THE first part of Lord Bath's autobiography goes on sale this week, providing the closest insight ever into one of west Wiltshire's most remarkable characters.

Famous for his many mistresses, his eccentric murals and his stately home at Longleat, the book could prove the 7th Marquis of Bath has more in common with the rest of us than we ever thought.

The book is called Strictly Private To Public Exposure, and covers Lord Bath's early years, from his birth in 1932 to his education at Ludgrove School.

It is the first book in a series that will be at least six volumes long.

In the book he has bared all his most private thoughts and deepest feelings from journals he has kept throughout his life.

He said: "I've been keeping a strictly private journal. When I began writing it, it was with the idea that this is strictly private, but also working to the idea that sometime, this is going to come out, so it's written in the spirit of being private, but eventually for public exposure.

"It gives pointers, I suppose, from where you can trace the final product, that being me."

The eccentric life of Lord Bath has often been talked about, yet it is hard to read the book and match the main character with the man sporting voluminous velvet trousers, long hair and bushy beard that is so familiar at Longleat.

The book tells of his early years' which were in many ways just like anyone else's filled with the anxieties of trying to understand the world around you and find your place in it, just like any child.

Lord Bath says he could not have been as honest with the book 20 years ago.

"The intention is to put myself down in total candour, and not to be inhibited by the idea of anything that's going to be read. We have reached the century when people are being more and more open, and it is refreshing to be able to lay yourself open and say 'this is me'."

He is still writing now, and says it is too therapeutic to let go:

"It's a bit like when someone who goes to a confessional," he said.

"I am not a Catholic and I have never been to a priest to unburden myself but it is the same feeling, that once I have stated it in my journal, I can go on to living other bits of my life.

"It is good to know that there is a record, and to know that no matter what the press might say, I know somewhere there is something that says what really happened."

His autobiography is sure to be a big seller, since many are keen to know the real truth behind the rumours and intrigue that surround the man and the legacy of Longleat.