Joseph E. (Joseph Emerson) Worcester.

A gross literary fraud exposed; relating to the publication of Worcester's dictionary in London online

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they are essentially so) — if Worcester abounds in unauthorized words in his Vocabulary,
if his Definitions fail in completeness, precision, and accuracy, if his Orthography is with-
out system, and his Pronunciation sometimes affected — need we ask, which series of Dic-
tionaries will an intelligent teacher or parent, desire to place before the pupils or children
of his charge ? We know your own views. We have reason to feel assured, also, that
they are the unbiased and unprejudiced views of the great mass of teachers through the

We only solicit a full and candid investigation as to the merits of Webster's Dictiona-
ries, and that impressions be not too readily taken from the distorted caricatures and un-
truthful misrepresentations of i-esearcJiful^ illiberalism, and '' interested parties." A
Dictionary, of all other human literary productions, is, necessarily but an approximation to
accuracy and completeness, and of course is a fair subject of candid criticism. Then, too,
on some points the opinions of educated men are diametrically opposed — some ultra conser-
vative, utterly rejecting all progress ; others in the opposite extreme of radicalism. When,
however, the opponents of Webster shall be able to point to an English Dictionary, better,
as a whole, than his, it will be time enough for them to decry the American lexicog-
rapher. It is at present the general judgment of the English and American public that
this can not be done.

We would say, in conclusion, that we should think it a very poor mercantile principle, to
decry the wares of others, to secure a market for our own ; certainly, Dr. Webster's works
do not require the practice of any literary quackery of this sort. Nor can it be deemed a
very high order of criticism, to throw into one paragraph, in strange juxtaposition, a con-
fused mass of words from a Dictionary, peculiar for their orthography or pronunciation. It
may " make the unthinking laugh, but the judicious grieve." Yet you will notice from such
arts the kind of criticism to which Dr. W's works are subjected.

We will only add that the definitions in Webster's School Dictionakies are taken
from his large work, and combine the same excellences, in this and other features, as does
the latter. Truly yours,


We briefly recapitulate the points which go to substantiate the fact that we have,





1. It contains THREE TIMES tlie matter found in any other English Dictionary compiled in this
coiintrj'; and yet, in the language of an eminent critic, "its definitions are mocfels of condensa-
tion and PURITY. Its vocabulary of authorized words is more complete than any other.

Of Worcester'' s Dictionary (hardly more than one-fourth the size of Webster's) a ripe scholar re-
marks: " Much has been said of the copiousness of his vocabulary. It may be proper to notice the
kind of words which are included in this. Take the following as specimens of luuidreds, if not of
thousands. Notelet, Epistolet, Impossibilification, Deathify, lo Facsimile, Rumguratious, Circum-
bendibus, Cantankerous, Dandify, Dirtpie, Defectionist, Dyssillabification, Scranky, Scriggle,
Scrimption, Scruff, Shopocracy, Squirearchy."

2. In its Definitions (the object for which, nine cases in ten, reference is made to a Dictionary) it
is universally conceded to bo superior to every other. In this respect, Dr. Webster stands unrivaled
and alone; while in Worcester, " the meaning is more commonly conveyed by a loose and general



description, and tlien a number of words, nearly equivalent follow." Erroneous or false definitions,
also, into which Dr. Webster was led, in his first editions, but subsequently corrected in the present
EEViSED EDITION, are found in Worcester: as ^^ Post-Note" Webster defined, originally " a bank-note
transmitted by mail," or post; so Worcester, " a cash note to be sent by^wsi" — a sense in which the
word is never used; a post-note being a note ^tayahle posterior to, or after, its date.

3. Its Pronunciation more truly represents established good usage, in this country and Great Brit-
ain, than any other. In the Imperial Dictionary, a work of the highest authority, recently published
in London, the pronunciation of Webster is retained in every particular ; even Webster's
iiotntion is adopted, and figured type have been cast expressly for the work, like those used by him.

Worcester often gives, as his first pronunciation, one not in accordance with the best usage. Thus,
for inh, thanJc, fraiik, he gives inc/Jc, iliangh, frangk — introducmg a vitiated pronunciation; for shone,
shon, for clerk, Mark, &c.

