The Greatest Baconian


Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens,1908

 

by

Mather Walker

 

"To write with powerful effect, he must write out the life he has led as did Bacon when he wrote Shakespeare."A note Mark Twain wrote in his copy of George Greenwood's, "The Shakespeare Problem Restated" 

 

There is a story that when Grimaldi, the famous clown, was on his triumphal tour of Europe at the height of his fame in 1805, a man went to a doctor. When the doctor asked the man his problem, the man explained that he was so depressed he constantly thought of suicide. He said he did not know how much longer he could go on, and he begged the doctor to help him..

"I have just the thing for you." The Doctor said, "You are very fortunate. Grimaldi is in town. Go to see him. He can make anyone laugh."
"But doctor," the man replied, "I am Grimaldi."

The case is not without analogy with that of that very great man Samuel Langhorne Clemens - otherwise known as Mark Twain giant of American literature. Twain achieved great fame through his ability to make people laugh. His wit, wisdom, and broad humanity will endear him to readers as long as books endure. He also achieved great wealth. But just when Twain was at the height of his fame he was struck down from the heights to the depths.

The most important thing of all to Twain, was his family. When he reached 30 years of age, Twain began to think of marriage. With his characteristic humor he said, "I want a good wife. Two of them if they are particularly good." On a steamship voyage he met Charles Langdon, and Langdon showed him a picture of his sister Olivia. From the moment he saw the picture Twain knew Olivia was the woman for him.

He wooed her for over two years, writing her over 200 letters. The Langdons were blue bloods from the pinnacle of Elmira society, and when Olivia's father, Jervis, saw the relationship was becoming serious, he asked the wild man from the West for references. Twain actually gave him two references. Olivia's father actually wrote them. They actually replied.

One said Twain would die a drunkard. The other said he was born to be hanged. But Jervis Langdon said if no one else would stand up for Twain he would. So Twain and Olivia got married. Twain doted on his wife Olivia. He said she was his Eden. They had three children, all girls. And of his three daughters, one in particular, Susie, was his treasure. Susie was a kindred spirit to Twain. She wrote a biography of him when she was only 13. Twain was very proud of the biography and often quoted from it. Then when he was 60, just at the height of his fame, his investments failed, and suddenly he was flat broke. He had done very well in the past as a Platform Lecturer. He had an unfailing ability to make people laugh. So he went on a world lecture tour, and at the same time, increased his literary output, in an effort to recoup some of his losses, and pay off his debtors. But while he was on his tour in Europe, his daughter Susie became ill of meningitis and died. It was a crushing blow to Twain from which he never really recovered. He had the following beautiful lines from the poem "Annette" by Robert Richardson engraved on her tombstone :

Warm summer sun
Shine kindly here
Warm southern wind
Blow softly here
Green sod above
lie light, lie light
Good night, dear heart
Good night, good night.

And put her to rest. But he could never forget her, nor cure the ache in his heart caused by the loss of his dear Susie. And more misfortune followed. A few years afterwards his beloved wife, Olivia, died. The other daughters had married and moved away. At the height of his fame Twain, an old man, was all alone in his big house. Forced to make a living by making people laugh, Twain, the most famous man in the world, crushed by all his losses, alone and very lonely, was desperately sad. Whenever he was not on the public stage making people laugh, his last years were spent in deep depression and heavy drinking. His secretary recorded seeing Twain in such a state of inebriation that his hand stabbed twice for the door knob and missed it each time. When Twain saw his secretary was watching, he muttered, "Practicing, practicing."

Even to this day Twain retains his status as America's Greatest Writer, and he has much in common with The World's Greatest Writer. If the mind of Shakespeare could be said to be oceanic, Twain's mind was certainly like that great river, the Mississippi, with which his life had such a close connection. His mind was broader and covered a much greater range than other people's, just as the Mississipi was broader and flowed over many more miles of territory than other rivers. Just as Shakespeare's mind flowed over many areas of experience so did Twain's. He was a printer, riverboat pilot, goldminer, reporter, publisher, humorist, entrepreneur, and inventor And his mind was apt at anytime to overflow the riverbed of convention just as the mighty Mississippi often overflowed its riverbed.

