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Favorite writings of Mark Twain

ESSAYS ON PAUL BOURGET, by Mark Twain [MT#34][mtpbg10.txt]3173

Bret Harte got his California and his Californians by unconscious
absorption, and put both of them into his tales alive. But when he came
from the Pacific to the Atlantic and tried to do Newport life from study-
conscious observation–his failure was absolutely monumental. Newport is
a disastrous place for the unacclimated observer, evidently.

It is my belief that there are some “national” traits and things
scattered about the world that are mere superstitions, frauds that have
lived so long that they have the solid look of facts. One of them is the
dogma that the French are the only chaste people in the world. Ever
since I arrived in France this last time I have been accumulating doubts
about that.

It would be too immodest. Also too gratuitously generous. And a shade
too self-sufficient. No, he could not venture it. It would look too
much like anxiety to get in at a feast where no plate had been provided
for him.

A foreigner can photograph the exteriors of a nation, but I think that
that is as far as he can get. I think that no foreigner can report its
interior–its soul, its life, its speech, its thought. I think that a
knowledge of these things is acquirable in only one way; not two or four
or six [years]–absorption; years and years of unconscious absorption;
years and years of intercourse with the life concerned; of living it,
indeed; sharing personally in its shames and prides, its joys and griefs,
its loves and hates, its prosperities and reverses, its shows and
shabbinesses, its deep patriotisms, its whirlwinds of political passion,
its adorations–of flag, and heroic dead, and the glory of the national
name. Observation? Of what real value is it? One learns peoples
through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.

One may say the type of practical joker, for these people are exactly
alike all over the world. Their equipment is always the same: a vulgar
mind, a puerile wit, a cruel disposition as a rule, and always the spirit
of treachery.

A DOG’S TALE, by Mark Twain [MT#35][mtdtl10.txt]3174

My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a
Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice
distinctions myself.

And it was the same with phrases. She would drag home a whole phrase, if
it had a grand sound, and play it six nights and two matinees, and
explain it a new way every time–which she had to, for all she cared for
was the phrase; she wasn’t interested in what it meant, and knew those
dogs hadn’t wit enough to catch her, anyway. Yes, she was a daisy! She
got so she wasn’t afraid of anything, she had such confidence in the
ignorance of those creatures.

By and by came my little puppy, and then my cup was full, my happiness
was perfect. It was the dearest little waddling thing, and so smooth and
soft and velvety, and had such cunning little awkward paws, and such
affectionate eyes, and such a sweet and innocent face; and it made me so
proud to see how the children and their mother adored it, and fondled it,
and exclaimed over every little wonderful thing it did. It did seem to
me that life was just too lovely to–

I have watched two whole weeks, and he doesn’t come up! This last week a
fright has been stealing upon me. I think there is something terrible
about this. I do not know what it is, but the fear makes me sick

A BURLESQUE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by Mark Twain [MT#36][mtbbg10.txt]3175

Ours is a noble old house, and stretches a long way back into antiquity.
The earliest ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the
family by the name of Higgins. This was in the eleventh century, when
our people were living in Aberdeen, county of Cork, England. Why it is
that our long line has ever since borne the maternal name (except when
one of them now and then took a playful refuge in an alias to avert
foolishness), instead of Higgins, is a mystery which none of us has ever
felt much desire to stir. It is a kind of vague, pretty romance, and we
leave it alone. All the old families do that way.

Then for the next two hundred years the family tree shows a succession of
soldiers–noble, high-spirited fellows, who always went into battle
singing; right behind the army, and always went out a-whooping, right
ahead of it.

Charles Henry Twain lived during the latter part of the seventeenth
century, and was a zealous and distinguished missionary. He converted
sixteen thousand South Sea islanders, and taught them that a dog-tooth
necklace and a pair of spectacles was not enough clothing to come to
divine service in. His poor flock loved him very, very dearly; and when
his funeral was over, they got up in a body (and came out of the
restaurant) with tears in their eyes, and saying, one to another, that he
was a good tender missionary, and they wished they had some more of him.

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