Page images

Like a stage-waggon upset, every material that has been packed and loaded, is found to be displaced, disjointed or shattered. It is an abundant accumulation of every error in literature, and not among the miriads of books in publication can be found one, in which so little merit, compensates for so much supinity, and extraneous matter. It is a wildernes without a way-mark, into which as soon as we enter, we find ourselves misled, hampered, unsafe, and lost. It is the production of a great, but an illregulated mind; and the manner of it dazzles, rather than informs; and teaches us to admire, rather than to comprehend the English Language. It was undertaken rashly, it was compiled under an ignominious stipulation, and pressed to a conclusion by the importunities and menaces of a herd of mercenary Publishers.' p. 4.

Our author proceeds to point out a variety of defects in Johnson's performance, under the heads of Strictures on his definitions, on what is here termed his treatment of words, on his citations, and on his remarks. To the greater part of these instances, we think Mr. P.'s objections reasonable, to others frivolous: but we can assure him, that our experience in literature does not encourage us to expect any work of equal magnitude and difficulty, in which a much greater number of errors may not be detected by any one who has just talent enough for the search, and who will undertake the invidious trouble.

[ocr errors]

Some peculiarities of Mr. P.'s orthography and style, are obvious in the short quotation which we have given. He has nat intimated his reasons for differing in these respects from. established custom; a défect of condescension at which we certainly do not repine.. Let the reasons, or even the propriety, of the orthography, be what they may, we totally disapprove the introduction of it into extracts from other writers. Mr. P.'s intention seems to have been uniformly to reduce double into single s; for want, apparently, of considering that our single s has usually (and always when final) the sound of . All other double letters he appears to retain ; for although he writes abhorent and abhorible, it is evidently because he substitutes abhore for abhor. That he does not ground his peculiarities on etymology, is demonstrated by his substitution of i for y, in sympathy, &c. We have already, in our remarks on Mr. Webster's Anglo-American Dictionary*, expressed our disapprobation of all deviations, in works of this kind, from that orthography which has long been established by our best writers. If the justness of this opinion be evident, it will be so much the less necessary to waste any time in criticizing such deviations as those of Mr. Pytches.

The principal purpose of a vernacular dictionary, in our judgement, is that of exhibiting the best authorised forms, Vol. III P. 44.

and significations, of words that are commonly used in writing or in conversation. The information which may thereby be imparted by persons of the most extensive reading, and of the most rational and polite colloquial intercourse, to others who want these advantages, tends to purify the language of books and of discourse from vulgarity and barbarisms; and to beautify it with perspicuity and precision.

The most effectual mode of accomplishing this important purpose, we apprehend to be, that of excluding, from dic tionaries designed for general use, all words that cannot with propriety be introduced in writing or conversing on general subjects. At present our truly proper and useful words are buried under a load of barbarous, obscure, unusual, or technical terms, which enhance the price of a good dictionary, render its size inconvenient, and make its use very difficult, if not fruitless. To word-catchers, who require that a dictionary should explain to them every term that occurs in every book that has been printed in their language, and every phrase that they hear from all classes of our mingled community, we will just give an assurance that their expectations never can be fulfilled. Attempts to gratify so unreasonable a wish only render dictionaries nearly useless to all sorts of readers. We hope that they will be supplied with separate compilations of obsolete and provincial terms, that may greatly facilitate black-letter reading. We hope that our Cyclopedias, or rather some work appropriated to the express purpose, will afford a collection of scientific technical terms alphabetically arranged, accurately defined, and familiarly explained. We hope that English Dictionaries will then deserve that title, by exhibiting a genuine picture of the living language, undisguised and unincumbered by innumerable words which are no more English than they are Arabic.

One effectual method of increasing the ponderosity, and diminishing the utility, of a dictionary, is, to multiply the significations of every term to the utmost degree that its various positions and connections in language can render plausible. Into this mistake, Johnson unfortunately fell: but his progress in it falls very far short of Mr. P.'s. Who shall come after a philologist that has discovered forty dif ferent significations of the letter A To enable our readers to judge of the extent to which such meanings may be invented, we adjoin a list of those which our author has assigned to the Verb Abandon; each of which is duly illustrated and sanctioned by examples. To desert, to forsake, to leave, to quit, to withdraw from, to throw by, to lay aside, to forgo, to dismiss, to discontinue, to eject from attendance,

to neglect, to leave to chance, to quit, to part from, to let go; with by, with from, with of, with out of, with to, with to separated inadvertently by a preposition.'-No one will be surprised, that in this manner Mr. P. has filled eighteen pages with words that do not extend beyond four of Johnson's first edition. This formidable enlargement, it must not be denied, is owing in a considerable measure to the introduction of several words not admitted by the great lexicographer. An enumeration of them will enable our readers to estimate the vast obligations, which our literature has incurred, to the diligence and fidelity of Mr. Pytches. They are, Aane (the beard of barley, oats, “eared ry, and some kind of weat") Aaronical, Ab (Hebrew) Aback (Noun and Interj.) Abacot, Abacted, Abacus-major, Abada, Abaddon, Abaft, (Prep.) Abail, Abandon, (Noun) Abandoner, Abantian, Abaptiston, Abash (Verb neuter), Abasher, Abashment, Abate (Noun) Abatable, Abaw, Abbatess, Abbathy, Abbatical, Abbreviate (Noun), Abbreviative, Abbreviatively, A, B, C. (Adjective) Abcdaran (Adj.) Abderian, Abdicater, Abdominal-ring, Abducer, Abear, Abearing, 'To bring-abed, to-be-brought-abed, Abeg, Abele-Tree, Aber, Abet (Noun), Abhorently, Abhorefulness, Abhorible, Abid (V. A. and V. N).

