Obrázky na stránke

And here again will be seen an instance of the same process of interpretation, by a furmal subdivision, as in the preceding word sad.

These are genuine English words, and they are sufficient to establish beyond the possibility of a doubt, that every effort to trace the progress of such words from their primitive signification to their modern usages must be nugatory and unavailing, if the age of Elizabeth be the remotest period to which enquiry is to be carried.

An example of a single word, borrowed immediately from the Latin, will also exhibit the ignorance in which we must in particular instances have continued of the time of their introduction, had our researches been so limited.


"The verb, to edify," says Mr. Todd, early in the seventeenth century obtained its moral application,—for thus Bullokar,-to edify;-to build: sometimes to instruct.”

Mr. Todd quotes two instances from our common version of the Epistles of Saint Paul, an authority which renders the name of Bullokar worth nothing; and if it had occurred to Mr. Todd to refer to the version of Tindale, whose New Testament was printed in the beginning of the sixteenth century, or to the translation of the paraphrase by Erasmus, published in the middle of that century by Udal, the then Master of Eton, he would have been satisfied that this moral application was the common language of that time.

The metaphor was adopted by the Latin translators from the Greek, and from the Latin it was transmitted into English, somewhere about two centuries and a half before the period affixed by Mr. Todd. It is of common occurrence in the version of Wiclif, which was completed towards the close of the fourteenth century, and it is found in Peers' Plouhman, who flourished some thirty years earlier.

I must still be suffered to specify a few instances of words, which have admitted the general formulary of explanation, without the necessity of resorting to those subdivisions that have been observed in the preceding examples. Etymology is the solid ground upon which these explanations rest; and that they are with propriety and security placed upon that ground, will, I hope, be manifest to those who will take the trouble to recur to the Dictionary itself.

The two words Love and Fear, generally designated as names of leading passions in the human mind, are in reality the names of two acts, to which we are moved by certain passions or affections; and from continued association of the one with the other, the words are transferred from the act to denominate the passion; and the common practice of interpretation is to detail a description of this passion, including a specific exciting object, as the primary meaning of the word. Thus, Dr. Johnson assures us, that Love means-1. The passions between the sexes; that Fear means-1. Dread, terrour, painful apprehension of danger. If we scrutinize

a little strictly into etymology, we shall find that the Anglo-Saxon Luf-ian, to love, has a reason for its application similar to that of the Latin Di-lig-ere, to take out or away from (sc. a number), to choose, to prefer: and is formed upon the Anglo-Saxon verb, Hlif-ian, to lift, or take out or up, to pick up, to select, to prefer: and hence the consequential applications are easily deduced. If we pursue the same course, we shall also perceive that to fear, is to fare, Anglo-Saxon, Far-an, to go, to go away; to flee, or cause to flee; to run, or cause to run away; to scare and hence applied to the feelings of a run-away. The Anglo-Saxon, Fa-r-an, and Latin fa-r-i, are the same word; aliquod fatum, is any-thing, a word gone, gone out, uttered, spoken.

To spark and to speak, (D. Spreck-en), I consider to be the same word; and to mean,-to throw out, to emit, to utter. We call a small particle of light thrown out, or emitted,-—a spark : we call vocal, articulate sounds, thrown out, emitted, uttered,-speech. But spark or speech, means (any-thing) thrown out: all other respective applications, are consequential or metaphorical, and connect themselves so closely and easily, that no formal explanatory subdivisions have been at all requisite.

Again, to tell and to till, are the same word, and mean, to lift, to arise. To till with the plough, is to raise (sc. the ground) with it. To tell with the tongue, is to raise (sc. the voice) with it; and here again no formal explanatory subdivisions have been made.

And now I ought, perhaps, to conclude this portion of the exposition of my plan, with full satisfaction that I have placed it in a light sufficiently perspicuous to common attention. But there are two words, so important in themselves, and bearing so much of novelty in the origin ascribed to them in the New Dictionary, and they will serve also in further illustration of its mode of etymological research,—that I cannot forbear to present them. And these words are Mercy and Belief.

