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Taken Alive

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An Autobiography

Two or three years ago the editor of "Lippincott's Magazine" asked me, with many others, to take part in the very interesting "experience meeting" begun in the pages of that enterprising periodical. I gave my consent without much thought of the effort involved, but as time passed, felt slight inclination to comply with the request. There seemed little to say of interest to the general public, and I was distinctly conscious of a certain sense of awkwardness in writing about myself at all. The question, Why should I? always confronted me.

When this request was again repeated early in the current year, I resolved at least to keep my promise. This is done with less reluctance now, for the reason that floating through the press I meet with paragraphs concerning myself that are incorrect, and often absurdly untrue. These literary and personal notes, together with many questioning letters, indicate a certain amount of public interest, and I have concluded that it may be well to give the facts to those who care to know them.

It has been made more clear to me that there are many who honestly do care. One of the most prized rewards of my literary work is the ever-present consciousness that my writings have drawn around me a circle of unknown yet stanch friends, who have stood by me unfalteringly for a number of years. I should indeed be lacking if my heart did not go out to them in responsive friendliness and goodwill. If I looked upon them merely as an aggregation of customers, they would find me out speedily. A popular mood is a very different thing from an abiding popular interest. If one could address this circle of friends only, the embarrassment attendant on a certain amount of egotism would be banished by the assurance of sympathetic regard. Since, from the nature of circumstances, this is impossible, it seems to me in better taste to consider the "author called Roe" in an objective, rather than in a friendly and subjective sense. In other words, I shall try to look at him from the public point of view, and free myself from some predisposition in his favor shared by his friends. I suppose I shall not succeed in giving a colorless statement of fact, but I may avoid much special pleading in his behalf.

Like so many other people, I came from a very old family, one from which there is good proof of an unbroken line through the Dark Ages, and all ages, to the first man. I have never given any time to tracing ancestry, but have a sort of quiet satisfaction that mine is certainly American as far as it well can be. My forefathers (not "rude," to my knowledge) were among the first settlers on the Atlantic seaboard. My paternal and maternal grandfathers were stanch Whigs during the Revolution, and had the courage of their convictions. My grandmother escaped with her children from the village of Kingston almost as the British entered it, and her home was soon in ashes. Her husband, James Roe, was away in the army. My mother died some years before I attained my majority, and I cannot remember when she was not an invalid....