He was mistaken in this, for Clemens had not read Bulwer--never could read him at any length.
Of the English opinions, that of The Saturday Review was perhaps most doubtful. It came along late in 1870, and would hardly be worth recalling if it were not for a resulting, or collateral, interest. Clemens saw notice of this review before he saw the review itself. A paragraph in the Boston Advertiser spoke of The Saturday Review as treating the absurdities of the Innocents from a serious standpoint. The paragraph closed:
We can imagine the delight of the humorist in reading this tribute to his power; and indeed it is so amusing in itself that he can hardly do better than reproduce the article in full in his next monthly "Memoranda."
The old temptation to hoax his readers prompted Mark Twain to "reproduce" in the Galaxy, not the Review article, which he had not yet seen, but an imaginary Review article, an article in which the imaginary reviewer would be utterly devoid of any sense of humor and treat the most absurd incidents of The New Pilgrim's Progress as if set down by the author in solemn and serious earnest. The pretended review began:
Lord Macaulay died too soon. We never felt this so deeply as when we finished the last chapter of the above-named extravagant work. Macaulay died too soon; for none but he could mete out complete and comprehensive justice to the insolence, the impudence, the presumption, the mendacity, and, above all, the majestic ignorance of this author.
The review goes on to cite cases of the author's gross deception. It says:
Let the cultivated English student of human nature picture to himself this Mark Twain as a person capable of doing the following described things; and not only doing them, but, with incredible innocence, printing them tranquilly and calmly in a book. For instance:
He states that he entered a hair-dresser's in Paris to get a shave, and the first "rake" the barber gave him with his razor it loosened his "hide," and lifted him out of the chair.
This is unquestionably extravagant. In Florence he was so annoyed by beggars that he pretends to have seized and eaten one in a frantic spirit of revenge. There is, of course, no truth in this. He gives at full length the theatrical program, seventeen or eighteen hundred years old, which he professes to have found in the ruins of the Colosseum, among the dirt-and mold and rubbish. It is a sufficient comment upon this subject to remark that even a cast- iron program would not have lasted so long under the circumstances.
There were two and one-half pages of this really delightful burlesque which the author had written with huge-enjoyment, partly as a joke on the Review, partly to trick American editors, who he believed would accept it as a fresh and startling proof of the traditional English lack of humor.
But, as in the early sage-brush hoaxes, he rather overdid the thing. Readers and editors readily enough accepted it as genuine, so far as having come from The Saturday Review; but most of them, regarded it as a delicious bit of humor which Mark Twain himself had taken seriously, and was therefore the one sold. This was certainly startling, and by no means gratifying. In the next issue he undertook that saddest of all performances with tongue or pen: he explained his joke, and insisted on the truth of the explanation. Then he said:
If any man doubts my word now I will kill him. No, I will not kill him; I will win his money. I will bet him twenty to one, and let any New York publisher hold the stakes, that the statements I have above made as to the authorship of the article in question are entirely true.
But the Cincinnati Enquirer persisted in continuing the joke--in "rubbing it in," as we say now. The Enquirer declared that Mark Twain had been intensely mortified at having been so badly taken in; that his explanation in the Galaxy was "ingenious, but unfortunately not true." The Enquirer maintained that The Saturday Review of October 8, 1870, did contain the article exactly as printed in the "Memoranda," and advised Mark Twain to admit that he was sold, and say no more about it.