EUROPE AND ELSEWHERE
EUROPE AND ELSEWHERE. By Mark Twain. With an Appreciation by Brander Matthews and an Introduction by Albert Bigelow Paine. Frontispiece from drawing by Peter Newell. 406 pp. New York: Harper & Brothers. $2.25
Old-timers, very old-timers, in newspaperdom out in Nevada and California still chuckle over a story they heard a generation and more ago from Mark Twain's associates on The Virginia City Enterprise when he was doing his 'prenticeship on that paper soon after the Civil War. It was the custom, they explain, in those unregenerate days whenever a new saloon was opened, which was quite frequently, for Virginia City was in its hey-day of mining prosperity and life was hectic and hilarious, for the proprietor to send a basket of champagne to the newspaper office, expecting, and always receiving, in the next issue an account of the occasion and the place that glowed with good-fellowship. Such a basket, large and well filled, came on day, and to young Clemens was assigned the job of writing the "story" about it. The others heard him laughing to himself now and then as he wrote, and when he hung his copy on the hook and hurried off on some other assignment, for the office was undermanned and he did all manner of varied work, they read it, laughing uproariously. He had written it as if under the mounting inspiration of bottle after bottle of the wine - not one of which had been opened - mingling boisterous humor, sly wit, quaint fantasy, extravagant imagination, and seeming to progress gradually through the successive stages of intoxication from brilliant good-fellowship at the beginning through increasing mental stuttering and hiccoughing to sudden end in maudlin imbecility. They agreed it was a masterpiece of its kind and excruciatingly funny and hailed Clemens on his return with congratulations and appreciation. But when the paper came out his "story" wasn't there, and in its place was a colorless, conventional four-line notice. Clemens and his associates rushed in a body to the composing room to find out what had happened. The foreman explained: "Yes, I read the piece, and I saw Sam had been gettin' drunk again and I was afraid the boss would discharge him if he saw the proof of it in the paper. So I threw it away and wrote that item instead, and I reckon I saved Sam's job for him." To this day the oldtimers declare that it was the funniest and cleverest and most brilliant thing Mark Twain ever wrote and hold that he thought so too and always regretted its untimely snuffing out.
One closes this new posthumous volume with the wish that somebody as strenuously determined as Mark Twain's old foreman to uphold his reputation to its highest notch had taken a hand in the selection of the papers that compose it. Some of them, indeed, are well worth while. The initial article, describing a visit to Westminister Abbey at midnight, any lover of Mark Twain ought to read. Mr. Paine tells us in his introduction that it was part of a mass of notes, comments and short bits that Twain wrote during a visit to England in 1872 as preparation for a book about that country. But he gave up that purpose and the volume was never written. Other articles preserve newspaper correspondence from Europe during the '70's and the '90's. There are some graphic descriptions of scenes, incidents and places, one of these telling the story of a lazy, drifting trip down the Rhone River in 1891, of which some parts are very delightful, while others are unworthy of Mark Twain, or any one else. It was on this trip that he discovered, and lost, a mountain silhouette having a startling resemblance to a recumbent Napoleon of tremendous size, which is described in another short article. Readers of one of Albert Bigelow Paine's recent books will remember the account of an automobile journey he took through that country in 1913 for the purpose, which was finally successful, of rediscovering that effigy.
The volume contains thirty-five articles of varying length dated all along through the years from the early '70's to 1908. Some of them had newspaper or magazine publication at the time, but most of them are now put into print for the first time. Some deserve preservation because of their inherent worth and their delectable, inimitable Mark Twain flavor, but as for most of them, it is probable that the author had entirely forgotten them and would have rushed them into the waste basket it he had known they would some time appear in print.
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