My Secret Life, Volumes I. to III. – Anonymous
My Secret Life, Volumes I. to III. – My Secret Life, by “Walter”, is the memoir of a gentleman describing the author’s sexual development and experiences in Victorian England. It was first published in a private edition of eleven volumes, including an index, which appeared over seven years beginning around 1888. The work itself is enormous, amounting to over one million words, the eleven original volumes amounting to over 4,000 pages. The text is repetitive and highly disorganised, but its frank discussion of sexual matters and other hidden aspects of Victorian life make it a rare and valuable social document. According to Steven Marcus, it is virtually the only source for information on London’s houses of prostitution, in which Walter spent many hours. It has been described as “one of the strangest and most obsessive books ever written”.
“In 18 my oldest friend died. We had been at school and college together, and our intimacy had never been broken. I was trustee for his wife and executor at his death. He died of a lingering illness, during which his hopes of living were alternately raised, and depressed. Two years before he died, he gave me a huge parcel carefully tied up and sealed. Take care of, but don’t open this he said: if I get better, return it to me, if I die, let no mortal eye but yours see it, and burn it.
His widow died a year after him. I had well nigh forgoten this packet which I had had full three years, when looking for some title deeds I came cross it, and opened it, as it was my duty to do. Its contents astonished me. The more I read it, the more marvellous it seemed. I pondered long on the meaning of his instructions when he gave it to me, and kept the manuscript some years, hesitating what to do with it.
At length I came to the conclusion knowing his idiosyncracy well, that his fear was only lest any one should know who the writer was; and feeling that it would be sinful to destroy such a history, I copied the manuscript and destroyed the original. He died relationless.
No one now can trace the author, no names are mentioned in the book, though they were given freely in the margin of his manuscript, and I alone know to whom the initials refer. If I have done harm in printing it, I have done none to him, have indeed only carried out his evident intention, and given to a few a secret history, which bears the impress of truth on every page, a contribution to psychology.”
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