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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 230

dictionary, issued at New Haven in 1798 or 1799 by one Samuel Johnson, Jr.—apparently no relative of the great Sam—and a larger work published a year later by Johnson and the Rev. John Elliott, pastor in East Guilford, Conn., seem to have made no impression, despite the fact that the latter was commended by Simeon Baldwin, Chauncey Goodrich and other magnificoes of the time and place, and even by Webster himself. The field was thus open to the laborious and truculent Noah. He was already the acknowledged magister of lexicography in America, and there was an active public demand for a dictionary that should be wholly American. The appearance of his first duodecimo, according to Williams, 10 thereby took on something of the character of a national event. It was received, not critically, but patriotically, and its imperfections were swallowed as eagerly as its merits. Later on Webster had to meet formidable critics, at home as well as abroad, but for nearly a quarter of a century he reigned almost unchallenged. Edition after edition of his dictionary was published, each new one showing additions and improvements. Finally, in 1828, he printed his great “American Dictionary of the English Language,” in two large octavo volumes. It held the field for half a century, not only against Worcester and the other American lexicographers who followed him, but also against the best dictionaries produced in England. Until the appearance of the Concise Oxford in 1914, indeed, America remained far ahead of England in practical dictionary making.
  Webster had declared boldly for simpler spellings in his early spelling books; in his dictionary of 1806 he made an assault at all arms upon some of the dearest prejudices of English lexicographers. Grounding his wholesale reforms upon a saying by Franklin, that “those people spell best who do not know how to spell”—i. e., who spell phonetically and logically—he made an almost complete sweep of whole classes of silent letters—the u in the -our words, the final e in determine and requisite, the silent a in thread, feather and steady, the silent b in thumb, the s in island, the o in leopard, and the redundant consonants in traveler, wagon, jeweler, etc. (English: traveller, waggon, jeweller). More, he lopped the final k from frolick, physick