4 In Orthography, Ur. Webster's system, as contained in our Revised Edition, is followed by a very great
proportion of the Spelling Books, Reading Books, and Elementary Works, used in the schools throughout the
United States. Where good usage sanctions more than one form — as center, centre; defense, defence — both are
given. Worcester himself has followed Dr. Webster in spelling maniac, logic, &c., without a k; favor, flavor,
&c.. witliout a u ; and now his publishers vilify the name of Webster, and seek to detract from the reputation
of his Great National Work. Hon. Daniel Webster does not "follow Worcester." Some of his recently
published works f illow Dr. Webster, and others vary from him, as his different publishers incline. He has ex-
pressly declared his opinion, over his own signature, that Webster's is -'THE MOST COMPLETE, ACCURATE,

fVashington Irmng repudiates Worcester, since he declares London usage is his standard, which varies great-
ly from Worcester. A full and satisfactory reply was made to a letter of Mr. Irving, recently published, and no
right-minded man would refuse to accompany the one with the other. The works of Sparks, Bancroft, Bryant,
&c., were mostly published before Worcester's large Dictionary was issued, and of course did not " follow" it.
Bryant says of Webster: "It is a mine of philological research and erudition — a thesaurzis of the English

.5. In its Etymologies, Webster is conceded to be superior to every other work.

C. Its pre-eminence over every other English Dictionary is admitted in Great Britain, and all other coun-
tries than our own, where the English Language is spoken. The proof of this is ample. There have recently
appeared in England three new Dictionaries, all of which have borrowed very largely from Webster. The "Im-
perial," tlie most elaborate and costly, issued in two volumes of one thousand pages each, is not only based up-
on it, but boldly avows the fact in its prospectus. It is in truth a mere reprint of the second edition of Webster ;
and llie editor, in his Introduction, remarks, that the propriety of doing this "will be obvious, when we reflect

LENT AT PRESENT IN CIRCULATION." Worcester's is of no authority there, never cited, and almost wholly un-

7. The same is hardly less emphatically true in this country. In Massachusetts, where Worcester was
compiled and published, the Legislature having offered to each School District, with no cost to the District in
either case, and nothing to control its choice but the merits of the works, a copy of Webster or Worcester, at
its option, three thousand and fifty-five of the Districts, witliin the first few months, ordered Webster,
and but one hundred and five took Worcester — thirty to one selecting Webster as their STANDARD WORK.

In New York, legislative provision having been made for a similar measure, nearly nine thousand copies of
Webster have been ordered. Worcester was not once proposed or thought of.

Nearly every State Superintendent in the Union has recommended Web«ter in the strongest terms.

35^ We regret that gratuitous and unprovoked assaults by interested parties, upon Dr. Webster's labors, wliicli
have conferred national honor upon us abroad, render necessary statements of facts of a controversial character.

Jty^ New and Revised Editions of Webster's School Dictionaries have recently been issued, in handsome
style, with tables of Geographical, Scripture, and Greek and Latin Proper Names, forming the best PRONOUNC-
ING and DEFINING School Dictionaries of the Language.

Sty" Dr. Webster's Educational Works, it is believed, have done more to secure the uniformity of Pronun-
ciation and use of language, and freedom from Provincialisms, so remarkable in this country, especially when
the great influx of foreigners from all nations is considered, than any other cause.

B^° The attention of the friends of popular education, superintendents, teachers, and parents, is solicited to
the importance of perpetuating this purity by the use of such a National Standard.


Publishers of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.

We take the following from a letter recently received from a distinguished teacher in
Eastern Massachusetts : —

" April 13, 1853.

Messes. G. & C. Merriam,

Gentlemen: — * * * * I have no doubt of its being the Dictionary of the
English Language, when Worcester shall be remembered only as an umoorthy and unjust
speculation of the past.

Webster's Spelhng Book was the class book of my earlier days, and the memory of it is
still pleasant, from the Frontispiece, with its Temple of Knowledge, to " Finis."

