Shinynickel's Reviews > The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture

The Forgotten Founding Father by Joshua Kendall
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May 04, 2011

bookshelves: to-read

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This is a full biography of Webster, not just an examination of his most famous work, and in fact it's not until about two-thirds of the way through the book that we see his dictionary begin to take shape. Logophiles may skim through the earlier stages of Webster's life to get to the good stuff, but they will miss out on the foundation of Kendall's compelling argument; namely that his masterpiece would never have been completed if it weren't for the features (mainly defects, it turns out) of Webster's character that emerged over the course of his life. Time after time, we see Webster retreat from romantic, financial, and professional failure into a world of obsessive analysis. (Whenever he visited a new city, he made sure to personally count the number of houses it contained, which he would record in a table along with other marginalia.) Writes Kendall, "Webster would always prefer doing—whether it be rushing off to war or compiling a massive reference work—to feeling."

(Although when searching for this book on goodreads to add it to my to-read list, I came upon another book claiming we've forgotten a founding father - in this case, John Winthrop. Lot of these guys lying around collecting dust, it seems.)

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