IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD?
Mark Twain has deserted the camp of the Shakespearites, and if he has not exactly committed himself to the cause of the Baconians, he comes very close to it. "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (Harpers, $1.25,) is a semi-serious consideration of the old controversy, and Ignatius Donnelly would rejoice at the arguments with which Mr. Clemens carries his points. After proving to his own satisfaction that one William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote Shakespeare's Works, for the very good reason that he could not have written them, Mark Twain concludes that perhaps Bacon did, or if Bacon did not, he could have written them if he had chosen to. All of which adds to the humor of the controversy and makes very interesting reading.
A chapter is devoted to the early experiences of Mr. Clemens with Shakespeare's Works and the Captain of a Mississippi River steamboat. The Captain admired the works and read copious extracts, interspersed with strange and fearful commands to the youthful pilot. That was the beginning of Mark Twain's desertion; he explains that he had to argue with the Captain, who believed implicitly in Shakespeare. Taking up the negative side, he assumed this mental attitude: "I only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I knew Shakespeare didn't." And he holds it still.
The book is a fragment of Mr. Clemens's long-promised autobiography, and is full of the humor which has never failed him. Deep margins and an extract of twenty-one pages from another book - rather a large allowance for this small volume - give an effect of padding, but even in such meagre quantity the quality of Mark Twain's writing is always assured of a wide welcome.
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