Although Twain was a humorist, and teller of Tall Tales, he was essentially a realist, endowed with a massive allotment of common sense. A good example of this is his hilarious little treatise on Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. He begins by saying ,

"It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature in Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper's literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper."

He then proceeds to make an absolutely devastating analysis of Cooper's Literary Offenses that at the same time as being side splittingly hilarious, also contains so much common sense, and so much realism in its appraisal that it is absolutely unanswerable.

His inborn realism, and common sense was probably one of the main reasons Twain lived to become the worldwide celebrity that he later became, because with his irrelevant nature, and fierce individualism, he was always offending someone. When he was in Virginia City, Nevada, writing for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise he offended one of the citizens who challenged him to a duel. This particular citizen turned out to be a crack shot, and Twain very sensibly, and realistically, departed from the prospective scene of battle on the midnight stage to San Francisco. At San Francisco he soon offended the authorities with his attack on police brutality and quickly sought refuge at Angel's Camp in the Sierra, Nevada's. Never one to let the moss gather on his pen, Twain was soon underway again on a steamer for Hawaii. He described his arrival in typical Twainese fashion ,

"As soon as we disembarked I noticed a bevy of nude young ladies bathing in the sea, and sat down on their clothing to keep them from being stolen."

Twain always had great compassion for the down-trodden. He said ,

"In my school days I had no aversionto slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong with it. No one arraigned it in my hearing. The local papers said nothing against it. The local pulpit taught us that God approved of it. That it was a holy thing."

So Twain, like Huck Finn, was rebelling against all of society when he came out against slavery. When he was young, while it was summer-time and twilight, not long after the days of slavery, he was sitting on the porch of the farmhouse one day, with his family and friends, and "Aunt Rachel" a black woman of around 60 years of age was sitting on the steps below their level, for she was their servant, and black. She was a cheerful, hearty soul, and it was no more trouble for her to laugh than for a bird to sing. She was being chaffed without mercy, and was enjoying it. Letting off peal after peal of laughter, when a thought occurred to young Sam Clemens. He said to her :

"Aunt Rachel, how is it you've lived for sixty years and never had any trouble."

Suddenly "Aunt Rachel" was all seriousness,
"Misto C__," she asked him, "is you in 'arnest?" Then she proceeded to tell him a harrowing tale about her days of slavery when her husband and her little son, Henry, were sold off. And then years later (it was during the Civil War) a number of black soldiers had arrived about one in the morning, and had been bedded down for the night in her cabin, and about seven o'clock in the morning while she was getting breakfast ready for the officers she had bent to open the stove when she looked down and saw a black face. One of the black soldiers was her Henry. "De Lord God ob heaven be praise," she said, "I got my own ag'in!", and she added, "Oh no, Misto C__, I hain't had no trouble. An' no joy!"

The story remained so indelibly in Twain's mind that many years later he made a short story of it, titled, "A True Story", and the incident contributed to his stand against slavery. When he was a writer in San Francisco he came out strongly in his writings against police brutality to Chinese immigrants. The merchants would sic their dogs on the inoffensive Chinese laborers for amusement while the police looked tranquilly on. He had a broad humanity just as Shakespeare did.

Did I say Shakespeare? I should correct that. Twain would have said Bacon. For Twain, one of the greatest men of history, was beyond a doubt, the greatest Baconian. And this is quite an interesting parallel also. Because, like Twain, just when Bacon was at the height of his fame, as Lord Chancellor of England, he had a reversal of fortune and was dashed from the heights to the depths. And Bacon also experienced the deaths of those closest to him. Despite his best attempts to keep Essex from following his self chosen path to disaster, Essex plunged on along his headstrong way, and as a result lost his head. Bacon's sickly brother, Anthony, to whom Bacon was so close, and who in turn was close Essex, surely had his illness rendered more acute as a result and died not long afterward. Then ensued what scholars have called Shakespeare's dark period, where for a period of three or four years he wrote dark plays.

