Mark Twain is undoubtedly, at present, the most popular of American humorists. It does not necessarily follow that he is the greatest; for popularity is not yet a synonym for merit. In that good time coming, when every one shall be perfectly educated and capable of passing correct judgment on every book, and critics shall be superfluous, to form and accurate estimate of a writer's talents, it will be necessary only to compute the sale of his book. Until that literary millenium arrives, the critic must rely on his own judgment, in forming his estimates of authors. With this brief statement of our right, we make bold to express our dissent from the opinion of the great American public, regarding Mark Twain. He is not our favorite author. Nor is the fact that he holds such a place in the estimation of the public at all flattering to its intelligence and culture. It is not our intention, however, to attempt the correction of the public taste in a matter comparatively trivial. The taste that prefers the drolleries of Mark Twain to the essays of LOWELL, is healthy and commendable compared to that which craves nothing higher than the sensational trash of the ordinary novel. We should consider it our duty to speak only praise of this author, if we might thereby turn a single admirer of sensational fiction from his idol to the harmless humor of Mark Twain.
Roughing It is published as a companion volume to The Innocents Abroad. It is of very much the same character as its predecessor--as laughable and as entertaining. The author calls it a personal narrative; and, in the main, it probably is. For the benefit of those innocents, however, who have never been abroad, and whose acquaintance with this writer is limited to the fictitious criticisms of his writings, which appeared in "The Galaxy Clubroom," as taken from an English journal, and which they never doubted was genuine, until he informed them it was a hoax--for the benefit of such, we give notice that there are, in this book, anecdotes and narrations of incidents to which they ought not to give full credence. One of these is the story of John James Godfrey, the employee of the "Incorporated Company of Mean Men." Most readers have met with it undoubtedly, for it has been the rounds of the newspapers, and was one of the author's best hits in his lecture on the "Sandwich Islanders." It now does good service, in filling out one of the later chapters of this book, devoted to the account of his travels among these festive people of the southern seas.
According to this personal narrative, the beginning of Mark Twain's pilgrimage was occasioned by the apportionment of his brother, as secretary of Nevada Territory. Mark went thither as private secretary of the secretary, with the intention, he is sure, of returning East after a few months. The months lengthened into years. His semi-official position was exchanged meanwhile for every variety of business and calling from that of editor of a miners' weekly newpaper down to that of a ten-days-wild-cat millionaire. And when, at last, he returned to his home and friends, his fame as a humorous writer and lecturer had preceded him. There is no doubt that this book will find thousands of readers, and that is will afford them all amusement. There is also, as the author observes, "information in the volume." He adds, in his funniest strain: "Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the book. I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped. Information appears to stew out of me naturally, like the ottar of roses out of the otter. Sometimes it has seemed to me that I would give worlds if I could retain my facts; but it can not be. The more I calk up the sources, and the tighter I get, the more I leak wisdom."