The news of Mark Twain's death will bring, to an extraordinary degree, a sense of personal loss to millions of his countrymen. For his writings, grotesque, humorous, serious, always revealed the vivid personality behind them. No other man of his time was so well known to the public in all his moods. Occasionally you find someone -- Alexander Butts of The Star was a conspicuous example in Kansas City -- who is so broadly human and has such an intense interest in every side of life that instinctively you feel acquainted after the briefest sort of meeting. Mark Twain was a man of this class. To him, as to the ancient philosopher, nothing human was foreign.
The great inventor, the great statesman, the great writer, is the man who above all his fellows sees the importance of the obvious. His achievements seem so simple that people say, "Why didn't I think of that?" Theodore Roosevelt has been constantly charged with uttering platitudes. Louis Blanc complained that when Thiers spoke every fool in France exclaimed, "Why, that's just what I have been thinking!" In this universal human quality was the power of Mark Twain. He was much more than a humorist. He was a humanist. His writings were constantly illumined by flashes of the keenest insight into human nature. He knew what all of us feel and think, but what we are deterred from various reasons from saying. Consider, for instance, the characterization of the old fashioned Sunday which he imputed to Adam in his "Diary":
Sunday -- pulled through.
Which was the way all young people of a generation ago felt, but didn't say. His "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs's Court," "Tom Sawyer," "Pudd'nhead Wilson," and his travel books abound in observations of this sort. When he wrote of the Congo atrocities in a magazine article a few years ago he adopted the expedient of stripping King Leopold and standing him in front of a mirror to reflect on the futility of existence -- for after all a sovereign was only a bandy-legged, scrawny-armed creature, with nothing to distinguish him from the meanest of his subjects when once the trappings of royalty were removed.
After the death of a daughter a dozen years ago Mr. Clemens wrote a moving bit of verse for one of the magazines. An editorial comment on it was printed in The Star and a copy of the paper sent him. His reply was so characteristic that it is worth printing:
I suppose we are all poets when we are under the stress of deep feeling, and that when the stress comes often we devote ourselves to poetry instead of prose, but are not moved to this when intervals of years supervene between the powerful impulses. I realize that my intervals are of the widest, and that consequently I am distinctly condemned to prose. Still, I am satisfied, for I was born indolent, and even the indolent can dig prose and get recreation and entertainment out of it.
Always beneath the humor was the deep feeling that belongs to the rich personality. Indeed, with Mark Twain, his humor was little more than the evidence of his sense of values. He had suffered deeply, but he never lost his sense of proportion and he found life worthwhile up to the very beginning of the end.