Twain had much in common with Bacon. A curious parallel is the matter of comets. For thousands of years comets have been associated with important events in the lives of the greatest of men. . A great comet appeared in the heavens at the birth of the almost superhuman American Indian Tecumseh. A great comet appeared overhead when Bacon was 12 years old, the age in Jewish tradition when intellectually a male became a man. We see in the Gospels Christ disputing in the temple with the priests when he was 12. A comet appeared at the birth and death of Julius Caesar, and no doubt Bacon had noted this. In the play Julius Caesar he has the passage :

When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.

When Twain was born Halley's comet appeared in the heavens. Twain said he would die when it appeared again. And he died in 1910 at the age of 75 when Halley's comet appeared again.

Twain who originated a very substantial volume of quotes would also have appreciated the great labor that went into the quotes of Shakespeare. We see in Bacon's "Promus of Formularies" where he has a whole volume of quotes, almost all later appearing in the Shakespeare plays, working painstakingly to formulate all the variances of a thought : We see him laboring to develop the courtesies of human intercourse :

good morow

Good swear

good hast

good matens

good betymes; bonum mane

bon iouyr. Bon iour

good day to me & good morrow to yow.

I have not sayd all my prayers till I have bid yow good morow

***

Or laboring again to create just the right phrase :

Hear me owt; you were neuer in

Yow iudg before yow vnderstand., I iudg as I vnderstand.

You goe from the matter., but it was to follow you

You take more than is graunted., you graunt lesse then is prooued

In Bartlett's "Familiar Quotation" under Shakespeare there is an almost unbelievable volume of quotes, many times more than by any other author. These were not the result of a happy thought, or stray inspiration, but of hard mental labor. There is a very substantial amount of quotes by Twain in the same book. These also were the result of intense hard labor. In a notebook page from the 1890s, we see Twain laboring to create the right phrase.

"The man that invented the cuckoo clock is no more."

Then come several attempts;all heavily XXX-ed out to construct a suitable punch line :

"This is old news but good."

"As news, this is a little stale, but some news is better old than not at all."

"As news, this is a little old, but better late than never."

"As news, this is a little old, for it happened 64 years ago, but it is not always the newest news that is the best."

"It is old news, but there is nothing else the matter with it."

Finally, he must have concluded that no amount of polishing was going to make that particular phrase shine, for at the foot of the page he wrote, resignedly, "It is more trouble to make a maxim than it is to do right." Despite the difficulty and labor Twain created numerous quotes which he interjected into his writings. Some of these are:

Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

When in doubt, tell the truth.

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.

It is noble to be good; it is still nobler to teach others to be good -- and less trouble.

There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress - I can say, and say with pride that we have legislators that bring higher prices than any in the world.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know.

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

Make money and the whole world will conspire to call you a gentleman

Soap and education are not a sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.

There is an old-time toast which is golden for its beauty. "When you ascend the hill of prosperity may you not meet a friend."

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

The calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.

In the book length excerpt from his autobiography, "Is Shakespeare Dead?",

Twain describes in detail, how, why, where, and when he became a Baconian. Into this description he instilled his customary humor, plus massive doses of common sense. Even today his account is very much worth reviewing for anyone who wishes to have data on which to base a decision as to whether the man from Stratford on Avon, or Francis Bacon, was the real author of the Shakespeare plays. He says back in 1856 or '57. He was in training to be a riverboat pilot and had been placed under the tutelage of George Ealer. Ealer was a prime chess player and idolater of Shakespeare. He would play chess with anybody; even with Twain, and (Twain adds) "it cost his official dignity something to do that." Also ;quite uninvited he would read Shakespeare to Twain; not just casually, but by the hour, when it was his watch, and Twain was steering. According to Twain :

"He read well, but not profitably for me, because he constantly injected commands into the text. That broke it all up, mixed it all up, tangled it all up to that degree, in fact, that if we were in a risky and difficult piece of river an ignorant person couldn't have told, sometimes, which observations were Shakespeare's and which were Ealer's. For instance:

What man dare, I dare!

