.
It will readily be supposed that, in compiling this Glossary, I have taken advantage of all those indexes which have lately been subjoined to the editions of our early authors; the assistance of which has rendered this volume much more copious than otherwise it could have been made, in the mode of collection above described. Prior Dictionaries have been consulted to a great extent, and in the improved edition of Johnson, by my friend Todd, I have often found myself anticipated, where I thought I had made a discovery. Dr. Jamieson's admirable Dictionary of the Scottish language, has also been of great use; many of the words which are disused in England being completely preserved in that dialect, which is a legitimate child of the same Saxon parent. To etymology I have not paid anxious attention, except where it seemed clear and undeniable; well knowing the extreme fallaciousness of that science when founded on mere similarity of sound. But I have particularly avoided deriving common English words from languages of which the people who employed them must have been entirely ignorant ; a method which some etymologists have pursued to a very ridiculous extent.
Collections of provincial dialects would often have been extremely useful ; many words esteemed peculiar to certain counties, being merely remnants of the language formerly in general use. But these collections are unfortunately few and scanty; nor can I name any one in which I have found so much use, as in what Mr. Wilbraham very modestly terms "an attempt towards a Glossary of words used in Cheshire.” Had I been earlier acquainted with this performance I should doubtless have derived much more advantage from it. County histories, which have long received the most extensive encouragement, should always contain a careful compilation of this kind, from certain and correct authorities: and from these, digested together, the history of our language might ultimately receive important illustration. I apprehend, however, that little has hitherto been done towards this design. The Cornish words collected by the diligence of Mr. Polwhele, belong chiefly to a still more ancient dialect.
Having said thus much of the origin and mode of execution of this work, I willingly leave the public to decide upon its value. This is a point which can seldom be determined by an author, or his friends ; the former being disqualified by partiality to the work, and the latter to the workman. My expectation is, that it will be deemed more amusing than useful, more various than profound ; a decision which, however harshly expressed, I shall never make an attempt to controvert.
A. This letter prefixed to a participle,
to denote an action still continued, is certainly not at all obsolete, To go a fishing, a begging, a walking, &c.,
are expressions as current still, in familiar and colloquial use, as they ever were : and though it is difficult to define the force of a, in such phrases, every one by use comprehends it. It is something like a preposition, yet it is not exactly either at, to, in, or anything else. The force seems to be its own. But it is no longer so prefixed to nouns; and these instances are properly obsolete language. Thus, in Mr. Todd's examples, He will knap the spears a pieces with his teeth.
More, Antid. ag. Atheism. There it seems to have the force of to. As prefixed in composition, without changing the sense of the word, it was formerly more common than it now is. Hence we find in Shakespeare, I gin to be a-weary of the sun.
Macbeth. [It is hardly, perhaps, necessary to remark that a is often used in popular language for have, for on, and
sometimes for 1.] A, the Article. Sometimes repeated
with adjectives, the substantive having
gone before, and being understood. A goodly portly man i'faith, and a corpulent. Hen. IV. What death is't you desire for Amalchides ? A sudden, and a subtle.
Wilck, by Middleton. See more instances in Mr. Steevens's note on Macbeth, act iii, sc. 5. 2. Prefixed to numeral adjectives.
There's not a one of them, but in his liouse
Macb., iii, 5.
Squiers T., 10,697. Having with her about a threescore horsemen.
Pembr. Arc., 1623, p. 181. 'Tis now a nineteen years agone at least.
B. Jon., Case is Alt., i, 5.
All that comes a near him,
B. & Fl., Noble Gent., act ii.
The world runs a wheels. B. Jun., Vis. of D. For on wheels. A
per se, or A per se A. That is, a by itself. A form which appears to have been applied, in spelling, to every letter which formed a separate syllable. Thus a clown, in Dr. Faustus,
spelling to himself, says, A per se a; t, h, e, the ; o per se o, &c. Anc. Dr., i, p. 39.
The expression and per se, and, to signify the contraction 8, substituted for that conjunction, is not yet forgotten in the nursery. The earliest trace of a per se is in Chaucer, who calls Cresseide“ the floure and a per se of Troie and Grece;" where it is meant to imply pre-eminent excellence. So also in the following passage :
Beholde me, Baldwine, 4 per se of my age,
Mirr. for Mag., 371. But we
have also several other letters per se, thus :
And singing mourne Eliza's funerall,
H. Petowe, in Restituta, iii, p. 26.