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When the Subje&t of which my Authour was treating was naturally crabbed and abstruse, as in the two first Books, in which be disputes chiefly of the Nature and Properties of his Atoms ; I thought it not convenient to dwell too long upon it; but endeavour’d only to render it plain and intelligible with as much Brevity as the Province of an Interpreter, which I bad undertaken, would allow": But when he came to treat of Things which I judg'd would be more entertaining, as of the Origine of the World ; of the Motion of the Heavens ; of the Sun, Moon and Stars; of the first Men, and of their Manners and Way of Life ; of the first Institution of Kings, Magistrates and Laws ; of the first Invention of Arts and Sciences ; of the Things we call Meteors, as Thunder, Lightning, Whirlwinds, Eartbquakes, &c. Of the Causes of Rain, Wind, Hail, Snow, and Frost ; Of the Flames that are ejected from the Bowels of Mount eXtna; Of the annual Increase of the River Nile ; Of the Averni ; Of certain miraculous Fountains ; Of the Loadstone; and of the Cause and Origine of Plagues and Diseases; Of all which, as well as of many other Subjects of the like Nature, Lucretius has disputed in these two last Books; when he came, I say, to treat of these Matters, he afforded me a wider Field to inlarge and expatiate upon; and I have laid hold of the Opportunity be gave me, to illustrate all those several Subjects, with the Opinions of all the most celebrated, as well antient as modern, Philosophers, concerning them : In which I preSume I shall not be deem'd to have transgress'd the Bounds, which were formerly prescribd to an Interpreter, who, as Ammonius allows, Neque benevolentia duétus conari debet, quæ perperam dicuntur consentanea facere, eaque veluti à tripode excipere, neque rectè prodita pravo sensu per odium carpere ; sed eorum effe incorruptus judex, atque auctoris Sensum aperire imprimis, illiusque placita interpretari ; tum quod alij, & ipfe fentiat afferre. Besides ; I can not apprebend, but that it will be acceptable to the Publick to see at one View the different Opinions of the Learned Men in All Ages, on the above Subjects; and ibis is what I have en
deavour'd to oblige my Readers with in the following Sheets.
I will conclude this Preface with a few Lines in my own Vindication, and then take my Leave.
I foresee that I have render'd my self liable to be .carp’d at, and that I shall be censur’d by some Criticks, on Account of some particular Words, and certain Ways of Expression, which I have constantly observ'd and made use of, through the whole Course of this Work; contrary to the generally receiv'd Custom and Practise of many, nay perhaps of most, of our present Writers.
I need not be told, that, in Matter of Speech, wher Custom bas once prevaild, we are absolutely oblig'd to fubmit to whatever it bas impos'd upon us; and that it is not lawful, on any Pretence whatsoever, to resist the Laws of that Soveraign, I had almost said Tyrant of Lamguages,
Cui penes arbitrium eft eu jus & norma boquendi.
But on the other Hand, in Language, as in most Things elfe, there is a good Custom and a bad ; The good ought to be the Standard of Propriety and Correctnes of Speech; and the bad ought carefully to be avoided, as the Corrupter of it : so that the main Difficulty lies in discerning rightly between them : But bow this may be done is not our present Business to inquire.
Dr. Swift, in his Letter to the Lord High Treasurer, with good reason complains, That our Language is extreamly imperfect, that its daily Improvements are by no Means in proportion to its daily Corruptions, and that the Pretenders to polish and refine it bave chiefly multiply'd Abuses and Absurdities; and so far be is certainly in the right : but I can not agree with him when he goes on, and says, That in many Instances it offends against every Part of Grammar : He seems to impute to the Language itself the Faults of our uncorre&t Writers. All Languages, but more
Specially the modern, and ours among the rest, barve certain Idioms and Proprieties of Speech peculiar to each of them, in which nevertheleß they offend against the general Rules of Grammar : Of this so many Inftances might be given, that it is needless to give any.
Modern and living Languages are not to be fix'd by the Standard, nor ascertain’d by the Maxims and Rules of the antient and the dead; and their chief Beauties confift in frequent Emancipations from the servile Laws of antient Grammar. A Man may write ungrammatically, and yet write very good English, according to this excellent Saying of Quintilian, Aliud est grammaticè, aliud Latinè loqui
I now return to abat gave Occafion to these Refle&tions, and, among several other Instances that my Readers may observe, will mention only one or two, in which I have vary'd from some other Writers of these Days. Phenomenon is a Word that bas been introduc'd into our Language : Necessity brought it in to avoid a Circumlocution : For it is originally Greek, and signifies an Appearance in the Heaven, or in the Air. Now fome, instead of Pbenomenon, leaving out the two final Letters, make it Phenomen, and say in the Plural, Phenomens; both which I take to be altogether absurd: Others, who write Phenomenon in the fingular Number, when they have Occasion to. use it in the Plural, Say Phenomena, which, in my opi. nion, is contrary to the Analogy if our Language ; and others again, in the same Number, Phenomena's, which I almost dare pronounce to be a Monster in Speech : For my own Part, whenever I have been obligd to use it in the Plural, I bave not stuck to say, Phenomenons, rather than Phenomena, as it is in the Original: and this I am sure is more conformable to the Analogy of our Language, in which the Difference between the Singular and the Plural Number, even in the Words borrow'd from the learned Lan. guages, confifts not in any Variation of the final Syllable, but in the Addition of the Letters to ibe singular Number. Thes in the following Words, Idea, Anathema, Chimera,
Compendium, Epithalamium, which, together with many other, we have taken from the learned Languages, and naturalized in our own, we say not in the Plural, lika, Anatbemata, Chimere, Compendia, Epithalamia, even tho’ we have retain'd their original Terminations in the Singular, but Ideas, Anatbemas, Chimer as, Compendiums, Epithalamiums. Besides ; Since there is no Method get propos'd, nor any Rules yet agreed upon, and setled among #s, for the ascertaining and fixing of our Language for ever, why bas not every Man an equal Sbare of Liberty, not only to introduce and set up a new Word, if there be Occasion for it, but even to use one that is already introduc’d, in a different manner from the rest of his contempo. tary Writers, especially since they themselves use it differently from one another? Licuit, femperque licebit. This, I hope, is sufficient to excuse, if not to justify, my baving us’d the Word Phenomenons in the plural Number : at least it will make it appear to be an Errour, not of Ignorance, but of Judgment, and which I declare my self always ready to recant and rectify, whenever I can be bet ter inform'd, and convinc'd by good Reasons that I am in
Again : Nothing is more frequent with our present Writers than tbe following Way of Expression: They greedily embrace tbat Doctrine, be it never so erroneons. This Example is taken from one of our most celebrated Authours for Correctness of Style; nevertheless I take the Word never in that place to be a Barbarism in Speech : It ought to be
be it ever so erroncous : This Way of Expression is an Idiom of our Language ; partly elliptick, partly, a transposition of the Words ; which, when plac'd in due Order, and without any Word understood, will run as follows; How erroneous Soever it be. I have not Room in this place to undertake the Disquisition of this Doubt, nor to give my Reasons at large, why, whenever I bave bad Occasion to make use of the like Expression, I have dissented from most of our other Writers, and employ'd the Word ever, rather than never : But this,