To the editors.
I’ve enjoyed very much Mr. Robert Hurwitt’s critique on Mark Twain’s Letters, Volume 1: 1853-1866, in fact, on Mark Twain, Reader [“Reading: Semisincerely, Mark Twain,” July 8]. As I’ve taken graduate college courses on Mark Twain and read all his works, except his lectures (shows that were on the regular billboard of theatre in New York), which, however, included all the anecdotes he had written, I agree with Mr. Hurwitt that Mark Twain would change his views on various issues quite often.
But what Mr. Hurwitt didn’t mention is that Twain liked money very much. As a performer, he had to have audiences, and he would say or write whatever he thought could enhance his career. I realized this, more so, once I took courses on the American Theatre and have followed Twain’s numerous appearances as a humorist. This made me an authority on Twain, as I believe I’m among the few–if not the only one–who studied Twain extensively as well as the history of the American Theatre from its very beginning. However, Twain got his break altogether unexpectedly. His “Jumping Frog,” which I myself thought of as his best anecdote–somehow found its way to a French publication, but in a derogatory way, since it was to show how tasteless and coarse American humor is.
Thus, as the American pride was injured, right after, Twain was financed to go to Europe from which trip The Innocents Abroad resulted and published. And yet, this book was not received favorably at all by the American intelligentsia. Also, but reversely, his Huckleberry Finn was not received favorably either; which book no publisher wanted to have anything to do with, and Twain had to publish it himself by getting his own printer and by having someone appear as the publisher, with the end result that Twain went bankrupt. It was at about this time when Twain was encouraged by William Dean Howells, the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, one of the most prestigious magazines at the time, to which Twain had submitted the sad story about his black maid.
However, although Howells urged him to write more of the same, to the contrary, not only had Twain never written another story in favor of the black people, but within weeks he wrote in a hurry his Pudd’nhead Wilson–the most racist book ever being in print–which put him under favorable light to receive financing from rich sponsors.