A Story of His Life By a Man Who Has Never Gotten Anywhere: Robert Lincoln Watkins, M.D., 1863-1934. Preface, Forward, and Notes from the Editor.


This is the story of a man who has never reached his goal. Today many stories are written about men in high positions, but when we examine closely under the highly seasoned stories, we find that though they are “on top” they have done nothing of any great merit. Now here is a man who begins his story by telling you that he is practically unknown. But he realizes that he has done much good in his lifetime; that under different conditions his work would have been highly acclaimed; and that therefore he is by no means a failure.

No man should think or say his life is a failure; and, when all is considered, no man does think so, not deep down inside. We are all put here to go through with a certain pre-arranged plan, and philosophers tell us that before we are born we know what our life is to be; but as soon as the plunge from the spiritual life into the life on earth is made, we forget our real mission. Life’s duty is then to make the best of it, work out the future with what we have; and perhaps if we are faithful to the best that is in our understanding, and labor sincerely at the task that our hands find to do, it may be given to us to sense that mission that was arranged for us in our pre-natal state, and to come into our real heritage on earth.

This story merely relates the workings of a life striving to reach its goal, and if the reader senses a kindred spirit as he follows these reminiscences, the telling of them will have been justified. The first person singular is used as in no other way could the facts be put on paper in a true and interesting shape.


This book was written some time ago; in fact, one day when the idea occurred to this writer, he got busy and rattled off on the typewriter in 10 days, right out of his head, the first manuscript. It was submitted to one or two literary people (under pay), and read to several friends in part. The friends said, “It’s a go, and anyone who will read the first lines will read it through.” The literary compilers said this and that: “Who wants to read this, I wonder?”, or “Make a medical book out of it,” another said. Another expert, “It’s a funny compilation,” and began changing it here and there till to me it was pretty flat reading. So, disgusted with the whole thing, I laid it away. One day I went to Mr. Boni at the suggestion of Dr. Robert T. Morris, who had just published a story book so I thought he ought to know. Mr. Boni said “Send it to me just as you wrote it and as you think it ought to be. Be interested in your work and it will go.” So here it is, a conglomeration of facts and experiences in the life of a man of whom a friend once said, “you go through more funny experiences than any man I ever knew (and he was an old man of varied experience–Dr. Westerfield) and bob up with your shirt on.”

Notes from the Editor, Agnes Watkins, his niece, in 1972.

It is almost certain that Mr. Boni never saw the manuscript, at least not in the form in which it was turned over to me by my cousin, Helen Watkins Bent, who found it in her father’s barn after his death, along with other odds and ends of R.L.W.’s belongings. Unfortunately no dates were given anywhere, and what was found was certainly not written all at once as the forward states, but in bits and pieces, especially the miscellaneous items which I have put at the end which seem to be afterthoughts, and obviously in no chronological order.

I have taken great liberties in selecting the material included in this collection, especially in the omission of the strictly medical material which I did not understand. Actually I included what interested me most, and what contributed to the picture of Uncle Robert as I remember him. When my sisters and I were little he used to bring us fabulous dolls from New York when he came to see us. He never stayed long, but he kept turning up occasionally all the years that I was at home, and as an adult I not only liked him, but felt sorry for him, and thought of him as a “sad little man,” for he was indeed smaller in stature than any of the rest of us. This too undoubtedly influenced my selection of material. A.W.

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