From Collier's, 45
April 30, 1910

[Both these appreciations appeared in the April 30th edition of Collier's, the first on the magazine's editorial page, the second among the articles.]


A Gentle Man, if that abused title may have any significance restored to it, was Mark Twain. Good and ill fortune made trial of his finely tempered spirit, and success could not spoil nor adversity embitter him. His humor might play like summer lightning over the range of human weakness, but his compassion was warm and universal as the rain. America has lost as much in the man as in the writer.

His pen knew neither fear nor reverence, yet he dipped it tenderly in the heart of childhood. He asked for no exceptions from human hardship, and he gave out in the last year of his life, when a great sorrow came to him, a glow as of a spirit about to be released.

To call Mark Twain a humorist merely would be to describe Shakespeare as a strolling player. More than one generation has drunk at the well-head of his tonic and sane philosophy.

A letter written a few weeks before his death showed him notwithstanding his courage to have felt that darkness was closing in. He wrote from Bermuda: "There is not another orphan who is so wrecked, so ruined, so forsaken, as I am. Just a battered old derelict washing about the wastes of the great seas, with nobody on the bridge."

America is poorer, in Mr. Clemen's death, by the loss of great and gracious personality: there is a void, not to be filled, in the hearts of those whom he surrounded with his friendship: but who shall say he has not earned that honorable and anxiously awaited resting-place beside Jean and Susie and their mother? He has left to those he loved a stainless memory and to this nation a lasting heritage of smiles and tears.

Mark Twain: An American Pioneer in Man's Oldest Art,
Whose Death Is Mourned by the World at Large

Happy among creative artists is the humorist. He strikes as deep into life as his neglected brothers who deal in pain and tragedy. But he alone carries the people with him. He has their good will, while he interprets their life to them. And only at his death is there sadness because of him. The more he made them merry, the richer the grief. And there are few peoples to-day on the earth where there is no sense of loss because MARK TWAIN died. He would have been seventy-five years old in November, and in the final months had suffered much pain.

Printer's devil and Mississippi pilot, cub reporter, pioneer, miner, and tramp royal, he knew life, and got the rough stuff out of which to spin his cloth of gold from reality itself. He had lived the life from nocessity, and then wrote it out.

His sense of the vast innate humor of things was beaten into the fiber of him by the Nevada years, when he was territorial secretary in the State of Nevada. Those were great days. It was a life that couldn't stand the swiftest theatrical show for ten minutes running, but in its panting restlessness clamored for poker and drink and dancing and barbaric music. Partly a glorified picnic, full of easy nuggets and dramatic high lights, and then again tragic and bitter, where sweat and blood dropped free.

A Western man has said of him: "A good many people think MARK TWAIN is a natural-born humorist. He isn't. He simply described the things he saw in Nevada and got the habit."

The tumult of that life never forsook him. It passed into the color and startling suddenness of his prose. A land that was unexpected and vast, and men who were irreverent, ironic, fearless and sincere, what was left to do but hive the honey from those unreaped fields?

In the teeth of the schools, he broke away from the gentle reminiscent New England tradition, and struck out a trail as new and sure as that of ABRAHAM LINCOLN in statecraft. He was an American in every line of his mirthful copy, and it was a generation before the critics caught up and knew it for literature, and ANDREW LANG called it Homeric.

Leaping into the public eye with the overburdened life of the Calaveras frog who couldn't jump because of his meal of buckshot, he hit his public yet harder with "Innocents Abroad," which showed the ignorant and unashamed American tourist thrust upon the shrines of Europe, who forthwith dramatizes his own innocence, and is unaware of COLUMBUS, but weeps at the grave of ADAM. He finds the old masters a clutter of paint, and refuses to be moved by the cant of embryo Cookists. He turns a fresh, untroubled face on Europe, and asks that it make its own impression sincerely and first-hand.

That manhandling of the holy places and hoar traditions was the key to MARK TWAIN, who faced life itself in the same naked way. Background, and atmosphere and the accumulations of convention were nonexistent for him, who asked them only to give up their reality and what of vital spark they still possessed for him. This trait of the unabashed accounted for some of his more doubtful ventures, as when he entered the lists of the Shakespeare controversy.

The books which will safeguard his fame longer than a library of solemn and academic tomes are "Tom Sawyer" and its greater sequel "Huckleberry Finn," wherein the boy in literature is first discovered and celebrated. All the Boytowns and Bad Boys since owe a goodly debt to the clean sweep of those adventures, where boys whitewash fences, run away from home, and exhibit their naked souls in a leaping narrative, brimmed with undying laughter, and poignant with such touches of pathos as the unsuspected deafness of poor black Jim's little girl. The humor of those early books persists through many languages, and is little time-worn by forty years.

To see things with fresh eyes, and find nothing sacred simply because other men had removed their shoes--it was in this spirit that he invaded the medieval realm, and plucked the comic out of the forest rides of knights and ladies and the renowned jousts. He called it "A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur." He had already written "The Prince and the Pauper" to show that tenderness and reverence could be accorded.

In his "Joan of Arc" he dealt tenderly with the lovely lady in proof that he knew how to kneel as well as strike.

He made a few swift sorties into literary criticism in the same masculine, forthright way--notably in his bitter attack on SHELLEY for the treatment of the poor drowned HARRIET, and in the paper on COOPER, whom he pilloried for committing the 57 varieties of literary sin in plot construction and style.

He did not flinch from facing the popular good will, which was so largely his, and attacked the national policy of imperialism in his eloquent "To Them That Sit in Darkness," and the acrid drive at General FUNSTON. FUNSTON thought of replying, and the author in the pride of conscious power, advised him to beware or he would hand him out some "man-talk."

He was free of prejudices, and wrote a fine, strong article on the Jews, where the unfailing sympathy of it included some earnest criticism.

The external facts are few after the early hard years which grounded him in reality. The books sold like "The Pilgrim's Progress." His lectures were always thronged.

In old age he met a sudden financial loss to himself--and to those who had invested with him in a publishing house of his founding--by a recurrence of energy on the lecture platform, which cleared every cent of the indebtedness. He exactly repeated the intrepid and honorable feat of WALTER SCOTT, which had enriched literary history for a hundred years.

In his later years he was moved by the pathos of life--the ceaseless striving game. His manner was affectionate and playful, and the impression of him on the spirit was tender and pathetic. He was simple and offhand, never forcing the note. His conversation was made up of short, easy words, never aiming at wit or cleverness. Sometimes, too, there was music on his lips, as when, on his birthday celebration, he spoke of Pier 70, and the laughter and songs of the young men in the streets at midnight, no more to be heard.

With the fearless poise of the head of white hair, he would be watched by a theater audience more closely than the star actor on the stage. Ten thousand men rose to their feet when he entered the open-air auditorium at the Yale bicentennial.

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