Simon Winchester
Simon Winchester
The Professor and the Madman:  A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
ISBN: 0060175966
The Professor and the Madman
A fascinating portrait of Dr. W.C. Minor, an American Civil War veteran confined to a British insane asylum, who contributed more than 10,000 definitions during the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. Its creation began in 1857, took 70 years, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story—that of two remarkable men whose strange 20-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking.

Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands who submitted quotations illustrative of words to be used in the dictionary.

But Minor was no ordinary contributor; he was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, 50 milles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly—and mysteriously—refused.

Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly 10,000 definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor—that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane—and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for the criminally insane.

The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riverting insight and detail, Simon Winchester crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man's tortured mind and his contribution to another man's magnificent dictionary.
—from the publisher's website

Search Audible
The Professor and the Madman
Program Air Date: November 8, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Simon Winchester, what is the book you wrote, "The Professor and the Madman," about? A little synopsis.
Mr. SIMON WINCHESTER (Author, "The Professor and the Madman"): Well, basically, it's about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary in the latter half of the 19th century and the fact that one of the many, many volunteers that was working to collect illustrative quotations turned out to be, but unbeknown to the editors, a lunatic American murderer, who did all the work on the dictionary for nearly 40 years from a cell in a lunatic asylum outside England--outside London.
LAMB: Where did you get the idea?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, it came to me in a rather bizarre way. I was reading a book on lexicography in the bath one morning, as one does, I suppose, just before breakfast, and it was a book--a wonderful book called "Chasing The Sun" by a man called Jonathan Green. And it had a reference--it said, `Readers will be familiar with the extraordinary story of Dr. W.C. Minor, an American lunatic murderer, who was a prodigiously energetic contributor to the OED.' And I remember sitting up in the bath, Archimedeslike, dripping and saying, `Well, I know nothing about this.'

And I had the phone by the bath, and I dialed--it was about 7 in the morning, so it was lunchtime in London, and I dialed a friend of mine in Oxford, who was a lexicographer, called Elizabeth Knowles. And I said, `Elizabeth, this is Simon here in--in Wash--in New York. Do you know the story of W.C. Minor?' And she said, `Oh, yes. It's well known in lexicographical circles.' And I said, `Well, it sounds bizarre and extraordinary.' And she said, `Well, if you can get access to the files in Broadmoor lunatic asylum,' which still stands and, indeed, is one of England's most notorious asylums, `then, I'll warrant,' she said, `you've got a good story.'

So basically I spent the rest of the day calling people in Bro--in--in the--in the sort of criminal, lunatic establishment in England and being rebuffed but eventually got permission, after four or five months, and they said, `Yes, you can come and look at the files.' And then the rest is history, if you like.
LAMB: Broadmoor lunatic asylum--you say it's now called a special hospital?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, yes. It's now called Broa--you know, in the touchy-feely, caring 1990s, it's the Broadmoor Special Hospital. But it is a highly secure prison, basically, where anyone that's committed, and usually a fairly monstrous crime, but was mad while so doing, is incarcerated. And we have some notorious--I mean, the--I don't know if, in America, you're familiar with the Yorkshire Ripper. I mean, he was a pretty savage killer a few years ago. Well, he's there. And it seemed every time I went to work on W.C. Minor's files, there would the Yorkshire Ripper be, wandering around in the yard. It was rather bizarre.
LAMB: Where is the Broadmoor?
Mr. WINCHESTER: It's about--it's in a village called Crowthorne, very near Windsor, actually. I mean, you can see Windsor Castle, I think, from--which is rather bizarre, because an awful lot of the patients write to the queen, telling her that they are relations, basically. You know, `I am the king of such and such.' And this practice is discouraged, but because Windsor is so near, they have this sort of whiff of the royal aura. And so this--their delusions that they are members of a royal family are sort of exacerbated by the proximity of the castle.
LAMB: And how far is that from London?
Mr. WINCHESTER: About 35 miles and about 45 miles from Oxford, so it's sort of halfway between the two cities.
LAMB: You also say that Mr. Minor, Dr. Minor, was at the St. Elizabeth Hospital, where John Hinckley is now, here in Washington. When was he in that hospital?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, he had two periods there. When he first went mad, which was in 1865, 1866, he was put in St. Elizabeth's for about a year. But as a--as an outpatient, he could come and go and, indeed, he used to go and collect his Army pay because he was still a--a soldier in the US Army. So he would check himself out of St. Elizabeth's, go to the pay office, walk past the--the White House--but this was in the 1860s.

When he was finally released from Broadmoor, when he was a very elderly man, then he was put back into St. Elizabeth's. This is now 1910 to 1920. So he was there for two periods, one of one year and one of 10 years. But when it--in the last period, he was an elderly, infirmed and clearly still very insane man.
LAMB: You used the word `Kafkaesque' when you refer to the District of Columbia government. And you also used the Internet to get some information about all this. How'd--tell us about those two things.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, it--it's an irony, isn't it? I mean, Britain is well-known for being very restrictive about its government secrets. I mean, it is impossible, for instance, to find out the number of cups of tea that are drunk every day in the Department of Health and Social Security because that is an official government secret. And yet, I was able to get these files from a British government hospital relatively easily, s...
LAMB: On Dr. Minor.
Mr. WINCHESTER: On Dr. Minor. I imagined, when I came to America to do the research on his life in the years he was in St. Elizabeth's Hos--Hospital, that it would be easy because America--freedom of information and that open society and the sunshine laws and so forth. Well, that might have been true in the old days, when St. Elizabeth's was a federal institution, but I--I'd even say now, once it's--was taken over by the District of Columbia and welcomed into the Kafkaesque embrace of Mr. Barry's government, it became very, very difficult. And they--when I rang up and I said, `I'm looking for the files on a patient who was here in 1866 and then again in 1910,' they said, `Well, sorry. DC law says that any patient's notes you can't see. Perhaps you can sue us to--to get access.'

