Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/29

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
" A Tramp Abroad "

self an enthusiastic and intrepid pedestrian but actually presents himself as a languid and timorous person travelling luxuriously with agent and courier by railway, steamboat, carriage, raft, or by any means to avoid the use of his legs. Secondly, he professes himself a devoted student of art and decorates his pages with infantile sketches. Finally, he assumes the air of a philologist seriously studying the German language. The first of these devices he handles in many places ingeniously and pleasantly, presenting an amusing satire on the indolent middleaged tourist who climbs his Alps by telescope and gets his thrills on his hotel veranda out of the books of Edward Whymper; but in the elaborate burlesque ascent of the Riffleberg the humour becomes crudely farcical and tiresome. His drawings are not very expressive; and from their fewness it may be inferred that he discovered the fact. Some fellow philologists have found inexhaustible satisfaction in the German legends in German-English and in the appendices treating of "the awful German language" and the German newspaper—possibly also in the violent attack on Wagnerian opera. Other favourite passages of various qualities are those dealing with the grand affair between M. Gambetta and M. Fourtou, the sunrise on Mt. Riga, and the 47-mile hunt for a sock in Chapter XIII; but the humorous jewel of the collection is "Baker's Bluejay Yarn" in Chapter III—a trivial incident touched with imagination and related in a supremely delicious manner. The serious writing, as in the description of the Jungfrau and Heidelberg and the student duels, is so good that one wishes there were more of it.

For Life on the Mississippi (1883) Mark Twain drew again from the treasure of Western material which he had amassed before he became a professional humorist; and that distinguished connoisseur, the ex-Emperor William II of Germany, therein agreeing with the portier of the author s lodging in Berlin, informed the author that it was his favourite American book. More strictly speaking, it is the first twenty of the fifty-five chapters that do for the Mississippi Valley what Roughing It does for the Far West, namely, invest it with the charm of recollected experience and imaginative apprehension. The latter part of the book, which might have been called "The Mississippi Revisited," is the journalistic record of an excursion