'Approach thou what are you laying in the leads for? what a hell of an idea! like the rugged ease her off a little, ease her off! rugged Russian bear, the armed rhinoceros or the there she goes! meet her, meet her! didn't you know she'd smell the reef if you crowded it like that? Hyrcan tiger; take any shape but that and my firm nerves she'll be in the woods the first you know! stop the starboard! come ahead strong on the larboard! back the starboard! . . . Now then, you're all right; come ahead on the starboard; straighten up and go 'long, never tremble: or be alive again, and dare me to the desert damnation can't you keep away from that greasy water ? pull her down! snatch her! snatch her baldheaded! with thy sword; if trembling I inhabit then, lay-in the leads!--no, only the starboard one, leave the other alone, protest me the baby of a girl. Hence horrible shadow! eight bells--that watchman's asleep again, I reckon, go down and call Brown yourself, unreal mockery, hence!' "

Twain says Ealer,

"certainly was a good reader, and splendidly thrilling and stormy and tragic, but it was a damage to me, because I have never since been able to read Shakespeare in a calm and sane way. I cannot rid it of his explosive interlardings, they break in everywhere with their irrelevant 'What in hell are you up to now! pull her down! more! more!there now, steady as you go," and the other disorganizing interruptions that were always leaping from his mouth. When I read Shakespeare now, I can hear them as plainly as I did in that long-departed time ;fifty-one years ago."

Ealer had read Delia Bacon's recent book, The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespere Unfolded, where she said Francis Bacon was the author of the Plays. Ealer was fiercely loyal to Shakespeare, and violently scornful of the Baconian claim. He and Twain discussed the question through, "thirteen hundred miles of river four times traversed in every thirty-five day--the time required by that swift boat to achieve two round trips." At first Twain supported Ealer's viewpoint. But he began to sense something was wrong. The problem was that Ealer was of an argumentative disposition and just didn't get the proper enjoyment out of arguing with a person who agreed with everything he said. For the sake of expediency Twain let principle go, and went over to the other side. Not all the way at first. He simply took the position that he only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas he knew Shakespeare didn't. But that, he said, was enough to satisfy Ealer. The war was on.

As Twain began to study, practice, and gain experience in his end of the matter he was enabled to almost take his new position seriously, and then gradually bit by bit, "fiercely, rabidly, uncompromisingly" until he became welded to his faith, and "theoretically ready to die for it." He even managed to win a few points. But the problem was that then Ealer would lose his temper and close the session with the argument that was his main stay and support in time of need, the argument that Twain couldn't answer, because he dare not. Namely that Twain was an ass, and better shut up.

Twain points out that we really know almost nothing about the man from Stratford. He lists the details of Shakespeare's history which, he says, are facts, "verified facts, established facts, undisputed facts". These consist of a few mundane facts about his birth, forced marriage, and children. In 1587 he goes to London, leaving his family behind. Five blank years follow. Then in 1592 there is a mention of him as an actor. The following year his name appeared in the official list of players. In 1594 he played before the queen, as obscure actors did throughout her forty-five reign, and remained obscure. After three years of play-acting, in 1597, he bought New Place, Stratford. During the following 13 or 14 years his name became associated with a number of plays and poems, some of which were later pirated with no protest from the man from Stratford. In 1610 or 1611 he returned to Stratford and settled down for good. He lived five or six years--till 1616, then made a will, signing each of its three pages with his name. It was A thorough going business man's will, naming in minute detail every item of property he owned in the world, "houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt bowl, and so on--all the way down to his "second-best bed" and its furniture."

Although the will meticulously itemized every single asset, conspicuously missing from the will was any mention of books. Twain notes, books were valuable then, much more than the second-best bed Shakespeare left his wife. The will mentioned not a play not a poem, not an unfinished literary, not a scrap of manuscript of any kind.

"If Shakespeare had owned a dog," said Twain, "but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susanna would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way." Twain suggests that Shakespeare may have been prejudiced against the art of writing in view of the fact that only five of signature still exist, and his granddaughter, whom he loved, was eight years old when he died, yet was not taught to write."

Nobody noticed when Shakespeare died in Stratford. It was not an event. It was in striking contrast from what happened when Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, Spenser, Raleigh, and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time died. There was no lamenting poems, no eulogies merely silence.

"So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life."

Twain says,

"So far as anybody knows and can prove, he never wrote a letter to anybody in his life. So far as any one knows, he received only one letter during his life.

