Conoscevo Johnson, Fowler, Furnivall, Murray e Webster. Le loro biografie sono da qualche parte in casa. Ma per un qualche strano motivo non avevo mai pensato a Roget, nonostante una copia bistrattata del suo Thesaurus stia su uno degli scaffali proprio sopra la mia scrivania. Me lo ha ricordato il NY Times questa mattina, con un articolo in cui Thomas Mallon recensisce la biografia di Roget, The Man Who Made Lists, scritta da Joshua Kendall.
Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) non ebbe una vita facile. Non solo la sua famiglia era leggermente instabile,
“chronic mental instability” of Roget’s maternal grandmother; the “psychotic trance” in which his mother spent her last days after a life of neurotic “neediness”; the breakdowns undergone by Roget’s sister and daughter (he married late and was widowed early); and the grief-driven, throat-slashing suicide of his uncle, the great British civil libertarian Samuel Romilly, who expired in Roget’s blood-soaked arms.
ma lui stesso soffriva di qualche disturbo ossessivo-compulsivo:
Roget himself turned out humorless and judgmental, beset with a “paranoid streak” as well as melancholy and shyness, not to mention a horror of “dirt and disorder” — the Thesaurus entry for “uncleanness” is a lollapalooza. So one can scarcely be surprised by the refuge he seems to have taken in workaholism and an assortment of small compulsions, including his “obsession with counting.” (“I every day go up at least 320 steps.”) He took particular pleasure in an ability to control the movements of the iris in his own eye.
Il Thesaurus fu pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1852.
Never quite intended as a book of synonyms (Roget thought there “really was no such thing,” given the unique meaning of every word), the Thesaurus was constructed as a crystal palace of abstraction, each of whose 1,000 lists pushes a reader, often antonymically, to the next, “certainty” leading to “uncertainty” leading to “reasoning” leading to “sophistry.” The truth is that most users of the Thesaurus have never made head nor tail of the system and have just availed themselves of the index — added by Roget almost as an afterthought — to find what they are looking for.
Immagine: Hulton Archives/Getty Image
Postato da: IM