AMERCE, MERCE, MERCY-Our elder writers use the words amerce and merce, indifferently: to fine, to impose, to exact, a fine, a something in final adjustment; in payment for, or in lieu of, a penalty or forfeiture; in satisfaction of a claim or demand. To be subject to the King's grievous mercy, was to be subject to a heavy fine, payable to the King. The remission of this fine or penalty, and, generally, the remission of punishment, we now call-his Mercy, i. e. his clemency, his compassion. And the question arises, is mercy, in these two usages, two words of different origin, or one word differently applied? The New Dictionary is profuse in quotations from pages of hitherto unexplored antiquity, to establish that mercy, in the latter application to clemency or compassion-is no contraction of the Latin misericordia, but is transferred or traduced from mercy, a fine: from the fine paid in ransom or redemption, to the

deliverance or pardon granted and received in return; and that it is thence further traduced→ to the feeling, which, it is assumed, imposes, receives, or is satisfied with, a smaller, instead of a greater, punishment; of a sum of money, for instance, in commutation for life or limb, forfeited to civil or military law.

When we amerce any man (quoth Peers), let Mercy be taxer.

And this is the Mercy that pervades the whole system of Jewish and Christian theology.† BELIEVE, LEVE, or LIVE-Our elder writers use, to leve, and to believe, indifferently; and that not only as we now use the latter (sc. to have faith, to give credit), but as we use the verb, to live, or have life; to dwell. The question again occurs-Are these two words distinct in their origin, or one word, differently applied? It should be premised, that believe was written bi leue, be lyue, by lyve, separately and conjointly: and, recurring to our old authorities, we find the verb, by-leve, denoting to lyve by, or according to. "The King would not bileue the lawes that his elders held,”—(Rob. of Gloucester, p. 470), and the noun bileve, applied, not only to life, but to that by which we may leve, or live, the means (or demeans) of life; to that whereon or wherein we may live, the dwelling, the demesne; and the obvious inference is, that it is also applied (metaphorically), to that by which we should live; to a rule of life; to that rule, or that body of rules or laws, by which we do or ought, or know we should or ought, to live. A more emphatic or effective reddition from the Latin version, our venerable translator could not have selected. "Lordis," cried the terrified keeper of the prison, “what bihoueth me to do, that I be maad saaf? And thei seiden, Bileeve thou in the Lord Jhesu, and thou schalt be saaf and thin hous." Such was the primitive question, and such the answer. Such, as our missionaries could testify, continues to be still the question, which they are required to The full explanation stands thus :—


To believe, is, to live by or according to, to abide by; to guide, conduct, regulate, govern or direct the life by; to take, accept, assume, or adopt as rule of life; and, consequentially,

To think, deem, or judge right; to be firmly persuaded of, to give credit to; to trust, or think trustworthy; to have or give faith or confidence; to confide, to think or deem faithful.‡

* Peers' Plouhman's Vision, p. 130.

↑ Johnson:-MERCY, n. s. (fr. Merci, contracted from Misericordia, Latin). 1. Tenderness; goodness; pity; willingness to spare and save; clemency, mildness; unwillingness to punish. 2. Pardon. 3. Discretion; power of acting at pleasure. To AMERCE, v. a. (Amercier, fr. opaλμwr per aμɛpoɛ, seems to give the original). To punish with a pecuniary penalty; to exact a fine, to inflict a forfeiture. It is a word originally juridical, but adopted by other writers, and is used by Spenser of punishments in general.

↑ Johnson :-TO BELIEVE, v. a. (Gelyf-an. Saxon). 1. To credit upon the authority of another, or from some other reason than our own personal knowledge. 2. To put confidence in the veracity of any one.—TO BELIEVE, v. D. 1. To have a firm persuasion of anything. 2. To exercise the theological virtue of faith.

