There is scarcely in this wide land a person of any acquaintance with contemporaneous literature who does not mourn sincerely the passing of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known more frequently by his pen name of "Mark Twain." Among his admirers, also, we may freely reckon those who do not ordinarily read much and may never have enjoyed a book or story by this gifted author. Mark Twain had become in his later years a national character, famed for his broad philosophy, his interviews on public questions and his great kindness of heart and his sweetness of disposition. His frequently expressed his humorous and apt opinions at a time when humor and liberality were needed, so that his outpourings acted upon the troubled public temper much as oil upon the raging waters. He could at times be terribly severe, as in his strictures upon Leopold and the Congo maladministration, but his customary view of life and its incidents was tolerant, though often whimsical. The subtle sense of humor and its companion justice never departed from him.
Mr. Clemens was first of all a jester, just as some writers are satirists and others have gifts of poetic expression. He belonged to a school which developed a dozen or so of notable associates half a century ago. In pure genius as a humorist of the American type Mark Twain was little if any inferior to Artemus Ward, who was the father of them all. He had the same gift of seeing unerringly beneath the surface, of saying the totally unperceived, of adducing grotesque similarities and associations, and the same splendid humanness and optimism. His humor was not entirely "funny," it was not wit in the common sense, but was the produce of a mind working along unconventional and unique lines in delightful and refreshing ways. His point of view was ever surprising, but not the less readily grasped and after a little experience "reading Mark Twain" was as easy and restful as listening to the strains of a sweet and simple melody. We all remember how all the world burst into a simultaneous laugh when it learned that Clemens had shed pious tears at the grave of his ancestor Adam and when it read how he expressed ignorance of that celebrity to the guide who showed him the relics of Columbus. The western miner "Scott's" interview with the minister whose services were desired at a funeral was as rich and mirth-provoking as Artemus Ward's brief encounter with a maiden lady whom he disturbed when he went up onto his rooftop with a gun to celebrate the arrival of a new member in his family.
In his more mature years, however, Mr. Clemens made frequent incursions into soberer literature, or fiction, and here such troubles as he ever had with the critics began. It has always seemed to us that some of these gentry were influenced by resentment because a humorist had dared to attempt novelism. His most famous work, "Pudd'nhead Wilson," "A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court," "Joan of Arc," "The Gilded Age," which he wrote in connection with Charles Dudley Warner, and several other pretentious compositions certainly to our mind entitle him to a real place in English literature. His humorous instinct often forced him from more magnificent construction, but not always, and in his really serious moments he showed another side to his literary powers that will be recognized when his detractor's lips are shut.
Mr. Clemens was an usually [gentle?] and companionable man. He was an inveterate hater of fraud and hypocrisy, as his writings in and out of season testified. His private integrity, as in the case of Sir Walter Scott, impelled him in his old age to return to the lecture platform that he might repay a heavy obligation incurred by the collapse of a publishing venture in which he was interested. He made restitution to the last penny, although his health even then had begun to fail. It is particularly saddening in reflecting upon the life and character of this fine American to recall the poignant sorrows which fell to his lot in his latter years and probably shortened his days. But these he bore with a patient resignation that endeared him further to his fellow men.