Mark Twain's Letters 1907-1910 Page 01
MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1907-1910
ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE
LETTERS 1907-08. A DEGREE FROM OXFORD. THE NEW HOME AT REDDING
The author, J. Howard Moore, sent a copy of his book, The Universal Kinship, with a letter in which he said: "Most humorists have no anxiety except to glorify themselves and add substance to their pocket-books by making their readers laugh. You have shown, on many occasions, that your mission is not simply to antidote the melancholy of a world, but includes a real and intelligent concern for the general welfare of your fellowman."
The Universal Kinship was the kind of a book that Mark Twain appreciated, as his acknowledgment clearly shows.
To Mr. J. Howard Moore:
Feb. 2, '07. DEAR MR. MOORE, The book has furnished me several days of deep pleasure and satisfaction; it has compelled my gratitude at the same time, since it saves me the labor of stating my own long-cherished opinions and reflections and resentments by doing it lucidly and fervently and irascibly for me.
There is one thing that always puzzles me: as inheritors of the mentality of our reptile ancestors we have improved the inheritance by a thousand grades; but in the matter of the morals which they left us we have gone backward as many grades. That evolution is strange, and to me unaccountable and unnatural. Necessarily we started equipped with their perfect and blemishless morals; now we are wholly destitute; we have no real, morals, but only artificial ones--morals created and preserved by the forced suppression of natural and hellish instincts. Yet we are dull enough to be vain of them. Certainly we are a sufficiently comical invention, we humans. Sincerely Yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
Mark Twain's own books were always being excommunicated by some librarian, and the matter never failed to invite the attention and amusement of the press, and the indignation of many correspondents. Usually the books were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the morals of which were not regarded as wholly exemplary. But in 1907 a small library, in a very small town, attained a day's national notoriety by putting the ban on Eve's Diary, not so much on account of its text as for the chaste and exquisite illustrations by Lester Ralph. When the reporters came in a troop to learn about it, the author said: "I believe this time the trouble is mainly with the pictures. I did not draw them. I wish I had--they are so beautiful."
Just at this time, Dr. William Lyon Phelps, of Yale, was giving a literary talk to the Teachers' Club, of Hartford, dwelling on the superlative value of Mark Twain's writings for readers old and young. Mrs. F. G. Whitmore, an old Hartford friend, wrote Clemens of the things that Phelps had said, as consolation for Eve's latest banishment. This gave him a chance to add something to what he had said to the reporters.
To Mrs. Whitmore, in Hartford:
Feb. 7, 1907. DEAR MRS. WHITMORE,--But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me. But even if it angered me such words as those of Professor Phelps would take the sting all out. Nobody attaches weight to the freaks of the Charlton Library, but when a man like Phelps speaks, the world gives attention. Some day I hope to meet him and thank him for his courage for saying those things out in public. Custom is, to think a handsome thing in private but tame it down in the utterance.
I hope you are all well and happy; and thereto I add my love. Sincerely yours, S.