Name and Address: An Autobiography

Name and Address: An Autobiography

Name and Address: An Autobiography

Name and Address: An Autobiography

Excerpt

I WAS BORN IN THE CITY OF CINCINNATI, in the year 1901. Queen Victoria was still alive. Much later I discovered that Cincinnati was not the whole world nor 1901 its beginning. Last of all I learned that this old lady (who, though a Queen-Empress, apparently resembled a small, bad-tempered turtle) had presided over an age that shaped my youth.

My father was a parson. I never quite learned to think of him as a priest, which was a name he preferred. My mother was an heiress: poor dear, she would never admit it; it embarrassed her too much. From my father we learned to despise; from my mother, to be ashamed. As I have never learned to tell "the whole truth," whatever that may be, I cannot truthfully say more than this about what we learned from them. We also learned to be afraid -- not only afraid of outsiders and of the outside world but most of all afraid of being judged and found wanting -- although many things and people, perhaps our ancestors included, must have had a hand in that.

I was the second of six children and my parents' only son. Until my father grew old and began to weaken I was a constant disappointment to him; until my mother lay dying she would have sworn I was her dearest hope.

Cincinnati may not have been much like the rest of the world, but it was all we knew. It was frighteningly ugly and hideously dirty, but we accepted the ugliness and the dirt as natural; even children like ourselves, protected and pampered as we knew ourselves to be, took them for granted. We thought life was dirty and smelt bad and had to be washed off you several times a day. We also thought we were safe if we stayed indoors or played in our own back yard.

Our back yard, floored with sooty mud, was enclosed by the blank brick side of a warehouse and two flanking walls at least ten feet high. But nothing could shelter us from the derisive yells of . . .

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