Given that our focus on the Thames/Congo/Old Man/Mea Cong
has, so to speak, out, I thought the following might make
an appropriate cap on that discussion. I don't recall its hav-
ing been mentioned before. My apopopolylogies if it has:
"I should place [Twain] ... even with Dryden and Swift, as one
of those rare writers who have brought their language up to date,
and in so doing, 'purified the dialect of the tribe'. In this re-
spect I should put him above Hawthorne: though no finer a stylist,
and in obvious ways a less profound explorer of the human soul.
Superficially, Twain is equally local, strongly local. Yet the
Salem of Hawthorne remains a town with a particular tradition,
which could not be anywhere but where it is; whereas the
Mississippi of Mark Twain is not only the river known to those
who voyage on it or live beside it, but the universal river of
human life -- more universal, indeed, than the Congo of Joseph Conrad.
For Twain's reader's anywhere, the Mississippi is THE river.
There is in Twain, I think, a great unconscious depth, which gives
to HUCKLEBERRY FINN this symbolic value: a symbolism all the more
powerful for being uncalculated and unconscious"
"American Literature and the American Language" TO CRITICISE THE CRITIC.
London: FAber, 1965: 54.
Now, of course, thanks to Fanny Coppola, we have cargoes of
dead U.S. soldiers down the Mea Cong, not to mention the
Tigris and Euphrates thanks to GWB. Slavery to idealism may
well be the worst, even the ideal of freedom.
P.S. Did you know The Old Man River is Canadian?