In later years I came in possession of Webster's smaller School Dictionary, and the
feeling of exultation with which I looked over its pages is with me yet. In the language
of a justly celebrated teacher of New Hampshire, there was no " tsJiuing" then, but simple

18 Webster's dictionaries.

common sense, founded on the use and derivation of the words, in spelling and pronuncia-

Some fourteen or fifteen years since I looked over Webster's Octavo Dictionary with
Marshall S. Rich, Esq., (for more than twenty -live years an eminently successful teacher
in Newton Center, Mass.,) and he selected something more than one hundred words, I
should think, the spelling of which was simplified, as compared with Walker, and sent
them to the Editor of the ' Boston Cultivator,' and they appeared in the columns of that
paper, with a note commending Webster's Dictionary. (I think I am right in the name of
the paper. I know I am in the fact.)

About that time or soon after, I heard of Worcester's Dictionary. The story came to
me thus, viz. — that Worcester was at once the pupil and assistant of Webster, and seeing
that he, Webster, had taken a step in advance of the age, though not in advance of truth,
and also that Walker was " behind the time," treacherously went to work, catering to the
Walkerian taste of the day, and produced this " bastard dictionary."

Since then, year after year I have watched the unscriqyulous measures with which
the PubHshers of Worcester have pressed their claims to public attention and patron-
age. Striving to defame the fair renown of Webster in their flagitious attempts to
' fill their pockets' by foisting a comparatively worthless book upon the public. Editions
of all sizes, all prices, and noprices have been scattered through the community, placed
in the hands of teachers, committees, &c., in order to get them introduced into schools.

* * * I am not of age in the school-keeping business, yet, as this is but my eight-
eenth year of teaching (not 21st,') six of which I have passed in connection with the Pub-
lic High School in this place.

» * * * The ' 2i'/jm«?^' of Worcester's advocates is with I'egard to the spelling and
pronunciation of a few words, which use is every year rendering nearer and nearer, and
will soon completely render, Websterian, for the road to reach it is nothing in comparison
to that already passed. And in defining, Webster is infinitely pre-eminenL When you
touch on this point, they are either mu7n, or yield the point at once.

Respectfully and truly yours,

From the National Magazine for April, 1853, (published at the Methodist Book Concern,
200 Mulberry St., New York.)

" Webster's Dictionary, the entire work unabridged, in 1 vol., crown quarto, of one
thousand four hundred and fifty-two pages, containing the last improvements of Dr. Web-
ster, and the additions of Professor Goodrich. Our readers are aware of our partiality for
this work, for they must have perceived that we use its Orthography without scruple.
We are pledged to that, both because we approve it, and, we confess, because of a little
national prejudice for the work. Webster's definitions are unrivaled; the merit of the
work in this respect is enough to settle its claims ; he was the best etymologist that ever
attempted to define our language. Such provincial words as are necessary to Dictionary
readers, have been admitted into the present edition with proper discriminations. Some
of Webster's more violent orthographical peculiarities have been omitted.

The Pronunciation is marked by a simple and excellent system of notation, and in difii-
cult cases, words are re-spelled. The lists of ScrliDtural, Classical, and Geographical names
are very full — the latter more so than we have seen in any Dictionary ; it comprises twelve
or thirteen thousand names. Every American student, and, as far as possible, every
American family, should possess this great standard of our language."

From the Pittsburg Christian Advocate, April 9, 1853.
" This Is now the acknowledged standard of the English language, wherever spoken. En-
gland has laid aside her great Johnson for the American Webster. The English press
generally, has admitted the ' American Dictionary' to be the best extant. Dr. Thomas
Dick, than whom no living or modern transatlantic writer, is better known, or more gener-
ally read, in this country, says, ' This Dictionary is undoubtedly the most complete Dic-
tionary of the English language that has been published, and ages loill elapse before any
other Dictionary of that language will be required.' He declares It in every respect far
superior to Johnson's large Dictionary. It Is indorsed and strongly recommended by the
most eminent names which adorn American literature. It ouglit to obtain a universal cir-
culation. Every school-house, academy and college, every professional office, every reading
room, Qsary hbrary In the land, should contain a copy of Webster's large Dictionary. All
who aspire to speak or write the English languaage with accuracy and force, will find this
work an indispensable auxiliary. To the young who are aiming at self-culture and self-im-

