In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel

By Orville Prescott | Go to book overview

XI
SATIRISTS:

Waugh Marquand

"Difficile est satiram non scribere."--Juvenal

Although there are no reliable statistics about the prevalence of satire in fiction, it should be plain to even the most casual reader that satire has never been the favorite medium of many distinguished novelists. But of those who have found satire congenial to their temperaments a number have been distinguished indeed. We have only to recall that Cervantes, Rabelais, Swift, Voltaire, Peacock, Meredith and Mark Twain all wrote satirical novels to feel properly respectful about so important a variety of literary expression.

The only definitions of satire I have been able to come by seem to me grossly inadequate insofar as they pertain to fiction. So I have been obliged to define it myself. Satire, then, is the expression of moral or social criticism by means of fantasy, exaggeration or humor. It always implies the existence of superior standards of conduct or higher levels of intelligence than those of the persons satirized. Satire springs from conviction. If it gives vent only to personal pique or private fury through sarcasm, burlesque or abuse it is not true satire.

Today fictional satire is generally directed at social classes or

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