« AnteriorContinuar »
tion put upon them. We may admit the existence of comets, yet deny that they portend the birth or death of heroes.” We may admit the phenomena of Spiritualism without thereby admitting that they are the result of a spiritual agency exterior to our world. Mr. Owen does not pretend to have established his theory of “ ultra-mundane interference" by the philosophical method of induction. After wandering through so many pages we are led to this impotent conclusion“ As to the proofs of the agency upon earth of these Invisibles, I rest them not on any one class of observations set forth in this volume, not specially on the phenomena of dreaming, or of unexplained disturbances, or of apparitions whether of the living or the dead, or of what seem examples of ultra-mundane retribution or indications of spiritual guardianship, but upon the aggregate and concurrent evidence of all these. It is strong confirmation of any theory that proofs converging from many and varying classes of phenomena unite in establishing it.”* But Mr. Owen's facts, many of which are most feebly attested, fall far short of his theory. Others may already be classed under known physical or psychological laws. How much of the mystery of animal magnetism is dispelled by recent experiments in hypnotism by means of a shining substance, holding the eyes steadily asquint toward the ridge of the nose? Some equally simple experiment may solve much that appears mysterious in Spiritualism. For the rest, we shall not invoke the Supernatural, even under this lucid exposition from Mr. Harris.
“Divinely given vision is not to be confounded with the faculty of perceiving odylic emanations of the magnet or of the human body. The latter is merely natural sight, carried to a finer degree. The magnetic and electric emanations, which play, with corruscating flash and sparkle, around all natural objects, are themselves a finer quality of diffused matter. But this refined and diffused matter, however brilliant, is not of the quality of spiritual substance; therefore, when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the spirit-man, these fire-rainbows and opalescent gleams of inner nature, are still below the visual plane ; he sees over them, past them, and through them-nor is he bewildered by the intervening substances."
* pp. 508, 509.
We fear that we are doomed to abide in “the visual plane” of mundane realities. The reticence of the Bible upon all details of the future state and the spirit world is worthy both of our respect and of our imitation. The Scriptures never address themselves to mere curiosity, nor attempt to interpret the “unutterable things."
When Lazarus left his charnel-cave,
Where wert thou, brother, those four days?
From every house the neighbors met,
Behold a man raised up by Christ!
We cannot break that seal of silence by knocking at the door of death, nor can we believe that it is given to spirits to break it by knocking on the other side. God has spoken, and if we hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would we be persuaded though one rose from the dead. The belief that Mr. Owen derives from the spirit world would obliterate those sharp distinctions of moral character upon which the Bible so much insists; would efface from the calendar of th Future the Day of Judgment and retribution; and would leave all men to a progressive law of development through Hades into Heaven. The moral lessons of his theory would alone condemn it as not of God.
ARTICLE VI.—WORCESTER'S DICTIONARY.
A Dictionary of the English Language. By Joseph E.
WORCESTER, LL. D. Boston: Hickling, Swan & Brewer. 1860. 4to. pp. 1786.
The publication of an original, comprehensive Dictionary of the English language, is no ordinary event. No lexicographer can throw off such a work, stans pede in uno. The enormous labor of adjusting the almost endless details of orthography, etymology, orthoepy, definition, illustration, etc., demands a lifetime, or at least no small portion of a lifetime, for even a tolerable performance of the task. Johnson's memorable “seven years ” of toil must be regarded as a marvel of expedition, considering the amount of work he accomplished. Abundantly indebted to Bailey as he was, his own Dictionary, nevertheless, was essentially an original production, and certainly, for the time devoted to it, a most creditable one. His task, all things considered, was, for that day, well done ; so well, that his Dictionary became at once the acknowledged standard, and as edited and enlarged by others, held its rank in public estimation for nearly a century, or until supplanted in this country, if not in England, by Webster's.
