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Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 19 Jan 2015 17:24:22 -0600
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Most Twainians have heard of Louis May Alcott’s famous put-down of Mark Twain and his child Huck Finn: “If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he had best stop writing for them.”  This has been cited countless times as evidence of Victorian disapproval of poor Huck, and sometimes as evidence of Miss Alcott’s hypocrisy (she wrote trashy gothic thrillers in the 1860s), primness, and jealousy. The trouble is that she may never have said this. Of course, she might still have been a hypocrite, prim, and jealous, but tight-lipped about it. The earliest I can find this quote in print is 1926 in Thomas Beer’s MAUVE DECADE (p. 25) and an issue of THE BOOKMAN that same year. Beer certainly captures the flavor of the 1890s in his book but often has a loose grasp of his facts. Does Alcott’s zinger appear any earlier in a letter or journal or interview? Has a source ever been cited? 

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