There’s a new Gospel
of Saint Mark in the North American which I
like better than anything I’ve read for many a day.
I am willing to borrow a thousand dollars to distribute that sacred message in proper form, & if the author don’t object may I send that sum, when I can raise it, to the Anti-Imperialist League, Boston, to which I am a contributor, the only missionary work I am responsible for.
Just tell me you are willing & many thousands of the holy little missals will go forth. This inimitable satire is to become a classic. I count among my privileges in life that I know you, the author.
Perhaps a few more of the letters invited by Mark Twain’s criticism of missionary work in China may still be of interest to the reader: Frederick T. Cook, of the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Association, wrote: “I hail you as the Voltaire of America. It is a noble distinction. God bless you and see that you weary not in well-doing in this noblest, sublimest of crusades.”
Ministers were by no means all against him. The associate pastor of the Every-day Church, in Boston, sent this line: “I want to thank you for your matchless article in the current North American. It must make converts of well-nigh all who read it.”
But a Boston school-teacher was angry. “I have been reading the North American,” she wrote, “and I am filled with shame and remorse that I have dreamed of asking you to come to Boston to talk to the teachers.”
On the outside of the envelope Clemens made this pencil note:
“Now, I suppose I offended that young lady by having an opinion of my own, instead of waiting and copying hers. I never thought. I suppose she must be as much as twenty-five, and probably the only patriot in the country.”
A critic with a sense of humor asked: “Please excuse seeming impertinence, but were you ever adjudged insane? Be honest. How much money does the devil give you for arraigning Christianity and missionary causes?”
But there were more of the better sort. Edward S. Martin, in a grateful letter, said: “How gratifying it is to feel that we have a man among us who understands the rarity of the plain truth, and who delights to utter it, and has the gift of doing so without cant and with not too much seriousness.”
Sir Hiram Maxim wrote: “I give you my candid opinion that what you have done is of very great value to the civilization of the world. There is no man living whose words carry greater weight than your own, as no one’s writings are so eagerly sought after by all classes.”
Clemens himself in his note-book set down this aphorism:
“Do right and you will be conspicuous.”
Summer at “The Lair”