"So far as any one knows and can prove," Twain add, "Shakespeare of Stratford wrote only one poem during his life. This one is authentic. He did write that one, a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote the whole of it out of his own head. He commanded that this work of art be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed. There it abides to this day. This is it :

Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare

To digg the dust encloased heare:

Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones

And curst be he yt moves my bones.

Twain says that, in his list will be found every positively known fact of Shakespeare's life,

" lean and meager as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know not a thing about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures--an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts."

Absolutely everything else that biographers tell about Shakespeare, Twain said, are conjectures, pure and simple. And these conjectures had to support a crushing burden. He was taken from school at the early age of around 13, and he must have put aside his Warwickshire dialect, which couldn't be understood in London, and studied English very hard indeed, to produce the letter-perfect English of Venus and Adonis in the space of ten years, and at the same time to learn all the intricacies and complex procedures of the law courts, and all about soldiering, and sailoring, and the manners and customs and ways of royal courts and aristocratic society, and likewise accumulate in his one head every kind of knowledge that the learned then possesses, and every kind of humble knowledge possessed by the lowly and ignorant, and at the same time acquire a wider and more intimate knowledge of the world's great literatures, ancient and modern, than was possessed by any other man of his time for he was going to make brilliant and easy and admiration compelling use of these splendid treasures the moment he got to London. And according to the surmises, that is exactly what he did, although there was no one in Stratford able to teach him these things, and no library in the little village to dig it out of. Twain says it was really fortunate for Shakespeare that he had "surmise" to see him through his learning curve. And "surmise" also enabled him to travel in Italy and Germany, and to perfect himself in French, Italian and Spanish while he rode this same "surmise" on Leicester's expedition to the Low Countries so he could learn soldiering.

"Maybe he did all those things," Twain says, "but I would like to know who held the horses in the meantime, and who studied the books in the garret; and who frolicked in the law-courts for recreation…and who did the play-acting."

"We all have to a good deal of assuming," Twain said, "but I am fairly certain that in every case I can call to mind the Baconian assumers have come out ahead of the Shakespearites. Both parties handle the same materials, but the Baconians seem to me to get much more reasonable and rational and persuasive results out of them than is the case with the Shakespearites."

He uses an analogy to illustrate the two systems.

"Take," he says, "a lap-bred, house-fed, uneducated, inexperienced kitten; take a rugged old Tom that's scarred from stem to rudder-post with the memorials of strenuous experience, and is so cultured, so educated, so limitlessly erudite that one may say of him "all cat-knowledge is his province"; also, take a mouse. Lock the three up in a holeless, crackless, exitless prison-cell. Wait half an hour, then open the cell, introduce a Shakespearite and a Baconian, and let them cipher and assume. The mouse is missing: the question to be decided is, where is it? You can guess both verdicts beforehand. One verdict will say the kitten contains the mouse; the other will as certainly say the mouse is in the tomcat.

"The Shakespearite will Reason like this (that is not my word, it is his). He will say the kitten may have been attending school when nobody was noticing; therefore we are warranted in assuming that it did so; also, it could have been training in a court-clerk's office when no one was noticing; since that could have happened, we are justified in assuming that it did happen; it could have studied catology in a garret when no one was noticing--therefore it did; it could have attended cat-assizes on the shed roof nights, for recreation, when no one was noticing, and harvested a knowledge of cat court-forms and cat lawyer-talk in that way: it could have done it, therefore without a doubt it did; it could have gone soldiering with a war-tribe when no one was noticing, and learned soldier wiles and soldier-ways, and what to do with a mouse when opportunity offers; the plain inference, therefore is, that that is what it did. Since all these manifold things could have occurred, we have every right to believe they did occur.

These patiently and painstakingly accumulated vast acquirements and competences needed but one thing more--opportunity--to convert themselves into triumphant action. The opportunity came, we have the result; beyond shadow of question the mouse is in the kitten."

Twain said if it was up to him he would,

"place before the debaters only the one question, Was Shakespeare ever a practicing lawyer? and leave everything else out." Because, he notes, the highest authority has testified of Shakespeare that he had "a deep technical knowledge of the law," and an easy familiarity with "some of the most abstruse proceedings in English jurisprudence."

