Mark Twain's America

Mark Twain's America

Mark Twain's America

Mark Twain's America

Excerpt

My dear Forsythe:

I caution you to expect some difficulty in classifying this book. The depressing statistics at the year's end which measure the depravity of man by the consumption of wood pulp will probably file it among biography, and yet I do not carry Samuel Clemens past the year of his greatest embarrassment and at no time is my interest in him biographical. Even if Mr. Paine had not succeeded so admirably, I should not have tried to represent on paper the most engaging personality in American letters. Nor have I adventured far into literary criticism: that department of beautiful thinking is too insulated from reality for my taste. Mr. Arthur Schlesinger has suggested that I am writing the social history of Mark Twain, but history aspires to a comprehensivehess I have not attempted. For purposes of dedication I have called the book an essay in the correction of ideas need I confess that I am not naïve enough to suppose ideas, among the literary, susceptible to correction? Perhaps the act of classification must take this form: herein is the kind of book I have wanted to write about Mark Twain.

Nearly every one, you will say, has written about Mark Twain; can this particular book be needed? Oh, I assure, it is cried aloud for. Some years ago, when I was beginning it, Mr. Paine, the literary executor, informed me that nothing more need ever be written about Mark Twain. The canon was established, and whatever biography or criticism had to say could be found in the six pounds of letterpress that composed Mr. Paine's official Life. He may be forgiven a certain exasperation. He had denied me access to the unpublished material and I was engaged in a species of blackmail. Mr. Paine's desire was to have no traffic with an upstart, but, denied that material, I had composed a series of questions which his Biography omitted to answer, and . . .

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