"There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect; he is the choicest spirit among the humbler animals; yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented, when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt."
Then again, the Missouri village in which the scene is laid, is so vividly realized in its minutest details; and the people, in all their fatuous prejudice and stolidity, are so credible and authentic, so steeped in the local atmosphere, that the illusion becomes perfect, and we swallow the melodrama without a qualm, --exchange of heirs, haunted house, murder, and all, --and scarcely dream that we have been duped, until we wake up with a start at the end of the last chapter. "Tell the truth, or trump, --but take the trick," is one of Puddin'-Head Wilson's maxims; and the author, to make assurance doubly sure, has done both. He evidently has an ample find of experience to draw upon; and he possesses, also, that high imaginative faculty which does not consist in crude invention, but in shaping remembered truth into logical and artistic coherence. His people stand squarely upon their feet, not because he has so constructed them, but because he has known their type and been familiar with their looks, speech, and habits. How deliciously rich, racy, and copious is, for instance, his negro talk. The very gurgling laugh and cooing cadence seem, somehow, implied in the text; and the fancy instinctively adds the vivid miens and gestures. Since Mark Twain wrote his "Tom Sawyer" and "Roughing It," he has published no book comparable in interest to "Puddin'-Head Wilson." Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen