By: Charles Babbage (1791-1871)
Some men write their lives to save themselves from ennui, careless of the amount they inflict on their readers.
Others write their personal history, lest some kind friend should survive them, and, in showing off his own talent, unwittingly show them up.
Others, again, write their own life from a different motive—from fear that the vampires of literature might make it their prey.
I have frequently had applications to write my life, both from my countrymen and from foreigners. Some caterers for the public offered to pay me for it. Others required that I should pay them for its insertion; others offered to insert it without charge. One proposed to give me a quarter of a column gratis, and as many additional lines of eloge as I chose to write and pay for at ten-pence per line. To many of these I sent a list of my works, with the remark that they formed the best life of an author; but nobody cared to insert them.
I have no desire to write my own biography, as long as I have strength and means to do better work.
The remarkable circumstances attending those Calculating Machines, on which I have spent so large a portion of my life, make me wish to place on record some account of their past history. As, however, such a work would be utterly uninteresting to the greater part of my countrymen, I thought it might be rendered less unpalatable by relating some of my experience amongst various classes of society, widely differing from each other, in which I have occasionally mixed.
This volume does not aspire to the name of an autobiography. It relates a variety of isolated circumstances in which I have taken part—some of them arranged in the order of time, and others grouped together in separate chapters, from similarity of subject.
The selection has been made in some cases from the importance of the matter. In others, from the celebrity of the persons concerned ; whilst several of them furnish interesting illustrations of human character. - Summary by From the Preface