Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXVIII.: IMPENDING CESSATION. 1866. Æt. 46. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XXXVIII.: IMPENDING CESSATION. 1866. Æt. 46. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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Of the various occurrences occupying the hiatus indicated towards the close of the last chapter, the first in order of time was a crisis in my career which happened at the beginning of 1866.
During the preceding year, my attention was decisively drawn to the fact that my expenditure, though modest in amount, continually outran my income, and forced me to draw upon capital more frequently or more seriously. A letter recalls the fact that early in 1863, the subscribers to my serial, originally 430 in number, had fallen to 350: the ending of First Principles having, I presume, been an occasion for the withdrawals of many, and persual of the early part of the Biology, uninteresting to the majority, having caused further withdrawals. Moreover, among the remaining names not a few had to be crossed out after futile efforts made by the publishers to obtain payments of subscriptions in arrear.
The difficulty was becoming otherwise complicated. My father was now 75; and though he maintained his erect carriage and preserved tolerable health, his energies, bodily and mental, were of course flagging. As a consequence, while his professional engagements fell off, those which remained occasionally proved too much for him: so much so, indeed, that in more than one letter I advised him to retire altogether, rather than make himself ill. My mother, too, had now become a confirmed invalid; and illness is always expensive. Thus their requirements were increasing at the same time that the means of meeting them were decreasing; and in the absence of returns from teaching, my father’s other sources of income were obviously insufficient. Of course the result was that I had to aid; and the required aid was certain to become greater year by year.
During his then recent stay in England, I had talked the matter over with my friend Prof. Youmans—probably in the course of the week he spent with me in Kensington Gardens Square. Such, at least, is the implication of the following passage from a letter written to him on October 28, 1865.
“Since you left I have obtained from the share-broker at Derby, through whose hands most of my money transactions have gone, the data I needed; and, joining them with my bank account and other memoranda, I have been able to make a tolerably definite calculation of my losses. I found that my guess was not far from the mark. It turns out that since 1850 I have sunk nearly £1,100 in writing and publishing books; and the amount will considerably exceed £1,100 by the time I have finished the volume now in progress. . . .
Not finding the result any more encouraging than I supposed, I have not, as you may expect, found any reason to modify my intention of issuing, along with No. 15, the notice of cessation at the close of the volume.”
This intention was carried out. Before the notice was issued, much anxious thought and no little painful feeling were passed through. It was grievous thus to give up my life-work when already a considerable part of it had been satisfactorily executed. But I had either to go on wasting away what little I possessed and neglecting my responsibilities, or else to abandon the undertaking; and I sorrowfully decided upon the last.
It shortly appeared, however, that the undertaking was not to be abandoned without an effort being made to prevent the abandonment. The first indication of such an effort came to me in the shape of a remarkable proposal from Mr. J. S. Mill. Usually I find it desirable to omit unimportant parts of letters quoted; but here it seems as well to give in full Mr. Mill’s letter and my reply to it.
On arriving here last week, I found the December livraison of your Biology, and I need hardly say how much I regretted the announcement in the paper annexed to it. What the case calls for, however, is not only regret, but remedy; and I think it is right that you should be indemnified by the readers and purchasers of the series for the loss you have incurred by it. I should be glad to contribute my part, and should like to know at how much you estimate the loss, and whether you will allow me to speak to friends and obtain subscriptions for the remainder. My own impression is that the sum ought to be raised among the original subscribers.
In the next place, I cannot doubt that the publication in numbers though it may have been the best means which presented itself at the time, has had an unfavourable effect on the sale, and that a complete treatise with your name to it would attract more attention, obtain more buyers, and would be pretty sure to sell an edition in a few years. What I propose is that you should write the next of your treatises, and that I should guarantee the publisher against loss, i.e. should engage, after such length of time as may be agreed on, to make good any deficiency that may occur, not exceeding a given sum, that sum being such as the publisher may think sufficient to secure him. With this guarantee you could have your choice of publishers, and I do not think it likely that there would be any loss, while I am sure that it could in no case be considerable. I beg that you will not consider this proposal in the light of a personal favour, though even if it were I should still hope to be permitted to offer it. But it is nothing of the kind,—it is a simple proposal of co-operation for an important public purpose, for which you give your labour and have given your health.