The Hartford Courant [unsigned]
1885: February 20

In his latest story, Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade), by Mark Twain, Mr. Clemens has made a very distinct literary advance over Tom Sawyer, as an interpreter of human nature and a contributor to our stock of original pictures of American life. Still adhering to his plan of narrating the adventures of boys, with a primeval and Robin Hood freshness, he has broadened his canvas and given us a picture of a people, of a geographical region, of a life that is new in the world. The scene of his romance is the Mississippi river. Mr. Clemens has written of this river before specifically, but he has not before presented it to the imagination so distinctly nor so powerfully. Huck Finn's voyage down the Mississippi with the run away nigger Jim, and with occasionally other companions, is an adventure fascinating in itself as any of the classic outlaw stories, but in order that the reader may know what the author has done for him, let him notice the impression left on his mind of this lawless, mysterious, wonderful Mississippi, when he has closed the book. But it is not alone the river that is indelibly impressed upon the mind, the life that went up and down it and went on along its banks are projected with extraordinary power. Incidentally, and with a true artistic instinct, the villages, the cabins, the people of this river become startlingly real. The beauty of this is that it is apparently done without effort. Huck floating down the river happens to see these things and to encounter the people and the characters that made the river famous forty years ago--that is all. They do not have the air of being invented, but of being found. And the dialects of the people, white and black--what a study are they; and yet nobody talks for the sake of exhibiting a dialect. It is not necessary to believe the surprising adventures that Huck engages in, but no one will have a moment's doubt of the reality of the country and the people he meets.

Another thing to be marked in the story is its dramatic power. Take the story of the Southern Vendetta--a marvelous piece of work in a purely literary point of view--and the episode of the duke and the king, with its pictures of Mississippi communities, both of which our readers probably saw in the Century magazine. They are equaled in dramatic force by nothing recently in literature. We are not in this notice telling the story or quoting from a book that nearly everybody is sure to read, but it is proper to say that Mr. Clemens strikes in a very amusing way certain psychological problems. What, for instance, in the case of Huck, the son of the town drunkard, perverted from the time of his birth, is conscience, and how does it work? Most amusing is the struggle Huck has with his conscience in regard to slavery. His conscience tells him, the way it has been instructed, that to help the runaway, nigger Jim to escape--to aid in stealing the property of Miss Watson, who has never injured him, is an enormous offense that will no doubt carry him to the bad place; but his affection for Jim finally induces him to violate his conscience and risk eternal punishment in helping Jim to escape. The whole study of Huck's moral nature is as serious as it is amusing, his confusion of wrong as right and his abnormal mendacity, traceable to his training from infancy, is a singular contribution to the investigation of human nature. These contradictions, however, do not interfere with the fun of the story, which has all the comicality, all the odd way of looking at life, all the whimsical turns of thought and expression that have given the author his wide fame and made him sui generis. The story is so interesting so full of life and dramatic force, that the reader will be carried along irresistibly, and the time he loses in laughing he will make up in diligence to hurry along and find out how things come out. The book is a small quarto, handsomely printed and bound, and illustrated by 174 drawings which enter fully into the spirit of the book, and really help to set forth the characters. (Published by Charles L. Webster & Co.: New York. Sold by subscription only.)

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