The Contrary Experience: Autobiographies

The Contrary Experience: Autobiographies

The Contrary Experience: Autobiographies

The Contrary Experience: Autobiographies

Excerpt

In this volume are assembled four autobiographies written at different times and under very different circumstances. The first, an account of the author's childhood, was first published in 1933. The second is in the form of a diary extracted from letters addressed to a single correspondent between 1915 and 1918 and now published for the first time. It is followed by some further chapters of autobiography first published in 1940 as the substantial part of a volume entitled Annals of Innocence and Experience. Finally, I have added some chapters written within the last year or two.

I do not pretend that these fragments constitute an artistic unity. The volume is nevertheless offered as the story of the growth of a poet's mind in a confusing period of history. It is my hope (to repeat some words from the preface to the Annals) that these pages will make sufficiently clear that I consider the no-man'syears between the wars as largely futile, spent unprofitably by me and my kind. I do not pretend to know how we could have made them more positive: the forces against us were not human, but satanic--blind forces of economic drift and political ineptitude with the walls of faith and reason turning to air behind us.

I also said in the same preface that in spite of a disillusion at once personal and universal, I persisted in a simple faith in the natural goodness of man. A faith of that kind was perhaps never simple and is certainly no longer tenable. The death wish that was once an intellectual fiction has now become a hideous reality and mankind drifts indifferently to self-destruction. To arrest that drift is beyond our individual capacities: to establish one's individuality is perhaps the only possible protest. 1962 H. R.

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