From the Pall Mall Gazette.
In one of his essays on "Poets and Humorists" in the Parlement M.
Andre Theuriet turns his attention to Mark Twain. That author can hardly be
said to translate well, and the extracts from the famous histories of the "Jumping
Frog" and the "Naughty Little Boy who was Never Punished" certainly
look very ill at ease in their French dress. M. Theuriet struggles hard to be
just to the American humorist, but he cannot quite suppress a groan over "this
coarse-grained comedy," which has "nothing in common with Attic salt."
If, notwithstanding his want of delicate fancy, Mark Twain is so much more road
than writers of a far higher stamp, such as Wendell Holmes, this is due, according
to M. Theuriet, to the "rustic tastes" of the American public. Despite
all its primary education, America is still, from an intellectual point of view,
a very rude and primitive soil, only to be cultivated by the application of
violent methods. "These childish and half-savage minds are not moved, except
by elementary narratives, command without art, in which burlesque and melodrama,
vulgarity and eccentricity, are combined in strong doses." And therewith
M. Theuriet passes on per saltum to bewail the evil effects of democracy upon
literature - a well-worn theme indeed, but one which seems to possess for certain
highly refined critics a perennial charm, hardly consistent with their constantly
professed disdain for all that is hackneyed and commonplace.