10 October 2013

The Charm of Autobiography

James Ashcroft Noble, "The Charm of Autobiography," Impressions & Memories (London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1895), pp. 38-39:
An absolutely unreserved and sincere record of the deeds, words, thoughts, and emotions which have gone to make up the most commonplace life, would be of priceless value in many ways, but most of all, perhaps, would it be valuable in relieving every one who read it of at least a part of that burden of isolation which most people carry with them all their lives. Nearly everybody, certainly every young person, is fully convinced that some of his experiences are peculiar to himself; and because of this conviction he dare not disclose them, lest he should subject himself to certain misunderstanding and probable reprobation. Then, in some fortunate moment, he takes up the ideal autobiography, the volume in which some other man has disclosed the secrets of his soul, and he finds that what he has supposed to be his own peculiar property or his own peculiar torment, is the property or the torment of this other man as well ; and if of him, why not of a hundred, of a thousand men  of the greater number of the race? Loneliness must always be more or less terrible to a being with a social nature that craves for companionship; and a book which relieves our loneliness by assuring us that what we had mistaken as a sign of alienation from our fellows is really a sign of kinship with them, is a book which enriches our life by giving us a new feeling of being at home in the world. 
Arnold Böcklin, Herbstgedanken (1886)