Mark Twain, World-Servant
Rarely has a single figure in our national literature towered with such unique and encyclopaedic distinction.
Mark Twain was a profound humorist, paradoxical as that statement may seem. The shallow merry-maker with his quips and turns and cheaper puns and mental acrobatics is common enough in the story of the race. His is a faculty that barely scratches the surface of flesh and blood, lacking the ability to penetrate to the quick and touch the eternal humanities, whether they reside in the soul of the hyper-cultured product of the twentieth century, or the semi-barbarian on the outposts of civilization.
And this is what Mark Twain accomplished, not spasmodically, but virtually in all of his written endeavors. Always he sounded the human note. It is true that his brand of humor and humorous philosophy, sometimes deftly screening a far more serious motif, was reflective of American thought and genius. But in America is a conglomerate of the world's races, an amalgam from the melting pot of the best and the worst of the old world, so that what civilization reverenced in Twain was the glimpse he gave it of a blend of itself, as typified in the universal American.
Little of the slap-stick of the element of boisterousness may be found in the work of this master craftsman. Drollery there is in abundance, quaintness and charm of style abides alway, sustained and intuitive humor is never far absent from his elbow. But the cruder and more vulgar effects he avoided instinctively, bringing to bear a delicacy tempered with breadth.
Men loved him not only for the fact that he gave them cheer, but that his quiet and unfailing courage gave them inspiration. He mocked at adversity. He combatted desolation with a smile and a sweet stubbornness that never acknowledged itself beaten.
He was truly a world-servant. And world-wide is the wish that his sleep may be sound, broken only by those pleasant dreams that lighten the face of slumbering innocence with chastened smiles.