The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of ''Roget's Thesaurus''

The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of ''Roget's Thesaurus''

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by Joshua Kendall, Stephen Hoye
     
 

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Peter Mark Roget—polymath, eccentric, and synonym aficionado—was a complicated man. He was an eminent scholar who absorbed himself in his work, yet he also possessed an allure that endeared him to his mentors and colleagues—not to mention a host of female admirers. But, most notably, Roget made lists.

From the age of eight, Roget kept these lists

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Overview

Peter Mark Roget—polymath, eccentric, and synonym aficionado—was a complicated man. He was an eminent scholar who absorbed himself in his work, yet he also possessed an allure that endeared him to his mentors and colleagues—not to mention a host of female admirers. But, most notably, Roget made lists.

From the age of eight, Roget kept these lists with the intention of ordering the chaotic world around him. After his father's death, his mother became overbearing and despondent. Soon, his sister also descended into mental illness. Despite these tragedies, Roget lived a colorful life full of unexpected twists and discoveries—including narrowly avoiding jail in Napoleon's France, assisting famed physician Thomas Beddoes by personally testing the effects of laughing gas, and inventing the slide rule.

Evocative and entertaining, The Man Who Made Lists lets readers join Roget on his worldly adventures and emotional journeys. This rich narrative explores the power of words and the everlasting legacy of a rediscovered genius.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brisk and vivid" —Los Angeles Times
Thomas Mallon
If the title of Joshua Kendall's fine new biography of Roget has a clinical Oliver Sacks feel, the material pretty much justifies it…Kendall's style is plain and sensible; he gets the job done with sympathy and speed, occasionally entertaining the reader with a novelistic flourish…
—The New York Times
Charles McGrath
Mr. Kendall's account of this unusual man is very readable and shows no signs of excessive reliance on the thesaurus. If his writing has a fault, it's a tendency toward mind reading and novelization…But this is an almost forgivable lapse, because Roget is a hard subject to warm to. He led an extremely interesting life without being very interesting himself.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

First published in London in 1852, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrasesbecame popular in America with the 1920s crosswords craze and has sold almost 40 million copies worldwide. According to freelancer Kendall in this Professor and the Madmanwannabe, Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) compiled the thesaurus as a means of staving off the madness that pervaded his family-the classification of words was a coping mechanism for his anxiety. Burdened by his father's early death and a mentally unstable mother and grandmother, young Roget was shy and melancholy. In the wake of the suicide of his uncle and surrogate father, Samuel Romilly, a distinguished MP, Roget's mother slid into paranoia, and a depressed Roget left a flourishing medical practice. But in his 40s, he found happiness: he married a wealthy, intellectually curious woman; developed a lively social circle; and became a first-rate scientist, lecturer and science writer for the masses. His thesaurus, which he tinkered with for nearly half a century, borrowed principles of classification from Roget's hero, the naturalist Carl Linnaeus. Although Roget is a tantalizing subject, Kendall never lights the necessary spark to make the legendary wordsmith come alive. B&w illus. (Mar. 13)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

How did a physician produce a masterpiece linguistic work? Journalist Kendall provides a very personal answer, namely, that Dr. Peter Roget originally pursued his thesaurus to benefit his own writing and stay mentally occupied despite numerous tragic deaths in his family. Thus, through making scholarly contributions, Roget also avoided the mental illness that plagued other relatives. Drawing upon letters, diaries, and other family documents, Kendall blends historical research with storytelling to support the theme of personal battles and educational experience. For example, Kendall begins by narrating how Roget discovered the suicide of his famous barrister uncle, Sir Samuel Romilly, citing this as one of many tragedies Roget endured. Kendall also discusses Roget's 15,000-word precursor (1805) to the 1852 thesaurus. The earlier part of Roget's 90 years is emphasized, including narrative and quotations to portray his family life, developing interest in language and science, and early efforts to categorize his learning. Another recent biography by Nick Rennison (Pocket Essentials, 2007) generally illumines Roget's scholarly background instead of the personal theme. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Marianne Orme

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400136537
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
03/31/2008
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Brisk and vivid" —-Los Angeles Times

Meet the Author

Stephen Hoye has won more than a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious APA Audie Awards, including one for Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. He has recorded many other notable titles, such as Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong and The Google Story by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed.

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