We are spoken of (by Englishmen) as a thin-skinned people. It is you who are thin-skinned. An Englishman may write with the most brutal frankness about any man or institution among us and we republish him without dreaming of altering a line or a word. But England cannot stand that kind of a book written about herself. It is England that is thin-skinned. It causeth me to smile when I read the modifications of my language which have been made in my English editions to fit them for the sensitive English palate.

Now, as I say, I have taken laborious pains to so trim this book of offense that you'll not lack the nerve to print it just as it stands. I am going to get the proofs to you just as early as I can. I want you to read it carefully. If you can publish it without altering a single word, go ahead. Otherwise, please hand it to J. R. Osgood in time for him to have it published at my expense.

This is important, for the reason that the book was not written for America; it was written for England. So many Englishmen have done their sincerest best to teach us something for our betterment that it seems to me high time that some of us should substantially recognize the good intent by trying to pry up the English nation to a little higher level of manhood in turn.

So the Yankee was published in England just as he had written it,--[The preface was shortened and modified for both the American and English editions. The reader will find it as originally written under Appendix S, at the end of last volume.]--and the criticisms were as plentiful as they were frank. It was referred to as a "lamentable failure" and as an "audacious sacrilege" and in terms still less polite. Not all of the English critics were violent. The Daily Telegraph gave it something more than a column of careful review, which did not fail to point out the book's sins with a good deal of justice and dignity; but the majority of English papers joined in a sort of objurgatory chorus which, for a time at least, spared neither the author nor his work. Strictures on the Yankee extended to his earlier books. After all, Mark Twain's work was not for the cultivated class.

These things must have begun to gravel Clemens a good deal at last, for he wrote to Andrew Lang at considerable length, setting forth his case in general terms--that is to say, his position as an author--inviting Lang to stand as his advocate before the English public. In part he said:

The critic assumes every time that if a book doesn't meet the cultivated-class standard it isn't valuable . . . The critic has actually imposed upon the world the superstition that a painting by Raphael is more valuable to the civilizations of the earth than is a chromo; and the august opera more than the hurdy-gurdy and the villagers' singing society; and the Latin classics than Kipling's far-reaching bugle-note; and Jonathan Edwards than the Salvation Army . . . . If a critic should start a religion it would not have any object but to convert angels, and they wouldn't need it. It is not that little minority who are already saved that are best worth lifting up, I should think, but the mighty mass of the uncultivated who are underneath! That mass will never see the old masters--that sight is for the few; but the chromo-maker can lift them all one step upward toward appreciation of art; they cannot have the opera, but the hurdy-gurdy and the singing-class lift them a little way toward that far height; they will never know Homer, but the passing rhymester of their day leaves them higher than he found them; they may never even hear of the Latin classics, but they will strike step with Kipling's drum-beat and they will march; for all Jonathan Edwards's help they would die in their slums, but the Salvation Army will beguile some of them to a purer air and a cleaner life .

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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