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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "One of the great romances of English Literature"
This book is not solely about the Oxford English Dictionary. It combines no less than three of my interests, viz the English Language, the American Civil War, and the history of mental health care. The author initially employs the device of debating the feasibility of having more than one protagonist in a story. From an examination of OED definitions, he concludes that...
Published on 16 Oct 2007 by R. Fowkes

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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Winchester missed some significant information.
The subject of "The Surgeon of Crowthorne," by Simon Winchester, is the collaboration of Sir James A. H. Murray, editor of the "Oxford English Dictionary," and Dr. William C. Minor, the American volunteer who worked on the "O.E.D." for 20 years while an inmate in the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum for the criminally insane. I am a New York...
Published on 16 Oct 1998


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "One of the great romances of English Literature", 16 Oct 2007
By 
R. Fowkes "Roger Fowkes" (Kettering, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
This book is not solely about the Oxford English Dictionary. It combines no less than three of my interests, viz the English Language, the American Civil War, and the history of mental health care. The author initially employs the device of debating the feasibility of having more than one protagonist in a story. From an examination of OED definitions, he concludes that this is permissible, and proceeds to present us with a contrasting pair of characters. Minor suffers from mental illness, consorts with prostitutes, and ultimately commits murder. Murray is scholarly, sheltered and conservative. The combination of their contrasting individuality and aptitudes coalesce around the idea of the Dictionary put forward by Dr Trench in 1857, an intellectually revolutionary notion of its time, that it should be "...a democratic project...that demonstrated the primacy of individual freedoms, of the idea that one could use words freely, as one liked, without hard and fast rules of lexical conduct."(p94) The material in this book of what is a dictionary, how it is compiled, and the need for one in the context of linguistic history, are of fundamental interest to students of English. It is a pity that the book is not indexed. Two points intrigued me as a mental health professional. Not only did Minor support his victims widow financially, she also became a regular visitor to him in Broadmoor. Such a course would be seen as daringly positive risk-taking today, and possibly enlightened in clinical outcomes. The cultural specificity of insanity is also of interest. Upon hearing of the aircraft invented by the Wright Brothers, these became the means, in his delusional system, by which Minors nightly tormentors could more easily transport him from his cell and around the world. The title of this review, quoted from a newspaper description of the OED, purplish prose though it is, sums up the spirit of "The Surgeon of Crowthorne".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book, get it!, 12 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
With Redman's points noted this is still a fascinating story, well told by Winchester. Along the way he includes details about the American cival war, the history of dictionaries and Victorian medicine and psychiatry. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in these areas or just someone looking for a really good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Really informative and well written, 25 Nov 2011
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Paul Morris "Unclemo" (Ventnor ,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
I have to confess that I like the way Simon Winchester writes and the trouble he takes to do his research AND the fact that he meticulously credits those who do a lot of his "leg work".
The book is great and very informative about someone who most of us interested in words/etymologies etc have heard of vaguely but not to the depth of this author.
I think this is a great book about a poor broken individual who gave his all to help the Greatest Dictionary ever compiled see the light of day .
It would make a great film
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read,about a subject i would never have read., 17 Aug 2010
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N. Brennan "Scuba Steve" (Poole, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
Intriguing and exciting read about the Oxford English Dictionary, a subject i would never choose, but which with murder, mayhem and madness make a great story. i also feel educated about the origin of our language and pleased i read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A captivating tale., 16 Jun 2010
This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
I understand that critics of this book feel it is lacking in historical accuracy. I feel that the points in question are relatively minor and should not deter anyone from reading this thoroughly engaging and well-researched tale. If you have a keen interest in the English language, madness and psychiatry you will absolutely love this book.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Winchester missed some significant information., 16 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words (Hardcover)
