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The New York Times, May 9, 1912

An Inscription in Need of Amendment.

Those of us who think that even gravestones, though of course they cannot be expected to take the witness's oath and tell the whole truth, should refrain from telling untruths, and that memorial inscriptions should be equally veracious, will regret that one MAHAN - doubtless a most well-intentioned person - has been permitted to engrave on the tablet identifying the birthplace of Mark Twain these highly inaccurate statements:

Mark Twain's life teaches that poverty is an incentive rather than a bar, and that any boy, however humble his birth and surroundings, may by honesty and industry accomplish great things.

Properly qualified - which would mean elaborately and at length - and with all the terms used in it carefully defined, that statement might pass muster. But as it stands it is both irrelevant and false. It is irrelevant because Mr. CLEMENS never had to endure real poverty - that deprivation of the necessities and decencies of life which, if long continued, invariably blights both character and career, while his "birth and surroundings" were not those which involve anything like inferiority or humiliation.

He came of "good people" - people of much intelligence and some education, who looked at all their neighbors with level eyes - and any normal boy would view the conditions in which the humorist-philosopher's early days were passed, not with commiseration, but with envy. He himself never even hinted that his boyhood was unhappy or his youth one of hardship. His talents won prompt recognition, and though his after life included some hard fights with circumstance, they all ended in victory. What more could a man ask?

On the other hand, that "any boy" with honesty and industry can accomplish "great things" is true only when "great things" is taken in a sense quite different from what is meant, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when the expression is used. More, and much more, than honesty and industry is required for the accomplishment of what Mr. CLEMENS did, and had he had no other qualifications, a memorial tablet would never had marked his birthplace.

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