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Ifftttiitttf Edition

THE WRITINGS OF
MARK TWAIN

VOLUME XXII



LITERARY ESSAYS



BY

MARK TWAIN




NEW YORK

GABRIEL WELLS

MCMXXIII



LITERARY ESSAYS

Copyright, 1897, 1898, 1899. by HARPER & BROTHERS

Copyright, 1892, by C. L. WEBSTER & Co.

Copyright, 1898, by THE CENTURY Co.

Copyright, 1898, by THE COSMOPOLITAN

Copyright, 1899, by SAMUEL E. MOFFETT

Copyright, 1918, by THE MARK TWAIN COMPANY

Printed in the United States of America





MA NJ V

CONTENTS



PAGE

INTRODUCTION BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE ix

IN DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY i

FENIMORE COOPER S LITERARY OFFENSES 60

TRAVELING WITH A REFORMER 78

PRIVATE HISTORY OF THE "JUMPING FROG" STORY . . . 100

MENTAL TELEGRAPHY in

MENTAL TELEGRAPHY AGAIN 138

WHAT PAUL BOURGET THINKS OF Us 148

A LITTLE NOTE TO M. PAUL BOURGET 171

THE INVALID S STORY 187

STIRRING TIMES IN AUSTRIA 197

THE GERMAN CHICAGO 244

CONCERNING THE JEWS 263

ABOUT ALL KINDS OF SHIPS 288

FROM THE "LONDON TIMES" OF 1904 313

A MAJESTIC LITERARY FOSSIL 329

AT THE APPETITE CURE 346

SAINT JOAN OF ARC 363

IN MEMORIAM 384

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 387



Acknowledgment is hereby made to Harper & Brothers, The
Century Company, The Cosmopolitan, and S. S. McClure & Co.,
for courtesy shown in allowing the reprint in this volume of a
number of their articles.



vi



ILLUSTRATIONS

A LITHE, YOUNG, SLENDER FIGURE Frontispiece

"THAT GENTLEMAN YONDER is EATING A BROILED

CHICKEN" Facing p. 96

THESE GAVE IT A BETTER HOLD " 194

HE EATS A BUTTERFLY " 358

GUARDED BY ROUGH ENGLISH SOLDIERS " 370



INTRODUCTION

MARK TWAIN had the gift, sometimes an attri
bute of genius, of being able to exclude tem
porarily from his conscious thought all extraneous
matters of whatever nature. Time and again he was
able to dismiss even the most harassing and dis
turbing circumstances, and in that inner life of his,
which was so shut away from the daily round, to
accomplish work which we naturally associate with
leisure and quietude.

He was alternately in Europe and America during
the summer of 1893, traveling back and forth almost
constantly, and apparently never at rest in his
mind, beset by all kinds of business worries; yet in
the midst of all this he somehow was able to forget
his own troubles in order to go to the defense of
Harriet Shelley, a woman long dead and maligned,
and always misunderstood. He prepared a paper
in defense of Shelley s wife which is no less than a
brief as direct, compact, and cumulative as could
have been formulated by a trained legal mind,
with the added advantage of having been inspired
by indignation and righteous resentment. An ad
mirer of Shelley s work, he could not resist taking
up the defense of Shelley s abandoned wife. It had

been the fashion to refer to her slightingly, and to

Lx



INTRODUCTION

suggest that she was not without blame for Shel
ley s behavior. A biography by Professor Dowden
Clemens had found particularly irritating. He pro
ceeded to employ all the skill and gifts he could
command logic, humor, satire to confute those
chapters which had been intended to lay a blight on
Harriet Shelley s memory. It was characteristic of
Mark Twain to do just that thing. (He was never
too much occupied, never too overwhelmed with his
own affairs, to go to the rescue of the oppressed and
defenseless the injured human soul/ and in all his
work there is hardly a finer example of the various
literary gifts which made him, perhaps more than
any other writer of his time, the advocate and
defender of the weak. It is Mark Twain at his best
and noblest, Mark Twain full of righteous wrath.
No biography of the man can reveal him so ade
quately as he has revealed himself in this paper.
I^.is a mirror of his soul.

