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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 159

type of fun—or rather, had frequent intervals of a different type and also of a fierce seriousness—but the origins of his art lie there. So do the origins of his ideas lie among the populace, much as he eventually outgrew of the evangelical orthodoxy and national complacency and personal hopefulness with which he had first been burdened. The secret alike of his powers and of his limitations must be looked for in the dual, the never quite completed, nature which allowed him on one side to touch, say, Petroleum V. Nasby and on the other William Dean Howells.
  Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in 1835 at Florida, Missouri, a cluster of houses which the boy’s father, in something the fashion of Judge Hawkins in The Gilded Age, confidently expected to become a metropolis. As it did not, the family soon removed to Hannibal, in the same state, which was on the Mississippi and so daily witnessed if not shared the river’s prosperity. There Clemens passed a boyhood and youth nearly as irresponsible as Huckleberry Finn’s and nearly as imaginative and mischievous as Tom Sawyer’s. Neither studious by nature nor offered even tolerable opportunities for study, he left school at twelve upon the death of his father, and was apprenticed to a printer in the town. For three years with him and later for three years more with his own elder brother, who had bought a newspaper, Clemens worked in this department of literature, beginning as well to write jokes and whimsical skits in the manner approved up and down the river. Then he carried his trade into a larger world, seeing the sights as a skilled workman could then see them in New York, Philadelphia, Washington,



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