More than one popular jester has gained his reputation and been forgotten since Mark Twain's humor caught the public fancy and made the man famous. But his popularity has continued and will doubtless long survive his death. The reason for this cannot be found in any superior wit of his humor. Some humorists who were contemporaries of his but whose fame has long since perished, were perhaps more witty than he. It may be found, however, in the serious purposes that stirred his thought and vitalized so much of what he wrote. Mark Twain was witty, but he was more than a wit. He jested, but he was not a clown. His humor was funny, but if the fun of the comedian was in it so also was the humor of a sympathetic and earnest social philosopher. This was the touch that has raised Mark Twain's writings far above the joke books, and kept his fame fresh through several generations of readers. His writings have the democratic ring-the ring of the democracy of the Golden Rule. Read "Tom Sawyer" or "Huckleberry Finn," and you find democracy rooted in the shrewd thought and harum-scarum experiences of natural-minded boys in the presence of the conventional un-democracy of grown men. Read "The Yankee at King Arthur's Court" or "The Prince and the Pauper," and in democracy's struggle there with the rude selfishness and ignorance of a buried past, you find caricatures of the refined ignorance and polished selfishness with which democracy struggles now. The death of this man at his age calls for no tears of grief. He passes out of life normally, after doing a life's work so well that it will be a wholesome influence with many a generation to come.
The democracy of Mark Twain was of the kind for which The Public stands. Like his sister who went before him, and like her distinguished son, the late Samuel E. Moffett (both of whom were devoted to the truth that Henry George taught), Mr. Clemens found for his democracy a lodgment in that gospel. One of the testimonials to its work which the Public cherishes is a letter from him in which he declares his faith. "The Ethics of Democracy," a unified collection of Public editorials had been sent to Mr. Clemens because it contained quotations from his pen, and in acknowledgment he wrote from Florence:
Villa di Quarto, Firenze, Jan. 7, 1904
"Because I believe its gospel." To all others who believe the same gospel we are confident that this assurance of Mark Twain's sympathy will add to their appreciation of the democracy strain that runs through nearly all his writings.