WHAT has become of the Gentle Reader? One does not like to think that he has passed away with the stagecoach and the weekly news-letter; and that henceforth we are to be confronted only by the stony glare of the Intelligent Reading Public. Once upon a time, that is to say a generation or two ago, he was very highly esteemed. To him books were dedicated, with long rambling prefaces and with episodes which were their own excuse for being.
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mm f N " The Last Tournament " we are told how " Dagonet, the fool, whom Gawain in his moods Had made mock-knight of Arthur's Table Round, At Camelot, high above the yellowing woods, Danced like a withered leaf before the hall." That is the view which many worthy people take of the humorist. He is Sir Dagonet. Among the serious persons who are doing the useful work of the world, discovering its laws, classifying its facts, forecasting its future, this light-minded, light-hearted creature comes with his untimely jests. In their idle moments they tolerate the mock-knight, but when important business is on hand they dismiss him, as did Sir Tristram, with " Why skip ye so, Sir Fool ? " This half-contemptuous view is very painful tothe Gentle Eeader who, though he may seem to some to take his poetry too lightly, is disposed to take his humor rather seriously. Humor seems to tim to belong to the higher part of our nature. It is not the enjoyment of a grotesque image in a convex mirror, but, rather, the recognition of fleeting forms of truth. " I have brought you a funny book, Gentle Header," says the Professional Humorist. " Thank you," he answers, struggling against his melancholy forebodings. " You will pardon me if I seem to take my pleasures sadly." It is hard for him to force a smile as he watches the procession of jokes, each as broad as it is long. This ostentatious jocosity is not to his liking. " Thackeray," he says, " defines humor as a mixture of love and wit. Humor, therefore, being of the nature of love, should not behave itself unseemly." He cannot bear to see it obtruding itself upon the public. Its proper habit is to hide from observation " as if the wren taught itconcealment." When a Happy Thought ventures abroad it should be as a royal p...