"One or two friends to whom I showed these papers in MS. having observed that they were not half bad, and some of my relations having promised to buy the book if it ever came out, I feel I have no right to longer delay its issue. But for this, as one may say, public demand, I perhaps should not have ventured to offer these mere "idle thoughts" of mine as mental food for the English-speaking peoples of the earth. What readers ask nowadays in a book is that it should improve, instruct, and elevate. This book wouldn't elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recommend it for any useful purposes whatever. All I can suggest is that when you get tired of reading "the best hundred books," you may take this up for half an hour. It will be a change."
This is the Preface to The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome, and it is a testament to the wit, modesty, and immense talent of its author.
If ever there was a writer who understood the measured use of irony that writer is Jerome. His talent lies in his ability to say one thing, when clearly meaning something completely different and, in some cases, opposite.
This preface, following as it does the book dedication made by the author to his pipe, sets the tone for the whole book:
"This book wouldn't elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recommend it for any useful purposes whatever."
Every now and again, it is refreshing to read such effortless writing by a talented author so devoid of self-importance.