“A wild, elusive, ever-changing, fantastical, and irresponsible jester”

I have occasionally in my life made jokes, and I have also occasionally been serious. And this, I had always understood, was the not unusual practice of my fellow-creatures. But I have discovered that this explanation is not considered sufficient in my case; I am always supposed to be engaged with some tortuous or topsy-turvy intention. When I state a dull truth about anything, it is said to be a showy paradox; when I lighten or brighten it with any common jest, it is supposed to be my solid and absurd opinion. If I ask a rational question of an opponent, it is considered a wild frivolity. But if I make an ordinary idle pun, it is gravely explained to me that my analogy is rather a verbal parallelism than a philosophic example of the operations of the common law.

Thus I was in controversy lately with some writers on a certain journal who maintain that such a doctrine as that of miracles (let us say) is not a truth, but the symbol of a truth. I merely asked them, “What is the truth of which it is a symbol?” You would think that a courteous, relevant, and reasonable question. The answer of the journal was to cast up its eyes and clasp its hands, and ask distractedly how it could be expected to argue with such a wild, elusive, ever-changing, fantastical, and irresponsible jester as myself. On the other hand, I casually summed up the distinction between the supernatural and the unreasonable by the phrase that one might believe that a Beanstalk grew up to the sky without having doubts about how many beans make five. For this a writer, intelligible and presumably human, actually rebuked me, gravely asking me whether I believed in the Beanstalk!

When I make common jokes they are regarded as highly uncommon opinions. When I state solid opinions, they are regarded as giddy jokes. But no matter. A time will come.

The Illustrated London News, 21 May 1910.

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 5:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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