My daughter was telling me about reading a paper on the Library
Bill of Rights for her library school class and was happy to
tell me that it concluded with a Mark Twain quote. On request,
she dug it up:
"Mark Twain observes: "It is by the goodness of God that in our
country we have those three unspeakable precious things: freedom
of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to
practice either of them" (Bartlett, 1992, p.527). His meaning is
clear - it is impossible to maintain a civil society where all
people fully exercise their rights uninhibited by
self-restraint. Without forbearance, self discipline and good
manners, no community can flourish." (The Library Bill of
Rights - a critique. Gordon B. Baldwin. Library Trends 45.n
I had a rather violent reaction. Seemed to me the author implies
that this quotation shows Twain's acceptance of such "prudence",
and this was how my daughter interpreted it, as well. I
declared it pure sarcasm.
Twain was often tolerant of foibles, but I can't remember him
ever accepting anything that constitutes serious injury to the
human race, damned or not.
But perhaps it's my memory or my interpretation that is at
fault. Couldn't think of a better place to discover this than
here. All comment welcome and gratefully received.