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Mark Twain > Christian Science > Book II - Chapter III

Christian Science

Book II - Chapter III


Setting aside title-page, index, etc., the little Autobiography begins on
page 7 and ends on page 130. My quotations are from the first forty
pages. They seem to me to prove the presence of the 'prentice hand. The
style of the forty pages is loose and feeble and 'prentice-like. The
movement of the narrative is not orderly and sequential, but rambles
around, and skips forward and back and here and there and yonder,
'prentice-fashion. Many a journeyman has broken up his narrative and
skipped about and rambled around, but he did it for a purpose, for an
advantage; there was art in it, and points to be scored by it; the
observant reader perceived the game, and enjoyed it and respected it, if
it was well played. But Mrs. Eddy's performance was without intention,
and destitute of art. She could score no points by it on those terms,
and almost any reader can see that her work was the uncalculated
puttering of a novice.

In the above paragraph I have described the first third of the booklet.
That third being completed, Mrs. Eddy leaves the rabbit-range, crosses
the frontier, and steps out upon her far-spreading big-game territory--
Christian Science and there is an instant change! The style smartly
improves; and the clumsy little technical offenses disappear. In these
two-thirds of the booklet I find only one such offence, and it has the
look of being a printer's error.

I leave the riddle with the reader. Perhaps he can explain how it is
that a person-trained or untrained--who on the one day can write nothing
better than Plague-Spot-Bacilli and feeble and stumbling and wandering
personal history littered with false figures and obscurities and
technical blunders, can on the next day sit down and write fluently,
smoothly, compactly, capably, and confidently on a great big thundering
subject, and do it as easily and comfortably as a whale paddles around
the globe.

As for me, I have scribbled so much in fifty years that I have become
saturated with convictions of one sort and another concerning a
scribbler's limitations; and these are so strong that when I am familiar
with a literary person's work I feel perfectly sure that I know enough
about his limitations to know what he can not do. If Mr. Howells should
pretend to me that he wrote the Plague-Spot Bacilli rhapsody, I should
receive the statement courteously; but I should know it for a--well, for
a perversion. If the late Josh Billings should rise up and tell me that
he wrote Herbert Spencer's philosophies; I should answer and say that the
spelling casts a doubt upon his claim. If the late Jonathan Edwards
should rise up and tell me he wrote Mr. Dooley's books, I should answer
and say that the marked difference between his style and Dooley's is
argument against the soundness of his statement. You see how much I
think of circumstantial evidence. In literary matters--in my belief--it
is often better than any person's word, better than any shady character's
oath. It is difficult for me to believe that the same hand that wrote
the Plague-Spot-Bacilli and the first third of the little Eddy biography
wrote also Science and Health. Indeed, it is more than difficult, it is
impossible.

Largely speaking, I have read acres of what purported to be Mrs. Eddy's
writings, in the past two months. I cannot know, but I am convinced,
that the circumstantial evidence shows that her actual share in the work
of composing and phrasing these things was so slight as to be
inconsequential. Where she puts her literary foot down, her trail across
her paid polisher's page is as plain as the elephant's in a Sunday-school
procession. Her verbal output, when left undoctored by her clerks, is
quite unmistakable It always exhibits the strongly distinctive features
observable in the virgin passages from her pen already quoted by me:

Desert vacancy, as regards thought.
Self-complacency.
Puerility.
Sentimentality.
Affectations of scholarly learning.
Lust after eloquent and flowery expression.
Repetition of pet poetic picturesquenesses.
Confused and wandering statement.
Metaphor gone insane.
Meaningless words, used because they are pretty, or showy, or unusual.
Sorrowful attempts at the epigrammatic.
Destitution of originality.

The fat volume called Miscellaneous Writings of Mrs. Eddy contains
several hundred pages. Of the five hundred and fifty-four pages of prose
in it I find ten lines, on page 319, to be Mrs. Eddy's; also about a page
of the preface or "Prospectus"; also about fifteen pages scattered along
through the book. If she wrote any of the rest of the prose, it was
rewritten after her by another hand. Here I will insert two-thirds of
her page of the prospectus. It is evident that whenever, under the
inspiration of the Deity, she turns out a book, she is always allowed to
do some of the preface. I wonder why that is? It always mars the work.
I think it is done in humorous malice I think the clerks like to see her
give herself away. They know she will, her stock of usable materials
being limited and her procedure in employing them always the same,
substantially. They know that when the initiated come upon her first
erudite allusion, or upon any one of her other stage-properties, they can
shut their eyes and tell what will follow. She usually throws off an
easy remark all sodden with Greek or Hebrew or Latin learning; she
usually has a person watching for a star--she can seldom get away from
that poetic idea--sometimes it is a Chaldee, sometimes a Walking
Delegate, sometimes an entire stranger, but be he what he may, he is
generally there when the train is ready to move, and has his pass in his
hat-band; she generally has a Being with a Dome on him, or some other
cover that is unusual and out of the fashion; she likes to fire off a
Scripture-verse where it will make the handsomest noise and come nearest
to breaking the connection; she often throws out a Forefelt, or a
Foresplendor, or a Foreslander where it will have a fine nautical
foreto'gallant sound and make the sentence sing; after which she is
nearly sure to throw discretion away and take to her deadly passion,
Intoxicated Metaphor. At such a time the Mrs. Eddy that does not
hesitate is lost:

"The ancient Greek looked longingly for the Olympiad. The Chaldee
watched the appearing of a star; to him no higher destiny dawned on the
dome of being than that foreshadowed by signs in the heavens. The meek
Nazarene, the scoffed of all scoffers, said, 'Ye can discern the face of
the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?'--for He forefelt
and foresaw the ordeal of a perfect Christianity, hated by sinners.

"To kindle all minds with a gleam of gratitude, the new idea that comes
welling up from infinite Truth needs to be understood. The seer of this
age should be a sage.

"Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The
mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of
dissolving self, and drops the world. Meekness heightens immortal
attributes, only by removing the dust that dims them. Goodness reveals
another scene and another self seemingly rolled up in shades, but brought
to light by the evolutions of advancing thought, whereby we discern the
power of Truth and Love to heal the sick.

"Pride is ignorance; those assume most who have the least wisdom or
experience; and they steal from their neighbor, because they have so
little of their own."--Miscellaneous Writings, page 1, and six lines at
top of page 2.

It is not believable that the hand that wrote those clumsy and affected
sentences wrote the smooth English of Science and Health.

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