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Mark Twain > The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson > Preface

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson


There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it
can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless.
Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect,
he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals,
yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling
complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.

                                 --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

A person who is ignorant of legal matters is always liable to
make mistakes when he tries to photograph a court scene with his pen;
and so I was not willing to let the law chapters in this book
go to press without first subjecting them to rigid and exhausting
revision and correction by a trained barrister--if that is what
they are called. These chapters are right, now, in every detail,
for they were rewritten under the immediate eye of William Hicks,
who studied law part of a while in southwest Missouri thirty-five
years ago and then came over here to Florence for his health and
is still helping for exercise and board in Macaroni Vermicelli's
horse-feed shed, which is up the back alley as you turn around the
corner out of the Piazza del Duomo just beyond the house where that
stone that Dante used to sit on six hundred years ago is let into
the wall when he let on to be watching them build Giotto's campanile
and yet always got tired looking as Beatrice passed along on her way
to get a chunk of chestnut cake to defend herself with in case of a
Ghibelline outbreak before she got to school, at the same old stand
where they sell the same old cake to this day and it is just as light
and good as it was then, too, and this is not flattery, far from it.
He was a little rusty on his law, but he rubbed up for this book,
and those two or three legal chapters are right and straight, now.
He told me so himself.

Given under my hand this second day of January, 1893, at the Villa Viviani,
village of Settignano, three miles back of Florence, on the hills--
the same certainly affording the most charming view to be found
on this planet, and with it the most dreamlike and enchanting sunsets
to be found in any planet or even in any solar system--and given, too,
in the swell room of the house, with the busts of Cerretani senators
and other grandees of this line looking approvingly down upon me,
as they used to look down upon Dante, and mutely asking me to adopt them
into my family, which I do with pleasure, for my remotest ancestors
are but spring chickens compared with these robed and stately antiques,
and it will be a great and satisfying lift for me, that six hundred years will.

Mark Twain.

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