There are at least two other examples of Mark
Twain at his serious best in this volume: "Concern
ing the Jews" and "Stirring Times in Austria,"
both written in Vienna during those winters of
1897-98 when he had retired to the Austrian capital
until the payment of his heavy business debts should
make him feel that he could return to America a
free man. He wrote much during this period;
mainly serious, reflective writing, the product of
his ripened thought and abilities. It was soon
after his arrival in Vienna that the Austrian states
became involved in those difficulties which brought
an outbreak in the Reichsrath, and he had a chance



INTRODUCTION

to see history made before his eyes. He was intensely
interested. Nothing would appeal to him more than
that, unless it might be some great astronomic or
geologic change. He calls it a tremendous episode.
He says:

"I think that in my lifetime I have not twice seen
history made before my eyes, but I know that I
have seen it once."

It was indeed a time of excitement, not only on
the floor, but in the galleries. Once when the latter
were cleared, a report went out that Mark Twain
had waved his handkerchief, shouted, "Hoch der
Deutschen," and had been struck by an officer of the
law. Nothing of this happened. He was everywhere
recognized in Vienna and courteously, even rever
ently treated. When one of the galleries was cleared
he was directed to a place in another, where he could
see and hear. "Stirring Times in Austria" is Mark
Twain s report of what he saw, and it will keep the
record of those exciting days alive and important
as literature when otherwise it would have become
merely a passage of dimly remembered history^

The Jew article grew out of the Reichsrath paper.
Mark Twain always admired the Jewish race and
character, and its oppression naturally invited his
sympathy. A well-known Hebrew once asked him,
"How does it happen that in your humor you have
never ridiculed the Jews?" Mark Twain answered:
I don t know, but I think it is because I never found
anything to ridicule. They have always seemed to
me a remarkable people." Again, in a letter to his
friend, the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, he wrote:

a



INTRODUCTION

The difference between the brain of the average Christian
and that of the average Jew certainly in Europe is about the
difference between a tadpole s brain and an archbishop s. It is
a marvelous race; about the most marvelous race the world has
produced, I suppose.

Yet, in his article on the Jews he did not fail to
remember their faults, and to set them down in his
summary of the Hebrew character. It was a reply
to a letter written to him by a lawyer, and he replied
as a lawyer might compactly, categorically, con
clusively. He was pleased with the result. To his
friend, Henry H. Rogers, he wrote:

The Jew article is my "gem of the ocean." I have taken a
world of pleasure in writing it, and doctoring it, and fussing
at it. Neither Jew nor Christian will approve of it, but people
who are neither Jews nor Christians will, for they are in a con
dition to know the truth when they see it.

He was mistaken, however. The article good
reading from beginning to end would seem to have
given satisfaction to thoughtful readers of whatever
race- j

"Saint Joan of Arc," perhaps the finest example
of Mark Twain s purely literary essays, was written
in London in 1899, and has a little history of its own.
The official -records of the trial and rehabilitation of
Joan were to be elaborately issued by an English
firm, and Mark Twain had been invited to write an
introduction to the volume. He was naturally
pleased by the compliment inspired by it, if we
may judge from the result but it happened, sadly
enough, that a smug functionary of pedagogic gifts
was in charge of the copy, and when Mark Twain s

zii



LITERARY ESSAYS



LITERARY ESSAYS

IN DEFENSE OF HARRIET
SHELLEY



1HAVE committed sins, of course; but I have
not committed enough of them to entitle me to
the punishment of reduction to the bread and water
of ordinary literature during six years when I might
have been living on the fat diet spread for the
righteous in Professor Dowden s Life of Shelley, if
I had been justly dealt with.

During these six years I have been living a life of
peaceful ignorance. I was not aware that Shelley s
first wife was unfaithful to him, and that that was
why he deserted her and wiped the stain from his
sensitive honor by entering into soiled relations with
Godwin s young daughter. This was all new to me
when I heard it lately, and was told that the proofs
of it were in this book, and that this book s verdict
is accepted in the girls colleges of America and its
view taught in their literary classes.

In each of these six years multitudes of young
people in our country have arrived at the Shelley-
reading age. Are these six multitudes unacquainted



MARK TWAIN

with this life of Shelley ? Perhaps they are; indeed,
one may feel pretty sure that the great bulk of them
are. To these, then, I address myself, in the hope
that some account of this romantic historical fable
and the fabulist s manner of constructing and adorn
ing it may interest them.

