Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The gaiety of nations

Mark Twain
(b. Nov 30th 1835, d. April 21st 1910)
My mother has always said that we 'young' are unduly afraid of death, and unhealthily obsessed with delaying it. For her parents' generation, it was a part of life - witness infant mortality, death in childbirth and the number of incurable diseases. She isn't morbid about it, but for years she has seen death as a bridge to my father, and in due course to us. Anyway, her philosophy in this respect, a nice blend of pragmatism and faith, came to mind when I found a torn and yellowed article cut from the pages of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) from 22nd April 1910, announcing the death the previous night of one of my literary heroes:-

"We regret to announce that, according to a Reuter's telegram, 'Mark Twain' died last night.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens earned a worldwide fame as the greatest and most typical of 'American humourists' under his assumed name of 'Mark Twain'. Perhaps it would be too much to say that his death, especially at this ripe age, will eclipse the gaiety of nations; but there are very few readers who will not confess that at some time or other they would have found the world duller without 'Good Marcus Tuainus to lend us a laugh', as Mr. Andrew Lang has somewhere sung."

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