wbbstkr's dictionaries. 19

provement, it will be of the greatest value. A constant and careful reference to it will
tend to form intellectual habits of much importance, as to accuracy, discrimination, and
condensation of thought ; for the work is remarkable for these properties, as well as for
purity of language. Nor is it merely a book of words, as young people sometimes im-
agine a Dictionary to be. It is, in fact, an encyclopedia of knowledge, ' All young per-
sons," says the Phrenological Journal, " should have a standard Dictionary at their elbow ;
and Avhile you are about it, get the best ; that Dictionary is Noah Webster's — the great work
unabridged. If you ai-e too poor, save the amount from off your back, to put it into your
head.' This is true doctrine. If you do not mean to spell wrong, read wrong, speak
wrong, write wrong — go halting and blundering intellectually, as long as you live — buy
Webster's large Dictionary ; and when you have it, use it."

From the Preghyterian of the West., March 21, 1853.
" Noah Webster, the best orthoepist and linguist of his age in this country, and per-
haps without a superior in these departments in Europe, spent the greater part of a long and
industrious life, in arranging and perfecting this master-work. Since the author's death,
in 1843, it has been carefully examined, revised and stereotyped ; and as now presented to
the American people, is confessedly without an equal as a definer, in amplitude and cor-
rectness. In its Avay as a book, it stands out bold and prominent to the American mind,
and to the learned world, without a comparable rival — aptly symboUzing in many respects
the greatness and superiority of the country from which it emanates ; for as this country
in coming time promises to exert a controlling influence in shaping and molding the polit-
ical destinies of the world — so this book will, we think, over the same minds exert its power
in reducing to a harmonious unity of language and speech the ' confusion of tongues'
which now exists."

From the New York (Catholic) Freeman's Journal.
* * * u But, of Dictionaries, what one ? We have been educated in the contempt
and horror of Noah Webster's on the ground that it is an innovation ; that it makes havoc of
the fine old language of Shakspeare and Milton, of Bacon and Hooker, and all the rest of
those old worthies. « * * But we have noticed more and more, during the last twelve
or fifteen years, that not only in this country, but wherever the English language is spoken,
most of the changes that were advocated by Webster, have been gaining in authority and
becoming the standard method op spelling. This has given us occasion to recon-
sider the notions of our early training. * * * Our good opinion of the work has so
grown on acquaintance that it is only inadvertence, at moments when we have had oppor-
tunity, that has prevented us from purchasing a copy of it. * * « We have spent some
few hours in examining it, and have found ^ome of our remaining objections to it as a
standard, very satisfactorily answered."

From the Ladies' Rejwsifonj, (Meth.Book Room,) Cincinnati, May, 1252.
" We have found the work an indispensable auxiliary in our editorial labors, and except
the Bible, it is the last book we should feel willing to part with."

From the Watchman and Observer, Richmond, Va., March S, 1853.
" It is now, we believe, generally admitted among English scholars, that there is no Dic-
tionary of the language superior to Webster's — none more full — none more exact in its
definitions, and none more rehable as a standard."

Fi-om the Crawford County Journal, Nov. 24, 1852.
" This work has been adopted as the standard, not only in this country, but in England,
and for g^curacy of Definition, and faithfulness in tracing out the various shades of mean-
ing of words, it has no equal, and is probably the only full and complete Dictionary of
our language extant."

' €lct the Best.'

' All young persons should have a standard


at their elbows. And while you are about it, get the best; that Dictionary is

The great ivork unabridged. If you are too poor, save the amount from off your back,
to put it into your head.' — Phrenolog. Jouriml.



Webster's Quarto Dictionary TJnabridged.

" "We believe Ave shall be certain of doing a service to the people of the State, if -we say a
word or two upon the Unabridged Quarto Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah
Webster. The Avord UNABRIDGED has been purposehj employed, because if such a
work is loantedfor any hut the very lowest uses — those of mere orthography, or orthoepy — it
can not be too copious and comprehensive. When one is ignorant of the proper and pre-
cise powers of a word, he can not endure to be turned over to an abridgment that
gives him a synonym, instead of a definition ; but he demands to know as much as
anybody hioics of its history or etymology, and its different shades of meaning. Then
only can he employ it with confidence and effect, as a mighty weapon for the expression
of intellect or passion." — Naioark Daily Advertiser, March 25, 1851.

