A True American
MARK TWAIN is dead! In those four words America announces to a weeping world the loss of her foremost literary man. Assuredly of all our authors he was "first in the hearts of his countrymen."
He was really the chief of our writers, by the only valid test. He could touch the emotional center 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 complained that we denied Walt Whitman, misunderstood Emerson and admired only those who write in old world fashions should be satisfied, at least, with Mark Twain, and 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 later nineteenth century he would only need to read "Innocents Abroad," "Tom Sawyer," and "Huckleberry Finn."
Mr. Clemens' books were the transcript 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 hated dogmas and philosophies and loved a flash of intellectual light.
He was the man that cared much to get rich, yet will sweat blood to pay his debts. A man of boundless optimism, who has never troubled to understand the great tragedies of nations.
To the superficial view he was merely a humorist -- a humorist of international fame, to be sure -- but just a humorist. But there was far more than jocularity in his writing. If Cervantes "laughed away the chivalry of Spain," Mark Twain laughed away a hundred silly foibles of his somewhat too ebullient American friends and admirers.
He had, too, that greatest of all elements in the humorist, the power of pathos. With the twist of a few words he could lift the applauding hand to dash away a tear. And often, just between the laugh and the cry, there was a place where he drove home a truth in a way that no philosopher or moralizing theorist could hope to equal.
He portrayed the life of the lands he knew and loved in his youth -- the wide, unfettered lands of the Mississippi and the farthest West -- in a way to make that life appreciated and loved around the world. Foreign critics likened him to Le Sage and gave him an even prouder place in the temple of fame.
Sham disgusted Mark Twain, but he did not attack it with fierce intensity. He merely made it ridiculous, and so banished it. He set men to laughing at their own folly and brought them unconsciously to the paths of common sense. He would have chuckled had anyone called him a great reformer with a serious mission in life, yet in his graceful way he worked out reform after reform in manners and customs, and would not pose for applause.
He made his place as a man as well as an author, and he gave to the youth of the land an example of rugged honesty well worth their emulation. When financial disaster whelmed his publishing house it would have been easy for him to have evaded his debts and escaped his creditors. But he was not run in that sort of mold. Like Walter Scott before him, and our own William T. Coleman in a narrower field, he buckled down to work, tossed away all legal technicalities and paid off every dollar of his debts so he could face the world with a clear eye, even if in a threadbare coat. And fortune came to him again as a reward for his honest toil, so his later years were spent in comparitive ease and affluence.
In his home life he was genial and in his friendships a true comrade. His hand was ready to help those in need, and his optimism was an inspiration for all who yearned for faith to see through the clouds of to-day the sunshine of tomorrow. Ever the friend and counselor of the children, he got from his little friends the insight into their lives that enabled him to write two books that, had he written nothing else, would have made his name immortal.
California and Nevada are especially proud and unusually fond of this great hearted gentleman; for it was in this far West that he began his career and found his first inspiration. Many will take down the well-thumbed volumes from the shelves and go over again lovingly the passages that made Samuel L. Clemens a fireside friend and a boon companion of the men and women, cultured or homely, in all the Western land.