The Story of My Life
By Arnold Goodliffe
For many years, family historians have been sharing copies of a typescript manuscript that they had "found" in the Nottingham and Leicestershire Records Offices. It was entitled "The Story of My Life", written by Arnold Goodliffe (1807-1888). How the manuscript became lodged in the Records Office remained a mystery to many. Readers soon realised that they had a typescript copy and that the original work would have been handwritten. But where was it? Who had it?
This page tells that story and provides a copy of each of the FOUR versions of Arnold's story. The four versions are listed here by date of discovery, which happens to be the exact oppposite to their date of writing!
First, the Transcribed Typescript
A copy of the typed manuscript was given, by chance, to Elizabeth Higgins of Market Harborough who was the far-sighted person who deposited a copy at the Leicester Records Office, Wigston. Elizabeth is a descendent of another Arnold Goodliffe, who was the son of our Arnold's brother (the name Arnold being taken from a maternal ancestor).
For many years the typescript was all we had, and many people have been fascinated by the wealth of information it contains. From commentary that the transcriber added to the text it is clear the typed copy was made in 1898, 10 yeara after Arnold died. We do not know who undertook the typing. The whereabouts of the original, in Arnold's handwriting remained unknown.
Second: The Handwritten COPY found in 2006
In late 2006 a hand-written script was located by Elizabeth (read her version of the treasure-hunt here), and it too has been deposited in the Leicester Records Office. A scanned copy of this version is available on this website. We can see that there are differences between the two versions. The typescript has some detail missing, words have been transposed, Mrs has become Mr etc.
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Third: The Original Book in Arnold's handwriting copied in 2016
But the handwritten version found in 2006 is NOT the original. It is not in Arnold's handwriting.
I for one always thought that the 2006 handwritten version was too perfect. It is almost flawless, no mistakes, changes or editing. Arnold was meticulous but surely he would have made notes or written a draft version before being satisfied enough to copy it out neatly? If the 2006 version is a fair copy, where is the original draft? The original version is accompanied by another notebook with this turns out to be the real DRAFT.
In 2016 I visited another Goodliffe relative in London. He has inherited a collection of Goodliffe material, including the original oil painting of Arnold's mother Ann, and Arnold's notebooks from his travels overseas. Amongst this collection is a soft leather-bound exercise book with ruled pages, just as Arnold had described, with the title "The Story of My Life 1807-18__ " in gold printed on the front.
This version has errors, cross-outs and alterations. It was written on the right-hand pages only but when Arnold reached the back page he continued on from the front again using the left-hand pages. By comparison, the 2006 handwritten version is error free. A close examination shows the 2006 version to be a near-perfect transcription of Arnold's story although there are some changes in punctuation and the occasional added word to improve the grammar. The 2006 copy also does not follow the page layout exactly, the writer having a slightly larger writing style
We do not know who made the fair copy. It was not Arnold as the handwriting is different, but still of a style typical of the time. It has some features characteristic of a mature female hand - it may have been made by Thomas' wife Annie (STAFFORD).
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Fourth: The Original DRAFT version in Arnold's handwriting copied in 2023
The handwritten version in Arnold's handwriting, copied in 2016, is accompanied by another notebook that has Arnold's draft version of his story. It covers the same story layout but stops after Arnold has written about each of his children. This draft does not cover any of his vacations or overseas trips with Thomas Cook. (Another notebook contains Arnold's extensive diary of his trip to Europe and Rome).
The draft version starts "5 Clarendon Rd. March 17 1886" It contains a lot more detail about some of Arnold's life and his commentary on events and other people than his finished version. Arnold obviously edited it down extensively when he wrote up his final version. I have not tried to undertake an exact comparison, but if you are interested in a person or event I suggest you read the draft version in case there is more detail.
The draft is written in a small black notebook that contains other writings, a draft letter dated 20 Jan 1885 to David Royce, Chairman, Royce, Gascoine and Co, Ltd., as well as quotes, epithets and sayings. It appears to me that after Arnold has written up this draft story his son Thomas then went out and "bought and brought" the black leather-covered notebook in which to write up the good version. Thomas also had the title "The Story of My Life 1807-18__" tooled in gold on the front.
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Last updated: 22 July 2023