PRIVATE HISTORY OF THE "JUMPING FROG" STORY
FIVE or six years ago a lady from Finland asked me to tell her a story in our negro dialect, so that she could get an idea of what that variety of speech was like. I told her one of Hopkinson Smith's negro stories, and gave her a copy of Harper's Monthly containing it. She translated it for a Swedish newspaper, but by an oversight named me as the author of it instead of Smith. I was very sorry for that, because I got a good lashing in the Swedish press, which would have fallen to his share but for that mistake; for it was shown that Boccaccio had told that very story, in his curt and meager fashion, five hundred years before Smith took hold of it and made a good and tellable thing out of it.
I have always been sorry for Smith. But my own turn has come now. A few weeks ago Professor Van Dyke, of Princeton, asked this question:
"Do you know how old your Jumping Frog story is?"
And I answered:
"Yes—forty-five years. The thing happened in Calaveras County in the spring of 1849."
"No; it happened earlier—a couple of thousand years earlier; it is a Greek story."
I was astonished and hurt. I said: