A Letter to Mark Twain Regarding Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

Asa Don Dickinson’s Letter to Mark Twain regarding taking the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books out of a children’s library
November 19, 1905

DEAR SIR:

I happened to be present the other day at a meeting of the children’s librarians of the Brooklyn Public Library. In the course of the meeting it was stated that copies of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” were to be found in some of the children’s rooms of the system. The Sup’t of the Children’s Dep’t- a conscientious and enthusiastic young woman- was greatly shocked to hear this, and at once ordered that they be transferred to the adults’ department. Upon this I shamefacedly confessed to having read “Huckleberry Finn” aloud to my defenseless blind people, without regard to their age, color, or previous condition of servitude. I also reminded them of Brander Matthews’s opinion of the book, and stated the fact that I knew it almost at heart, having got more pleasure from it than from any book I have ever read, and reading is the greatest pleasure I have in life. My warm defense elicited some further discussion and criticism, from which I gathered that the prevailing opinion of Huck was that he was a deceitful boy who said “sweat” when he should have said “perspiration.” The upshot of the matter was that there is to be further consideration of these books at a meeting early in January which I am especially invited to attend. Seeing you the other night at the performance of “Peter Pan” the thought came to me that you (who know Huck as well as I- you can’t know him better or love him more—) might be willing to give me a word or two to say in witness of his good character though he “warn’t no more quality than a mud cat.”

I would ask as a favor that you regard this communication as confidential, whether you find time to reply to it or not; for I am loath for obvious reasons to bring the institution from which I draw my salary into ridicule, contempt or reproach.

Yours very respectfully,

Asa Don Dickinson.

(In charge Department for the Blind and Sheepshead Bay Branch, Brooklyn Public Library.)
_______________________

Mark Twain’s Reply…

November 21, 1905

DEAR SIR:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady- she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck’s character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children’s Department, won’t you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

Signed, S. L. Clemens

I shall not show your letter to anyone- it is safe with me.

Did you like this? Share it:





Tags


Pop Culture News

  • New Season of Veronica Mars on Hulu
    Hulu has made all 8 episodes of the new Veronica Mars season available to stream now, only on Hulu.     Synopsis:  Spring breakers are getting murdered in Neptune, thereby decimating the seaside town’s lifeblood tourist industry. After Mars Investigations is hired by the family of one of the victims to… Read more »
  • The Boys Renewed by Amazon Prime
    SAN DIEGO, Calif. – July 19, 2019 – In advance of its series premiere next week, Amazon Prime Video announced today at San Diego Comic-Con International that it has picked up a second season of its highly-anticipated new drama The Boys. The subversive superhero series will debut July 26 exclusively… Read more »
  • Danai Gurira Confirms Exit After The Walking Dead Season 10
    For the second Comic-Con in a row, The Walking Dead used its Hall H stage to bid farewell to one of its leading stars, Danai Gurira. Today, Danai Gurira confirmed that she will exiting The Walking Dead after Season 10, the star said, “I can confirm that this is the last season I… Read more »
  • DreamWorks Animation Reveals She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3 Trailer
    During today’s packed panel at San Diego Comic-Con, DreamWorks Animation gave fans a sneak peek into the highly anticipated third season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Panelists included executive producer Noelle Stevenson, Aimee Carrero(Adora/She-Ra), Karen Fukuhara (Glimmer), Marcus Scribner (Bow), Lauren Ash (Scorpia), and moderator Patrick Gomez, Entertainment… Read more »
  • NEW TRAILER at SDCC: Chadwick Boseman in 21 BRIDGES
    21 BRIDGES follows an embattled NYPD detective (Chadwick Boseman), who is thrust into a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers after uncovering a massive and unexpected conspiracy. As the night unfolds, lines become blurred on who he is pursuing, and who is in pursuit of him. When the… Read more »
  • New Season 4 Trailer for SYFY’s Van Helsing just Dropped at Comic-Con – Watch Now
    With a bevy of new blood this season–including Tricia Helfer, Richard Harmon and Big Show–SYFY’s action horror series VAN HELSING just premiered its Season 4 trailer at San Diego Comic-Con. The 13-episode, hour-long drama, will return this fall on SYFY. VAN HELSING is a total re-imagination of a timeless brand, set in… Read more »
  • First Look: Snowpiercer Graphic Novel That Inspired the New TV Series Continues with a Prequel Story From Titan
    Titan Comics are thrilled to be publishing Snowpiercer: Extinction, a brand-new prequel graphic novel set before the extinction incident that led to the events of the original Snowpiercer graphic novel trilogy. Titan’s next instalment in the critically-acclaimed and award-winning Snowpiercer graphic novel saga will be released in September 2019, written… Read more »
  • Watch the Trailer for Blumhouse Television’s NO ONE SAW A THING
    A new six-episode true crime documentary series from Blumhouse Television and Delirio Films, No One Saw A Thing examines an unsolved murder in the American Heartland and the corrosive effects of vigilantism in small town America. The case garnered international attention in the early 1980s after a so-called “town bully”… Read more »
  • Shudder Releases First Creepshow Trailer at San Diego Comic Con, Announces Series Debut Date
    Shudder debuted the first trailer for its new horror anthology series Creepshow ahead of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con today and announced the series will premiere on September 26.. The panel, moderated by Los Angeles Times’ film reporter Jen Yamato, will feature cast members Giancarlo Esposito(Better Call Saul), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Lucifer), Adrienne Barbeau (1982’s Creepshow, The… Read more »
  • Big Brother Recap for 7/18/19
    Tonight is yet another eviction night on CBS’s Big Brother. We have Cliff and Nicole on the block, a new alliance and a ton of anger and resentment from Nicole, who seems to be the biggest target. Who will be the next to go to Camp Comeback? We are about… Read more »
Loading...