Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Delusions & Grandeur

A Cruel Fate

Near the turn of the century there were organizational changes made at Broadmoor, which led to the hiring of a new and stricter director. Dr. Bryan was disliked by most of the inmates because of his callous and brusque character. Minor also disliked him because he was less personable than the previous director, whom he liked immensely.

Not long after the new director took control of the facility, Minor slipped into a deep depression. He ate irregularly and showed little interest in having visitors, something he used to enjoy. Minor was so unhappy that he refused even to work on the one thing that brought him the most pleasure -- the dictionary.

In December 1902, Minors depression turned into violent aggression. His hostility was not directed at anyone at the institution, but at himself. In a fit of desperation and anger, he mutilated himself in the most gruesome way. Minor took a penknife and amputated his penis.

No one knew why he resorted to such extreme measures. Some speculated that self-hate or guilt for having lustful thoughts motivated him to harm himself. However, only Minor knew why and he kept his reasons to himself.

After a month in the infirmary, Minor made a partial recovery and retained some functional use of his organ. Yet, other aspects of his physicality began to worsen. He grew exceedingly weak from various flu-like illnesses that plagued him. He also   started to lose his vision. It was during this time that Dr. Bryan considered moving him to another facility closer to his family, where he could live out the rest of his days.

With the help of Murray, Minor was secured passage back to America in 1910. Minors brother Alfred sailed to London to escort him to the United States where he was to be interned at St. Elizabeths Asylum in Washington, D.C. It was the same asylum where he had resided 42 years earlier.

Minor realized when he departed on the boat to America that he would probably never see his closest friend Murray again. Although it saddened the two men greatly, they both knew that Minor was better off in America near his family. After Minors departure, Murray returned back to his editing position at Oxford where he began work on the letter T. It was the last letter he would ever work on.

Murray & others, Scriptorium
Murray & others, Scriptorium

On July 26, 1915, Murray died of heart failure as a result of pleurisy. Following his death, Murray was recognized as one of the centurys best wordsmiths. A friend and colleague named Burchfield described him as the founder of the art of historical lexicography. He had worked a total of 35 years on the dictionary, often putting in 14-hour days. Unfortunately, he didnt live long enough to see its completion. According to the OED, the work to which he had devoted his life represented an achievement unprecedented in the history of publishing anywhere in the world.   

Minor may have been one of the last of Murrays friends to learn of his death. He was thousands of miles from London, both physically and mentally. His delusions worsened, as did his health. In 1918, Minor was diagnosed dementia praecox, which is now called paranoid schizophrenia.

One year after he had been formally diagnosed, Minor was transferred from the hospital to an asylum for the elderly in Hartford, Connecticut. He was no longer considered harmful and the director at the new facility allowed Minor to walk the grounds. One day after a walk on a particularly stormy day, Minor caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. On March 26, 1920, Minor, 85, succumbed to the illness and was buried in relative obscurity in New Havens Evergreen Cemetery -- a sad fate for one of the most productive contributors of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Minor, like Murray never saw the completion of the dictionary. It was another eight years before the first full edition was published. Upon its completion, the dictionary consisted of ten volumes, which contained more than 400,000 words and phrases. It is considered to be one of the most remarkable literary masterpieces of the century and the ultimate authority on the English language.

Oxford English Dictionary set
Oxford English Dictionary set

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