Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/30

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12
Mark Twain

made with a stenographer in 1882; it contains interesting autobiographical notes, admirable descriptive passages, a remarkable diatribe on Sir Walter Scott for perpetuating outworn chivalry in the South, an account of a meeting with G. W. Cable and Joel Chandler Harris in New Orleans, and miscellaneous yarns and information; but it is of distinctly secondary value. Steadily throughout the first twenty chapters the writer is elate with his youthful memories of the drowsy towns by the river, the old barbaric raftsmen, the pride and power of the ancient race of pilots, and the high art and mystery of piloting those infinitely various waters in the days before the war. The moonlight, one of his characters fancies, was brighter before the war; and he himself, travelled now and acquainted with glory, has experienced, he believes, nothing so satisfying to his inmost sense as his life in that epical calling with its manly rigours, its robust hilarity, its deep, wholesome, unreflective happiness. The spirit that, years before, inspired Emerson's blandly expressed desire to make Concord and Boston Bay as memorable as the storied places of Europe becomes in these pages clear, strong, resounding: it is the new national pride declaring the spiritual independence of America. Not in peevish envy, with no anxiety about the ultimate answer, out of his knowledge and the depths of his conviction Mark Twain cries: "What are all the rivers of Damascus to the Father of Waters?"

The material for Following the Equator (1897) he collected under the strain of debt, ill health, and the fatigues of the immense lecture-tour undertaken in 1895. In Australasia, to which the first half of the book is given, the people impress him as Englishmen democratized, that is to say, as Americans, and the cities and towns offer little noteworthy. In order to exhibit novelties he is obliged to present the history of the early settlers, the aborigines, and the fauna; and as he gets up his facts by visits to museums and hasty digestion of Australasian literature, his treatment strikes one as, for him, noticeably secondhand and uninspired. He also introduces later a good deal of "lifted" material of a vivid sort in his account of the Sepoy Mutiny, Suttee, and the Thugs—and here we may note his taste for the collection of atrocious incident. India, however, for which Kipling had sharpened his appetite, inspired him to the task of imparting his oppressed sense of her historic and