And again:

"Whenever he indulges this propensity he uniformly lays down good law."

"Stratfordians, as is well known," Twain said, "casting about for some possible explanation of Shakespeare's extraordinary knowledge of law, have made the suggestion that Shakespeare might, conceivably, have been a clerk in an attorney's office before he came to London. Mr. Collier wrote to Lord Campbell to ask his opinion as to the probability of this being true. His answer was as follows:

'You require us to believe implicitly a fact, of which, if true, positive and irrefragable evidence in his own handwriting might have been forthcoming to establish it. Not having been actually enrolled as an attorney, neither the records of the local court at Stratford nor of the superior Courts at Westminster would present his name as being concerned in any suit as an attorney, but it might reasonably have been expected that there would be deeds or wills witnessed by him still extant, and after a very diligent search none such can be discovered.'"

Twain says we can be absolutely certain the man from Stratford did not write the Shakespeare Works, but as to the question whether Francis Bacon wrote we cannot say we know he wrote them when the evidence is not final and absolutely conclusive. HOWEVER, he then proceeds to demonstrate that in his opinion, Francis Bacon, and only Francis Bacon could have written them. He says,

"The author of the Plays was equipped, beyond every other man of his time, with wisdom, erudition, imagination, capaciousness of mind, grace and majesty of expression. Every one has said it, no one doubts it. Also, he had humor, humor in rich abundance, and always wanting to break out. We have no evidence of any kind that Shakespeare of Stratford possessed any of these gifts or any of these acquirements."

And adds,

""It is evident that he [Bacon] had each and every one of the mental gifts and each and every one of the acquirements that are so prodigally displayed in the Plays and Poems, and in much higher and richer degree than any other man of his time or of any previous time. He was a genius without a mate, a prodigy not matable. There was only one of him; the planet could not produce two of him at one birth, nor in one age. He could have written anything that is in the Plays and Poems…He had a wonderful talent for packing thought close and rendering it portable. His eloquence would alone have entitled him to a high rank in literature."

"Ordinarily," Twain remarked,

"when an unsigned poem sweeps across the continent like a tidal wave, whose roar and boom and thunder are made up of admiration, delight and applause, a dozen obscure people rise up and claim the authorship. Why a dozen, instead of only one or two? One reason is, because there's a dozen that are recognizably competent to do that poem. Do you remember "Beautiful Snow"? Do you remember "Rock Me to Sleep, Mother, Rock Me to Sleep"? Do you remember "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in thy flight! Make me a child again just for to-night"? I remember them very well.

Their authorship was claimed by most of the grown-up people who were alive at the time, and every claimant had one plausible argument in his favor, at least: to wit, he could have done the authoring; he was competent.

Have the Works been claimed by a dozen? They haven't. There was good reason. The world knows there was but one man on the planet at the time who was competent--not a dozen, and not two. A long time ago the dwellers in a far country used now and then to find a procession of prodigious footprints stretching across the plain--footprints that were three miles apart, each footprint a third of a mile long and a furlong deep, and with forests and villages not matched since. The prospect of matching him in our time is not bright."

Twain concludes by saying:

"I haven't any idea that Shakespeare will have to vacate his pedestal this side of the year 2209. Disbelief in him cannot come swiftly, disbelief in a healthy and deeply-loved tar baby has never been known to disintegrate swiftly, it is a very slow process. It took several thousand years to convince our fine race including every splendid intellect in it--that there is no such thing as a witch; it has taken several thousand years to convince that same fine race including every splendid intellect in it--that there is no such person as Satan; it has taken several centuries to remove perdition from the Protestant Church's program of postmortem entertainments; it has taken a weary long time to persuade American Presbyterians to give up infant damnation and try to bear it the best they can; and it looks as if their Scotch brethren will still be burning babies in the everlasting fires when Shakespeare comes down from his perch."

Twain's work is a fine and persuasive argument, and I find myself, although highly gratified, left with only one little nagging itch unscratched after reading it. If only Twain had lifted that fine phrase from Huckleberry Finn, and assigned it to the mouths of the Stratfordians :

"Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And Ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"
***

See : A Letter by Twain on the authorship