Onion remained in St. Louis, but when Bliss established a paper called The Publisher, and wanted an editor, he was chosen for the place, originally offered to his brother; the latter, writing to Onion, said:

If you take the place with an air of perfect confidence in yourself, never once letting anything show in your bearing but a quiet, modest, entire, and perfect confidence in your ability to do pretty much anything in the world, Bliss will think you are the very man he needs; but don't show any shadow of timidity or unsoldierly diffidence, for that sort of thing is fatal to advancement.

I warn you thus because you are naturally given to knocking your pot over in this way, when a little judicious conduct would make it boil.



Meantime The Innocents Abroad had continued to prosper. Its author ranked mainly as a humorist, but of such colossal proportions that his contemporaries had seemed to dwindle; the mighty note of the "Frog of Calaveras" had dwarfed a score of smaller peepers. At the end of a year from its date of publication the book had sold up to 67,000 and was continuing at the rate of several thousand monthly.

"You are running it in staving, tiptop, first-class style," Clemens wrote to Bliss. "On the average ten people a day come and hunt me up to tell me I am a benefactor! I guess that is a part of the program we didn't expect, in the first place."

Apparently the book appealed to readers of every grade. One hundred and fifteen copies were in constant circulation at the Mercantile Library, in New York, while in the most remote cabins of America it was read and quoted. Jack Van Nostrand, making a long horseback tour of Colorado, wrote:

I stopped a week ago in a ranch but a hundred miles from nowhere. The occupant had just two books: the Bible and The Innocents Abroad--the former in good repair.

Across the ocean the book had found no less favor, and was being translated into many and strange tongues. By what seems now some veritable magic its author's fame had become literally universal. The consul at Hongkong, discussing English literature with a Chinese acquaintance, a mandarin, mentioned The Pilgrim's Progress.

"Yes, indeed, I have read it!" the mandarin said, eagerly. "We are enjoying it in China, and shall have it soon in our own language. It is by Mark Twain."

In England the book had an amazing vogue from the beginning, and English readers were endeavoring to outdo the Americans in appreciation. Indeed, as a rule, English readers of culture, critical readers, rose to an understanding of Mark Twain's literary value with greater promptness than did the same class of readers at home. There were exceptions, of course. There were English critics who did not take Mark Twain seriously, there were American critics who did. Among the latter was a certain William Ward, an editor of a paper down in Macon, Georgia--The Beacon. Ward did not hold a place with the great magazine arbiters of literary rank. He was only an obscure country editor, but he wrote like a prophet. His article--too long to quote in full--concerned American humorists in general, from Washington Irving, through John Phoenix, Philander Doesticks, Sut Lovingwood, Artemus Ward, Josh Billings and Petroleum V. Nasby, down to Mark Twain. With the exception of the first and last named he says of them:

They have all had, or will have, their day. Some of them are resting beneath the sod, and others still live whose work will scarcely survive them. Since Irving no humorist in prose has held the foundation of a permanent fame except it be Mark Twain, and this, as in the case of Irving, is because he is a pure writer. Aside from any subtle mirth that lurks through his composition, the grace and finish of his more didactic and descriptive sentences indicate more than mediocrity.

The writer then refers to Mark Twain's description of the Sphinx, comparing it with Bulwer's, which he thinks may have influenced it.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book