An Arthurian Knight in New York or in Washington would find as much to blame, and justly, as a Yankee at Camelot.
Of Mark Twain's work in general he speaks with another conclusion:
Mark Twain is a benefactor beyond most modern writers, and the cultured who do not laugh are merely to be pitied. But his art is not only that of the maker of the scarce article--mirth. I have no hesitation in saying that Mark Twain is one among the greatest contemporary makers of fiction . . . . I can never forget or be ungrateful for the exquisite pleasure with which I read Huckleberry Finn for the first time years ago. I read it again last night, deserting Kenilworth for Huck. I never laid it down till I had finished it. I perused several passages more than once, and rose from it with a higher opinion of its merits than ever.
What is it that we want in a novel? We want a vivid and original picture of life; we want character naturally displayed in action; and if we get the excitement of adventure into the bargain, and that adventure possible and plausible, I so far differ from the newest school of criticism as to think that we have additional cause for gratitude. If, moreover, there is an unstrained sense of humor in the narrator we have a masterpiece, and Huckleberry Finn is, nothing less.
He reviews Huck sympathetically in detail, and closes:
There are defects of taste, or passages that to us seem deficient in taste, but the book remains a nearly flawless gem of romance and of humor. The world appreciates it, no doubt, but "cultured critics" are probably unaware of its singular value. The great American novel has escaped the eyes of those who watch to see this new planet swim into their ken. And will Mark Twain never write such another? One is enough for him to live by, and for our gratitude, but not enough for our desire.
In the brief column and a half which it occupies, this comment of Andrew Lang's constitutes as thoughtful and fair an estimate of Mark Twain's work as was ever written.
W. T. Stead, of the Review of Reviews, was about the only prominent English editor to approve of the Yankee and to exploit its merits. Stead brought down obloquy upon himself by so doing, and his separation from his business partner would seem to have been at least remotely connected with this heresy.
The Yankee in King Arthur's Court was dramatized in America by Howard Taylor, one of the Enterprise compositors, whom Clemens had known in the old Comstock days. Taylor had become a playwright of considerable success, with a number of well-known actors and actresses starring in his plays. The Yankee, however, did not find a manager, or at least it seems not to have reached the point of production.
A SUMMER AT ONTEORA
With the exception of one article--" A Majestic Literary Fossil"-- [Harper's Magazine, February, 1890. Included in the "Complete Works."]-- Clemens was writing nothing of importance at this time. This article grew out of a curious old medical work containing absurd prescriptions which, with Theodore Crane, he had often laughed over at the farm. A sequel to Huckleberry Finn--Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians-- was begun, and a number of its chapters were set in type on the new Paige compositor, which had cost such a gallant sum, and was then thought to be complete. There seems to have been a plan to syndicate the story, but at the end of Chapter IX Huck and Tom had got themselves into a predicament from which it seemed impossible to extricate them, and the plot was suspended for further inspiration, which apparently never came.
Clemens, in fact, was troubled with rheumatism in his arm and shoulder, which made writing difficult. Mrs. Clemens, too, had twinges of the malady. They planned to go abroad for the summer of 1890, to take the waters of some of the German baths, but they were obliged to give up the idea.