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The New York Times, January 7, 1901

Untitled Editorial on Anti-Imperialism

Imitation can be the severest condemnation, as well as the sincerest flattery, and it was doubtless with the intention of expressing in characteristic way his disgust, natural to all patriotic Americans, at the imprudence of the anti-imperialists that Mr. Clemens, at the City Club dinner, professed "a strong aversion to sending our bright boys out to the Philippines to fight with a disgraced musket under a polluted flag." The professional humorist must vary his effects, under penalty, if he does not, of becoming wearisome at last, and it is an entirely legitimate device for him occasionally to put on a solemn face and with all the accustomed signals of sincerity to exploit with seeming earnestness the views held by foolish or wicked or deluded persons on some great question. The late "Petroleum V. Nasby" did this with brilliant success, and it is no wonder that "Mark Twain" aspires to win a triumph of the same sort. But the plan, though good when skillfully carried out, has its incidental dangers. Mr. Locke avoided them, possibly because he had never justified any suspicion of a desire on his part to preach directly, instead of indirectly. Mr. Clemens, unfortunately, has suggested several times of late that his inclination lies that way, that fame as a humorist does not content him, and that he aspires to add to his own abundant laurels those which lesser men acquire by the maintenance of a consistent gravity. This has now and then proved confusing, even to some of his most ardent admirers, and we very much fear lest his present assumption of anti-imperialism's garments may deceive the hasty-minded into thinking that he wears them from choice and habit. Of course Mr. Clemens is not so poor a jester that he need paint large on every one of his inventions, "This is a joke," but he should not go to the other extreme and trust too confidently to the existence of a universal sense of humor. When he talks about the United States flag as "polluted," it would be only reasonable caution to give us all a reassuring and explanatory wink. Else may mistakes follow -- mistakes the consequences of which to his popularity may be serious.

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