But what has this to do with my early years in London? In a way, nothing at all; but as life is full of parentheses, so, if true to its original, must autobiography be also. — Laurence Housman

Strong testimony to the pitfalls and paradoxes of self-knowledge comes from the fact that two of the words we use to refer to what is most individual about us — our “personality” and “character” — originally refer to what is by definition least individual. The value of a character, in its primary sense of an inscribed mark or, later, a bit of metal type, is that it is a replica, and immediately identifiable as such. Similarly, the function of the persona — the mask worn by actors in the theatre of the ancient world — was to obscure the individuality of the actor in favour of the universality of the character presented. Even in ordinary usage, a “persona” is something that one constructs and projects, while a character is something we “show”. — Guy Dammann, Times Literary Supplement (29 October 2010): 17

Matters of genre and style

Image, symbol, and motif

Victorian autobiographies

Autobiographical fiction

Victorian fiction and nonfiction with autobiographical elements

Particularly influential pre-Victorian autobiographies


Related Material


Last modified 10 February 2014