First, as to its literary style. Our negroes in
America have several ways of entertaining them
selves which are not found among the whites any
where. Among these inventions of theirs is one
which is particularly popular with them. It is a
competition in elegant deportment. They hire a
hall and bank the spectators seats in rising tiers
along the two sides, leaving all the middle stretch of
the floor free. A cake is provided as a prize for
the winner in the competition, and a bench of ex
perts in deportment is appointed to award it. Some
times there are as many as fifty contestants, male
and female, and five hundred spectators. One at a
time the contestants enter, clothed regardless of ex
pense in what each considers the perfection of style
and taste, and walk down the vacant central space
and back again with that multitude of critical eyes
on them. All that the competitor knows of fine airs
and graces he throws into his carriage, all that he
knows of seductive expression he throws into his
countenance. He may use all the helps he can
devise: watch-chain to twirl with his fingers, cane
to do graceful things with, snowy handkerchief to
flourish and get artful effects out of, shiny new
stovepipe hat to assist in his courtly bows; and the
colored lady may have a fan to work up her effects



DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY

with, and smile over and blush behind, and she
may add other helps, according to her judgment.
When the review by individual detail is over, a grand
review of all the contestants in procession follows,
with all the airs and graces and all the bowings and
smirkings on exhibition at once, and this enables
the bench of experts to make the necessary compari
sons and arrive at a verdict. The successful com
petitor gets the prize which I have before mentioned,
and an abundance of applause and envy along with
it. The negroes have a name for this grave deport
ment tournament; a name taken from the prize
contended for. They call it a Cake- Walk.

The Shelley biography is a literary cake-walk.
The ordinary forms of speech are absent from it.
All the pages, all the paragraphs, walk by sedately,
elegantly, not to say mincingly, in their Sunday-
best, shiny and sleek, perfumed, and with bouton-
nidres in their buttonholes; it is rare to find even a
chance sentence that has forgotten to dress. If the
book wishes to tell us that Mary Godwin, child of
sixteen, had known afflictions, the fact saunters forth
in this nobby outfit: "Mary was herself not un
learned in the lore of pain" meaning by that that
she had not always traveled on asphalt; or, as
some authorities would frame it, that she had "been
there herself," a form which, while preferable to the
book s form, is still not to be recommended. If the
book wishes to tell us that Harriet Shelley hired a
wet-nurse, that commonplace fact gets turned into a
dancing-master, who does his professional bow be
fore us in pumps and knee-breeches, with his fiddle

3



MARK TWAIN

under one arm and his crush-hat under the other,
thus: "The beauty of Harriet s motherly relation
to her babe was marred in Shelley s eyes by the
introduction into his house of a hireling nurse to
whom was delegated the mother s tenderest office."

This is perhaps the strangest book that has seen
the light since Frankenstein. Indeed, it is a Frank
enstein itself; a Frankenstein with the original in
firmity supplemented by a new one; a Frankenstein
with the reasoning faculty wanting. Yet it believes
it can reason, and is always trying. It is not con
tent to leave a mountain of fact standing in the clear
sunshine, where the simplest reader can perceive its
form, its details, and its relation to the rest of the
landscape, but thinks it must help him examine it
and understand it; so its drifting mind settles upon
it with that intent, but always with one and the same
result: there is a change of temperature and the
mountain is hid in a fog. Every time it sets up a
premise and starts to reason from it, there is a sur
prise in store for the reader. It is strangely near
sighted, cross-eyed, and purblind. Sometimes when
a mastodon walks across the field of its vision it takes
it for a rat ; at other times it does not see it at all.

The materials of this biographical fable are facts,
rumors, and poetry. They are connected together
and harmonized by the help of suggestion, conjecture,
innuendo, perversion, and semi-suppression.

The fable has a distinct object in view, but this
object is not acknowledged in set words. Percy
Bysshe Shelley has done something which in the
case of other men is called a grave crime; it must

4



DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY

be shown that in his case it is not that, because he
does not think as other men do about these things.

Ought not that to be enough, if the fabulist is
serious ? Having proved that a crime is not a crime,
was it worth while to go on and fasten the respon
sibility of a crime which was not a crime upon some
body else? What is the use of hunting down and
holding to bitter account people who are responsible
for other people s innocent acts?

Still, the fabulist thinks it a good idea to do that.
In his view Shelley s first wife, Harriet, free of all
offense as far as we have historical facts for guidance,
must be held unforgivably responsible for her hus
band s innocent act in deserting her and taking up
with another woman.

