It may be true, as Quetelet declared, that the study of the individual does not conduce to a comprehensive appreciation of psychological laws. It is arguable that individual man must be regarded only as a member of a species, and any personal idiosyncracies must be ruled out if general results are to be obtained. But every aspect of the human creature has its special interest; and in so far as autobiography mirrors the self it has a peculiar fascination and value. Of all forms of literature it is, if we except poetry, the most difficult. The mind and the emotions are at once the vehicle and the subject of the expression, and both are complex and variable. It is the one art in which detachment is essential and yet so near to impossibility. Past and present events become bound up with emotions; the emotions themselves may be artificially acquired; and the man who gazes into himself is likely to see nothing more fundamental than shifting and fracturing reflections. “I am a stranger in my own region”: every autobiographer, every person who has sought to understand his own personality by introspective methods, knows the truth of Thompson's words.
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