CALLS MARK TWAIN OUR GREATEST NOVELIST
Prof. Phelps Puts Him Above Holmes and James.
INSPIRATION IN HIS WORK
Yale Lecturer Says It Will Live Longer Than That of His Many Contemporaries.
Special to the New York Times
BRIDGEPORT, Conn., Jan. 11. - "The fame of Mark Twain will live longer than that of Oliver Wendell Holmes," said Prof. William Lyon Phelps of Yale, who lectured here tonight. "Twain is easily the greatest American novelist in the history of this country's literature."
Among his first memories of Mark Twain Prof. Phelps told of the grammar school graduation exercises, when Twain addressed them. His subject was "Methuselah." He said:
"Boys and girls, Methuselah lived to be 963 years old, but he might just as well have lived to be 10,000 years old. You will live longer than Methuselah."
"At that time," said the professor, "I did not understand what Mark Twain meant. But I think he develops this idea through all his work. He has a profound belief in today and great hope in the future. He believes that today rather than the Middle Ages, is the time of romance and wonders. He believes that the magicians of mediaeval Europe could not begin to do the tricks that you and I can today. He is a firm believer in the present. His humor is the humor of progress."
"By some Twain is regarded as a novelist. He is something more than a humorist. If he can be regarded as a novelist I think he can be called the greatest living American novelist. There is more genuine inspiration, more power in him than there is in Howells and James. I say this with due respect to Howells and James, not wishing to detract from them.
"He is like Bret Harte and Whittier is being thoroughly American. He is more American than Whitman, whom Europeans consider very much of an American.
"He has great common sense. The foundation of humor is common sense Just as the caricaturist often gives us a truer picture than the photographer, so the humorist shows us the philosophy of life.
"Democracy is Mark Twain's political, moral, and religious creed. We find in his humor roaring mirth, not the gentle, indirect playful wit of Addison or Washington Irving. But we come, as Milton says, to 'Laughter holding both her sides.' This is the result of Americanism."
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