THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

as the author very frankly–yes, and very hopefully, too, poor fellow–

says in his preface. The money never came–no penny of it ever came;

and how long, how pathetically long, the fame has been deferred–

forty-seven years! He was young then, it would have been so much to

him then; but will he care for it now?

As time is measured in America, McClintock’s epoch is antiquity.

In his long-vanished day the Southern author had a passion for

“eloquence”; it was his pet, his darling. He would be eloquent,

or perish. And he recognized only one kind of eloquence–the lurid,

the tempestuous, the volcanic. He liked words–big words,

fine words, grand words, rumbling, thundering, reverberating words;

with sense attaching if it could be got in without marring the sound,

but not otherwise. He loved to stand up before a dazed world,

and pour forth flame and smoke and lava and pumice-stone into

the skies, and work his subterranean thunders, and shake himself

with earthquakes, and stench himself with sulphur fumes. If he

consumed his own fields and vineyards, that was a pity, yes; but he

would have his eruption at any cost. Mr. McClintock’s eloquence–

and he is always eloquent, his crater is always spouting–is of the

pattern common to his day, but he departs from the custom of the time

in one respect: his brethren allowed sense to intrude when it did

not mar the sound, but he does not allow it to intrude at all.

For example, consider this figure, which he used in the village

“Address” referred to with such candid complacency in the title-page

above quoted–“like the topmost topaz of an ancient tower.”

Please read it again; contemplate it; measure it; walk around it;

climb up it; try to get at an approximate realization of the size of it.

Is the fellow to that to be found in literature, ancient or modern,

foreign or domestic, living or dead, drunk or sober? One notices

how fine and grand it sounds. We know that if it was loftily uttered,

it got a noble burst of applause from the villagers; yet there isn’t

a ray of sense in it, or meaning to it.

McClintock finished his education at Yale in 1843, and came to

Hartford on a visit that same year. I have talked with men who at

that time talked with him, and felt of him, and knew he was real.

One needs to remember that fact and to keep fast hold of it;

it is the only way to keep McClintock’s book from undermining one’s

faith in McClintock’s actuality.

As to the book. The first four pages are devoted to an inflamed eulogy

of Woman–simply woman in general, or perhaps as an institution–

wherein, among other compliments to her details, he pays a unique

one to her voice. He says it “fills the breast with fond alarms,

echoed by every rill.” It sounds well enough, but it is not true.

After the eulogy he takes up his real work and the novel begins.

It begins in the woods, near the village of Sunflower Hill.

Brightening clouds seemed to rise from the mist of the fair Chattahoochee,

to spread their beauty over the thick forest, to guide the hero whose

bosom beats with aspirations to conquer the enemy that would tarnish

his name, and to win back the admiration of his long-tried friend.

It seems a general remark, but it is not general; the hero mentioned

is the to-be hero of the book; and in this abrupt fashion,

and without name or description, he is shoveled into the tale.

“With aspirations to conquer the enemy that would tarnish his name”

is merely a phrase flung in for the sake of the sound–let it

not mislead the reader. No one is trying to tarnish this person;

no one has thought of it. The rest of the sentence is also merely

a phrase; the man has no friend as yet, and of course has had no

chance to try him, or win back his admiration, or disturb him in any

other way.

The hero climbs up over “Sawney’s Mountain,” and down the other side,

making for an old Indian “castle”–which becomes “the red man’s hut”

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Categories: Twain, Mark