Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/24

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Mark Twain

disdaining the advantages of bankruptcy, he set out on a lecturing tour of the world which took on something of the aspect of a royal progress and ended in the triumphant discharge of all his obligations. Then he collected another fortune and built himself his mansion Stormfield in Redding, Connecticut.

In his last years he spent a good deal of time in New York and Washington, and a variety of causes kept him pretty steadily in the public eye as a figure of national interest: his valiant assumption of his debts, his great tour, his growing habit of commenting on public affairs, the publication of sections of his autobiography, his domestic bereavements, and the foreign tributes and honours which gradually assured his some what incredulous countrymen that he was a great man of letters. His first academic recognition had come from Yale University, which created him Master of Arts in 1888; in 1901 Yale and in 1902 the University of Missouri conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Letters; but the crowning academic glory fell in 1907 when the University of Oxford called him across the sea and robed him in scarlet and made him Doctor of Literature, amid, as he noted, "a very satisfactory hurrah" from the audience. On his return from a trip to the Bermudas he died 21 April, 1910.

Mark Twain s literary independence is generally conceded. Except for a certain flavour of Dickens in The Gilded Age there is hardly an indication of any important relationship between him and modern writers. He was a lover of the elemental in the midst of the refinements of an English and an American Victorian Age. "I can't stand George Eliot and Hawthorne and those people," he said. "And as for 'The Bostonians', I would rather be damned to John Bunyan s heaven than read that." Modern fiction generally impressed him as namby-pamby and artificial. Jane Austen was his pet abhorrence, but he also detested Scott, primarily for his Toryism, and he poked fun at, Cooper for his inaccuracies. His taste for books was eminently masculine. The literary nourishment of his style he appears to have found chiefly in history, travel, biography, and such works of imagination as one puts on a "five-foot shelf"— Shakespeare and the Bible, Suetonius's Lives of The Cæsars, Malory, Cellini, Don Quixote, Gil Bias, the Memoirs of Casanova, Lecky's History of Civilization, and Carlyle's French Revolution.