And so I did talk to a lawyer, and he said, `Well, send me a $5,000 deposit, and I'll think about taking them to court.' But then in the end, I was playing on the Internet one day and looking at the National Archives' home pages, and I was--suddenly remembered that, of course, when Minor was a patient, it was a federal institution. So, conceivably, I thought his files would still be in a--in federal hands. Well, they were. They were in Silver Spring. I merely had to talk to a man, give him my Visa card number, and the next day, 850 pages of--of Xeroxed notes arrived in a FedEx package. So I rang St. Elizabeth's with some relish, I must say, and said, `I've got the files you don't want me to have,' and they weren't terribly pleased.
LAMB: Did you ever go to St. Elizabeth's?
Mr. WINCHESTER: No. In fact, I've--I've never seen St. Elizabeth's. I want very much to because Ezra Pound was there, of course, and--and Hinckley is there today. I--the one bit of history I'd like to have seen are the gardens that my hero walked in, in--in the 1860s and the--1910.
LAMB: When was Ezra Pound there?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I think 1942; I think during World War II. It might have been a little before then. But th--I mean, there's a great--I mean, madness and genius and artistic talent go hand in hand. In Broadmoor, there was a c--very celebrated painter, at least celebrated in Britain now, called Richard Dadd, D-A-D-D. He was there, oddly enough, for killing his dad. He murdered his father. So he was--became a friend of Minor. And what I'd loved to have found but didn't was a portrait of Minor done by Richard Dadd and a portrait of Dadd done by Minor, who was himself something of a--a dab hand at watercoloring. But, sadly, all of the paintings disappeared many years ago.
LAMB: Now in your book, you don't have any photographs, except on the cover. That cover of Dr. Minor is from where?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, that's quite an interesting tale. I--I f--looking--the--the dub--the Minor Historical Society is based on an island in Maine, and when I rang them up and said I was doing research on this family, they sent me the complete dossier of all Minors that have ever existed in America. And I found two that seemed to be relations of W.C., one an elderly lady living in Montclair, New Jersey, and one a middle-aged man, a retired executive of Seagram's distillery, living in Greenwich, Connecticut.

And I rang him up and I said, `I'm Simon Winchester, and I'm doing research into a relation of yours.' And he said, `Oh, yes? Who?' And I said, `He was known as William Chester Minor.' And he said, `Oh, yes, great-great-Uncle William. Yes, he got into a spot of bother, I think.' And I said, `Yes. Do you want me to tell you more?' And he said, `Well, I don't know much about him, but go on.' And I said, `Well, perhaps it'd be better if you sat down. He--he was a lunatic and he was a murderer. He shot a man. And he was floridly mad. But he did redeem himself by contributing to the OED.'

And then there was the kind of moment that all researchers dream of. He said, `Do you know, I think I've got a box under the stairs. Hold on the phone and I'll get it out.' And you heard this sort of scratching noise as a box was dragged along a parquet floor, and then he picked up the telephone again and said, `OK, I'm opening it.' And you hear a sort of creak. And he said, `Oh, there's a picture,' and it's the picture that's on the cover. There were no other photographs, except for two very bad mug shots taken in St. Elizabeth's in about 1911, but this wonderful picture of this kindly, old gentleman. And that picture turned out to have been taken in Broadmoor at the behest of--of--of Dr. Murray.

