The Critic: A Literary Weekly, Critical and Eclectic
1885: March 28


The Concord public library committee deserves well of the public by their action in banishing Mark Twain's new book, 'Huckleberry Finn,' on the ground that it is trashy and vicious. It is time that this influential pseudonym should cease to carry into homes and libraries unworthy productions. Mr. Clemens is a genuine and powerful humorist, with a bitter vein of satire on the weaknesses of humanity which is sometimes wholesome, sometimes only grotesque, but in certain of his works degenerates into a gross trifling with every fine feeling. The trouble with Mr. Clemens is that he has no reliable sense of propriety. His notorious speech at an Atlantic dinner, marshalling Longfellow and Emerson and Whittier in vulgar parodies in a Western miner's cabin, illustrated this, but not in much more relief than the 'Adventures of Tom Sawyer' did, or these Huckleberry Finn stories, do. . . . They are no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population. Mr. Clemens has made them smarter, for he has an inexhaustible fund of 'quips and cranks and wanton wiles,' and his literary skill is, of course, superior; but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful. -- The Springfield Republican.

No doubt in some books of 'American Humor' colossal exaggeration makes part of the fun. No doubt there is a plentiful lack of good taste in 'The Innocents Abroad.' But no critic worthy of the name can deny to Mark Twain at his best the essential qualities of wit and humor. He has, when quite himself, a lower kind of Sydney Smith's wonderful airy high spirits which lift him buoyantly into a kind of Laputa, a place whence he sees all the mad humors of men. He has, when he likes, tenderness and melancholy, and an extraordinary sense of human limitations and contradictions. The struggles of conscience of Huckleberry Finn about betraying the runaway negro have poetry and pathos blent in their humor. Only a great humorist could have made 'Huck' give his own unvarnished account of the splendor and terror of a night of storm on the Mississippi, and of the coming of dawn. A mere buffoon could not have imagined the passage, a less finished humorist would have made Huck 'talk fine,' like Mr. Clark Russell's sailors in their high-flown descriptive tootle. In Mark Twain the world has a humorist at once wild and tender, a humorist who is yearly ripening and mellowing. -- The Saturday Review.

[The Springfield Republican had vociferously attacked MT's 1877 Whittier Dinner Speech; The Saturday Review was an English periodical, which explains the title The Critic gave this item. There were, though, many American papers and journals that defended Huck Finn.]