Any one will suspect that this task has its difficul
ties. Any one will divine that nice work is necessary
here, cautious work, wily work, and that there is
entertainment to be had in watching the magician do
it. There is indeed entertainment in watching him.
He arranges his facts, his rumors, and his poems on
his table in full view of the house, and shows you
that everything is there no deception, everything
fair and aboveboard. And this is apparently true,
yet there is a defect, for some of his best stock is
hid in an appendix-basket behind the door, and you
do not come upon it until the exhibition is over and
the enchantment of your mind accomplished as
the magician thinks.

There is an insistent atmosphere of candor and
fairness about this book which is engaging at first,
then a little burdensome, then a trifle fatiguing, then

5



MARK TWAIN

progressively suspicious, annoying, irritating, and
oppressive. It takes one some little time to find out
that phrases which seem intended to guide the reader
aright are there to mislead him; that phrases which
seem intended to throw light are there to throw
darkness; that phrases which seem intended to
interpret a fact are there to misinterpret it; that
phrases which seem intended to forestall prejudice
are there to create it ; that phrases which seem anti
dotes are poisons in disguise. The naked facts ar
rayed in the book establish Shelley s guilt in that
one episode which disfigures his otherwise super
latively lofty and beautiful life; but the historian s
careful and methodical misinterpretation of them
transfers the responsibility to the wife s shoulders
as he persuades himself. The few meager facts of
Harriet Shelley s life, as furnished by the book,
acquit her of offense; but by calling in the for
bidden helps of rumor, gossip, conjecture, insinua
tion, and innuendo he destroys her character and
rehabilitates Shelley s as he believes. And in truth
his unheroic work has not been barren of the results
he aimed at; as witness the assertion made to me
that girls in the colleges of America are taught that
Harriet Shelley put a stain upon her husband s
honor, and that that was what stung him into re-
purifying himself by deserting her and his child and
entering into scandalous relations with a school-girl
acquaintance of his.

If that assertion is true, they probably use a re
duction of this work in those colleges, maybe only a
sketch outlined from it. Such a thing as that could

6



DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY

be harmful and misleading. They ought to cast it
out and put the whole book in its place. It would
not deceive. It would not deceive the janitor.

All of this book is interesting on account of the
sorcerer s methods and the attractiveness of some of
his characters and the repulsiveness of the rest, but
no part of it is so much so as are the chapters wherein
he tries to think he thinks he sets forth the causes
which led to Shelley s desertion of his wife in 1814.

Harriet Westbrook was a school-girl sixteen years
old. Shelley was teeming with advanced thought.
He believed that Christianity was a degrading and
selfish superstition, and he had a deep and sincere
desire to rescue one of his sisters from it. Harriet
was impressed by his various philosophies and looked
upon him as an intellectual wonder which indeed
he was. He had an idea that she could give him
valuable help in his scheme regarding his sister;
therefore he asked her to correspond with him. She
was quite willing. Shelley was not thinking of love,
for he was just getting over a passion for his cousin,
Harriet Grove, and just getting well steeped in one
for Miss Kitchener, a school-teacher. What might
happen to Harriet Westbrook before the letter-
writing was ended did not enter his mind. Yet an
older person could have made a good guess at it,
for in person Shelley was as beautiful as an angel,
he was frank, sweet, winning, unassuming, and so
rich in unselfishness, generosities, and magnanimities
that he made his whole generation seem poor in
these great qualities by comparison. Besides, he was
in distress. His college had expelled him for writing

7



MARK TWAIN

an atheistical pamphlet and afflicting the reverend
heads of the university with it, his rich father and
grandfather had closed their purses against him, his
friends were cold. Necessarily, Harriet fell in love
with him; and so deeply, indeed, that there was no
way for Shelley to save her from suicide but to
marry her. He believed himself to blame for this
state of things, so the marriage took place. He was
pretty fairly in love with Harriet, although he loved
Miss Kitchener better. He wrote and explained the
case to Miss Kitchener after the wedding, and he
could not have been franker or more naive and less
stirred up about the circumstance if the matter in
issue had been a commercial transaction involving
thirty-five dollars.

Shelley was nineteen. He was not a youth, but
a man. He had never had any youth. He was an
erratic and fantastic child during eighteen years,
then he stepped into manhood, as one steps over a
door- sill. He was curiously mature at nineteen in
his ability to do independent thinking on the deep
questions of life and to arrive at sharply definite
decisions regarding them, and stick to them stick
to them and stand by them at cost of bread, friend
ships, esteem, respect, and approbation.

