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The New York Times, June 6, 1915


In these days of international animosities it is pleasant to recognize the universality of appreciation that attaches to what is truly great or, in other words, human in literature, a universality that is emphasized in the obliteration of national prejudices with which the humor of MARK TWAIN finds general acceptance. From the reports that have reached us from time to time as to the books that find favor in the literature in demand "at the front" we recall that the name of this typical American humorist enjoys a generous popularity with the German soldiery. That this is so constitutes one of those spontaneous tributes to genius that is worth more, perhaps, than the reasoned appreciation of scholarship. It is the humanity in the work of MARK TWAIN that gives to his humor the cosmopolitan quality that transcends geographical and even racial limitations and makes of him something that belongs not to a nation merely but to mankind. The fact and something of its explanation is noted by Professor LEON KELLNER in his recently published work on "American Literature," appearing in the new series of "American Books," (Doubleday, Page & Co.) American humor in general, according to professor KELLNER, has appealed to the German reader. But of all our humorists in this connection MARK TWAIN seems to stand supreme:

All strata, all callings, all climes, all temperaments and destinies are represented in him. The pompous Senator is not spared, the poor nigger Jim not forgotten.

This is the chief reason why to foreigners MARK TWAIN comes so much closer than do the more recent American humorists, who surpass him, perhaps, in keenness and wit; the reason why Germans in particular regard him almost as one of their own; I believe no English or American writer of today has found as many translators and publishers in Germany. Our American, in his fine humanity, in his idealism, in his gentleness, is almost an old-fashioned gentleman. It is a pity that the Puritan spirit, which still prevailed in the home of MARK TWAIN'S parents, is dying out. True enough, it often produced blind zealots, intolerable pedants. But where the Puritan shoot encountered the suitable psychical disposition, we had a LINCOLN, an EMERSON, an OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, a MARK TWAIN.

Professor KELLNER assails the criticism that attempts to define - and condemn - MARK TWAIN'S humor as merely "grotesque exaggeration." He places Mr. CLEMENS among those who, according to OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, are gifted with "telescopic natures" and, in the breadth of his interests and humanity classes him with DICKENS.

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