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figure of some imaginable moral circle, and the hero of a true dramatic
unity.25

The revelation of human diversity in autobiography demonstrated the
“cause and consequence” of various actions, suggested parallels in the lives
of readers, and elicited their sympathy with the author. “It is no subject of
wonder, then,” McNicoll asserted, “that man should have a peculiar and ab-
sorbing interest in man, where his intellect and sympathies may expatiate
together.” He held narrative technique, sincerity, and commitment to truth
to be the touchstones of the successful autobiography. The autobiography
should consist of a “literal transcript of real life,” describe “outward cir-
cumstances, as well as inward growth,” manifest “a freshness in the details,
a simplicity in the characters, and a modest dignity in the author’s manner,”
be “characterized by an air of manly sincerity and sterling moral sense,”
and contain “evidence of a native taste for the good and the beautiful, im-
proved by diligent self-culture.”26

Convinced that the interesting and instructive autobiography bore little
relation to the fame or attainments of the autobiographer, McNicoll insist-
ed that “the detailed story would have at once the charm of fiction and the
persuasiveness of truth." He concluded: “Truth, however desultory, will
manifest a beauty of its own; however disconnected, its parts will finally
cohere." Continuation of the interest in autobiography

seems to demand only, what may be termed genuineness in the narra-
tive, and directness in the narrator. . . . In all these confessions, how-
ever, we look for a certain openness and freedom, and even a simplicity
of speech . . . insisting only that the writer reveal himself, with real can-
dour, or through some transparent artifice, and that all his cunning and
duplicity, though so great as to include self-deception, shall not deceive
us
. . . . All extra-literal matter, if not put in with artist-like, judicious
touches, tends to destroy vraisemblance, and cause endless contradic-
tions.27

Since publishing his Narrative in 1845, Douglass had learned a great
deal about the formal characteristics of autobiographical writings. In his
newspapers Douglass regularly reviewed such literary magazines as the

25. Ibid., 4.

26. Ibid., 3, 8, 10-11. See also Atlantic Monthly, 3: 650-51 (May 1859), 4: 770-73 (December
1859).

27. McNicoll, Essays, 5, 8-10. See also Atlantic Monthly, 4: 770-73 (December 1859).

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