Dr. Murray there--that's Dr. Minor on the left. And Dr--Professor Murray, who was the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, had organized that this picture be taken of Minor on the day he left the lunatic asylum in Britain to go back to America to spend his last days in--in--among his own people, so the--there's an extraordinary story simply about that picture. But, anyway, it was owned by this man in Riverside.
LAMB: These two pictures are in The New York Times from September 7th of this year, a story about your book. How old are these two men: Murray on the right and Minor on the right--on the left?
Mr. WINCHESTER: On the left. Well, at the time of the photograph being taken, they were in their 70s, I think. That was taken in 1910. M--Mi--Minor was born in 1834, so that would have made him, yes, about 70.
LAMB: And...
Mr. WINCHESTER: And they were separated by only three years, so they were in their 70s.
LAMB: In your book, you have line drawings. Where did those come from? Who did those for you?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, we commissioned--or, rather, I should say, the--the editors in New York commissioned an artist in London to do them. We wanted pictures rather in the style of Cruikshank or--who illustrated many of the--of Dickens' books. And I think they work quite well. The--the one we're seeing now is a--the artist's supposition about what the murder itself must have looked like. You see in the background the viaduct, where one of the many railways in this part of London--this is Lambeth in southwest London. And the policemen running, one bending over the figure of a--a dead or dying man. And on the right, that is our hero--although I shouldn't say so, I suppose, in the context of him having just shot someone. But that is W.C. Minor, who almost immediately afterwards gave himself up to the police and went along without a struggle.
LAMB: Was it expensive to do all those line drawings? You know?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I don't know how much. I think relatively expensive. I think something like a couple of hundred dollars each. So--though originally there were 12, but I think we only used eight. So it would have been a couple of thousand dollars.
LAMB: Now I want to ask you why--you tell a story in the book, but why do you dedicate this book, `To the memory of G.M.'? Why didn't you use the fellow's name?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, in a way--I don't want to be impertinent to you--I--I will confess as to who it is. I--I like that to be a little secret that people--they only find it out at the end of the book. And, in fact, it's my little test for finding out if people have read it, because people have come to me and said, `Loved your book, Simon. But, tell me, who is G.M.?' And then I--I know that they actually haven't read it.
LAMB: Well, you don't have to tell here.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Can I not tell you? I mean...
LAMB: No. Ma--maybe people can figure it out by the--the discussion...
Mr. WINCHESTER: They might, yes. It's easy to figure out. But I--and I think it's appropriate, in the way I hope that I told the story, that it is dedicated to him--or this person, should I say? I'm not gonna give away which gender--to this person.
LAMB: Now you--first of all, how--how long have you--did you work on the book?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, I have to confess, rather a short time. I mean, once those files were on my desk, the story sort of tells itself. It's...
LAMB: So the key was what files?
Mr. WINCHESTER: The files in the Broadmoor th--as Justice Elizabeth told me that morning in the bath, `If you can get the files in Broadmoor Hospital, I bet there's a story there.' And there were about 2,000 pages of ward notes, doctors' notes and--and copies of letters he sent in and out of the hospital. His correspondence with Oxford University Press about the dictionary--much of that is at Oxford. But nonetheless, the nub of the story is in the Broadmoor files. And so I would be sitting there day after day in the archives, surrounded by lunatics, working away, reading the most amazing documents because, as you see from the book, some rather extraordinary things happened while he was in--in--in the asylum itself. And...
LAMB: So you had to go to Broadmoor to read 'em?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I did. And it was funny, the first time I went there, I traveled by train from Oxford to R--from London to Reading Station, which is actually not the nearest station. There is a station in a place called Crowthorne, but on this particular day, I decided to go from Reading. So I got to a taxi, and he said, `Where to, gov?' And I said, `Broadmoor Hospital.' And he turned around and he said, `Will this be one way, sir?' I said, `No. You can wait, and I'll be coming back.' He said, `Oh, just as well, because I was going to suggest you pay me well in advance.'
LAMB: How many days did you spend at Broadmoor?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I guess, all told, about 10, something like that.
LAMB: Now...
Mr. WINCHESTER: It was a big file.
LAMB: ...the lighter notes on--you say that you live in both New York and London. How do you...
LAMB: How do you divide your time?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well--and I'm really all over the--all over the shop. I mean, I've just come back from Russia. I'm just going back off to Russia, and I'm spending a lot of time in the Arctic. So most of the time, I'm in New York. I've got a little cottage about 100 miles north of the city, and that's wh--where I write, I suppose.
LAMB: North of New York?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Yes, a little village called Wassaic, which is the home--the only distinction that Wassaic has ever had is it--the f--the home of the first Borden's condensed milk factory in America--long closed down. And so I live and work there. And then I spend a lot of time in London when I'm doing, you know, research or--or I do some work for the BBC. So I wander about.
LAMB: Where you f--where you from originally?
Mr. WINCHESTER: From Dorset in southwest England.
LAMB: How far is that from London?
Mr. WINCHESTER: That's about 150 miles west, I suppose, little village called Simondsbury, and totally different from the kind of life I lead now--cattle and thatched cottages.
LAMB: When I counted the number of books you've already written, at least based on what is in this book, I've counted 12, plus this one would be 13. Is that how you make a living?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, it is now. At least, it will be if this book does reasonably well. And it seems--I mean, most of my books, I have to say, have been respectfully reviewed but have sold relatively few. In fact, I had one book which was about the United States which I wrote in 1976. What I did was, I drove up and down Interstate route 35, which goes from International Falls, Minnesota, to Laredo, to write a--what I thought would be the great sort of revelatory work about the American Midwest.
LAMB: Called "American Heartbeat."
Mr. WINCHESTER: "American Heartbeat." And I got this royalty statement from Faber and Faber in London, which showed that in 1977, it sold 11 copies. Terrible confession to make. So--but, nonetheless, it had very nice reviews, but I think it was up against some fairly stiff competition. That's how I like to think of it, anyway.
LAMB: Other than writing books, how do you make a living?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, I'm an editor at Conde Nast Traveler magazine, so they pay me a little. And I--I write for the National Geographic magazine. So I come down here quite a lot, to Washington, to see editors there. And, indeed, I will be going there sh--s--because I'm working on a story about a big river in eastern Siberia and northern China. So I'm spending a lot of this winter in the very bitter cold of that part of the world. And I--I'm a freelance, so I have a--I--an arrangement with the Sunday Telegraph in London. I do half a dozen pieces, mainly about America, for them. And, you know, I--the kind of work that any freelance tries to get. The Smithsonian I do quite a lot for.
LAMB: To anyone listening to this so far and they say, `Boy, that sounds like a lot of fun, a gi--nice way to live,' what's the downside of it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, two failed marriages, to be perfectly honest, which, I mean--I won't go into why besides stupid absence from home is something that happens. So I don't have a great home life, although oddly enough--one of the ironies of this book is that--all my books previous to this were travel books, and the last one was "The Yangtze." There was a big book about the Pacific, books about China, the Far East. That tends to be the area that I'm most interested in. This is the only book I've ever written which didn't really require any travel at all, apart from to a lunatic asylum in--in Berkshire. And yet, it seems possible--more probable, actually, because this book actually got to number one in England. I mean, it--it amazed me. That this will be my most successful book, and I think someone is telling me that, `Mr. Winchester, I think perhaps travel writing is not the genre you should exploit. Maybe you should stay at home, dig your garden, look for a new wife and settle down and write books on history.' And that actually rather appeals to me.
LAMB: Was when the first time it was published in England?
Mr. WINCHESTER: This one was published under a different title, "The Surgeon of Crowthorne," and--it was called, because Minor was a surgeon and Crowthorne was where he was. It was published in late June, I think. So only just...
LAMB: This year.
Mr. WINCHESTER: This year, yes. So it's still bumping along the bottom of the top 10 at the moment. So...
LAMB: And to sell a book in--in England that's number one, what kind of sales do you have to have?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Relatively trivial, of course, compared to this country. I think when I last heard, it had done about 24,000 copies, which is, in English terms, a lot; in American terms, it would not make the bottom of the top 50, I don't think. But there are many fewer people, of course, in England.
LAMB: You referred earlier in the vernacular to OED, and we started off talking about the O--Oxford English Dictionary. What is it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, it used to be--when it was first conceived, it was called the New English Dictionary. The basic idea was that, in 1857, a man called Richard Chenevix Trench, who was the dean of Westminster and also president of the London Philological Society, gathered the great and the good of the philological establishment of England to a meeting in the London Library, which still exists in St. James' Square in London--to present a paper called "On Some Deficiencies in Our English Dictionaries."

Well, to put it in a little bit more context, dictionaries are a very new phenomenon. I mean, when Shakespeare was writing his plays, there were no dictionaries. People didn't look things up. I mean, in that--that very phrase, to look something up, didn't appear in the English language until, I think, about 1690. The first dictionaries, English-English dictionaries--I mean, the kind of thing that we take for granted now: You look up a word, they're in alphabetical order and you say `cat,' you know, `a small, furry animal with four legs.' There was no such book, and--until the early part of the 17th century.

Then the idea took off, and Samuel Johnson created the first sort of super dictionary, which was published in 1757, a big, two-volume monster of a dictionary, which became the pr--the defining--it was the state of the art for about 100 years. But the--Chenevix Trench and his colleagues decided that it wasn't enough because, majestic a work though Johnson's dictionary was, it simply didn't cover all words. It only covered--tended to cover hard words or majestic words or long words, but little words like `of' and `to' and `but' and `and'--where would you look those up? And if you wanted to know what the word `set' meant or `take,' difficult to find or probably impossible. I think `take' is in Johnson, but I don't think `set' is. Yet, I--oddly enough, `set' is the word with the longest definition in the OED. It occupies 62 pages of this--of what was started in--in 1857.

