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By Paul Elmer More
“There is nothing that provokes and sharpens wit
like malice.” - SAMUEL BUTLER, Wit and Folly.
THE essays in this volume were written some time ago, during the years when I was editor of the Nation, and were all published in that journal, with the exception of the one on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. They were occasional in their origin, suggested by the publication of various books, and composed with no design of forming a connected series. The title, therefore, under which they are now gathered together should not mislead the reader into looking for what in the nature of the case he cannot find. There has been no plan to write a history of “wit,” no attempt to treat the subject with philosophic unity or erudite completeness. The essays do indeed for the most part deal with the "wits,” technically so called, who clustered about the court of Queen Anne and went into opposition on the coming of George the First, and so far the title of the book may be justified; but some of the greater stars of the galaxy are missing, and others are included who had their rising at an earlier or a later date. Of certain of the names I fear the critical reader may even be tempted to exclaim: Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère ? My galley, in fact, is only an excursion boat on the waters of jour