This is the preface to the 1914 novel THE KING OF ALSANDER by James Elroy Flecker.

The preface shows such sardonic yet gay good sense that one is tempted to make it the preface of every romance.

In Flecker, I sense a kindred spirit to my own, including a penchant for certain turns of phrase. Read on, O reader:


Here is a tale all romance—a tale such as only a Poet can write for you, O appreciative and generous Public—a tale of madmen, kings, scholars, grocers, consuls, and Jews: a tale with two heroines, both of an extreme and indescribable beauty: a tale of the South and of sunshine, wherein will be found disguises, mysteries, conspiracies, fights, at least one good whipping, and plenty of blood and love and absurdity: a very old sort of tale: a tale as joyously improbable as life itself.

But if I know you aright, appreciative and generous Public, you look for more than this in these tragic days of social unrest, and you will be most dissatisfied with my efforts to please you. For you a king is a shadow, a madman a person to be shut up, a scholar a fool, a grocer a tradesman, a consul an inferior grade of diplomatic officer, and a Jew a Jew. You will demand to know what panacea is preached in this novel as a sovran remedy for the dismal state of affairs in England. With what hope do I delude the groaning poor: with what sarcasm insult the insulting rich? What is the meaning of my apparent joyousness? What has grim iron-banging England to do with sunshine, dancing, adventure and, above all, with Poets?

In support of my reputation let me hasten to observe that in my efforts to please a generous and appreciative Public I have not failed to insert several passages of a high moral tone. Grave matters of ethics are frequently discussed in the course of my story, and the earnest inquirer may learn much from this book concerning the aim, purpose and origin of his existence. To Government and its problems I have given particular attention, and the observant reader may draw from these subtle pages a complete theory of the Fallacy of the Picturesque. Only I implore the public to forgive the Poet his proverbial licence, to remember that truth is still truth, though clad in harlequin raiment, and thought still thought, though hinted and not explained.


James Elroy Flecker is known to antiquarians of science fiction mostly for his 1908 satire ‘The Last Generation‘ which predicts men to be replaced by apes once reproduction is outlawed. He also won modest fame for his poem ‘The Golden Journey to Samarkand.’