So Chenevix Trench made this speech, and he said, `What we want'--and he--it was of--sort of an imperial thing to say, because Britain was encompassing the world, conquering all in sundry. And Britons, in those days, had a very self-confident attitude to the world, and we felt--and I use `we' in a very loose sense, I hope you realize--that we needed to show what the English language was, because it was clearly becoming a world language. We wanted every single word that existed and ever had existed put between hard covers with a definition, with a pronunciation, with an etymology and, most important, a set of contextual sentences to show how that word had first appeared in the English language and how it had evolved over the centuries.

So forgive me if I'm going on too long, but, I mean, let us take the word `dog.' I mean, the first appearance of the word `dog' in the English language, spelled D-O-G-G-E, comes long before Chaucer. It comes at about 850 AD. So they set, the editors of the dictionary project, an appeal for volunteers to look for the word--for all words, but let's say the word `dog.' So someone somewhere would have been looking through a ninth century manuscript and would have found a reference to a D-O-G-G-E, being a small, furry animal, you know, that barks instead of meows, and he would have written, on a 3-by-5 card, or whatever the equivalent was in the 19th century, to Oxford and said, `I believe this is the first time the word `dog' has ever appeared in the English language.'

Other volunteers would say, `Well, and here's a ninth century,' or a 10th century or an 11th century reference. `And, look, in the 11th century, the word becomes D-O-G-G,' so the spellings change. Perhaps in the 13th century, D-O-G, the contemporary spelling. But then look how, in maybe 1910, in a Mickey Spillane novel or--not--obviously not as early as 1910, the word `dog' is used to describe not a four-legged animal but an ugly woman. I mean, however offensive that may be, it is nonetheless still part of the English language, so it's got to be annotated. `Look at that dog sitting out there in the bar.' The word--that sentence would appear in the dictionary as an illustration of how the word, yet again, had transmogrified itself; it transmuted.

So this speech in 1857 was to say, `We're going to do this dictionary in this manner. And so what I'm appealing for, ladies and gentlemen'--although principally gentlemen in those days--`is volunteers. Anyone in the English-speaking world, in America, in Canada, in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, who reads is now being earnestly asked to read very carefully and look for words and quotations that they can lift out of magazines and newspapers and books and manuscripts and whatever that illustrate the use of that word and send them in to us. And so millions of quotations started to come in.
LAMB: Is this all free? I mean, in other words, the volunteers are doing it for nothing?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Totally for nothing, absolutely, and it's still being done today because the dictionary, you see--to get back to your original question, `What is the OED?' It began--they began work on it in 1857. They thought it would take 10 years and occupy maybe two volumes. Well, the dictionary that finally--with the finding of the word `zyxt,' which is Z-Y-X-T, which is an--a West Sussex version of the word `to be'--with that word put in the dictionary, it was finally completed in 1928. To--it took 70 years to make. It was 12 volumes long--huge thing--415,000 words defined, 1.8 million quotations assembled to illustrate the words. And yet, they had a problem the moment it started to come off the presses, because during the 70 years, hu--thousands of new words had appeared. So in 1933, a new supplement had to be produced, four more in the 1970s and then a totally new dictionary in 1989, and it's still, because--and this is the crucial thing--English is a living language. Unlike the French, who said--the Academy of Francaise, you had these--the 40 immortals who said, `This is the French language and we're not going to have words like "le sandwich" and "le weekend" polluting our language. This is what it--it's fixed by us.' The English said, `No, English is not fixed. It's constantly changing, constantly evolving.' But the complexion--the complexity of that is that we have to keep expanding our dictionaries.

So the OED i--is now 20 volumes, with three additional volumes produced in the last five years. Now, sensibly, it's going online, on CD-ROM, and it's bec--showing--thanks to technology, its living nature, or the living nature of the language.
LAMB: I...
Mr. WINCHESTER: Sorry. That was a very long answer.
LAMB: No, th--I went to the bookstore and said, `Where's the OED?' and they said, `Well, the concise version's over there.' I went over to--picked it up and it was this enormous thing, $300.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Right. The...
LAMB: What am I buying wi--for $300?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, for th--I wonder if that was the concise, or the shorter, or the full one with the magnifying glass? There are many, many versions of this dictionary.
LAMB: I don't know 'cause it was cl--it was sealed, so I--I didn't buy it.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Oh, you couldn't get into it.
LAMB: Not yet.
LAMB: But if you wanna buy all of the--all that's available today, what does it cost you?
Mr. WINCHESTER: It costs--the list price for the OED at the moment is a--an even $3,000. How...
LAMB: And how many--are they separate volumes? Yeah.
Mr. WINCHESTER: That's 20 volumes.
LAMB: Twenty volumes.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Twenty volumes.
LAMB: Where can you buy it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, I was in a bookstore in New York the other day and it's behind the cash register, and there were these 20--each volume comes in a box, so 20 pale blue boxes. However, I should say--and I hope it's an appropriate thing to say at the moment, although this does sound like a commercial--because of this book, "The Professor and the Madman," Oxford is--the publishing house is realizing that a new interest perhaps may begin in the OED itself, and so they're offering the complete $3,000 dictionary for $995, and I've bought one at that price because...
LAMB: Where?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I--you can order it through any bookstore. I mean, I went to my bookstore in Kent, Connecticut, which is near the B--well, the Bor--the--the Borden--I was going to say the Borders--I mean the Borden's condensed milk factory was, and ordered one through them. And it comes in a couple of days in three enormous cartons and boxes. And the joy of unpacking these beautiful volumes and--and, of course, one of the joys is opening Volume I, you look down the list of contributors, and there he is, W.C. Minor, the madman.
LAMB: If you buy it, by the way--and we'll--I wanna get to the--the prof--the--the doctor--if you buy it on CD-ROM, what's it cost you?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Oh, much, much less. I mean, it's about--it's still quite expensive. I think it's about $400 or maybe $295, but I love the physical presence of the books. I mean, I have the first edition, the 1928 edition, and I have the new one because of this knocked-down price. But I've had the CD-ROM for a--quite a while, and I must tell you, I--I think it's the most marvelous product, because not only can you look up a word, but you can look up words backwards. For instance, if you say, `I'm looking for a--a word that might have the definition "small boat,"' those two words. So you type, under the definition box, `small boat' and every word in the English language that--that has `small boat' in the definition--you know, coracle, skiff, batteau or whatever--appears. Then again, you can do an etymological search. Do--so you want to know every single word in the English language that's come from Swahili or Sanskrit or Abyssinian, you can find them instantly. I think I looked up Sanskrit the other day. There are 18,570 words which have a Sanskrit origin. So there's that, and--and you can look up under authors, `Give me every single quotation in the dictionary that comes from W.C. Fields or William Shakespeare or Isaac Newton.'

