Essays on Paul Bourget by Mark Twain

if you think it punctures them all, I have to yield to your judgment.

But you are to blame, your own self. Your remark misled me. I supposed

the industry was confined to that little unnumerous upper layer.

Well, now that the unfortunate thing has been done, let us do what we can

to undo it. There must be a way, M. Bourget, and I am willing to do

anything that will help; for I am as sorry as you can be yourself.

I will tell you what I think will be the very thing.

We will swap anecdotes. I will take your anecdote and you take mine. I

will say to the dukes and counts and princes of the ancient nobility of


“Ha, ha! You must have a pretty hard time trying to find out who your

grandfathers were?”

They will merely smile indifferently and not feel hurt, because they can

trace their lineage back through centuries.

And you will hurl mine at every individual in the American nation,


“And you must have a pretty hard time trying to find out who your fathers

were.” They will merely smile indifferently, and not feel hurt, because

they haven’t any difficulty in finding their fathers.

Do you get the idea? The whole harm in the anecdotes is in the point,

you see; and when we swap them around that way, they haven’t any.

That settles it perfectly and beautifully, and I am glad I thought of it.

I am very glad indeed, M. Bourget; for it was just that little wee thing

that caused the whole difficulty and made you dictate the Reply, and your

amanuensis call me all those hard names which the magazines dislike so.

And I did it all in fun, too, trying to cap your funny anecdote with

another one–on the give-and-take principle, you know–which is American.

I didn’t know that with the French it was all give and no take, and you

didn’t tell me. But now that I have made everything comfortable again,

and fixed both anecdotes so they can never have any point any more, I

know you will forgive me.

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Categories: Twain, Mark