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[192]

XXXVIII. A plea for the uncommonplace.

In that mine of symbolic wisdom, “Alice in the looking-glass,” Humpty Dumpty claims that he received a certain gift as an “unbirthday present.” When Alice asks an explanation of the phrase, he points out that an unbirthday present is given to you on the days when it is not your birthday; and that this is far better than a birthday present, because you have but one birthday in a year, and you can get a great many more presents by celebrating the other three hundred and sixty-four days. In that “carnival of commonplaceness” which is afforded, as some critics maintain, by the current school of novels, it is necessary to have such a word as “uncommonplace” to express something different.

There is much that is thoroughly admirable in the present tendency, led by one or two men of positive genius, to elevate the commonplace into absorbing interest — to show the struggles, the emotions, the complications, not only of the daily life around us, but of the average and mediocre examples

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