Few men in American will be more missed than Mark Twain, for few were more beloved. Whether in the Middle West, where he was born and where he learned so much of men, or in the East where he lived in later life, Mr. Clemens was easily the first of American characters. Everybody knew of him and everybody felt that he was one writer whose touch was true and whose merit was real.
Mark Twain did what perhaps no other American has ever done. He created a distinct literature. There had been humorists before his time -- humorists who had been as original, as daring, and as successful as was he, but there had been no man who had succeeded in making literature of humor. All that went before was fragmentary, scattered and disjointed. He made it consistent, definite and wholesome.
It is hard to dissect the qualities which made Mark Twain such a great literary figure. There is humor in all he wrote, except when he turned aside to write a children's story or a serious essay, but there is much more. He had all the powers of description which belong to one who knew the Book of Nature. He loved the river, he loved the fields, and he loved those flats along the Mississippi where the sun shines on the yellow sand and the cranes drowsily flap their dipping wings. He had, too, a deep knowledge of human nature, which made every character that he described live and breathe. He knew men, through and through.
Mark Twain the man was as interesting as Mark Twain the humorist. The two, in fact, were one. The books were the man, and the man was the books. His view of life was sunny, and his nature was kindly, even when he had business adversity and domestic trouble which would have broken a less fortunate spirit. He had too a high sense of honor and a deep integrity and a true charity, shown in a hundred little incidents which he always tried to conceal. In 1895 the firm of C. L. Webster and Company, in which he was interested as a silent partner, went to the wall. Mr. Clemens was not responsible for the company's debts, but he assumed them, and began a long, exhausting lecture tour in order that he might return to the firm's creditors every dollar he thought himself in honor bound to pay. He did it, though his health was bad and the season was most oppressive. Then again, on the last day before he was finally stricken down, he signed his check for $6,000 to build a library in his town.
These things showed the man, and for these things the American people loved him. They knew he was true and generous and kindly, and they saw in him that spirit which makes a man great.