Merrima-Webster's Dictionary is one of the many dictionaries I possess. However, I must admit that I knew almost nothing about Noah Webster,thus I made the decision to buy a book which would be a good introduction to this fellow. Joshua Kendall's book does the job perfectly. I had not realized before that not only was Webster the man who authored his famous magnum opus,but that he was a man with contradictory qualities:
"revolutionary, reactionary, fighter, peacemaker, intellectual, commonsense philosopher, ladies' man, prig, slick networker and loner". (page 8) In addition, he was an American patriot, and a businesman whose dictionary served to unite the American nation. Having graduated from Yale, he became a confidant of the Founding Fathers, among them George Washington and Ben Franklin. He started New York's city first newspaper and, among his many public activities, he also took up the cause of slavery. Despite his abhorrence of it, he feared total abolition of it, which would wreak havoc on the American society.
The best part of the book is the third one, which is about the writing of his famous dictionary. At the same time, Webster was monitoring and writing also about the weather "with a mathematical precision". In contrast to Samuel Johnson, Webster crusaded in favour of etymology and made famous spelling changes in orthography. He wrote standing up and paced back and forth as he consulted a particular volume, because sitting at a desk was an "indolent habit"(page 259).
When finished, the dictionary contained seventy thousand words. Webster was also a great pedagogue who championed both female education and public schools, and he served numerous terms in the stated legislatures of both Connecticut and Massachusetts,w here he worked assiduously in order to promote workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. He drafted the first copyright laws.
He had enjoyed tilling the soil and in a short article, called "The Farmer's Catechism," he considered farming the most necessary, the most healthy, the most innocent, and the most agreeable employment for men.
After having married, he fathered seven children and also helped found Amherst College. But all his life he was a loner, perhaps due to some kind of mental illness which made it hard on him to connect with others. His last decade was full of personal tragedies.
Read this book and you will get to know a multi-layered great American intellectual who is still influencing the world of English and American culture and civilization-al of this written by a a very gifted author who finally illuminated Webster and gave him a place in the pantheon of American giants.