Subgenre: biography, history, bibliophilia
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library
Roget's life was interesting at times, but it was not really that remarkable. There are parts of the book that can be very slow and monotone. However, the book also provides a great look at the times he lived in. In addition, over time, Roget meets various interesting people as well. We also get a look at how science progressed over time. Charles Darwin was a contemporary of Peter Roget, and eventually Roget would live to see Darwin's works published and the new theories of evolution rise to prominence (he himself remained a creationist sadly).
Overall, the book has its strengths and weaknesses. It is strong in showing the history of its time. It's weak because often there is too much minutiae that is just not so interesting. Still it is an interesting book overall culminating with the publication of the Thesaurus, the book that would eventually make him famous. In the end, I liked the book.
3 out of 5 stars.
Additional reading notes:
A bit on what Roget was doing:
"With his word lists, Peter simultaneously created both a replica of the real world as well as a private imaginary world-- what contemporary psychologists call a 'paracosm'" (40).
Thomas Gray's six Latin maxims. Roget relied on these in writing his travelogue in adolescence"
- "See whatever is to be seen.
- You should see whatever I have not seen.
- Write down and describe, as faithfully as possible, whatever you see.
- To write is not to admire, since you are not a painter, paint everything with words.
- Whenever you can, abandon the footpaths, the worn crossroads of travelers.
- Correct whatever can be corrected" (62-63).