It is pleasanter business to turn to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which Twain, the youth, achieved the best of his genius. Mr. William Lyon Phelps once ranked Twain as the greatest American novelist, placing him above Howells, James, and Hawthorne. Henry James rather hit the mark when he said that Twain's appeal is to rudimentary minds. When one has laughed all he can at the nonsense of The Gilded Age, and by that fact is no longer under the spell of the book's sound and glitter, its melodrama and fertile invention, its use of reality for the purposes of extravaganza, one can see the real substance of the book, one can see that it is only what it holds itself out to be -- a tale. Nor does it furnish to the future historian anything more than leads, if that, by which to follow down to the factual reality of America's insanity and corruption in those dreadful days after the Civil War. Mr. George Barnard Shaw was in a state of untrustworthy enthusiasm when he felt persuaded that Twain's works would enlighten posterity


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Mark Twain: A Portrait


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