I can't say for certain the first time I heard the phrase "dear reader" (or "gentle reader," or the like) but I have a hunch it was in my Victorian novel class, when we read Jane Eyre. To this day, it's one of my favorite novels.
Jane was constantly referring to her reader with affection. And I liked it. I liked how she made me feel relevant to her life - heck, I suppose I've always liked metafiction for that reason.
But lately I've noticed the appearance of "dear reader" in other places. For example, an article featured on one of my favorite websites, TheRumpus.net. Also - and this might be a little more surprising - in the January issue of Glamour that I picked up from the newsstand the other day. Furthermore, I have to admit that even I, as a magazine editor, use the phrase when I'm addressing my readers, either in my editor's note or even on social media posts.
What is it that makes me - or any writer - want to refer to my own readers with the same affection so brilliantly displayed by Jane Eyre? After all, I'm not beckoning to my readers from within the pages of a classic novel, or even a website brimming with "highbrow" literary stuff like the Rumpus. I'm just a small potatoes editor of a community magazine.
But perhaps it's the dialogue between the reader and the author that makes something worthwhile. If an author knows that she is being read, she's bound to love her reader.
Dear readers, what do you think?