[ocr errors]


My next step is to the writers whose works have supplied the quotations, produced for the purpose of exemplifying, confirming, and illustrating the explanations which precede them. These, for the sake of preserving one uniform mode of illustration, have been divided into periods. The first commencing with the Rhyming Chronicles of Robert of Gloucester and Robert of Brunne,* and continuing through the reigns of Henry VIII. and his two immediate successors; the second extending from the accession of Elizabeth to the return of the second Charles, or from Hooker and Spenser to Milton and Bp. Taylor: the third, from the Restoration to the establishment of the House of Hanover upon the throne; or from Waller and Barrow to Pope and Samuel Clarke: the fourth from the reign of George II. to the beginning of the present century.

The quotations that have been selected from Gloucester, Brunne, and Peers' Plouhman, always take their place at the head of the array. Then follow, Wiclif, supported, whenever possible, by an early translator of the Bible; next, in rank and order, Chaucer and Gower, free, as the great patriarchs of our speech, from any intermixture with their successors. Chaucer, with whose "ditees and songes glade," his contemporary Gower declared, even then, "the londe to be fulfilled over all;" and Gower himself, so justly named "the Moral Gower," who, he tells us,


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

After these will be found, in due arrangement, a host of writers, whose works have never been before ensearched, for the important service of lexicography: our matchless translator of the Bible, Tindale; Udal, and his associates, the translators of the Commentaries of Erasmus ; Berners, of Froissart; Sir Thomas More; the Chronicles of Fabyan, and the Voyages of Hackluyt; with many others, whose compositions, small in size, but of inestimable worth, have hitherto been merely placed upon the shelves of the collector, as rarities to gaze at. In this

* The former died in the beginning of Edward the First's reign, about the close of the 13th century; the latter at the end of the same Edward's reign.

region of unexplored country, I have travelled with most gratifying success; and I may have been induced sometimes to expend the treasures, of which I have possessed myself, with a hand so lavish, as to risk the imputation of wasteful liberality.

In the second period, also, especially where a scantiness has appeared in the first, prodigality has been preferred to penuriousness, and sometimes perhaps even to an economy, too scrupulously sparing.

In this period, many names will occur that have not at all-or, if at all, very scantily-been produced as authorities; more especially, Daniel, Drayton, Holland, the translator of Pliny, Livy, Plutarch, &c.; North's Lives of Plutarch, Chapman, Beaumont and Fletcher, &c. &c. In the times subsequent, a more rigid parsimony has been exacted.

After the quotations from Chaucer and Gower and their few predecessors have been disposed of, the order of proceeding is this:-to produce the subsequent quotations according to the arranged series of the words; as many of those words from authors of the first period as my collected authorities would permit; these ended, then to commence the second period, and pursue the same order and so with the two remaining periods. It may be proper further to observe that when usages of the sub-derivatives had been furnished in the earliest periods, it was not deemed expedient to load the book with a succession of examples of all these, through all the modern periods of our literature, but rather to reserve this honour for the primary members of the family.

The uncouth aspect of the lines which are cited from Robert of Gloucester, Robert of Brunne and Peers' Plouhman, will not be suffered to repulse all literary readers entirely from a perusal of the quotations, of which writers more recent, but still comparatively antient, have supplied a valuable stock. If they have any curiosity to cultivate an acquaintance with "much phrase that now is dead," they will not neglect the name of Wiclif, and the more especially as they will derive assistance in the construction of his venerable English from the less antique interpreter, who usually attends him. Their curiosity will acquire strength from the gratifications of success; and Chaucer and Gower will stimulate their zeal to become masters of those older productions of their native tongue, which are collated in the pages of this Dictionary.

It is, most unquestionably, an unavoidable consequence of this mode of chronological arrangement, that a metaphorical application will not unfrequently take precedence of a literal, but the manner of explanation which I have already described, will render this a matter of but slender importance, when compared with the advantages that are secured by an adherence to the plan. By commencing with authorities in the earliest period of English composition, and

« PredošláPokračovať »