So technologically, it's much more useful. And what happened the other day--I was on a radio show talking about this book, and I had the computer in front of me, the laptop, with the CD-ROM running, and they sort of put me up as a bit of an Aunt Sally after a while, and callers would call in and say, `Ah, Mr. Winchester, you know, you're a smart fellow'--that's being sarcastic about it--saying, `Do you know the word such-and-such?' And one fellow said, `Do you know the word "delope"?' like `elope' with a D on the front of it. And, of course, like me and possibly even you, I had no idea what the word `delope' was, but I thought, `I'll cheat,' so I typed up `delope' and it--instantly, it came up on the CD-ROM. And so I sort of dissembled for a bit and I said, `Oh, delope. You mean--you mean'--as the definition came up--`you mean that condition when, during a duel, one of the people with a gun raises his weapon into the air and fires harmlessly into the sky. That's deloping, isn't it?' And there was a little voice from Nebraska said, `I hate you.' But I then confessed. I said I looked it up on the CD.
LAMB: Go back to the beginning. W--William Minor was born where?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He was born in what is now Sri Lanka, the island of Sologne. His parents were missionaries, and they came from New Haven, Connecticut, so he was born there in a missionary station in 1834, and he lived there until--his parents got a bit worried about him because he showed an unnatural interest, I think, in the young, naked, prepubescent Singhalese girls playing on the beach. And so they packed him off back to school in--in New Haven. He misbehaved, I think, with a girl. He was tremendously interested in sex, was W.C. Minor, and so he did fool around with a woman on the boat--on a boat going back to America. Anyway, his life then goes a little quiet. He studied in high school in New Haven, then he went to Yale, read--rather, studied medicine and then stud--became a surgeon. And it was then that he joined the Union Army in 1863, I think it was, in Connecticut and, for a while, was a soldier in Connecticut.
LAMB: In--during the Civil War.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Yes. And then what happened was, he was packed off as a surgeon to the front and came down to Virginia. He was a--something of a--an aesthete, I think. He wasn't a roughy-toughy soldiering man. I mean, he did watercolors, he played the flute, he was interested in words. Even at an early age, he would--collected antiquarian books, so he was a somewhat--I wouldn't--not effeminate, but somewhat, well, aesthe--he was an aesthete, I think. So it was somewhat surprising that they packed him off to one of the most ferocious of the battles of the early part of the Civil War, which was the Battle of the Wilderness, which was fought in Orange County, Virginia, in May 1864. And then they did this terrible thing. In those days, there were a lot of Irishmen that were fighting in the--both armies, the North and the South, and from the Irish point of view, it was a fairly cynical, mercenary attitude. They were trying--these Irish people, they had no interest in North-South conflict, but they wanted to get themselves trained in military ways so they could come back to Ireland and fight against us, or the British. Once again, I'm using `us' in the loosest possible sense.

So there were Irishmen at the Battle of the Wilderness, but by this time, they were losing their stomach for the fight a bit, and they started deserting in rather large numbers. Well, the American Army used to, of course, execute desertion--deserters because desertion in the field is probably the most heinous of military crimes. But they were short of men, and so they didn't. They would humiliate them in some way. And so they caught this young Irishman in May--it must have been about the 5th of May, 1864. He was deserting, and they decided to humiliate him by branding him on the cheek with the letter D--awful thing to do. And the man they chose to apply the red-hot branding iron was this young, just-down-from-Yale, rather sensitive surgeon, W.C. Minor. And this event must have been as horrific for the one as for the other, and it--it--whatever it did to the Irishman, history doesn't record, but it clearly pushed W.C. Minor over the edge, and he started then spiraling down into--into madness. He started behaving in a very peculiar way. The Army posted him up to New York.
LAMB: How old was he at the time?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He was now about--he was born in '34, this is '64, so he would have been 30, 31.
LAMB: Let me just drop back a second, because you say that the Irishmen started to fall off in their interest in fighting when the whole Emancipation Proclamation was signed?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I think it might have been that, but also, they--they were losing a lot of their men. I think they weren't particularly good at fighting, and so they tended to be used by the generals as--as cannon fodder, these newly arrived immigrants to America who were there only to fight. The generals thought, `Well, let's push them into the front.' And so the l--the Irish--there's an expert--I mean, this book is not about this in any large measure, and--and I read a number of fascinating works about it, largely by a professor in the University of Alabama called Lawrence Cole. And it did seem that the Irish suffered an unusually large number of casualties, which is why, I think--something perhaps to do with the Emancica--pation Proclamation, but also that they fought--you know, `We're fighting here, but were getting killed in rarge lu--rather large numbers, so perhaps we ought to pack up and go home.'
LAMB: But you also say there was something about the fact that the Irishmen coming here was at the bottom with the black men in this country in that there was some kind of sensitivity there.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, indeed. I mean, that's another harmonic that was going on. All--all sorts of interesting historical sort of nooks and crannies I came--I--I--I could have gone off in any direction in this book because there were so many fascinations, and--and that--you're absolutely right, this new sort of harmony between the Irish and the blacks created a--I mean, there's another book there, I would have thought, not one I think I shall ever write, but it's a fascinating story for either research or--or a book of some kind.
LAMB: W.C. Minor w--first displayed his lunaticism, if you want to call it that, in the Army when? And what did they do about it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, first of all, h--he was on Governors Island in New York, and he would--he would row off to the sort of tenderloin districts of Lower Manhattan. Oddly enough, I live in Manhattan and there are, I can tell you, no tenderloin districts in Wall Street, where I live. And he would--he started going to prostitutes almost every night, as far as one can gather, and he was always getting drunk and going to dance halls, and he caught gonorrhea and I--he had to ha--I remember--I hope this isn't too distasteful to mention, but he--he attempted to cure himself by injecting his penis with German white wine, which seems a strangely imaginative way of getting over an illness. But maybe this points to his--his illness. Then he was posted by an exasperated commanding officer down to a very remote fort called Ft. Barrancas in--in the Gulf Coast of Florida, which is--was really a non-job. I mean, they were beginning to close down this fort anyway. And there, he--he became ill from sunstroke and he challenged a brother officer to a duel. I mean, a--a--a man--another officer who--with whom he had no real argument at all. So he was starting to go potty, clearly going a bit loopy.