The great “American Dictionary,” like Johnson's, was in many important respects an original work, and it involved the labor, not of seven years only, but of a lifetime, or, considering the aggregate of associated effort expended upon it, of much more than a lifetime. Notwithstanding its American origin, however, its great and obvious merits, particularly as a defining Dictionary, were long since most fully recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. In this country, especially, it has attained extraordinary circulation and influence.
We have now before us a new competitor for public favor, in the attractive quarto of Dr. Worcester. We say new, for although its author has previously prepared dictionaries of
smaller size, which his publishers have sought to put in competition with Webster's, this, nevertheless, as the grand resultant of its author's lexicographic life-work, must be regarded as the only one that can reasonably claim to take rank with the well known “ Webster's Unabridged.”
That this beautiful volume is a monument of industry and enterprise, on the part of both author and publishers, is obvious at a glance. And that it is, on the whole, an elaborate, comprehensive, and valuable Dictionary of the languagesuch an one as will meet all the ordinary wants of those who are in the habit of consulting such a work-even a cursory examination is sufficient to show. In respect to external form, type, paper, page, and general arrangement, it leaves little to be desired. As to literary execution and subject matter, it is, in the main, a well digested presentation of existing lexicographic materials, with the addition of many new words and significations, especially of archaic and scientific words, with a more discriminating orthoepic notation than that generally employed, and sundry improvements in miscellaneous details, which add to the convenience and attractiveness of the work. On the whole, it is a Dictionary that will meet with favor, and doubtless some, for one reason or another, will prefer it to Webster's. But it is by no means an original work, in the sense in which Bailey's, Johnson's, and Webster's were original. It makes no great onward stride in lexicography, such as they made, or such as the public were encouraged to expect. The best dictionaries, it is true, confessedly and in the nature of things, are, and can be, only an approximation to what is desirable. Webster is no exception to the remark. Yet granting this, with the foundations of so many other men to build upon, and with their errors as a warning, Worcester, we think, has scarcely succeeded in producing a work as free from faults as was reasonably to be expected.
In saying thus much we have expressed in general terms our estimate of the merits of the new Dictionary, both relative and intrinsic. But as claims have been set up in its behalf, which we cannot concede, and it has been brought forward as rightfully taking precedence of all others, if not, indeed, as well nigh perfect, we feel constrained to run our notice a little more into particulars.
Of course no work of this nature can wholly escape errors of typography; and defects of this sort, which have attracted our attention, we are disposed to pass without notice. When they alter, or even reverse the sense, however, they become important, and should receive correction. We find Cavalier defined in Worcester as signifying both “A partisan of Charles I, of England, as opposed to a Ronndhead,” and also, in the next clause, as “an adherent of the Parliament.” Both definitions cannot, of course, be historically correct. The substitution of a comma for the semicolon between the two clauses, would correct the error and make the latter clause simply epexegetical of Roundhead in the former, instead of a new definition of Cavalier, in flat contradiction of historic truth. So the statement under the article Precession, that the motion of the equinoxes is at the rate of 50' 10" annually, would sadly mislead the inquirer who should rely upon it for this astronomical datum. The quantity intended was doubtless 50". 10. But enough of this. There are spots even on the sun.
Worcester is commended for the fullness of his vocabulary. Doubtless a full vocabulary of suitable words is a desideratum. But its quantity may be increased at the expense of its quality. Barren acres add little to the value of a man's farm. No small portion, if we mistake not, of the words in Worcester not to be found in Webster, are either words wholly obsolete, such as belong only to the rude and formative era of the language; or imported neologisms which died ont with the writers who introduced them; or compound terms, self-explanatory from their very components; or else belong to that swarming class of barbarisms-terms neither English nor classical, but useful and significant enough in their places—which the prolific nomenclatures of modern science have of late years poured in upon the language.
It is often, indeed, a puzzling question for a lexicographer to decide what words he shall admit into his vocabulary. Shall he include all the words of the language, written and spoken, and of every age? If so, his work must necessarily expand into