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The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon…

The Surgeon of Crowthorne (original 1998; edition 2008)

by Simon Winchester

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7,705None434 (3.8)271
Title:The Surgeon of Crowthorne
Authors:Simon Winchester
Info:Penguin (2008), Edition: export ed, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:nonfiction, england, oed, language, biography

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The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester (1998)

19th century (112) biography (728) books (78) books about books (115) British (64) crime (41) dictionaries (131) dictionary (265) England (129) English (99) English language (119) etymology (67) fiction (56) history (1,111) insanity (72) language (430) lexicography (199) linguistics (93) literature (52) mental illness (115) murder (54) non-fiction (1,048) OED (192) own (45) Oxford English Dictionary (180) read (124) reference (43) to-read (119) unread (55) words (89)

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Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
I had read "The Meaning of Everything", Simon Winchester's recount of the history of the Oxford English Dictionary, and so I was inevitably drawn to "The Surgeon of Crowthorne". Winchester is a very good writer and makes a story that is essentially about a bloke who spends a long period in a mental hospital interesting.

Of course, no matter how intersting the read is, what stays in your memory for some time afterwards is the (spoiler alert) surgeon's self-emasculation. It was, to say the least, an eye watering moment for me.

"Surgeon of Crowthorne" may not be as enthralling as Winchester's Oxford English Dictionary book but well worth the read to see how one mentally insane gentleman helped shape the English language. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Apr 8, 2014 |
The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED began in 1857, it was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
Seriously overblown in many places and guilty of a few gross factual errors, but overall an interesting read. I did find it incredibly irritating how dismissive he was of the women involved in the lives of his two male protagonists. Like much literary biography, this book doesn't really succeed at manufacturing a dramatic arc that encompasses the entire lives of both his primary subjects. The overweening superlatives and generalizations get old fast. However, the history he describes of the Oxford English Dictionary's creation is fascinating.

GLBT tag - for mention of paranoid delusions in which one man was (in his nightmare-delusion) forced to service other males. Also, the core structure of the story frames the 30-year relationship between Murray and Minor as a kind of homosocial romance founded on the love of words and thwarted by mental illness. It's the real heart of the story, and I wish this dramatic throughline had held up to the end. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Excellent. ( )
  briealeida | Feb 6, 2014 |
The story was quite surprising. The writing of the story seemed extremely redundant. Listening to it alternated between frustration at the redundancy and fascination with the actual meticulous compilation of the grand masterpiece.

I think it may have caught my attention because Simon Winchester both wrote and narrated it. But of course, I didn't really mean to be attracted to Simon Winchester but Simon Vance, one of the best narrators I have come across!

It was a very good book to "listen" to--for an American who reads many British books--to hear the actual pronunciation of words not commonly used in American English.

Finally, my monstrously-sized ego was wounded deeply at a dinner party when a woman spoke to the OED, and then turned to me and expanded her comment with, "That is the abbreviation for the Oxford English Dictionary." Well, hoity toity! ( )
  kaulsu | Jan 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
Here, as so consistently throughout, Winchester finds exactly the right tool to frame the scene.
added by John_Vaughan | editPowells, Dave Weich (Oct 1, 2001)
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First words
Popular myth has it that one of the most remarkable conversations in modern literary history took place on a cool and misty late autumn in 1896, in the small village of Crowthorne in the county of Berkshire.
One word --and only one word-- was ever actually lost: bondmaid, which appears in Johnson's dictionary, was actually lost by Murray and was found, a stray without a home, long after the fascicle Battentlie - Bozzom had been published. It, and tens of thousands of words that had evolved or appeared during the forty-four years spent assembling the fascicles and their [twelve] parent volumes, appeared in a supplement, which came out in 1933. Four further supplements appeared between 1972 and 1986. In 1989, using the new abilities of the computer, Oxford University Press issued its fully integrated second edition, incorporating all the changes and additions of the supplements in twenty rather more slender volumes. [220]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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UK title: The Surgeon of Crowthorne:a tale of murder, madness and the Oxford English dictionary

US title: The Professor and the Madman
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Book description
A wonderful story...It has all the ingredients of one of Patrick McGrath's icily stylish novels: madness, violence, arcane obsessions, weird learning, ghastly comedy - John Banville, Literary Review

Two distinguished-looking Victorians, both learned and serious, yet from very different worlds: one a brilliant polymath, the other a madman and a murderer.

Dr James Murray, erudite and pious, who broke free from an impoverished childhood to become a towering figure of British scholarship and editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr W.C. Minor, lascivious, charismatic, a millionaire American Civil War surgeon and homicidal lunatic. Confined to Broadmoor Asylum he pursued his passion for words and became one of the OED's most valued contributors.

Their lives and unlikely friendship are unravelled in Simon Winchester's classic work of detection.

In this elegant book the writer has created a vivid parable, in the spirit of Nabakov and Borges - full of suspense, pathos and humour - Wall Street Journal

A jewel of a book, scholarly, beguiling and moving - as gripping as any thriller - Scotland on Sunday

A cracking read - Spectator
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060839783, Paperback)

The compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, 70 years in the making, was an intellectually heroic feat with a twist worthy of the greatest mystery fiction: one of its most valuable contributors was a criminally insane American physician, locked up in an English asylum for murder. British stage actor Simon Jones leads us through this uncommon meeting of minds (the other belonging to self-educated dictionary editor James Murray) at full gallop. Ultimately, it's hard to say which is more remarkable: the facts of this amazingly well-researched story, or the sound of author Simon Winchester's erudite prose. Jones's reading smoothly transports listeners to the 19th century, reminding us why so many brilliant people obsessively set out to catalogue the English language. This unabridged version contains an interview between Winchester and John Simpson, editor of the Oxford dictionary. (Running time: 6.5 hours, 6 cassettes) --Lou Schuler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:55 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Introduces the story of Dr. Minor, American inmate of a British asylum, who volunteered and corresponded with Oxford English Dictionary editor Murray, providing thousands of definition quotations for the project which was unlike any source of the time.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140271287, 0141037717

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