" A Dictionary is the last book Avhich a scholar ever Avants to have abridged, the process
being sure to cut off THE VERY MATTER WHICH HE MOST VALUES."— CAro-

Encyclopedia of Science. — " We must pay this compliment to Webster's Quarto
DiCTiONAKY, — it contains scientific terms not to be found in any other Avork, and Ave
have often been surprised to find that it contained full and clear definitions of many tech-
nical phrases, which Ave thought had never been outside of the workshop. It is a real En-
cyclopedia of Science, for it not only gives the definitions of scientific terms, but describes
the nature of many chemical actions, and the opei'ation of many machines. In its una-
bridged present foi'm, it is complete, and no man pretending to scientific knowledge can be
without it. In Chemistry, Architecture, Geology, Engineering, Mechanics, &c., Sec, it is
full and accurate, and is not only essential to the student in science, but to the most eru-
dite philosopher. We are proud of this Avork as an American production ; it is certainly
gratifying to know and feel that England looks to America as having noAv produced the
standard Avork of the English language." — Scientific American, Oct. 4, 1851.

" Webster's Quarto Dictionary. — Everybody knoAvs about Webster's Dictionary,
and every man, Avoman, and child, ought to have access to it.

It will tell you everything in regard to your mother tongue, which you Avant to knoAv.
It shows you the words in all their aspects — giving you a sort of history of each individual,
that is in any way worthy of attention — developing their powers and delineating their
features and general apjsearance so precisely, that the unlearned will remember them, after
the first sight, and knoAv Avho they are and what they are, Avhenever he meets them. A
is a great light, and he that will not avail himself of it, must Avalk in darkness. Every
young housekeeper should lay it in, to occupy the place AAdiich Avas formerly filled AA'ith de-
canters and wine glasses.

Every /ar»ie?- should give his sons two or three square rods of ground, well prepared,
Avith the avails of which they may buy it. Every mechanic should put a receiving box in
some conspicuous place in the house, to catch the stray pennies, for the like purpose.

Lay it upon your table by the side of the Bible — it is a better exjpounder than many
Avhich claim to be expounders.

It is a great labor-saver — it has saved us time enough in one year's use to pay for Itself:
and that must be deemed good property, Avhich avIII clear itself once a year. If you have
any doubt about the pi-ecise meaning of the Avoi'd clear, in the last sentence, look at Web-
ster's thirteen definitions of the v. t." — Massachusetts Life Boat, April 28, 1852.

From an Ainerican Missionary in South Africa.

" Umsunduzi, Port Natal, March 11, 1852.
To Messrs. G. & C. jMerriam :

Dear Sirs, — The four copies of Webster's Quarto Dictionary AvhIch you had the great
liberality to forAvard to the South African Mission, by the Secretaries of the American
Board, Avere duly received some months since, and by appointment of the Mission, I have
the honor and pleasure to acknoAvledge them, and to say to you that Ave are under many
obligations for so many copies of a most invaluable work.

So great is the estimate in Avhich this Avork is held in this distant English colony, that
many of my felioAvs in labor, Americans and others, and some of the pi-incipal oflicers of
the British government, have already procured it, Avhile otiicrs, in both public and private
life, have sent for it or are about to do so.

Webster's dictionaries. 21

His Honor, the Lieutenant Governor, a reputed scholar, calling upon us more than a
year since, saw the work, admired, and at once ordered a copy for his own use. Aljont a
month since one of the civil magistrates inquired of me where and" how he could ob ain a
copy for himself And only last week the Honorable the Secretary to Government, a man
of much maturity in both years and knowledge, passing a day or two with us, referred sev-
eral times to Webster's Quarto Dictionary as the highest standard and indisputably the best
work of the kind in the English language. Its general merits and marked excellencies
are too well known and acknowledged to require of me any enumeration, had I the time
to make it.

I will only add a word of my own experience. In 1841, while a student at Yale, having
at command only eighteen dollars, and not knowing when or where I could obtain more, I
paid five-sixths of what I had for Webster's Dictionary, in two volumes octavo ; and dear

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Online LibraryJoseph E. (Joseph Emerson) WorcesterA gross literary fraud exposed; relating to the publication of Worcester's dictionary in London → online text (page 6 of 7)