Mark Twain's serial magazine story of Missouri life in a river town, in slavery days "befo'de wah," is now issued in handsome book form by the American Publishing Company of this city, who have once more the right to bring out Mr. Clemens's works. Reading any story in serial form, in a monthly magazine, is a very unsatisfactory way of getting hold of it; and this appearance of Mr. Clemens's latest work in a new volume ought to secure it for many new readers. The marginal vignette pictures, on every page, add nothing to the value or interest of the book, and might as well have been omitted; but the story itself is one of the queerest. One can well believe the author's statement, in Those Extraordinary Twins, the roaring comedy which follows what he considers the tragedy of the longer story, that he lost control, both of the characters and the "plot," in Pudd'nhead Wilson, and made of it a mixed mess very different from his intention at the start. It would be "easy work" to criticise some of the features of the main story, but who ever feels like criticising Mark Twain?
Pudd'nhead Wilson is not the most prominent character in the book; that place is usurped by the worthless Tom Driscoll, whose one-thirty-second part of "nigger" blood proves, in spite of his octoroon mother's strong character, his bane and his downfall. The practice of Pudd'nhead, in getting everybody, from babies to old people, to imprint the story told in an impression made by the differing lines produced by the ball of the finger on slightly greased glass, and religiously saving every strip of glass thus marked, proves to be the key to the turning point of the story; but it is an improbable practice, for anybody. However, one can't criticise "Mark"--and moreover his own experience of the possibilities of palmistry lends a peculiar interest to this peculiar application of the alleged principle to the purposes of this queer story. As to Angelo and Luigi, the Italian twins and noblemen--well, their appearance as twins of the Siamese sort, in the comedy, is quite as inherently probable as it is in the other way as such a place as Dawson's Landing. But probability, inherent or extraneous, is as soon to be looked in Mark Twain's stories as in the Arabian Nights.
The comedy, an appendix to the story, is here published for the first time; and the author introduces it in a frank and funny revelation of the way in which Pudd'nhead came to be written--or to write itself. He even explains how he came to introduce quotations from Pudd'nhead's "Calendar." As some of them are queer and funny, we quote a sample or two, beginning with the funniest:
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
It is not the best that we should all think alike; it is the difference of opinion that makes horse races.
Adam was but human--this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake; he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.
Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.
When I reflect upon the number of disagreeable people who I know to have gone to a better world I am moved to lead a different life.
Nothing needs so reforming as other people's habits.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Thanksgiving Day. Let all give humble, hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys. In the island of Fiji they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not become you and me to sneer at Fiji.
Even the clearest and most perfect circumstantial evidence is likely to be at fault after all and therefore ought to be received with great caution. Take the case of any pencil sharpened by any woman. If you have witnesses you will find she did it with a knife; but if you take simply the aspect of the pencil, you will say she did it with her teeth.
April 1. This is the day upon which we are all reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.
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 all the humble animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.
Consider well the proportion of things. It is better to be a young June-bug than an old bird of paradise.
Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was, that they escaped teething.