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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 90:


It was under the family roof-tree that I now set up my literary shop. Nine months earlier an unwonted interest in literature and reform had sent me to an asylum. That I should now in my own home be able to work out my destiny without unduly disturbing the peace of mind of relatives was a considerable satisfaction. In the very room where, during June, 1900, my reason had forsaken me, I re-dictated my account of that reason's experiences. It was concerning this draft that I received a good while afterward the first of the two letters from Professor William James of Harvard University, which appear in the Introduction to this book.


My leave-of-absence ended, I resumed my travels eagerly; for I wished to cool my brain by daily contact with the more prosaic minds of men of business. I went South. For a time I banished all thoughts of my book and project. But after some months of this change of occupation, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found leisure in the course of wide travels to take up the work of revision. My hours of leisure I devoted more, however, to reading than to writing. The "excess baggage" which at times I 'had to pay, was occasioned by what I irreverently called "several pounds of rhetoric." For, though Professor James had paid me the compliment of advising me not to re-write my story, I fear his advice must have been prompted by a doubt as to my ability to improve my composition, rather than the conviction that my crude draft was an excellent performance.


That draft I submitted to all sorts and conditions of minds (in accordance with Mill's dictum: that only in that way can the truth be obtained). And it is at this point in my narrative, rather than in the dusty corners of the usual preface, that I wish to express my obligation to one critic and helper -- my former school-fellow, Mr. Herbert Wescott Fisher. It was he who led me to see my need of technical training, neglected in earlier years. To be exact, however, I must confess that I read rather than studied rhetoric. Close application to its rules served only to discourage me, so I but lazily skimmed these worthy works. But my rediscovered friend did more than direct me to sources. He proved to be the kindly mean, between the two extremes of stranger and intimate. I was a prophet not without honor in his eyes. Upon my embarrassing wealth of material he brought to bear his practical knowledge of the workmanship of writing. My debt to him, in which the reader is a sharer, is almost beyond repayment. Scarcely a paragraph in this book is not the better for his direct touch. And my own drafting of the later parts has been so improved by the practice I have received under his scrupulous direction that he has had little fault to find with them.


Nothing would please me more than to express specifically my indebtedness to many others who have assisted me in the preparation of my work. But, aside from calling attention to the fact that the managements of the two hospitals so fully discussed have exhibited rare magnanimity (even going-so far as to write letters which have helped me in my work), and, further, acknowledging anonymously (the list is too long for explicit mention) the invaluable advice given me by scientists who have made my work authoritative, I must be content to indite an all-embracing acknowledgment. Therefore, and with distinct pleasure, I hereby emphasize the fact that the active encouragement of casual but trusted acquaintances, the inspiring indifference of unconvinced intimates, and the kindly scepticism of indulgent relatives, who, perforce, could do naught but obey an immutable law of blood-related minds, -- all these influences conspired to render more sure the accomplishment of my heart's desire.


And now the reader nears the end of my life-story. But, before closing this intimate part of my plea for justice long-delayed, I feel that it is my privilege, as it is my duty, to impress upon the reader that he has, unconsciously perhaps, assumed part of the burden which in the very telling of my story I have shifted to the shoulders of the many. If the reader does not now feel that he would like to do something to help those unfortunates for whom I speak, then either I have failed to present my story convincingly, or the reader's love of fair play and his moral nature are of a false kind.






ONE in telling such a story as mine owes it to the public to offer a feasible remedy for the evils disclosed. Especially is he under obligation to the relatives and friends of the insane, for a description of heart-rending conditions, offered without hope of correction, cannot but be painful to those most vitally interested in the problem. My obligation in mind, I have spared no effort to make this book authoritative. Alienists, psychologists, neurologists, pathologists, hospital officials, practical sociologists and organizers have been consulted. Indeed, as many as fifty persons, representing the more important activities of life, have read my work -- in part or entirety -- while it was in manuscript or the form of printed proof; and a goodly number of this small army of critics and advisers have found such delight in using the blue pencil of correction that I may now present my book and project with a sense of security which can come only to one whose work has been tried by fire -- in private. To these unnamed critics my debt (and the reader's, I believe) is very great.

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