So they then sent him for evaluation and examination back to St. Elizabeth's in--in Washington. And they dec--said, `He clearly is mad. He's homicidal, he's suicidal,' and he's suffering from what they then called monomania. So they decided that he should leave the Army. And his parents battled long and hard to make sure that he left the Army, but with a pension--in other words, that the Army would--and they did agree to this after hearings in New York in what is now SoHo, which was where the US Army headquarters were, at the corner of Houston and Greene streets--that he contracted this illness, if one can be said to contract a mental illness, during his military service, which meant he became a veteran, so he could put `W.C. Minor, US Army, retired leftenant' or `lieutenant.' And so he got and, indeed, did get, for the rest of his life, an Army pension.

So his parents were distressed by his madness. He was--began to then imagine all sorts of weird things. People would come into his bedroom at night, force metallic-coated biscuits into his mouth; they were filled with poison. They would transport him off to Constantinople, where he'd be forced to commit unnatural sexual acts with underage girls and boys and animals. So he was pretty--pretty loopy. So his parents decided, well, perhaps he'd get on rather better in the somewhat more benign atmosphere of London. I mean, they were fairly sophisticated people. So they gave him a letter of introduction to John Ruskin, the artist, who they knew slightly, and said, `Please look after our son.' And so they packed him off on a boat to London, and he arrived there in, I think, November 1871, and checked into a hotel, Radley's Hotel in Russell Square, which still stands near the British Museum. Never, I don't think, got in touch with Ruskin. There's no record--and the Ruskin Society were quite helpful and find no record of any contact with the great man. But he did, nonetheless, go watercoloring around London when he was feeling sane.

But his appetite for sex and sort of louche behavior and--and I think he was probably a sort of low-level--had an in--a sort of low-level pedophilic interest, so there was some suggestion that he liked youngsters. And the part of the world that was relatively tolerant of this kind of thing was just over the river in what is now a part of London called Lambeth but, in those days, was actually the county of Surrey and was beyond the actual s--jurisdiction of--of--of London. So he went over Hungerford Bridge and took digs in a street in Lambeth, and from there began to go to the thea--the bawdy theaters and the brothels and so forth that he liked and essentially gave up painting.

But what worried him all the time was, he was pathologically afraid of Irishmen because he remembered, of course, vividly what he had done to this Irishman at the Battle of the Wilderness and was afraid that Irishmen would be following him to avenge--they would attack him and would avenge the memory of the man in Virginia. So what actually happened then on the 17th of February, 1872, is, he was coming home, 2 AM, presumably from some licentious place, and he heard footsteps behind him, and he had his Colt service revolver from America and he turned around, he thought this--whoever this person was behind him was one of these Irishmen and he fired shots at him and killed him, a killing which was allegedly the first murder by gunfire on the streets of London ever. He gave himself up to the police and said it was all a terrible mistake. He was charged with murder, and because he was an American, of course, this became something of an international incident. The American minister in London, what we'd now call the ambassador, had to become involved. Brother Alfred came over from New Haven to testify on his, you know, de--William Chester's behalf.

