The Critical Response to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn

By Laurie Champion | Go to book overview

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

[ATTRIBUTED TO WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY]

For some time past Mr. Clemens has been carried away by the ambition of seriousness and fine writing. In Huckleberry Finn he returns to his right mind, and is again the Mark Twain of old time. It is such a book as he, and he only, could have written. It is meant for boys; but there are few men (we should hope) who, once they take it up, will not delight in it. It forms a companion, or sequel, to Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn, as everybody knows, is one of Tom's closest friends; and the present volume is a record of the adventures which befell him soon after the event which made him a person of property and brought Tom Sawyer's story to a becoming conclusion. They are of the most surprising and delightful kind imaginable, and in the course of them we fall in with a number of types of character of singular freshness and novelty, besides being schooled in half a dozen extraordinary dialects--the Pike County dialect in all its forms, the dialect of the Missouri negro, and "the extremest form of the backwoods South-Western dialect," to wit. Huckleberry, it may be noted, is stolen by his disreputable father, to escape from whom he contrives an appearance of robbery and murder in the paternal hut, goes off in a canoe, watches from afar the townsfolk hunting for his dead body, and encounters a runaway negro--Miss Watson's Jim--an old particular friend of Tom Sawyer and himself. With Jim he goes south down the river, and is the hero of such scrapes and experiences as make your mouth water (if you have ever been a boy) to read of them. We do not purpose to tell a single one; it would be unfair to author and reader alike. We shall content ourselves with repeating that the book is Mark Twain at his best, and remarking that Jim and Huckleberry are real creations, and the worthy peers of the illustrious Tom Sawyer.

Athenaeum, 27 December 1884, p. 855.

-21-

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