Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2.
Clemens now hurried back to Paris, arriving about the middle of May, his second trip in two months.  Scarcely had he got the family settled at La Bourboule-les-Bains, a quiet watering-place in the southern part of France, when a cable from Mr. Rogers, stating that the typesetter was perfected, made him decide to hurry back to America to assist in securing the new fortune.  He did not go, however.  Rogers wrote that the machine had been installed in the Times-Herald office, Chicago, for a long and thorough trial.  There would be plenty of time, and Clemens concluded to rest with his family at La Bourboule-les-Bains.  Later in the summer they went to Etretat, where he settled down to work.



That summer (July, ’94.) the ‘North American Review’ published “In Defense of Harriet Shelley,” a rare piece of literary criticism and probably the most human and convincing plea ever made for that injured, ill-fated woman.  An admirer of Shelley’s works, Clemens could not resist taking up the defense of Shelley’s abandoned wife.  It had become the fashion to refer to her slightingly, and to suggest that she had not been without blame for Shelley’s behavior.  A Shelley biography by Professor Dowden, Clemens had found particularly irritating.  In the midst of his tangle of the previous year he had paused to give it attention.  There were times when Mark Twain wrote without much sequence, digressing this way and that, as his fancy led him, charmingly and entertainingly enough, with no large, logical idea.  He pursued no such method in this instance.  The paper on Harriet Shelley is a brief as direct and compact and cumulative as could have been prepared by a trained legal mind of the highest order, and it has the added advantage of being the utterance of a human soul voicing an indignation inspired by human suffering and human wrong.  By no means does it lack humor, searching and biting sarcasm.  The characterization of Professor Dowden’s Life of Shelley as a “literary cake-walk” is a touch which only Mark Twain could have laid on.  Indeed, the “Defense of Harriet Shelly,” with those early chapters of Joan at Florence, maybe counted as the beginning for Mark Twain of a genuine literary renaissance.  It was to prove a remarkable period less voluminous than the first, but even more choice, containing, as it would, besides Joan and the Shelley article, the rest of that remarkable series collected now as Literary Essays; the Hadleyburg story; “Was it Heaven or Hell?”; those masterly articles on our national policies; closing at last with those exquisite memories, in his final days.

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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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