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


Page 180

the interest which Mark Twain, who liked all sorts of ingenuity, took in stories of the detection of crime, an interest also illustrated by A Double Barrelled Detective Story (1902). But Pudd’nhead is more memorable as the village atheist, whose maxims, printed at the head of each chapter in this book and also in Following the Equator, so frequently express the tired disillusionment which was becoming Mark Twain’s characteristic mood. “Pity,” says Pudd’nhead, “is for the living, envy is for the dead.”
  “I have been reading the morning paper,” Mark Twain wrote to Howells in 1899. “I do it every morning—well knowing that I shall find in it the usual depravities and basenesses and hypocrisies and cruelties that make up civilization, and cause me to put in the rest of the day pleading for the damnation of the human race.” Some such despair of mankind had furnished a strain in his constitution from his early days. He had the frontiersman’s contempt for the ordinary gestures of idealism. Judged by his simple, though inflexible, code of morals the world fell pitifully short. The human race he observed to be lazy, selfish, envious, given to lying, disposed to disease and vice and crime, fawning in adversity, tyrannical in prosperity, and at all times the dupe of countless errors. “Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.” At the same time, Mark Twain largely lacked the outlet of misanthropy; he could not, because of his natural kindliness, help himself by laying his hatred of the race upon his fellows. His hatred came home and condemned him too. “What a man sees in the human



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