Re-reading Bret Harte's "How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar" (1872),
I was interested to find this passage referencing the narrator of MT's
jumping frog tale (1867):
It was a figure familiar enough to the company, and known in Simpson's
Bar as the "Old Man." A man of perhaps fifty years; grizzled and scant
of hair, but still fresh and youthful of complexion. A face full of
ready, but not very powerful, sympathy, with a chameleon-like aptitude
for taking on the shade and color of contiguous moods and feelings. He
had evidently just left some hilarious companions and did not at first
notice the gravity of the group, but clapped the shoulder of the nearest
man jocularly, and threw himself into a vacant chair.
"Jest heard the best thing out, boys! Ye know Smiley, over yar -- Jim
Smiley -- funniest man in the Bar? Well, Jim was jest telling the
richest yarn about -- "
"Smiley's a ---- fool," interrupted a gloomy voice.
"A particular ---- skunk," added another in sepulchral accents.
A silence followed these positive statements. The Old Man glanced
quickly around the group. Then his face slowly changed. "That's so," he
said reflectively, after a pause, "certingly a sort of a skunk and
suthin' of a fool. In course." He was silent for a moment as in painful
contemplation of the unsavoriness and folly of the unpopular Smiley.
I wonder if this might have annoyed Twain. Later in the 70s, his
relationship with Harte deteriorated. Could this have been an early
harbinger? Harte had spent time in Angel's Camp and presumably met
Smiley, or at least knew of him, but it was Twain who'd made him a
popular figure. The two writers were keenly aware of their respective
sales; each paid close attention to the other. Might MT have viewed
Harte as trying to ride his coat-tails?