Monday, November 23, 2015

Fragment: Kenneth Dover "On Autobiogaphy"

Fragments from Kenneth Dover "On Autobiography", the first chapter of:  Dover, Kenneth James. Marginal Comment: A Memoir. London: Duckworth, 1994.

My father had a safe, pensionable job in the lower middle-reaches of the Civil Service. I began my professional career at 28, after five years as a student and five as a soldier, with savings of £500 and a legacy of £1,400 from my grandmother, at a salary of £700 a year, in a job which I knew I could not lose except through some gross delinquency or deficiency on my part.
page 1.
Early in 1994 Stephen Milligan, a Member of Parliament universally (and justly) liked and admired for his moral character, died accidentally while enacting  an elaborate and perilous masturbatory fantasy. Since I found his fantasy grotesques and entirely without appeal, I wondered how many other people found it so, and this led to a question of the greatest importance: among all the people I have ever known, how many are there of whom I can say that I know what fantasies they entertain (and perhaps enact)? The answer was quick and firm: there are none.
page 2, f.n. 1.
Some of the data which I have selected as important determinants of my life will seem to the reader ridiculous, embarrassing, contemptible or disgusting. Some readers, indeed, may decide that I am a lunatic. If so, they may still find something of historical and sociological interest in the process by which a lunatic was so often invested (by election) with honours and responsibilities.
page 3.
Isn't it nice to know that there are people who permit me - my God, they give me the right! - to compose whatever kind of book I wish?
page 4.

1 comment:

  1. A big theme of his memoir is that mundane incidents can lead to big consequences - he is at pains to point out that there often is no Grand Narrative of the Scholarly Life.