‘It was suggested to me in September 1938 – a time of crisis in international affairs – that I should write a testament of my beliefs. In the hope that it would steady and clear my own mind, I endeavoured to do so’ (Mansbridge, 1940, xi).
As we can see in the beginning of his preface, Mansbridge explains how he wrote his memoir to act as a testament of his beliefs and to put his mind at ease as the world was about to plummet into another world war (the memoir was written before the outbreak of war). As Mansbridge is encouraged by his friends to write a testament of his beliefs, I believe that his memoir has two key functions: catharsis and autobiography. The memoir was written to archive his young life (from his own perspective) whilst purging any bottled emotions, fears and stresses which plagued him.
Starting with the function of catharsis, it would appear as though Albert is reviewing and possibly reconsidering his beliefs in his later years: ‘it is thus in his late years that a man may rightly consider his beliefs in the light of his experience’ (Mansbridge, 1940, 215). What interests me most is the use of the word “rightly” as we can see that Mansbridge is trying to justify (whether to himself or to his audience) his re-evaluation of the way in which he sees the world. This can be interpreted as an explanation of his fear for/of the human race as they approach a second World War despite witnessing the horrors of the first. In light of his “experiences” Mansbridge may be debating the purity of humanity as, after enduring the First World War (though he did not participate in active combat he still witnessed the death and devastation just like everyone else) he may find that he is losing faith. Whether this loss of faith is in himself, humanity, or religion it remains unclear; however, Albert is clearly trying to rid himself of these fears by discussing them in his memoir.
With regards to the function of autobiography we see very clearly that the inclusion of Albert’s young life and of the people who inspired him were to act as a buffer for the section on his beliefs. As he explains in his preface, it was only suggested to him that he write a “testament of his beliefs”. This means that the inclusion of a brief autobiography was decided upon by Mansbridge himself at a different time. The inclusion of the autobiography serves two purposes: it acts as a justification for his beliefs (should anyone challenge them) whilst offering context and insight into the world of Albert Mansbridge. Should anyone wonder why he believes that ‘Education is inevitable’ then they need only to look at his chapter ‘The First Ten Years’ to understand that he was largely self-educated and they immediately understand why education had such an impact on his life (Mansbridge, 1940, 230).
Mansbridge wrote his memoir in order to convey his own perception and contemplation of a number of key issues which he was faced with in his later years. The memoir serves to provide an insight into his life, justifying himself, and to then explain what these experiences have led to. All of this is done in an attempt to settle his mind as he finds himself turmoil as the world faces the beginning of the most savage era of human history.
Mansbridge, Albert. The Trodden Road, London: Temple, 1940
Mansbridge, John. ‘Albert Mansbridge’, English Educator. Web, accessed 19/10/2015. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Albert-Mansbridge