Latterly I have received several letters, and see a number of newspaper paragraphs, all upon a certain subject, and all of about the same tenor. I here give honest specimens. One is from a New York paper, one is from a letter from an old friend, and one is from a letter from a New York publisher who is a stranger to me. I humbly endeavor to make these bits toothsome with the remark that the article they are praising (which appeared in the December galaxy, and pretended to be a criticism from the London Saturday review on my innocents abroad) was written by myself, every line of it:
The Herald says the richest thing out is the “serious critique” in the London Saturday review, on Mark Twain’s innocents abroad. We thought before we read it that it must be “serious,” as everybody said so, and were even ready to shed a few tears; but since perusing it, we are bound to confess that next to Mark Twain’s “Jumping Frog” it’s the finest bit of humor and sarcasm that we’ve come across in many a day.
(I do not get a compliment like that every day.)
I used to think that your writings were pretty good, but after reading the criticism in the galaxy from the London review, have discovered what an ass I must have been. If suggestions are in order, mine is, that you put that article in your next edition of the innocents, as an extra chapter, if you are not afraid to put your own humor in competition with it. It is as rich a thing as I ever read.
(Which is strong commendation from a book publisher.)
The London Reviewer, my friend, is not the stupid, “serious” creature he pretends to be, I think; but, on the contrary, has a keep appreciation and enjoyment of your book. As I read his article in the galaxy, I could imagine him giving vent to many a hearty laugh. But he is writing for Catholics and Established Church people, and high-toned, antiquated, conservative gentility, whom it is a delight to him to help you shock, while he pretends to shake his head with owlish density. He is a magnificent humorist himself.
(Now that is graceful and handsome. I take off my hat to my life-long friend and comrade, and with my feet together and my fingers spread over my heart, I say, in the language of Alabama, “You do me proud.”)
I stand guilty of the authorship of the article, but I did not mean any harm. I saw by an item in the Boston advertiser that a solemn, serious critique on the English edition of my book had appeared in the London Saturday review, and the idea of such a literary breakfast by a stolid, ponderous British ogre of the quill was too much for a naturally weak virtue, and I went home and burlesqued it —reveled in it, I may say. I never saw a copy of the real Saturday review criticism until after my burlesque was written and mailed to the printer. But when I did get hold of a copy, I found it to be vulgar, awkwardly written, ill-natured, and entirely serious and in earnest. The gentleman who wrote the newspaper paragraph above quoted had not been misled as to its character.