English Autobiography: Its Emergence, Materials, and Form

English Autobiography: Its Emergence, Materials, and Form

English Autobiography: Its Emergence, Materials, and Form

English Autobiography: Its Emergence, Materials, and Form

Excerpt

The end I have set for myself in the present volume is the somewhat unusual one suggested by the title, explained briefly in the early pages of chapter i, and broken down in the way indicated by the Contents. It differs radically from those of the scholars whose researches in autobiography have made possible my exploitation of a special interest: notably Georg Misch, Friedrich von Bezold, Alois Brandl, and Dorothea Hendrichs, who in German monographs published between 1907 and 1925 traced literary self-revelation from antiquity to the Renaissance in Europe and from Deor's Lament to Samson Agonistes in England; Anna Robeson Burr and Ernest Stuart Bates, who used autobiographies as sources of information about the human psyche; and Waldo Dunn, Wilbur Cross, Harold Nicolson, and Donald Stauffer, who in critical histories of English biography made many interesting and significant statements about the history of autobiography. If I were required to cite a precedent I should have to plead the authority of Aristotle, whose Poetics also has to do with the emergence, content, and formal characteristics of a literary type.

The effective closing date of the study is about 1946. Sir Osbert Sitwell's many-volumed autobiography was still appearing in parts while I wrote, hence is not mentioned in the following pages. In any event, it will be apparent that my conclusions are based on an acquaintance not with all the extant English autobiographies but with what I hope is an adequate number of representative samples.

The study has occupied me for several years and cost me many pains, partly because of a problem finally resolved in the way described at the beginning of chapter i. The actual writing began more than a decade ago and has continued intermittently through a period during which not only my literary style but . . .

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