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Mark Twain has crashed the lofty gates of the Everyman library, but only with TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN, already fairly well known under the guise of 'children's books' (which they are not). His best and most characteristic books, ROUGHING IT, THE INNOCENTS AT HOME, and even LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, are little remembered in this country, though no doubt in America the patriotism which is everywhere mixed up with literary judgement keeps them alive. Although Mark Twain produced a surprising variety of books, ranging from a namby-pamby 'life' of Joan of Arc to a pamphlet so obscene that it has never been publicly printed, all that is best in his work centres about the Mississippi river and the wild mining towns of the West. Born in 1835 (he came of a Southern family, a family just rich enough to own one or perhaps two slaves), he had had his youth and early manhood in the golden age of America, the period when the great plains were opened up, when wealth and opportunity seemed limitless, and human beings felt free, indeed were free, as they had never been before and may not be again for centuries. LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI and the two other books that I have mentioned are a ragbag of anecdotes, scenic descriptions and social history both serious and burlesque, but they have a central theme which could perhaps be put into these words: 'This is how human beings behave when they are not frightened of the sack.' In writing these books Mark Twain is not consciously writing a hymn to liberty. Primarily he is interested in 'character', in the fantastic, almost lunatic variations which human nature is capable of when economic pressure and tradition are both removed from it.

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