Chief of American Men of Letters
It would be hard to frame four other words that could carry a message of personal bereavement to so many Americans.
He was easily the chief of our writers, by the only valid test. He could touch the emotional centre of more lives than any other.
He was curiously and intimately American. No other author has such a tang of the soil--such a flavor of the average national mind.
Europeans who complain that we denied Walt Whitman, misunderstood Emerson and have admired only those who write in old world fashions should be satisfied at least with Mark Twain, and with our unwavering taste for him.
He was our very own, and we gathered him to our hearts.
In ages to come, if historians and archaeologists would know the thoughts, the temper, the characteristic psychology of the American of the latter half of the nineteenth century, he will need only to read "Innocents Abroad," "Tom Sawyer," and "Huckleberry Finn."
Mr. Clemens's books were the transcripts of his life. And that life was the kind of life that the average American man of his time has believed in and admired.
He was the man that rose from the ranks without envy or condescension.
The man that hated dogmas and philosophies and loved a flash of intellectual light.
He was the man that cared much to get rich, yet would sweat blood to pay his debts.
The man of boundless optimism, who has never troubled to understand the great tragedies of nations.
The deepening sense of the twentieth century--with its feeling that there are social problems that cannot be resolved by pleasantries--has somehow left our dear prophet, with all his delicate and tender ironies and his merry quips, a little in the rear.
Mark Twain was never fortunate in his polemics. He was not effective as the champion of a cause. What he wrote of the Congo was hardly more creditable or convincing than his crusade against Mrs. Eddy.
He had no natural acerbity, and consequently no real talent for satire.
His genius was full of bravery and brightness and the joy of life.
And in the strength of his serene and laughing spirit generations of Americans will go forth to do deeds that he himself could never have conceived.