An editorial in the Evening Mail said:
Mark Twain, in his "last and best of life for which the first was made," seems to be advancing rapidly to a position which makes him a kind of joint Aristides, Solon, and Themistocles of the American metropolis--an Aristides for justness and boldness as well as incessancy of opinion, a Solon for wisdom and cogency, and a Themistocles for the democracy of his views and the popularity of his person.
Things have reached the point where, if Mark Twain is not at a public meeting or banquet, he is expected to console it with one of his inimitable letters of advice and encouragement. If he deigns to make a public appearance there is a throng at the doors which overtaxes the energy and ability of the police. We must be glad that we have a public commentator like Mark Twain always at hand and his wit and wisdom continually on tap. His sound, breezy Mississippi Valley Americanism is a corrective to all sorts of snobbery. He cultivates respect for human rights by always making sure that he has his own.
He talked one afternoon to the Barnard girls, and another afternoon to the Women's University Club, illustrating his talk with what purported to be moral tales. He spoke at a dinner given to City Tax Commissioner Mr. Charles Putzel; and when he was introduced there as the man who had said, "When in doubt tell the truth," he replied that he had invented that maxim for others, but that when in doubt himself, he used more sagacity.
The speeches he made kept his hearers always in good humor; but he made them think, too, for there was always substance and sound reason and searching satire in the body of what he said.
It was natural that there should be reporters calling frequently at Mark Twain's home, and now and then the place became a veritable storm-center of news. Such a moment arrived when it became known that a public library in Brooklyn had banished Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer from the children's room, presided over by a young woman of rather severe morals. The incident had begun in November of the previous year. One of the librarians, Asa Don Dickinson, who had vigorously voted against the decree, wrote privately of the matter. Clemens had replied:
DEAR SIR,--I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn for adults exclusively, & it always distresses me when I find that boys & girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean, sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady--she will tell you so.
Most honestly do I wish that I could say a softening word or two in defense of Huck's character since you wish it, but really, in my opinion, it is no better than those of Solomon, David, & the rest of the sacred brotherhood.
If there is an unexpurgated in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Tom & Huck from that questionable companionship?
Sincerely yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
I shall not show your letter to any one-it is safe with me.
Mr. Dickinson naturally kept this letter from the public, though he read it aloud to the assembled librarians, and the fact of its existence and its character eventually leaked out.--[It has been supplied to the writer by Mr. Dickinson, and is published here with his consent.]--One of the librarians who had heard it mentioned it at a theater-party in hearing of an unrealized newspaper man. This was near the end of the following March.