For the sake of his opinions he was willing to
sacrifice all these valuable things, and did sacrifice
them; and went on doing it, too, when he could at
any moment have made himself rich and supplied him
self with friends and esteem by compromising with his
father, at the moderate expense of throwing overboard
one or two indifferent details of his cargo of principles.

8



DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY

He and Harriet eloped to Scotland and got mar
ried. They took lodgings in Edinburgh of a sort
answerable to their purse, which was about empty,
and there their life was a happy one and grew daily
more so. They had only themselves for company,
but they needed no additions to it. They were as
cozy and contented as birds in a nest. Harriet sang
evenings or read aloud ; also she studied and tried to
improve her mind, her husband instructing her in
Latin. She was very beautiful, she was modest,
quiet, genuine, and, according to her husband s
testimony, she had no fine-lady airs or aspirations
about her. In Matthew Arnold s judgment, she was
"a pleasing figure."

The pair remained five weeks in Edinburgh, and
then took lodgings in York, where Shelley s college-
mate, Hogg, lived. Shelley presently ran down to
London, and Hogg took this opportunity to make
love to the young wife. She repulsed him, and re
ported the fact to her husband when he got back.
It seems a pity that Shelley did not copy this credit
able conduct of hers some time or other when under
temptation, so that we might have seen the author of
his biography hang the miracle in the skies and squirt
rainbows at it.

At the end of the first year of marriage the most
trying year for any young couple, for then the mutual
failings are coming one by one to light, and the
necessary adjustments are being made in pain and
tribulation Shelley was able to recognize that his
marriage venture had been a safe one. As we have
seen, his love for his wife had begun in a rather

9



MARK TWAIN

shallow way and with not much force, but now it
was become deep and strong, which entitles his wife
to a broad credit mark, one may admit. He ad
dresses a long and loving poem to her, in which both
passion and worship appear:

Exhibit A

Othou

Whose dear love gleamed upon the gloomy path
Which this lone spirit travelled,

. . . wilt thou not turn
Those spirit-beaming eyes and look on me,
Until I be assured that Earth is Heaven
And Heaven is Earth?

Harriet! let death all mortal ties dissolve,
But ours shall not be mortal.

Shelley also wrote a sonnet to her in August of
this same year in celebration of her birthday:

Exhibit B

Ever as now with Love and Virtue s glow
May thy unwithering soul not cease to burn,

Still may thine heart with those pure thoughts o erflow
Which force from mine such quick and warm return.

Was the girl of seventeen glad and proud and
happy? We may conjecture that she was.

That was the year 1812. Another year passed
still happily, still successfully a child was born in
June, 1813, and in September, three months later,
Shelley addresses a poem to this child, lanthe, in
which he points out just when the little creature is
most particularly dear to him:

10



DEFENSE OF HARRIET SHELLEY

Exhibit C

Dearest when most thy tender traits express
The image of thy mother s loveliness.

Up to this point the fabulist counsel for Shelley
and prosecutor of his young wife has had easy sailing,
but now his trouble begins, for Shelley is getting
ready to make some unpleasant history for himself,
and it will be necessary to put the blame of it on
the wife.

Shelley had made the acquaintance of a charming
gray-haired, young-hearted Mrs. Boinville, whose
face "retained a certain youthful beauty"; she lived
at Bracknell, and had a young daughter named
Cornelia Turner, who was equipped with many fasci
nations. Apparently these people were sufficiently
sentimental. Hogg says of Mrs. Boinville:

"The greater part of her associates were odious. I generally
found there two or three sentimental young butchers, an emi
nently philosophical tinker, and several very unsophisticated
medical practitioners or medical students, all of low origin and
vulgar and offensive manners. They sighed, turned up their
eyes, retailed philosophy, such as it was," etc.

Shelley moved to Bracknell, July 2;th (this is
still 1813) purposely to be near this unwholesome
prairie-dogs* nest. The fabulist says: "It was the
entrance into a world more amiable and exquisite
than he had yet known."

"In this acquaintance the attraction was mutual"
and presently it grew to be very mutual indeed,
between Shelley and Cornelia Turner, when they got
to studying the Italian poets together. Shelley,

ii



MARK TWAIN

"responding like a tremulous instrument to every
breath of passion or of sentiment," had his chance



Online LibraryMark TwainThe writings of Mark Twain (Volume 22) → online text (page 1 of 26)