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Mark Twain > The Gilded Age > Preface

The Gilded Age


This book was not written for private circulation among friends; it was
not written to cheer and instruct a diseased relative of the author's;
it was not thrown off during intervals of wearing labor to amuse an idle
hour. It was not written for any of these reasons, and therefore it is
submitted without the usual apologies.

It will be seen that it deals with an entirely ideal state of society;
and the chief embarrassment of the writers in this realm of the
imagination has been the want of illustrative examples. In a State where
there is no fever of speculation, no inflamed desire for sudden wealth,
where the poor are all simple-minded and contented, and the rich are all
honest and generous, where society is in a condition of primitive purity
and politics is the occupation of only the capable and the patriotic,
there are necessarily no materials for such a history as we have
constructed out of an ideal commonwealth.

No apology is needed for following the learned custom of placing
attractive scraps of literature at the heads of our chapters. It has
been truly observed by Wagner that such headings, with their vague
suggestions of the matter which is to follow them, pleasantly inflame the
reader's interest without wholly satisfying his curiosity, and we will
hope that it may be found to be so in the present case.

Our quotations are set in a vast number of tongues; this is done for the
reason that very few foreign nations among whom the book will circulate
can read in any language but their own; whereas we do not write for a
particular class or sect or nation, but to take in the whole world.

We do not object to criticism; and we do not expect that the critic will
read the book before writing a notice of it: We do not even expect the
reviewer of the book will say that he has not read it. No, we have no
anticipations of anything unusual in this age of criticism. But if the
Jupiter, Who passes his opinion on the novel, ever happens to peruse it
in some weary moment of his subsequent life, we hope that he will not be
the victim of a remorse bitter but too late.

One word more. This is--what it pretends to be a joint production, in
the conception of the story, the exposition of the characters, and in its
literal composition. There is scarcely a chapter that does not bear the
marks of the two writers of the book. S. L. C.
                                        C. D. W.

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