To begin a book with an apology is never desirable. Where, however, one writes about one's self or ventures to record one's personal recollections, some slight explanation seems almost necessary. Yet for what is contained in these pages I can give no better warrant or excuse than a passage from a very great writer who, it is to be feared, is not so much read now as he ought to be, or as he once was:
"The life of every man," says our friend Herr Sauerteig, "the life even of the meanest man, it were good to remember, is a Poem; perfect in all manner of Aristotelean requisites; with beginning, middle and end; with perplexities and solutions; with its willstrength ( Willenkraft) and warfare against Fate, its elegy and battle-singing, courage marred by crime, everywhere the two tragic elements of Pity and Fear; above all, with supernatural machinery enough, for was not the man born out of Nonentity; did he not die and miraculously vanishing return thither?"
Nothing really is easier than to find words of excellent appearance to explain the compelling motives for writing one's memoirs or reminiscences or autobiography. Whatever we may say, however, whatever ingenious phrases we may employ, the main purpose is to write about one's self, and the efficient reasons may all be summed up in the simple sentence: "I do it because it gives me pleasure." In fact, to the well-regulated mind there is no pleasure equal to that of talking about one's self, and one's satisfaction is not diminished by the inexorable necessity of seeming to talk about other people. My preface is already too long, even by these few words, and I will therefore end it here, trusting blindly for what is to follow in the assertion of Leslie Stephen, that "no autobiography is dull."