The death of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known throughout the enlightened world as Mark Twain, removes a noble figure, and an influence of great value, from the literary circles of America. It has been common in this country and abroad to speak of Mark Twain as "the American humorist": the apparent exclusiveness of the title is not wholly unjustified, for he came nearer realizing the nobility and dignity of the American conception of humor, and possessed a keener appreciation of the humorous possibilities inhering in American types of character than any other writer in the history of the republic.
Because of the grace and inoffensiveness which marked his delineative work, his writings possess an enduring quality, and they will long be read with increasing interest, pleasure and profit.
Humor of the emphatic sort is a thing of changing quality. Consider, for instance, the grotesqueness of the stage and the caricatures of current prints. Men today laugh at that which would have offended the men of yesterday, and it is equally certain that the things which amuse the men of today will no longer amuse the men of tomorrow.
Mark Twain, with easy and insideous grace, wrote to the smile, and if occasionally convulsive laughter marked the pleasant pilgrimage of the reader, it was probably because the reader's nature was rich and full to overflowing with light and cheery qualities of heart and mind, rather than because of any effort on the author's part to distort, and exaggerate beyond human semblance, the figures he struck from the fancies of the moment; for behind Mark Twain's portraitures, somewhere in the sphere of his ample experience and studious observation, real pulsing, moving characters could be found to match them, as faithfully, in most instances, as Hamlet's mouse trap scene matched players and principals in the act which lays bare the brewing villainies of the court.
Mark Twain contributed much to the sum of human contentment, and while he moved and toiled in a sphere totally different from that which Emerson and Lowell, and Longfellow and Holmes and Whitman adorned, he has not contributed less enduringly to the prestige and brilliance of American literature.