by Barbara Schmidt

A History of and Guide to

Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition
Volume 25: Christian Science with Notes Containing Corrections to Date


Volume 25 of the Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition of Mark Twain's works is Christian Science with Notes Containing Corrections to Date. The contents of this volume are identical to the contents of the book issued by Harper and Brothers under the same title in previous uniform editions with the exception of the Introduction written by Albert Bigelow Paine. (For the previous history of this work, see Chapter 27.)


THERE has been a good deal of confusion in the public mind as to Mark Twain's position in relation to Christian Science. Even those who have read his book on the subject have been likely to lay it down with the impression that he opposed rather than favored the principle of healing through harmony with infinity -- that is to say, through Mind. Yet as far back as 1886 we read in the diary of his daughter, Susy Clemens:

He is very enthusiastic on the subject of mental healing, and has interested the entire family in trying it for their various ills, including nearsightedness, wounds, and the like.

Probably Mark Twain had not read any of Mrs. Eddy's literature at that time, and had received his doctrines at second hand. But he was always open-minded, ready to accept and try whatever came along that promised relief, mental, physical, or financial. It was about ten years after Susy's record that Susy Clemens herself was in frail health. In letters which her parents wrote (they were then on a journey around the world) they expressed satisfaction that Susy had renewed her interest in mental healing and the belief that it would do her good.

It was not until two years later, in Vienna, that Mark Twain, for the first time reading Mrs. Eddy's book, found himself unable to resist the opportunity for humor offered by certain of her phrasings and formulas. It was then that he wrote, for the Cosmopolitan Magazine, that amusing article which now appears as the first four chapters of the present volume. The humor of it is delightful, though even here he makes acknowledgment to the various empiric practices which restore the body through appealing to the imagination.

Of methods that exclude the use of all medicine, however, he was doubtful, and, indeed, this remained his attitude to the end of his days. He rarely took any medicine himself, and always under protest, but his general doctrine of therapeutics was eclectic: a willingness to try anything that he thought would benefit body or mind.

When he had finished the Cosmopolitan article Clemens wrote other articles on the same general subject. But it was Mrs. Eddy herself, the founder of the faith, who chiefly figured in these chapters. He had conceived a strong antagonism for the leader of the cult. He acknowledged her great executive ability, and admired it. He furthermore acknowledged the good of her work to humanity at large, but he believed her to be self-seeking -- that her chief purpose was self-aggrandizement, power, and financial increase. The more he read and wrote upon the subject, the more positive became his utterances. At times his animosity for the founder of the faith seemed to lap over and fringe the religion itself, though this was apparent rather than real. He published none of these writings at the time, and presently his interest in the subject waned. About four years later, at Riverdale-on-the-Hudson, it was renewed. An article on Christian Science he published in the North American Review aroused a controversy which stirred his fighting instinct. It was then that he decided to complete a book on the subject. Howells in his My Mark Twain refers to the "mighty moment when Clemens was building his engines of war for the destruction of Christian Science, which superstition nobody, and he least of all, expected to destroy. He believed that as a religious machine the Christian Science Church was as perfect as the Roman Church, and destined to be more formidable in its control of the minds of men." It was the apparent tyranny of Mrs. Eddy and the hierarchy of which she was the head that stirred Mark Twain's indignation. He covered reams of paper with his conclusions, and eventually put together enough of this writing for the volume. The publication of it was delayed for several years; it came from the press in the spring of 1907, by which time its author cared very little for the subject, one way or the other. It continued to interest him, but any personal bitterness toward the elders or members of the faith had about passed away. Once when the writer of this chapter mentioned to him rather hesitatingly that he had taken Christian Science treatment for neurasthenia and had seemingly received benefit, he said: "Of course you have been benefited. Christian Science is humanity's boon. Mother Eddy deserves a place in the Trinity as much as any member of it. She has organized and made valuable a healing principle that for two thousand years has never been employed except as the merest kind of guesswork. She is the benefactor of the age."

I did not know him then as I did later, and, like most others, had assumed from his published articles that he condemned not only Mrs. Eddy, but her religion, out of hand. It was another angle of his many-sided character.

Whether this book of Mark Twain's is warranted or not as a whole does not matter now. Time examines, and either sustains or upsets, all human opinions. That there was excuse for much of his humor, and perhaps for his satire, in the manner and presentation of Christian Science literature and creeds can hardly be denied. The book as a whole is a readable one, and, as Mark Twain himself often said of Christian Science, "If it will do no good, at least it will do no harm."


Illustration List for Volume 25

The photographs used in the Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition of Christian Science are those that were used in previous uniform editions of the book

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Volume 25



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