Richter, an American soldier, by orders of a commissioned officer of the United States army on the night of February 7, 1902. Private Richter was bound and gagged and the gag held in his mouth by means of a club while ice-water was slowly poured into his face, a dipper full at a time, for two hours and a half, until life became extinct.]
Clemens undertook to give expression to his feelings on this subject, but he boiled so when he touched pen to paper to write of it that it was simply impossible for him to say anything within the bounds of print. Then his only relief was to rise and walk the floor, and curse out his fury at the race that had produced such a specimen.
Mrs. Clemens, who perhaps got some drift or the echo of these tempests, now and then sent him a little admonitory, affectionate note.
Among the books that Clemens read, or tried to read, during his confinement were certain of the novels of Sir Walter Scott. He had never been able to admire Scott, and determined now to try to understand this author's popularity and his standing with the critics; but after wading through the first volume of one novel, and beginning another one, he concluded to apply to one who could speak as having authority. He wrote to Brander Matthews:
DEAR BRANDER,--I haven't been out of my bed for 4 weeks, but-well, I have been reading a good deal, & it occurs to me to ask you to sit down, some time or other when you have 8 or 9 months to spare, & jot me down a certain few literary particulars for my help & elevation. Your time need not be thrown away, for at your further leisure you can make Columbian lectures out of the results & do your students a good turn.
1. Are there in Sir Walter's novels passages done in good English-- English which is neither slovenly nor involved?
2. Are there passages whose English is not poor & thin & commonplace, but is of a quality above that?
3. Are there passages which burn with real fire--not punk, fox- fire, make-believe? 4. Has he heroes & heroines who are not cads and cadesses?
5. Has he personages whose acts & talk correspond with their characters as described by him?
6. Has he heroes & heroines whom the reader admires--admires and knows why?
7. Has he funny characters that are funny, and humorous passages that are humorous?
8. Does he ever chain the reader's interest & make him reluctant to lay the book down?
9. Are there pages where he ceases from posing, ceases from admiring the placid flood & flow of his own dilution, ceases from being artificial, & is for a time, long or short, recognizably sincere & in earnest?
10. Did he know how to write English, & didn't do it because he didn't want to?
11. Did he use the right word only when he couldn't think of another one, or did he run so much to wrong words because he didn't know the right one when he saw it?
12. Can you read him and keep your respect for him? Of course a person could in his day--an era of sentimentality & sloppy romantics--but land! can a body do it to-day?
Brander, I lie here dying; slowly dying, under the blight of Sir Walter. I have read the first volume of Rob Roy, & as far as Chapter XIX of Guy Mannering, & I can no longer hold my head up or take my nourishment. Lord, it's all so juvenile! so artificial, so shoddy; & such wax figures & skeletons & specters. Interest? Why, it is impossible to feel an interest in these bloodless shams, these milk-&-water humbugs. And oh, the poverty of invention! Not poverty in inventing situations, but poverty in furnishing reasons for them. Sir Walter usually gives himself away when he arranges for a situation--elaborates & elaborates & elaborates till, if you live to get to it, you don't believe in it when it happens.
I can't find the rest of Rob Roy, I, can't stand any more Mannering- I do not know just what to do, but I will reflect, & not quit this great study rashly ....