But the trial was a rather sad affair because W.C. Minor was clearly very, very strange. Oddly enough, his defense lawyer--I only learned this later, after I read the book--his defense lawyer was the same lawyer that went on to defend Oscar Wilde in his trial for libel in which it was revealed he was a homosexual and was essentially ruined in English society as a consequence. But anyway, the upshot of the trial was that in late March 1872, he was found not guilty by virtue of his insanity and was sentenced to be detained--and this rather nice orotund phrase is still used in courts today--"to be detained until Her Majesty's pleasure be known," which meant, essentially, forever, in this newly built lunatic asylum called Broadmoor.
LAMB: And the person he killed was named?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He was called George Merritt, and he was a--he was from Wiltshire, came up from the farming country, and he married a woman called Eliza Merritt, and the two of them lived a blameless life with many children, working--Merritt himself worked as a stoker in a brewery in Lambeth, a s--a brewery which doesn't exist today, but the red lion, which was its motif, still stands at the entrance to Waterloo Station in London, which is nearby. And there's a bizarre little runnel we can go down there, because Eliza Merritt received a letter from Minor about a year after he began his sentence...
LAMB: By the way, she had how many children?
Mr. WINCHESTER: She had seven. She was pregnant when her husband was murdered, so she had six and one in the--and one bun in the oven, as it were. And so she got a letter from Minor, who was very contrite and said, `I'm frightfully sorry I shot your husband, and I'm quite wealthy and I'd like to settle money on you and on your children to try and make amends.'
LAMB: From Broadmoor, he wrote this.
Mr. WINCHESTER: From Broadmoor. So he settled, I think, 1,000 pounds, which was a great deal of money in those days. So she was enormously grateful. And she was illiterate, but she had someone read the letter to her and she had someone write a reply to him, in which she said, among other things, if I can paraphrase it, `I'm really rather sorry for you being--you know, it was a very kind gesture and I'm sorry for you being locked up for the rest of your life in this asylum. Perhaps I might visit you.' And he thought--partly, he must have thought, because he had this interest in sex, that he might--must--might be rather nice having a woman come and visit his cell. So she did, indeed--she was allowed in. The governor was a liberal man and he thought this would quite--be quite therapeutic for his patient, and so she would come and visit. And after a few visits--we don't know--and one can surmise what kind of thing went on in the cell, but he said to her one afternoon, `It's frightfully nice of you to keep coming down to visit me, but would you mind doing a bit of shopping for me in London, specifically pick up packages of books that I'm ordering for the library?' because he had two cells at Broadmoor. One he kitted out as a library and the other he did his painting and his watercoloring in.
LAMB: What's this right here, this particular etching?
Mr. WINCHESTER: This is an etching of--of the--suggestion of what his library might have looked like. I've been into the cells and--and, of course, they're stripped bare of any evidence of him, but the windows are the same and you see in the top right the barred window from which he can look out over the Blue Hills of Berkshire and all the way down to Surrey and, I believe, even part of Kent can be seen. There's a valley with cattle grazing. It's a rather nice English bucolic scene once you can see from the height of his cell over the prison wall.
LAMB: Well, I've got your--what's this particular...
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, that's--that's the entrance in the--in the top of the picture, that is the front gate of this rather formidable-looking Victorian mansion that is the lunatic asylum, and there's a poplar-lined driveway that leads up to it.
LAMB: Does it look like this when you're there?
Mr. WINCHESTER: No, completely different now. The poplars are long gone and there's a lot of high-tech security and swiveling cameras and these speed bumps and things in the road. The main building, however, looks essentially the same. In fact, if you look at the endpapers of the--of that book, there's a rather nice etching at the very back and the very front, the bottom part there of the book, you can see the asylum in its full glory, if that's the right word.
LAMB: Gotta take the cover off there. Yeah. There we go.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Yes. What they've done, rather cleverly I think, is, they've taken a page of the dictionary, actually the one with the word `murder' on it, and they've superimposed on it an image of Broadmoor asylum, taken, I think, from the illustrated London News, probably contemporary 1860, 1870. It looks essentially the same today.
LAMB: But Eliza was asked to go buy books.
Mr. WINCHESTER: She went and picked up books from mags and Bernard Quarid shops, which still exist today and which have the records of books being sent across to Broadmoor. And the nice thing was that, to go back to the appeal for volunteers that was put out by the editor of the dictionary...
LAMB: Let--let me just interrupt. Meanwhile, Oxford University is how far away from Broadmoor?
Mr. WINCHESTER: About 40 miles.
LAMB: Is this where Oxford Press is? It's in--oh, it is.
Mr. WINCHESTER: It is. It's on Walton Street in Oxford, and it looks much like a college. It's--there's a quadrangle with grass an--around it, just like in Oxford College, all the editorial offices.
LAMB: And James Murray is in charge of the OED at that point?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He is by now. There's a long and convoluted process, a lot of argumentation within the organizers of the OED as to who exactly should edit it. But this...
LAMB: And this is in the New York Review of Books of James Murray. It's a full-length picture of him.
Mr. WINCHESTER: In court dress when he went to receive his knighthood in, I think, 1908. This man--I mean, another great hero of the story, and he's self-educated; he left school at 14. He came from Hoyke in Scotland. His father was a linen draper, fairly lower-middle-class occupation. Young James Murray, who was fascinated by every imaginable branch of learning, went and became a schoolteacher and then became a bank clerk in London, and his passion--his abiding passion was words, learning languages and studying philology.
LAMB: Let me interrupt just a--'cause we--time goes by very quickly. I might have to go buy your book to get all the story. James Murray worked on the OED for how long, the Oxford--Oxford English Dictionary?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He was appointed editor in, I believe, ei--something like ei--1878. He died in 1915 when he was in the middle of the word `take,' T for `take,' so...
LAMB: So--so how many years did he work on it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, 1878 to 1915 is 22, plus 15--37 years.
LAMB: And how many years did Dr. Minor live in Broadmoor?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He lived from 1872 to 1910 in Broadmoor, which is 28, 38 years...
LAMB: And how...
Mr. WINCHESTER: ...almost exactly the same period.
LAMB: And how many years did he work on the dictionary?
Mr. WINCHESTER: We think th--from the correspondence, he first came across in one of these packages of books the call for volunteers in about 1882, so that means he would have worked for 22 years on the dictionary from his cell, so...
LAMB: So he'd have been in his 50s about then.
Mr. WINCHESTER: In his 50s when he started and in his late 70s when he finally--he injured himself rather severely while he was in his cell and became essentially debilitated, so he stopped work, essentially. I think they were working on the letter Q.
LAMB: How did he injure himself?
Mr. WINCHESTER: You'd like me to tell you?
LAMB: Well, we have no choice. We're there. I mean--I th--I didn't know--I--I remember this incident, but go ahead.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, I should do a sort of caution like, `Offensive language may be used,' at this point. I came across--I knew something had gone wrong in his life in 1902 because he became--he was confined for a while to the infirmary in the asylum. What happened was this--what I discovered--I mean, it was an amazing eureka moment when, during the research, coming across--normally, the--the--the notes are done in beautiful ink copperplate, but one of the sheets of paper was written in a rather hurried script by one of the asylum guards in pencil. This was unusual, so I knew I was going to read something rather extraordinary. And it said, `Dr. Minor came to the south gate this morning at about 9:30 screaming, "Quick, quick. I need a doctor. I"'--the attendant or the guard--`said, "Why, Dr. Minor? What appears to be the problem?" And he said, "I have just cut off my penis and thrown it in the fire."'

Well, what had happened was--this is a man who was obsessed with sex but also terribly guilty about his constant cravings. He was a compulsive masturbator, and he felt that his penis was the source of all of his problems. Remember, he was a surgeon. He knew how to conduct this operation. So early on the morning, the 5th of December, 1902, I think it was, he tied a ligature about the base of his member and, using the same knife that he used to cut out the cards to send to Oxford University Press, which he sharpened on a whetstone the night before--sorry, you did ask me to tell you--he cut it off and threw it in the fire, hoping, thereby, to be rid of all his problems. He lost very little blood, and he was a skilled surgeon.

