Bret Harte, studying a form of life now extinct, which once (with certain allowances made for the romantic tendency) flourished in the West; Mr. Howells, taking micrographic studies of present-day life in the great centre of American culture; Mr. James, with a clever, weary persiflage skimming the face of society in refined cosmopolitan circles; and Miss Wilkins, observing the bitter humours of the Eastern yokel, are none of them distinctively American either in feeling or expression. Mr. Samuel L. Clemens-otherwise Mark Twain-stands in striking contrast to them all. He is not an artist in the sense in which the others are artists, but he is beyond compare the most distinct and individual of contemporary American writers. He started as a mere professional funmaker, and he has not done with funmaking even yet, but he has developed in the course of years into a rough and ready philosopher, and he has written two books which are in their own way unique. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are the two best boys in the whole wide range of fiction, the most natural, genuine, and convincing. They belong to their own soil, and could have been born and bred nowhere else, but they are no truer locally than universally. Mark Twain can be eloquent when the fancy takes him, but the medium he employs is the simplest and plainest American English. He thinks like an American, feels like an American, is American blood and bones, heart and head. He is not the exponent of culture, but more than any man of his own day, excepting Walt Whitman, he expresses the sterling, fearless, manly side of a great democracy. Taking it in the main, it is admirable, and even lovable, as he displays it. It
has no reverence for things which in themselves arc not reverend, and since its point of view is not one from which all things are visible it seems occasionally overbold and crude; but the creed it expresses is manly, and clean, and wholesome, and the man who lives by it is a man to be admired. The point of view may be higher in course of time, and the observer's horizon widened. The limitations of the mind which adopts the present standpoint may be found in A Yaukee at the Court of Ki11g Arthur. Apart from its ethics, the book is a mistake, for a jest which could have been elaborated to tedium in a score of pages is stretched to spread through a bulky volume, and snaps into pieces under that tension.