Who Is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain - Read Online
Who Is Mark Twain?
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Who Is Mark Twain? is a collection of twenty six wickedly funny, thought-provoking essays by Samuel Langhorne Clemens—aka Mark Twain—none of which have ever been published before, and all of which are completely contemporary, amazingly relevant, and gut-bustingly hilarious.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062020857
List price: $8.99
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Who Is Mark Twain? - Mark Twain

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1882

WHENEVER I AM ABOUT TO PUBLISH A BOOK

Whenever I am about to publish a book, I feel an impatient desire to know what kind of a book it is. Of course I can find this out only by waiting until the critics shall have printed their reviews. I do know, beforehand, what the verdict of the general public will be, because I have a sure and simple method of ascertaining that. Which is this—if you care to know. I always read the manuscript to a private group of friends, composed as follows:

Man and woman with no sense of humor.

Man and woman with medium sense of humor.

Man and woman with prodigious sense of humor.

An intensely practical person.

A sentimental person.

Person who must have a moral in, and a purpose.

Hypercritical person—natural flaw-picker and fault-finder.

Enthusiast—person who enjoys anything and everything, almost.

Person who watches the others, and applauds or condemns with the majority.

Half a dozen bright young girls and boys, unclassified.

Person who relishes slang and familiar flippancy.

Person who detests them.

Person of evenly-balanced judicial mind.

Man who always goes to sleep.

These people accurately represent the general public. Their verdict is the sure forecast of the verdict of the general public. There is not a person among them whose opinion is not valuable to me; but the man whom I most depend upon—the man whom I watch with the deepest solicitude—the man who does most toward deciding me as to whether I shall publish the book or burn it, is the man who always goes to sleep. If he drops off within fifteen minutes, I burn the book; if he keeps awake three-quarters of an hour, I publish—and I publish with the greatest confidence, too. For the intent of my works is to entertain; and by making this man comfortable on a sofa and timing him, I can tell within a shade or two what degree of success I am going to achieve. His verdict has burned several books for me—five, to be accurate.

Yes, as I said before, I always know beforehand what the general public’s verdict will be; but I never know what the professional reviewer’s will be until I hear from him. I seem to be making a distinction here; I seem to be separating the professional reviewer from the human family; I seem to be intimating that he is not a part of the public, but a class by himself. But that is not my idea. He is a part of the public; he represents a part of the public, and legitimately represents it; but it is the smallest part of it, the thinnest layer—the top part, the select and critical few. The crust of the pie, so to speak. Or, to change the figure, he is Brillat-Savarin, he is Delmonico, at a banquet. The five hundred guests think they know it is a good banquet or a bad one, but they don’t absolutely know, until Delmonico puts in his expert-evidence. Then they know. That is, they know until Brillat-Savarin rises and knocks Delmonico’s verdict in the head. After that, they don’t know what they do know, as a general