Samuel L. Clemens (18361902). Jim Smily and His Jumping Frog.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Criticisms and Interpretations
II. By Albert Bigelow Paine
IT is difficult to judge the Jumping Frog story to-day. It has the intrinsic fundamental value of one of Æsops Fables.1 It contains a basic idea which is essentially ludicrous, and the quaint simplicity of its telling is convincing and full of charm. It appeared in print at a time when American humor was chaotic, the public taste unformed. We had a vast appreciation for what was comic, with no great number of opportunities for showing it. We were so ready to laugh that when a real opportunity came along we improved it and kept on laughing and repeating the cause of our merriment, directing the attention of our friends to it. Whether the story of Jim Smilys Frog, offered for the first time to-day, would capture the public, and become the initial block of a towering fame, is another matter. That the author himself under-rated it is certain. That the public, receiving it at what we now term the psychological moment, may have over-rated it is by no means impossible. In any case, it does not matter now. The stone rejected by the builder was made the corner-stone of his literary edifice. As such it is immortal.From Mark Twain (1912).
Note 1. The resemblance of the frog story to the early Greek tales must have been noted by Prof. Henry Sidgwick, who synopsized it in Greek form and phrase for his book, Greek Prose Composition. Through this originated the impression that the story was of Athenian root. Mark Twain himself was deceived, until in 1899, when he met Professor Sidgwick, who explained that the Greek version was the translation and Mark Twains the original; that he had thought it unnecessary to give credit for a story so well known. See The Jumping Frog, Harper & Bros., 1903, p. 64. [back]