THE NOAH WEBSTER LEGACY – PART II

Noah Webster was (as the saying goes) a complicated man. After graduating from Yale with a B.A. degree in 1778 he couldn’t seem to hold a job. He was qualified to teach the basic liberal arts studies (back in a one-or-two-room school house) but wanted to study Law so he resigned. In order to go back to school—being instructed by Oliver Ellsworth (the future Supreme Court Chief Justice)—he needed financial income so again began teaching full-time. However, the load of teaching and law studies was too much to handle. History tells us that he fell into a depression when quitting both positions.

blue book speller

How many writers have experienced this emotional component of reaching for their dreams only to discover the heaviness of the challenge as they’ve balanced full-time jobs while developing their book or book series? This is rarely discussed, and yet Webster is an excellent example of fighting his way back—tapping into his educated, emotional and passionate self which he expressed in writing.

As the Revolutionary War continued, George Washington passed through the New Haven area and Webster (who played the flute) joined a group of supporters/students who serenaded Washington and his troops. Shortly thereafter, Webster, his brothers and father tried to join the Battle of Saratoga in New York but by the time they got there, the battle had been won by the American troops.

  • Thus it happened that Noah turned to writing as a way to channel his patriotic ambitions and he began writing a series of articles for a New England newspaper encouraging citizens and their American Revolution resolve.
  • Between 1783-1785 he also wrote his “Blue-Backed Speller” spending most of his time getting it published and announced. (It was later published in 1824 as “The Original Blue Back Speller: A Patriotic Textbook Series.”)
  • At the same time he was writing these books, Webster was also working on copyright legislation to protect the works of all writers.
  • His relentless book promotion pioneered now common techniques like the author tour, the fabricated blurb and the aggressive stoking of manufactured controversy,” says New York Times book reviewer Jesse Sheidlower, the editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary and the president-elect of the American Dialect Society.
  • Webster was known for writing constantly under various pseudonyms. Doing so he would often praise his own works and deconstruct the arguments of his critics. This is still being done today on the Internet under the label of “sock puppetry.”

So here is what I’ve learned from Noah Webster today: (1) write myself out of melancholy; (2) focus my writing efforts on subjects that tap into my passions, compassions, interests and ambitions; (3) don’t hesitate to self-publish; (4) use every avenue available to promote my books; and (5) if necessary, be willing to face critics with straightforward discussion.

Webster strongly promoted what he called American-English building an American linguistic style of spelling and pronunciation that lives and continues to grow to this very day. Without intentionally setting out to do so I believe he has given all writers permission to utilize our language in new ways; to create new words and combined words and related definitions; to write beyond our current skills, develop concepts for generations yet unborn, and publish in paper books, on the Internet and venues yet to be discovered. ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

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