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NOTE. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 1 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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(Of an Earlier Date. Probably 1889.)
When, in 1886, my health, failing for some years before, became such that work involving any mental strain proved impracticable; and when, to partially fill the hours otherwise wholly vacant, a small amount of occupation appeared desirable; I bethought me of certain biographical memoranda set down in previous years, and gradually fell into the habit of passing a little time daily in putting these into shape.
Where to begin was a question which presented itself. Thinking it probable that I should not survive to write the whole, I decided to write first the portions of chief importance. Though some incidents of the years passed as a civil engineer might not prove wholly uninteresting, yet, manifestly, the chief interest felt, whatever it may amount to, in an account of my life must centre in that part of it which narrates my career as an author. Hence, after the division devoted to early life and education, I passed at once to later divisions in the order of their relative importance: first Part VII, then Parts V and VI, and then Parts VIII, IX, X and XI.
As the work advanced I became conscious that a constitutional lack of reticence is displayed throughout it, to an extent which renders present publication undesirable. In years to come, when I shall be no longer conscious, the frankness with which the book is written may add to whatever value it has; but while I am alive it would, I think, be out of taste to address the public as though it consisted of personal friends.
Meanwhile, for the use of personal friends, or such of them as care to read it, I have had the volumes printed. To take a finished impression from the stereo-plates was needful as a precaution; since a fire at the printer’s would, otherwise, leave me without a copy containing the final corrections. Instead of taking one impression, I decided to take half-a-dozen; so that a select few might see the book if they wished.
It is a provoking necessity that an autobiography should be egotistic. A biography is inevitably defective as lacking facts of importance, and still more as giving imperfect or untrue interpretations of those facts which it contains; and an autobiography, by exhibiting its writer as continually talking about himself, is defective as making very salient a trait which may not perhaps be stronger than usual. The reader has to discount the impression produced as well as he can.