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to this kind of study, I fhall give a small specimen of exercises in grammatical disquisitions, first in practical grammar, as being the easiest, as well as the most generally useful exercise of the two, and next in philosophical grammar, as being better adapted to scientific minds.

Exercises i regard to practical grammar.

By practical grammar, I mean to denote, in contradistinction to philosophical grammar, the art of attaining, by habit and attention, a facility of using any language correctly, either in speaking or in writing it. In this branch of study, one of the most efsential requisites is, to obtain a knowledge of the precise meaning of every word that occurs in that language, according to the established practice of the most correct writers. To obtain this knowledge, a learner is obliged frequently to have recourse to dictionaries; so that it is an object of great importance to have an accurate dictionary of the language. The first object of inquiry, therefore, ought to be, whe ther such a dictionary is to be found; and if it be not, how that defect may be best supplied.

Every person who has bestowed a particular attention to the English language, knows very well, that no such dictionary of that language exists; for the want of which the learner is obliged to grope his way in the dark in the best manner he can, and by consequence he will be in danger of going wrong very often.

Without stopping to criticise the writings of those lexicographers who have attempted to give dictionaries of the English language, it will answer a better purpose to point out some of the probable means

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improving those which fhall be written in future. Every attempt of this sort must be perfected by degrees. Those who come first, pave the way for others; the very errors of former writers serve to direct those who come after them; so that it may often happen, that the earliest writers of dictionaries, may have a much better claim to merit than their succefsors, though the writings of these last be much more perfect than the others. Peculiarities which contribute in a high degree to give elegance and beauty to a language, when that language is perfectly known by the person who employs it, frequently are the causes of obscurity and inelegance in the hands of persons who know not how to avail themselves of the treasures that language contains. This is remarkably the case, in respect to all those words which are nearly synonymous. There is not perhaps to be found in any language, two words that are exactly synonymous, so that a person who is critically accurate in the use of words, will scarcely find an occasion in which one word can be substituted for another, without either marring the sense, diminishing the energy, or hurting the elegance of the phrase; but, to a carelefs and inaccurate writer, five or six words will often be accounted entirely synonymous. It may indeed happen, that when an object is considered in one point of view only, two words may be indifferently used, because the circumstance that constitutes the discriminating idea between these two words is not intended to be noticed. But on another occasion, the one word would be infinitely more proper than the other; and how is a

learner to obtain a knowledge of these nice fhades of difference unless they be accurately explained in a dictionary? But as no dictionary of the English language has yet been composed, in which even an attempt has been made to do this, it cannot surely be too soon begun. In consequence of a few popular writings on synonymes, in foreign languages, the attention of some men of letters has been turned towards this subject in regard to English, though these have been confined only to particular difsertations. A degree of accuracy, nearly equal to what is here wanted, is also required for explaining a great proportion of the other words in any language. Most words have only one clear, precise, and direct meaning, in which sense these words had been originally employed; but afterwards, when it had been discovered that other words were wanted to denote ideas corresponding with the original meaning, only in certain circumstances, these words have been forced to bend a little, as it might be said, to the necefsity of the times, and to be applied in this sense also. Hence it is that we find so many words which have a direct, as well as a collateral and figurative meaning, and they come in some cases to be so generally used, only in the figurative sense, as in some measure to make us lose sight of their direct meaning. A perfect dictionary, therefore, fhould, in the first place, define the word with the most accurate precision, so as to how its meaning, distinct from that of every other word, and then trace its gradual deflections into a figurative signification. Wit also, that fantastic creature of an active mind, knows how to

distort words so, as by a delicate allusion to circumstances, unperceived by the more phíegmatic portion of mankind, to suggest ideas infinitely ludicrous and pleasing. A dictionary which could denote even but a small dafh of these delicate meanings of words, would be a treasure in any language.

But how, it may be afked, can all this be done? The question is natural and pertinent. In cases of this sort, it is often easier to say what cannot be done than what can. On this principle we can easily say, these delicate meanings of words, cannot be exhibited by means of quotations only, produced as authorities for the use of the word. It may appear perhaps a little paradoxical, though not lefs true, to afsert, that mere quotations, produced as authorities in a dictionary, will prove more frequently a source of error than of real information. The best composer that ever was will sometimes write incorrectly; and if every thing that he has said is to be considered as sterling authority, wherever such faults occur, these faults, by this mode, would be difseminated, and error propagated instead of truth. Poets, in particular, may be considered as the greatest corrupters of all languages. They often overstretch the meaning of a word to serve a particular purpose; the harmony of sounds, frequently induces them to make the sense become subordinate; so that the lexicographer, who fhould rest satisfied with giving the meaning of every word, as it has been used, even by poets who are deemed classical, would make a hodge podge of, a language that could never be good for any thing.

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But if poetry of any sort is but doubtful authority dramatic poetry is, in a particular manner, liable to objection. The dramatic writer must suit his language to his characters. He must, therefore, occasionally make use of overstrained, affected, bombastical exprefsions; vulgar phrases, false idioms of speech, and grammatical blunders must be adopted, before the characters can be naturally delineated. Hence it is, that though few men have a greater veneration for Shakespeare than myself, yet I can conceive few things so absurd as a quotation from Shakespeare, taken indiscriminately, to ascertain the meaning of a word. From these, and other considerations, I fhould hold it as a maxim, that a lexicographer ought not to rest upon the authority of particular passages, taken from any author, as a sufficient, or indeed as a proper proof of the meaning of any word. Where he finds a difficulty in explaining the meaning of a word, he may indeed produce a phrase in which that meaning is truly adopted, not as a proof, but as an illustra tion only; and it does not matter whether that illustration be a phrase that has been actually em ployed by a good writer, or if it be composed by himself for the purpose, which, as being the easiest, ought, perhaps, to be recommended as the best mode of obtaining them.

A man, to be properly qualified for writing a dictionary, should, therefore, be possessed of such an extensive knowledge of the language in which he writes, as to be able to recollect, from a wide and general course of reading, the precise meaning of every word as it occurs, which he has stored up in

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