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An advertisement appearing in the current magazines offers to cure Mr. Babbitt, the type of all that is not Mencken, by selling him the American Mercury. It is a good advertisement in that it appeals to those who have learned to laugh at this particular phenomenon every time that it is seen. And it is as honest an advertisement as most
Yet, after all, this is but one more deviation from that norm which some would like to maintain under the name of truth. The American Mercury will never cure Mr. Babbitt nor will Mr. Babbitt cure the American Mercury of incipient megalomania. Both are facets of the uncut diamond which is American life: both are, in their particular fashion, delightful or disgusting as the critic may believe at the time.
For the American Mercury does not represent the finest side of American life any more than Mr. Babbitt represents the worst but both show that much improvement is necessary before this country can in any large numbers produce a thinking being with a sense of humor. Mr. Babbitt cannot laugh at himself. The Mercury is no better. And whereas one is content to exist on the profits from tires and real estate, the other lives in that brand of human fish which bites any bait with a pseudo-intellectual flavor.
There are a great many delightful Babbitts who are working toward that poorer success which eventuates in a finer sense of values in the next generation. If the Kiwanis and the Mystic Shrine have a certain cheapness, the Mercury has cheapness of another kind. The difference is one of kind not of quality or quantity. So he who smiles at the advertisement which uses Mr. Babbitt as its motif must remember that really that gentleman is not much nearer cultural damnation than the readers of the jade journal of the eccentric reputation.
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