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


Page 164

in beadrolls of glorious names, his sense of the might and thunder of antiquity now sound so eloquent as they probably sounded in the sixties. But sweep and vigor and jolting contrasts and pealing laughter have not deserted the book. It remains an essential document in the biography of Mark Twain and in the history of American civilization.
  If confessed mendacity playing around facts can transform them into fiction, both Innocents Abroad and Roughing It, published in 1872, approach the novel. Contemporary readers thought of them as reasonably true, allowing the author, however, the large license of the successful liar. Now that Mark Twain is no longer in the news his actual exploits concern his readers less and less in comparison with the permanent elements contributed to his work by his elaborating imagination. These elements play a larger part in Roughing It than in Innocents Abroad. Having “taken down” the Old World as measured by the New, he now set up the New in a rollicking, bragging picture of the Great West where he had acquired his standards of landscape and excitement. His account, shaped to look like autobiography, takes him from St. Louis across the plains to the Rockies and on to California and Hawaii. But, unlike the story of the Innocents, this was not written day by day with the events still green in the mind. They had had time to ripen in the imagination and to take on a significance which the deepest impression can never have at the first moment. Roughing It is uneven in tone and in excellence; the exposition falls below the description, which is ordinarily florid, and neither can equal the narration, particularly when it runs lustily



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