It was interesting--there--there's an interesting lexical point in all of this. The day I discovered this, I was obviously excited. I mean, as a researcher, it's--it was a--it was a seminal moment, if that's not too bad a pun. I wa--I went up to Oxford from Broadmoor and I told one or two people, and then I came down on the train back to London. And I was telling the story to a number of people--well, there were two elderly women lexicographers from the UP who were going down to the theater in London, so I thought--I couldn't contain myself. I had to tell them what I had discovered because they, too, knew that something weird had gone on in Minor's life in 1902. So I told them the story and built up to it and then finally said, `And then he sliced off his penis and threw it in the fire.' And strangers in the compartment were listening and they went, `My God.' You know, there was a gasp. But not these two women. They said--and I swear, they said it in unison--`Really?' they said. `Autopeotomy.' And their only interest was the fact that there was a word, and they said moreover the word `peotomy,' which is the amputation of the penis and which appears in the book--in the dictionary--exists, but `autopeotomy,' doing it to yourself, does not. They said, `If you can include this in your book, then we will cite it in the dictionary's third edition and you will be guaranteed 15 minutes of fame.'
LAMB: So would--when he was at the--at Broadmoor and the call came out for volunteers, how did he volunteer to be a part of--and--and how many words did he define?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, he did it in a very unusual way. He, first of all, wrote to the dictionary and said, `Look, I'm your man. I've got time on my hands. I read. I'm learned and scholarly. This is just the kind of thing I'd like to do.' So they said, `Fine. We welcome all volunteers.' They never knew who he was. He really simply wrote, `Dr. W.C. Minor, Crowthorne, Berkshire.'

So they thought they were dealing with a doctor with a lot of time on his hands. The way he did it was this: He--he would take down a volume from his shelf in the prison cell, open it, he'd have beside him an--a folded eight blank pages of paper, a quire of paper. He would come across the first interesting word on maybe the second line of the book, and let's say it's the word `dog' again. Well, he reasons that the word `dog,' which he's going to note down this sentence, would be, you know, D is--A, B, C, D, be on maybe page two of his eight-page quire. So about halfway down page two, he'd write the word `dog' and that it appears on page one of the book, of this certain book, line two. He'd make sure he left enough room on that page so that if there was a word that was--began with D-U, it could go underneath it, something with D-A, it could go above it.

So like this, positioning the words perfectly and writing in the most minute handwriting, he would build up an index to every single word of interest in that particular book. And then he'd move on to the next book--each one would take him six months--until every single one of his books he had--he had made an index for. And the point of this was that he wanted to be able to help the dictionary in real time so that when they came to work at Oxford and were working on the letter D, and let's say working on the letters--any word that began with D-O, they could say, `Right, we're looking for quotations of the word "dog." W.C. Minor ought to know.' So they'd write to him, `Do you have anything on "dog"?' He'd go to his little books and he'd say, `Ah, yes, "dog." That appears in this book on pages one, 17, 49 and 163, and it appears again in this book on page 11, 47 and 93.' And then he'd pluck the books down, pull out the quotations and say, `I think this isn't a particularly good illustration from this book,' which is 1687, `of the word "dog." I'll send that to Oxford.' And so Oxford got the--the quotation for the word `dog' at the precise moment that they needed it.
LAMB: How many words? 'Cause I'm--I'm--we've got just a little time. I want to get a lot of things in. How many words did he end up contributing to it?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, he contributed maybe 150,000, of which about 10,000 are in the dictionary. In other words, they culled it down to 10,000 useful words.
LAMB: And how did James Murray find out, the fellow who was in charge of the OED at the time, that he was in the lunatic asylum?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, the myth has it that he didn't know and that he went down to--because Mi--Minor would never come up to receive the thanks of the dictionary staff every time they completed a volume. When they finished letter A or B or C, they'd have a party--you know, cheese and rather bad sherry, and they'd invite people like Minor, but he would never come. And so Mi--Murray decided, `Well, I'll go and visit him,' so goes the myth, went and visited, was astonished to find he was a lunatic, a murderer, incarcerated in an--in an asylum.

The truth, in fact, came out of this box that I found in Connecticut. It turns out that the librarian of Harvard College had been visiting Oxford in about 1890 and had had--everyone went to call on James Murray because he was a great iconic figure in--of letters. And in the conversation that this man had with Murray, he said, `I want to say, Professor Murray, among other things, that we in America are very grateful for the kindly way you're treating with poor Dr. Minor.' And Murray said, `Poor Dr. Minor? What do you mean?' And the Harvard librarian said, `You mean, you don't know?' `Know what?' `Know that he's a convicted murderer-lunatic.' `Bless my soul,' said Murray. But he--for the next 10 years, he didn't let on that he knew. In all the correspondence, his perfect Victorian rectitude, but then finally he decided he should go and visit, and then they became the best of friends.
LAMB: We usually get most things in on this show, but we're not gonna make it today. I'm not sure I should even ask you this because I wasn't--I know it's related to this, but you had a story to tell that you wouldn't tell me before we started. Is it related to this? You wanna tell it now?
Mr. WINCHESTER: Well, this is, and I'll tell you very briefly that on the way to the studio here today, I was telephoned on my cell phone. It rang. And a woman--I'm going to have to call her back, I didn't get--'cause I was in a hurry to get here, she said, `Hello. My name is Elizabeth Smith,' or something like that. And I said, `Oh, yes.' And she said, `Perhaps it'll be more useful if I say my name is Elizabeth Minor Smith.' And I said, `Really?' She said, `Yes. I'm a journalist working--a radio journalist working in Holland, and I want to thank you for writing such a lovely book about my great-great-great uncle.'
LAMB: And how did she find you?
Mr. WINCHESTER: I think it had been reviewed in London. She'd gotten the book in London. She noticed the name Minor, realized her name was Minor and worked it all out. How she tracked me down, I'll find that out later.
LAMB: Dr. Minor died where, and where is he buried? Because I know you've been to the grave.
Mr. WINCHESTER: He was released from--as a very elderly and infirmed man from St. Elizabeth's in 1920 and went to an old people's home in Hartford, Connecticut, where he died in 1921. And he's buried in a--not an unmarked grave, but a very ordinary grave in New Haven, Connecticut.
LAMB: Dr. Murray is buried where?
Mr. WINCHESTER: He's buried in Oxford next to his great friend, the professor of Chinese, and his grave is marked in marble and visited by many.
LAMB: And what about George Merritt?
Mr. WINCHESTER: George Merritt--his--there's no memorial to George Merritt. It is a patch of rather discolored earth in a place called Tuting which--oddly enough, he died in the--it's the graveyard outside the hospital where my son was born, so there's a sort of nice secularity in that, but no memorial at all.
LAMB: We have no more time, and there's a lot more to talk about. "The Professor and the Madman," Simon Winchester, our guest. Thank you very much for being here.
Mr. WINCHESTER: Thank you.

Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1998. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.