Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices

By Shelley Fisher Fishkin | Go to book overview
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Sociable Jimmy

by Mark Twain

[I sent the following home in a private letter, some time ago, from a certain little village. It was in the days when I was a public lecturer. I did it because I wished to preserve the memory of the most artless, sociable, and exhaustless talker I ever came across. He did not tell me a single remarkable thing, or one that was worth remembering; and yet he was himself so interested in his small marvels, and they flowed so naturally and comfortably from his lips that his talk got the upper hand of my interest, too, and I listened as one who receives a revelation. I took down what he had to say, just as he said it -- without altering a word or adding one.]

I had my supper in my room this evening, (as usual, ) and they sent up a bright, simple, guileless little darkey boy to wait on me -- ten years old -- a wide-eyed, observant little chap. I said:

"What is your name, my boy?"

"Dey calls me Jimmy, Sah, but my right name's James, Sah."

I said, "Sit down there, Jimmy -- I'll not want you just yet."

He sat down in a big arm-chair, hung both his legs over one of the arms, and looked comfortable and conversational. I said:

"Did you have a pleasant Christmas, Jimmy?"

"No, sah -- not zackly. I was kind o' sick den. But de res' o' de people dey, had a good time -- mos' all uv 'em had a good time. Dey all got drunk. Dey all gits drunk heah, every Christmas, and carries on and has awful good times."

"So you were sick, and lost it all. But unless you were very sick I should think that if you had asked the doctor he might have let you get -- get -- a little drunk -- and --"

"Oh, no, Sah -- I don' never git drunk -- it's de white folks -- dem's de ones I means. PA used to git drunk, but dat was befo' I was big -- but he's done quit. He don' git drunk no mo' now. Jis' takes one nip in de mawnin', now, cuz his stomach riles up, he sleeps so soun'. Jis' one nip -- over to de s'loon -- every mawnin'. He's powerful sickly --


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Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices


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