Why should you want to use foreign words, anyhow?"

"They adorn my page. They all do it."

"Who is 'all'?"

"Everybody. Everybody that writes elegantly. Anybody has a right to that wants to."

"I think you are mistaken." I then proceeded in the following scathing manner. "When really learned men write books for other learned men to read, they are justified in using as many learned words as they please--their audience will understand them; but a man who writes a book for the general public to read is not justified in disfiguring his pages with untranslated foreign expressions. It is an insolence toward the majority of the purchasers, for it is a very frank and impudent way of saying, 'Get the translations made yourself if you want them, this book is not written for the ignorant classes.' There are men who know a foreign language so well and have used it so long in their daily life that they seem to discharge whole volleys of it into their English writings unconsciously, and so they omit to translate, as much as half the time. That is a great cruelty to nine out of ten of the man's readers. What is the excuse for this? The writer would say he only uses the foreign language where the delicacy of his point cannot be conveyed in English. Very well, then he writes his best things for the tenth man, and he ought to warn the nine other not to buy his book. However, the excuse he offers is at least an excuse; but there is another set of men who are like YOU; they know a WORD here and there, of a foreign language, or a few beggarly little three-word phrases, filched from the back of the Dictionary, and these are continually peppering into their literature, with a pretense of knowing that language--what excuse can they offer? The foreign words and phrases which they use have their exact equivalents in a nobler language--English; yet they think they 'adorn their page' when they say STRASSE for street, and BAHNHOF for railway-station, and so on--flaunting these fluttering rags of poverty in the reader's face and imagining he will be ass enough to take them for the sign of untold riches held in reserve. I will let your 'learning' remain in your report; you have as much right, I suppose, to 'adorn your page' with Zulu and Chinese and Choctaw rubbish as others of your sort have to adorn theirs with insolent odds and ends smouched from half a dozen learned tongues whose A-B ABS they don't even know."

When the musing spider steps upon the red-hot shovel, he first exhibits a wild surprise, then he shrivels up. Similar was the effect of these blistering words upon the tranquil and unsuspecting Agent. I can be dreadfully rough on a person when the mood takes me.

CHAPTER XXXI [Alp-scaling by Carriage]

We now prepared for a considerable walk--from Lucerne to Interlaken, over the Bruenig Pass. But at the last moment the weather was so good that I changed my mind and hired a four-horse carriage. It was a huge vehicle, roomy, as easy in its motion as a palanquin, and exceedingly comfortable.

We got away pretty early in the morning, after a hot breakfast, and went bowling over a hard, smooth road, through the summer loveliness of Switzerland, with near and distant lakes and mountains before and about us for the entertainment of the eye, and the music of multitudinous birds to charm the ear. Sometimes there was only the width of the road between the imposing precipices on the right and the clear cool water on the left with its shoals of uncatchable fish skimming about through the bars of sun and shadow; and sometimes, in place of the precipices, the grassy land stretched away, in an apparently endless upward slant, and was dotted everywhere with snug little chalets, the peculiarly captivating cottage of Switzerland.

The ordinary chalet turns a broad, honest gable end to the road, and its ample roof hovers over the home in a protecting, caressing way, projecting its sheltering eaves far outward. The quaint windows are filled with little panes, and garnished with white muslin curtains, and brightened with boxes of blooming flowers. Across the front of the house, and up the spreading eaves and along the fanciful railings of the shallow porch, are elaborate carvings--wreaths, fruits, arabesques, verses from Scripture, names, dates, etc.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book