The Death of Mark Twain
Many glowing tributes have been paid to Mark Twain since his death by men and women of distinction, both of Europe and America. It is a source of satisfaction to know that in his rather sad old age, a period of personal bereavement and loneliness, Mark Twain knew that he had the affection, gratitude, admiration of legions of readers, young and old. He had been signally honored by Oxford and English literary and educated bodies; he had won ample recognition not as a "mere humorist" but as one of the most original and gifted men of letters of America.
Mark Twain's humor, rich and delicious as it was, was always fundamentally serious. It was the humor of a deep thinker, a gentle but penetrating observer, a philosopher who loved mankind while seeing all its weaknesses. Mark Twain was racy, playful, whimsical, extravagant; but he was never guilty of deliberate coarseness, and as President Taft has remarked, "he never wrote a line that a father could not read to a daughter." And this in spite of the fact that he wrote much about rough men, hard and primitive conditions, pioneering, the taming of nature and the lower elements in man. He was breezy, vital, candid, colloquial, "western;" but the civilization, ideas and manners he expressed and expounded were essentially sound. Geniality, charity, unselfishness, informed and inspired every utterance.
Mark Twain wrote in several styles and contributed to several forms of literature. He is best known, perhaps, for his earliest works, "Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn," "Jumping Frog," etc., and certainly his studies of bay nature are wonderfully acute and entertaining. But he wrote excellent history, biography, criticism, disguised philosophy. "Is Shakespeare Dead?" the latest work, dealt with the controversy over the authorship of the plays attributed to "the immortal bard," and was keen and suggestive, if not original or scholarly. "Joan of Arc" and "Christian Science" were notable books of their respective kinds. It was impossible for Mark Twain not to be humorous, stimulating, inimitable, but in his most exuberant and irrepressible moments of mirth-making he was no boisterous jester.
The cause of political morality, freedom, human equality, honest government, democracy had in him a staunch and courageous defender. He took a deep interest in the social and industrial reforms of the day, and supported children's theaters, social settlements and similar welfare work. He was an enemy of snobbery, solemn pedantry, cant and corruption in public and commercial life. His death removed a salutary, beneficent force, a rare, if not unique, personality.