Mark Twain’s religion was a faith too wide for doctrines—a benevolence too limitless for creeds. From the beginning he strove against oppression, sham, and evil in every form. He despised meanness; he resented with every drop of blood in him anything that savored of persecution or a curtailment of human liberties. It was a religion identified with his daily life and his work. He lived as he wrote, and he wrote as he believed. His favorite weapon was humor—good-humor—with logic behind it. A sort of glorified truth it was truth wearing a smile of gentleness, hence all the more quickly heeded.
“He will be remembered with the great humorists of all time,” says Howells, “with Cervantes, with Swift, or with any others worthy of his company; none of them was his equal in humanity.”
Mark Twain understood the needs of men because he was himself supremely human. In one of his dictations he said:
I have found that there is no ingredient of the race which I do not possess in either a small or a large way. When it is small, as compared with the same ingredient in somebody else, there is still enough of it for all the purposes of examination.
With his strength he had inherited the weaknesses of our kind. With him, as with another, a myriad of dreams and schemes and purposes daily flitted by. With him, as with another, the spirit of desire led him often to a high mountain-top, and was not rudely put aside, but lingeringly—and often invited to return. With him, as with another, a crowd of jealousies and resentments, and wishes for the ill of others, daily went seething and scorching along the highways of the soul. With him, as with another, regret, remorse, and shame stood at the bedside during long watches of the night; and in the end, with him, the better thing triumphed—forgiveness and generosity and justice—in a word, Humanity. Certain of his aphorisms and memoranda each in itself constitutes an epitome of Mark Twain’s creed. His paraphrase, “When in doubt tell the truth,” is one of these, and he embodied his whole attitude toward Infinity when in one of his stray pencilings he wrote:
Why, even poor little ungodlike man holds himself responsible for the welfare of his child to the extent of his ability. It is all that we require of God.
Every life is a drama—a play in all its particulars; comedy, farce, tragedy—all the elements are there. To examine in detail any life, however conspicuous or obscure, is to become amazed not only at the inevitable sequence of events, but at the interlinking of details, often far removed, into a marvelously intricate pattern which no art can hope to reproduce, and can only feebly imitate.