Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LIX.: CONCLUSION. 1882—89. Æt. 62—69. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER LIX.: CONCLUSION. 1882—89. Æt. 62—69. - 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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More than six years have passed by since the incidents narrated in the last chapter; and, were I to give an account of these years after the same manner as heretofore, several more chapters would be required.
Of work, now proceeding very slowly and with long intervals during which nothing was done, certain small results would have to be described. There were four articles in the Contemporary Review, afterwards published under the title of The Man versus The State. There was a volume on Ecclesiastical Institutions, forming Part VI. of the Principles of Sociology; the separate publication of the last chapter of which led to a disagreeable controversy. There were two essays—or rather an essay divided into two parts—on “The Factors of Organic Evolution”; and two years after the last of these, came two short controversial articles, each of which had to be broken off in the middle from inability to proceed.
Concerning the chief breaks in my ordinary routine, there would be passages telling how, in 1883, my good friend Valentine Smith, finding that I was going North considerably before the time he had fixed for themselves, sent down to Ardtornish a staff of servants for my sole benefit, and left me for a week in exclusive possession of the place and its belongings. In 1884 would come the account of a tour through the west of Scotland, in which I took with me the daughter and niece of my friend Lott: afterwards joining the Potters at Summerfield, a new place which they had for the autumn near Ulverston. And then, in the account of 1885, would have to be told how, after a fortnight with the Potters at Stock Park on the banks of Windermere, I visited Dr. Priestley at his place on the Spey, and there, after walking about half a mile, wielding a salmon-rod for a quarter of an hour and walking back, had to pass several days in bed, and then telegraphed to my secretary to fetch me home: the journey being made with half-a-dozen breaks.
Thus was made a further great descent to confirmed ill-health and incapacity.
Passing over details, it will suffice to say that I gradually got myself into a state in which, with a greatly narrowed margin of strength, I from time to time unawares overstepped the margin, still further diminished my strength, and had thereafter to keep within a still narrower margin; and so on until an extremely low stage had been reached.
After one of these disasters, dating from the private view at the Royal Academy in the spring of 1886, and after presently having to spend some five or six weeks indoors, I took a suite of rooms at Upper Norwood, and there induced to join me as guests Mrs. Bray and Miss Hennell (George Eliot’s great friends): the temporary benefits being then, as afterwards, quickly undone. Depression during a weary month indoors in London did mischief; and, fearing continuance of it, I went down to Brighton: travelling then, as ever since, in a hammock slung diagonally in an invalid-carriage. At Brighton a year and a quarter passed, with many improvements great and small, and many relapses great and small. During the last four months of my stay there, a victoria with india-rubber tyres, which I bought, enabled me to drive about more than I could otherwise have done: days and weeks, however, often passing without my being able to use it. In November 1887 I was induced by Miss Beatrice Potter to take rooms in the same house with them at Bournemouth, where they were fixed for the winter (my friend Potter having also now become an invalid). The change of scene, and still more the presence close at hand of those about whom I cared, produced a great effect; and at the end of January 1888, I returned to town, frequented the Athenæum daily for a month, and even got so far as playing a game at billiards. Then, as usual, came a catastrophe: too long and too animated a conversation brought me down with a crash, and I was unable to reach the Athenæum during the remainder of the season. Drives in the park close at hand, extended on a few occasions to the Savile Club, were all that I could achieve when able to go out. The end of June found me at Dorking, where I took up my abode with my friend Mr. Grant Allen for the summer months. There rapid advances resulted; but a little too much physical effort, followed by a little too much mental excitement, again undid all the good done. Improvements and relapses filled the time till the middle of October, when Mr. Allen was obliged to go, as he habitually did, to a warmer climate; and I, unable to move, took his house for the winter. The five months passed in it, more monotonous even than the fifteen months passed at Brighton, were made more bearable in the one place as in the other by various friends, who came to spend sometimes a few days, sometimes three weeks, with me; and especially were they relieved by two children of my friend Mrs. Cripps (née Potter), who in response to my inquiry—“Will you lend me some children?” let them visit me at Dorking, as they had done at Brighton. In the middle of March 1889 I got back to town; fixed myself at a quiet hotel within five minutes of the Athenæum, so as to get there with but a short drive; was improved greatly by the change; and, as usual, have, by adverse occurrences, physical and mental, again lost what good I gained. So that now, after having been in the interval much better and at other times much worse, I am below the level of three years ago, when my invalid-life commenced.
Beyond correspondence, done by proxy when possible, my sole occupation during these three years (save the two fragments of essays above named) has been the composition of this volume—an occupation which, entered upon because heavier work, even in small quantity, was impracticable, has proved in some measure a solace, by furnishing subjects of thought and preventing that absolute vacuity of life which I must otherwise have borne. How extremely slow has been the progress is shown by the fact that, when the pages of text have been duly reduced by deduction of extracts &c., the amount dictated, revised, and corrected in proof has been at the rate of a little more than fifteen lines per day—three lines less than half a page.
And now about the future? I dictate these lines on my 69th birthday; and an invalid-life like mine, due to chronic disorder unaccompanied by organic disease, is not unlikely to last some time. What then shall I do with it?
Shall I, with such small energy as it leaves me, complete, if possible, the first volume of this autobiography? Part I., giving an account of my early life and education is finished; but Parts II. and III., and IV., covering the interval between 17 and 28, and occupied chiefly with the incidents of my career as a civil engineer, remain in the form of outline draft given to them when, many years ago, I rapidly dictated my recollections to a shorthand-writer. Shall I go back upon this rude sketch, and elaborate it into a readable form?
On reflection I decide against this course. Occasional experiments have raised the hope that I may, in a rough if not in a finished way, write another portion of the Principles of Ethics—the most important portion, which I feel anxious not to leave undone. If I can keep in check the tendency to bestow too much attention on the expression of the ideas, and be content with a sufficiently intelligible presentation of them, it seems possible that, at a slow rate like that above described, I may execute this piece of serious work.
Here, then, at any rate for the present, I suspend this narrative of my life which has so long occupied me: intending to continue it only when I find it impracticable to do anything else.
[Written Four Years Later.]