Mark Twain’s Mother

Her interest in people and other animals was warm, personal, and friendly. She always found something to excuse, and as a rule to love, in the toughest of them–even if she had to put it there herself. She was the natural ally and friend of the friendless. It was believed that, Presbyterian as she was, she could be beguiled into saying a soft word for the devil himself, and so the experiment was tried. The abuse of Satan began; one conspirator after another added his bitter word, his malign reproach, his pitiless censure, till at last, sure enough, the unsuspecting subject of the trick walked into the trap. She admitted that the indictment was sound, that Satan was utterly wicked and abandoned, just as these people had said; but would any claim that he had been treated fairly? A sinner was but a sinner; Satan was just that, like the rest. What saves the rest?–their own efforts alone? No–or none might ever be saved. To their feeble efforts is added the mighty help of pathetic, appealing, imploring prayers that go up daily out of all the churches in Christendom and out of myriads upon myriads of pitying hearts. But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for th pelain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?

This friend of Satan was a most gentle spirit and an unstudied and unconscious pathos was her native speech. When her pity or her indignation was stirred by hurt or shame inflicted upon some defenseless person or creature, she was the most eloquent person I have heard speak. It was seldom eloquence of a fiery or violent sort, but gentle, pitying, persuasive, appealing; and so genuine and so nobly and simply worded and so touchingly uttered, that many times I have seen it win the reluctant and splendid applause of tears.

*

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. New York: HarperPerennial, 2013.

The cover displayed above is from the Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Kindle edition, published in 2011.

All Over Your Leg

“That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her.” ~ Samuel L. Clemens


from memoirs of Clemens’ secretary Mary Howden which were published in
New York Herald, December 13, 1925

It is 3:30 a.m. I stayed up working on a website for a friend. Then I replied to some emails. Then I wrote several more emails to the same people, as if I thought they were awake and waiting for them. In fact, one of them was awake, and she read my email and replied, so I replied to her.

Then I checked out a page of Shakespearean insults. Earlier in the evening I had found a blog with a title very like the one at the top of this page, so it’s obvious I need a new one–the fact that I’m down to a cow as header is another clue things here are wearing thin; I love cows, but I don’t consider them header material–and before I can do anything else, I must have a title, and the title must be literary. And since Lewis Carroll is pretty well taken up, I turned to Shakespeare. Why I chose insults, I don’t know, except that a while back I found a perfect title there–Guts and Midriff. It’s from Henry IV Part I: Act 3, Scene 3. The entire quotation goes this way:

There’s no room for faith, truth, nor honesty in this bosom of thine. It is all filled up with guts and midriff. 

For vivid imagery, there’s no one better than Shakespeare.

Except for Mark Twain. Finding no insult that seemed appropriate, I turned to a site of Twain quotations and, of course, ended up on the cat page. Twain liked cats. A lot. And his family had a passel of them. Put Mark Twain and cats together, and I’ll read quotations all night without a thought of a blog title.

I think my love of Twain comes from growing up among men who talked like Twain wrote. My father and his Woodward uncles, one of whom lived next door, had the same–I don’t know what, but they had it. If a stenographer had followed them around, the transcripts would have had a lot of Huck Finn in them. When Huck says that Pap has a couple of his toes leaking out the front end of his boot–I can hear my dad saying it. One of my greatest regrets is that the last time he and his three brothers were together, I sat there for three or four hours listening to them remember but didn’t get up and go into the next room for the tape recorder. Well, spilt milk.

Anyway, in my moseying through the Twain and cats page, I discovered the quotation at the first of this post–not something Twain wrote, but something he said to his secretary about the cat that was shredding her dress–and thought it would make a decent post. But when I got it on the page, it looked so small all by itself, so I decided to add a few words of my own. And now I have, so I without further ado, I shall sign off.

Enhanced by Zemanta