On the last word, the author says, that Dr. Johnson determined it to have no compounded preterit. On the contrary, Johnson's words are, “To abide, v. n. I abode or abid ;” and he adduces an example of abid in the active sense. His real fault was that of confounding the active and neuter senses under one head.

We have narrowly escaped augmenting the preceding list by several words which we did not recognise under the disguise of Mr. P.'s unaccountable orthography; but we found, just in time, that the only secure way of discriminating a new word from an old one, was to restrict our attention to those terms which the author has, very judiciously, distinguished by an asterisk. These, with two or three exceptions only, we regard as nothing better than mere incumbrances on his work. In the same manner, especially with a liberal use of compound nouns and verbs, it will be easy, and even necessary for him, in order to be consistent, to swell his dictionary not to four volumes only, as he announces, but to fifty.

In his title page, Mr. P. professes, that "the words are collected from the purest sources, exemplified by elegant and splendid specimens of composition, and supported by authorities of the gratest reputation and weight." That hardly any of those terms which the author has newly introduced can have these recommendations, will be obvious to every student of our language, from the list of them which we have given.

In order, therefore, to render complete justice to Mr. P.'s work, we hope that our readers will excuse us for extracting one of his articles, in which he had an ample choice of sources, specimens, and authorities.

‹ To abase. v. a. (Baσıç, Gr.)

1. To humble; to lower; to bring down.

If we be abased, we sigh to mount; and if we be high, we weep for fear of falling."
North's Dial. of Princes. 221.

How is the grate oppresser's pride abas'd!
How were his troops, how were his navy chas'd!

Blackmore's Eliza, Bk. 7.
Ezekiel. 21. 26.

1 will exalt the humble, and abase those who are high. If the prince's power be from God as well as the pope's: if the pope's power concerning jurisdiction be natural as well as the prince's, if they flow both from one original, if they have so small difference, what meant you then by such odious comparisons, so highly and so ambitiously to advance the one, and so disdainfully and scornfully to abase the other. Bp. Jewel's Defence of the Church. 758.

2. To lessen the dignity and influence of any thing.

Hath she forgot already that brave prince
Edward, her lord, whom I some three months since
Stabb'd in my angry mood at Tewksbury?
And will she yet abase her eyes on me,

That cropp'd the golden prime of this sweet prince?

Shak. Richard 3rd. A. 1. S. 2.

[blocks in formation]

Spenser's F. 2n. 6. 8. 5.

In heraldry we say the wings of an eagle are abased when they are closed, or when the tops hang toward the point of the shield.

4. To humble; to testify a sense of humiliation.

When David makes his most solemn acknowledgements to God for his grate mercies to him, how doth he abase himself before him :-Who am I? and what is my people? Tillotson's Sermons.

5. To cast down; to depress.

When the asses of Maurusium are bound to a journey, they set-forward so fast, that they seem rather to fly than run, but being overwearied, they are so abased that they send forth tears. Topsell's Quadrupeds. 25.

Yet all these ship-wrecks naught avail,
Their courage to abase, or quail.

6. To reduce from a higher to a lower state.

Gorges Lucan's Pharsalia. 116.

Silver is known to be of such nature, that it will not be wrought with the hammer

before the silversmith has abased it with copper.

Argol's Armory. 4.

7. With to.

Let him not show any sign of pride and arrogancy as tho he disdained them, but rather in some measure by abasing, submitting, and yielding a little to them in his behaviour preserve himself from envy. Dr. Holland's Plut. Morals. 182.

No man ever fared the worse for abasing himself to his God,

Bp. Hall's Works. 1201. The cause why I did abase myself to your state and infirmity was, to enhance you to heven. Udall on the Paraphrase of Erasmus. 496.'

From the author's derivation of this word, he is evidently as deficient as Johnson was, in acquaintance with the ancient British dialects, whence numerous terms of our language have originated. The verb abase comes from the adjective base, which we doubtless have received from the Welch (or Cornish) bas, of similar signification. It is common (both in its simple and compounded states) to several remaining dialects of the ancient Iberian language, usually, but absurdly, denominated the Celtic. Thence it descended to the French, Spanish, and Italian tongues, all of which are strongly impregnated with the Iberian. The low Latin also, from which Johnson derives the word, was always Gallic. The source to which Mr P. has referred it, is of all the most remote, and the most unlikely to be that from which we received it. The Greeks, however, might obtain the word from the Phenician or Getulian progenitors of the ancient Iberians.

How few of the authorities cite on this occasion by Mr. P. answer to the characters given in his title page, is too evident to require any comment. Excepting perhaps Tillotson, there is not one whose sole authority would render any-word current in modern composition. Johnson's quotations are better selected, from Sidney, Dryden, the Bible, and Locke.

Mr. P., notwithstanding the unequivocal appearances of dogmatism which we have noticed, has prudently expressed his deşire, that remarks on the parts which may be published as specimens should be communicated to him, before the subscription copies are sent to the press. We fear that there is little probability of his work undergoing so complete a reform, as would intitle it to public approbation. Our strictures have regarded the general state of lexicography, rather than so hopeless an object as the correction of Mr. P.'s performance, He appears to us to have a vast deal to learn, and unhappily as much to unlearn, in order to qualify him for the difficult task which he has presumed to undertake. If our remarks, notwithstanding, shall in any degree avail toward the correction and improvement of his work, should he persist in the publication fit, we shall consider it as some compensation for the painful duty he has imposed upon us, of reprobating the wellmeant labours of an individual, from a regard to the interests of the public.

« PreviousContinue »