Billeder på siden

however be considered as superficial; and brief as it may appear, it will save perhaps to the enquirers into Language whole years~I might venture to say, “even ages of misapplied and unsuccessful meditation, on this involved and mysterious question. The Writer may certainly be permitted to make this declaration, when he freely unfolds the painful operations of his own mind on the same enquiry, and confesses, that years of ardent and incessant meditation on this subject bave passed away, before be was enabled to form the last results; which are there stated, brief as they are in the narrative, and easy as they may appear in the discovery.

If my Readers should perchance enquire, with some emotions of kindness or curiosity, when the future Volumes of this Work are destined to appear ;


may be necessary perhaps to observe, that with them only this secret is deposited, and that the Writer's visible and public operations will be prompted solely by their zeal in the study of Languages, and the pursuits of Etymology.-By strong and unequivocal testimonies of that zeal much may be performed; and I have little doubt, that from this influence the same ardor in the same cause will be communicated to those, who are usually considered as the most important and indispensable agents in the productions of Literature. Under the propitious auspices of such agents, the Writer

may continue to instruct the present age in the Art of Etymology; and he will not fail to join with his coadjutors in applauding the good taste of an enlightened and a liberal Public.

On the appearance of future Volumes, and the probability of future success, time only will decide ; but in the publication of the present Work, the Writer has enjoyed a patronage, which he is grateful to acknowledge, and proud to commemorate. By the Syndics of the Cambridge Press I have been relieved from a portion of the burden, which was attendant on the first part of this Volumé, in their grant for printing its contents; and I shall ever, I trust, retain a just sense of the benefit, which such a Patronage has conferred upon my Work.- Though the Writer has by this event obtained a prize in the Lottery of Literature, he is not wholly exempt from the imputation of that species of indiscretion, which is attached to those, who engage in such adventurous concerns. The Work has materially, increased beyond its intended magnitude, from various causes, which could not be foreseen, or could not be prevented; and the Writer has from hence exposed himself to evils, which perhaps at some future time these kind and considerate Patrons of Literature will be pleased either to remedy or to remove. We however, who are the objects of this honourable patronage, must be at least assured, that all, which can be justly asked, will be liberally dispersed; and that the bounty of our benefactors is restrained only by the limits of their resources and the number of their clients. Before I relinquish the theme of gratitude, I must record with the most lively emotions the zeal of an inestimable Friend, at once ardent and intelligent in the cause of Letters, who has perpetually watched over the progress of these Volumes, and who has never failed to cheer the Writer, amidst the perils of publication, with the most appropriate and efficient consolation.


It has been justly observed, that to perform for the last time any actions, not attended by misery or by guilt, is painful and affecting. Such I feel to be the probable issue of that task, in which I am now engaged; and perhaps the Reader is at this moment perusing the last address, in which I shall ever solicit his attention to a work on Etymology.--To aspire to the martyrdom of Letters, under all its forms and with all its consequences, would be at once a folly and a crime;


[merged small][ocr errors]

(1.) The writer details the train of ideas, passing in his own mind, by which he was conducted

to the adoption of his Theory.-The imperfect state of the Art of Etymology.-Nothing to be performed in this Art, unless the Principles of it can be generalised.Attempt of the writer to discover some Abstract or Universal Principle.The most familiar Terms at once present to his view the strongest examples of Uniformity, from which might be expected the adoption of some General Principle, when duly arranged and understood. This Uniformity consists in the existence of the same Consonants ; that is, Consonants of the same power ; or, as they are called by Grammarians, Cognate Consonants, which still remain attached to the same words, or to the same or similar ideas, however various in form those words may appear.-The Vowels afford no Principle of Uniformity, or afford no Laws.-In tracing therefore the Affinity of words to each other, conveying the same or similar ideas, the Etymologist must consider only the existence of the Cognate Consonants, and totally disregard the Vowels.

The Writer, who assumes the province of unfolding a new train of ideas, will find various and important difficulties to encounter in the prosecution of his design. It has been perpetually observed, that our : minds receive with suspicion and reluctance any new modes of investigating a subject, with which we were before familiar, and of which, as we might imagine, the genuine principles had been already discovered, discussed and established. Even the simplicity of a doctrine may serve to increase the difficulties of the task ; as we are unwilling to be persuaded, that an idea so obvious and natural could have eluded




the ordinary exertions of our own sagacity. The writer will likewise feel considerable embarrassment in adjusting the due form, which is most adapted to impress the Reader with the force of his Theory. To diffuse what is plain and simple would be to labour in the cause of obscurity; yet the novelty of the subject may perhaps demand a more detailed and ample discussion, though the principle itself should be obvious and perspicuous. As the author will probably explain with more effect, when he unfolds the genuine feelings of his own mind; I shall endeavour to lead the understanding of the Reader through the same train of ideas, which originally conducted me to the adoption of my Theory. The offensive Pronoun, which accompanies the narrative, may perhaps be pardoned; when the purpose, for which it is employed, shall be candidly considered. The detail will be simplewithout disguise and without ornament.

I had ever lamented, as others likewise have perpetually done, the imperfection of that Art, which professes to unfold the Origin of Words; and I had long been convinced, that nothing could be effectually performed in the advancement of this subject, till a new arrangement was adopted, totally dissimilar to the former. In devising this new arrangement, I instantly perceived, that the artifice to be employed (whatever it might be) would not consist in discovering a new Principle, which in a subject like this has no ineaning; but in applying to new purposes, and in a new manner, a Principle derived from a knownascertained and acknowledged fact, which was visible on every occasion. Nay, it was on this very circumstance alone-of applying a fact so well known and acknowledged, that my hopes of succeeding in a new System were founded. The reasoning on this occasion was short and conclusive. From a fact thus palpablefamiliar and universally operating, I inferred the Uniformity of a Principle; and I had learned from the Academic studies of my youthful days, (which are still deeply impressed upon my mind,) that to Uniformity belonged Laws; and that Laws supplied a Theory and a System. I cannot be supposed to mean, that the Laws, which I might conceive to operate on this occasion, would be similar to those, which are subject to the investigation of Mathematical


« ForrigeFortsæt »