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[This article is edited to include only the portion related to Mark Twain.]

The New York Times, November 6, 1909


Many a Good Laugh to be Found in New Volumes - Are We Growing More Serious?

Has there not been something of a slump of late years in American humor as regards both its quality and its relative quantity? The most of those who produce it nowadays seem disposed to work overtime and to spread out their more or less slender talent over an amazing amount of printed paper. But, notwithstanding their industry, the amount of humorous literature published n the United States as compared with the total output of books seems notably less than it did twenty years ago. Apparently we grow more serious as we mount the rungs of our second century. Here, however, is a bunch of Fall fiction, all of humorous intent, that has in it many a good laugh, even if its quality be not so highly and so finely flavored as it might be.

First on the list must be placed Mark Twain's capital piece of half-serious drollery, "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," (Harper & Brothers, $1.) It is told in the first person, in the language of an uneducated old sea Captain from the Pacific Coast, who wings his way through space for thirty years, having meanwhile a race with a comet and doing other interesting things, before he reaches Heaven. There his discoveries and experiences are of a sort to make the orthodox gasp and the self-satisfied crave some new means of inflation. The humor depends mainly upon the juxtaposition of incongruous ideas - the method upon which Mark Twain has always depended for his effects. But underneath the drollery of Captain Stormfield's forms of expression there is an immense lot of philosophy of a shrewd and homely sort concerning the future life.

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