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Webster: “Physical power, whether bodily or mental; natural or acquired; force of understanding; skill in arts or science. Ability is active power, or power to perform as opposed to capacity, or power to receive.”

Readers might do well to start their reading toward the last third of this book so as not to get discouraged by the dreary detail of Webster’s earlier life.

Priscilla S. Taylor, a writer and editor in McLean, edited Phi Beta Kappa’s quarterly Key Reporter for 18 years.