The subject of "The Surgeon of Crowthorne," by Simon Winchester, is the collaboration of Sir James A. H. Murray, editor of the "Oxford English Dictionary," and Dr. William C. Minor, the American volunteer who worked on the "O.E.D." for 20 years while an inmate in the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum for the criminally insane. I am a New York playwright who, in 1995, completed a full-length drama focusing on James Murray and William Minor, called "The Dictionary," and whose help Mr. Winchester sought when he was first considering writing his book. (Winchester mentions me in his Acknowledgments. He made a strenuous effort to enlist my help and, when I declined, offered to buy my research, which I also turned down.) Ultimately, Winchester was able to get to almost all of the sources that I had used, as well as a number that I could never have reached. Nonetheless, there is some significant information that Winchester missed in his book, as well as a number of inaccuracies in "The Surgeon of Crowthorne." About Minor's death Winchester writes, incorrectly, "There were no obituaries." An obituary was published in 1921 in "Yale University Obituary Record of Graduates Deceased During the Year Ending July 1, 1920." From this obituary one learns that Minor was born in the East Indies; that he entered the Yale School of Medicine in 1861 and was graduated in 1863; that he was incarcerated at Broadmoor, transferred to St. Elizabeth's in the U.S., and later transferred from St. Elizabeth's to The Retreat, in Hartford, where he died on March 26, 1920. The Yale obituary also mentions his brother Alfred. Winchester refers to the lawyer who defended Minor in his murder trial, but does not mention the lawyer's name. My research suggests that the person who defended Minor is the same one who defended Oscar Wilde. The man's name is Edward Clarke. I am surprised that Winchester did not seize upon this possibility. Winchester theorizes that Minor's clinically paranoid dread of the Irish, and of the Fenians in particular, was the result of his experience as a Union Army Surgeon with Irish troops during the Civil War. Winchester neglects the fact that during the years that Minor was stationed in New York (on Governors Island) the Fenians were, in fact, his real enemy. Minor lived in New York during 1867 and 1868, when the local papers frequently covered events pertaining to the revolutionary movement in Ireland and to activities of the Irish in New York. In March of 1867 the Irish cause held the front page of just about every newspaper every day. It was during the week of March 18 that the expectation of a Fenian attack on Canada, still part of the British Empire at that time, appeared in at least three separate articles in three different papers. News of U. S. troops being moved from New York to the border to thwart the offensive also made headlines. That Minor would have been selected to assist in the battlefield action against the Fenians is not unlikely. This attack never took place; however, less than a year before, the Fenians had staged an assault on Canada from New York State. Eight hundred Irishmen crossed the Niagara River and captured Fort Erie. They were subsequently defeated by U.S. troops, and about 700 Fenians were arrested. Minor would have known of this. Winchester mentions the American vice-consul-general and quotes a letter of his to the Medical Superintendent of Broadmoor, but neglects to cite his name, which is Joshua Nunn. Winchester also failed to locate a series of twenty-two letters by Joshua Nunn, an important source of information regarding Minor. The letters to Minor's family and friends in America contain particulars that conflict with some of Winchester's assumptions regarding Minor's life at Broadmoor and his relations with his family. Joshua Nunn clearly went beyond the call of duty in his assistance to, and profound concern for, Minor. Nunn was the man who handled all the details of Minor's legal situation as well as Minor's living conditions at Broadmoor. He was also very involved in the press accounts. Nunn not only corresponded and met with Minor and his family but also visited Minor at Broadmoor. According to the Nunn letters, the family did not want Minor returned to an asylum in the U.S. They were satisfied to let him remain at Broadmoor. This information contradicts Winchester's indication that the family would have rejoiced at Minor's return. Nunn was surprised at the family's neglect of Minor and at their refusal, at one point, to send Minor any more money at Broadmoor. Nunn makes very clear that Minor's mail was heavily censored. This conflicts with Winchester's implication. Winchester makes a mystifying observation at the end of his book. He states that it was only at the completion of the "Oxford English Dictionary," in 1927, that Americans could say that the Dictionary "was now, at least partly, of their own making." From the very beginning Americans had the right to claim that the Dictionary was, to a significant extent, a creation of their own making. In Murray's first years of editing the "O.E.D.," fully one half of the 800 volunteer readers with whom he worked were American. James Murray felt that his most avid support came from the United States. He said, "...it is Americans upon whom I depend above all." He called Americans "the most reliable and trustworthy volunteers." In 1883 Murray wrote, "I truly believe that the future of English scholarship lies in the United States, where the language is studied with an enthusiasm unknown here and which will soon leave us far behind." "The Surgeon of Crowthorne" focuses on some of the same fascinating aspects of the collaboration of Murray and Minor that first inspired me to dramatize the story. It is important, however, to look beyond the surface of material Winchester presents as truth. Mitchell Redman
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the surgeon of crowthorpe, 22 May 2012
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A book from Amazon The Surgeon of Crowthorpe is a most fascinating story of the production of the Oxford English Dictionary, dont be deceived into thinking this may be a boring book, believe me, it is a most interesting and true story, it contains a murder a mental hospital and how the dictionary came to be written. it took many many years to compile, and its the story of the persceiverance and dedication of so many people who helped with its compilation, with an amazing discovery of the life of one of the people who helped with the words, it is well worth a read. i really dont know what i would do without AMAZON. its become a great friend to me. i rarely find myself dissapointed when searching for a book, in fact i think out of all the books i have ordered from Amazon, and i have had a great many, i can honestly say, everyone has been in perfect condition, obviously, they keep their clients to a very high standard. WELL DONE AMAZON.Betroy.
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