[EDITOR'S NOTE: These items have not been previously republished elsewhere. They are included in this collection because of their potential to be the work of Clemens and are deserving of further research and consideration. The item "A Brilliant Paper" refers to Mark Twain's "Christmas Fireside Stories" which was also titled "The Story of the Bad Boy Who Didn't Come to Grief." The second item "Christmas Day" discusses Thomas Paine's Age of Reason. Clemens discussed Age of Reason with his biographer in 1908 stating, "I read it first when I was a cub pilot, read it with fear and hesitation, but marveling at its fearlessness and wonderful power" (Mark Twain: A Biography, by Albert Bigelow Paine, p. 1445.)]
A BRILLIANT PAPER
To-day's Californian is emphatically a Christmas number. It is pervaded by a jovial holiday feeling, and redolent of the fragrance of plum-pudding brazing in a "quatern of brandy," and the piny aroma of fresh holly branches. Mark Twain's "Christmas Fireside Stories," Bret's "Christmas Story -- After Dickens," and the "Christmas Poems" are all suitable to the season.
Over half a century ago poor poor TOM PAINE published his "Age of Reason," which he confidently believed would overthrow "the Christian superstition," as he called it, and leave none to "give credit to these tables except a few priests and old women." Indeed, so sanguine was PAINE on this point, that in the concluding chapter of his volume he could not forbear the vaunt:
Thus have I gone through these books (the books of the Bible) as a woodman goes through a wood with his ax, cutting down the trees as he goes. I have taken them one by one, and have I think overthrown them so effectually that all the old women and priests in the world will never be able to set them up again.
So PAINE honestly believed, and it was quite natural that he should do so; for clear and vigorous as was his intellect, it was not one at all capable of comprehending the real strength of Christianity, any more than it was of grasping those philosophical doctrines in the light of which all assaults upon Christianity by the common rationalistic method must seem so futile. He was nevertheless an able writer, and thoroughly honest in his convictions. Disgusted by hypocrisy and bigotry, he made war upon religion, fully believing that he was doing a good work. He wrote from a warm and zealous heart, bitterly indeed, but with a bitterness like that of one indignant at oppression or imposture. His style furnishes an admirable specimen of clear forcible English, and is even superior to that of COBBETT. He is simple, direct and out-spoken. When he sneers, it is not a mean or a sickly sneer; when he scoffs, it is with manly heartiness, not with feminine malice. He always marches squarely up to his subject, and never sneaks toward it by a series of crab like "approximative approaches," like a thief whose cowardice overbalances his acquisitiveness. PAINE'S heart was broken by the utter failure of his book to accomplish what he had anticipated. It was the ablest book of the kind ever written, and yet it fell as harmless as a raindrop upon a rock. This was a mystery quite as much as a mortification to him, and it haunted and puzzled him to the day of his death. And now, when the day is at hand that is held sacred in all civilized lands, and is hallowed by sweeter and purer associations than any other day in all the year, let all good men, and all who not being good still have any honest love and yearning for something higher and better than they attain, and all who would not see our human life so materialized and hardened as to make it like the life of brutes or demons -- let all such rejoice that the "Age of Reason" in which there shall be no believers, "but a few priests and old women," and when there shall be no Christmas in the calendar, has not yet come.
[transcribed from microfilm]
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