Friday, November 22, 2013

Mark Twain and Satan!

Now how's that for a headline?

Tonight I'll share a couple of additional little bits from Mark Twain's autobiography, and this time, they'll involve Satan! Or at least his name. Having grown up in a small town on the northern edge of the Bible Belt, I'll admit to still getting a bit of a charge out of silly blasphemies. It's something one ought to grow out of, certainly, but I can still get a good chuckle out of a "Christ on a crutch!" or John Hodgman leading his audience in a chant of "Hail, Satan!"--as, it seems clear, Mark Twain would have as well.

The Autobiography includes a couple of jokey references to Satan. The simplest and most charming is this one:
At one time when the children were small we had a very black mother-cat named Satan, and Satan had a small black offspring named Sin. Pronouns were a difficulty for the children. Little Clara came in one day, her black eyes snapping with indignation, and said,

"Papa, Satan ought to be punished. She is out there at the greenhouse, and there she stays and stays, and his kitten is down stairs crying."
The more amusing reference comes when Twain is railing against newly restrictive postal regulations that, he says, have snarled up mail all over the east coast because the addresses on the envelopes don't conform to the tightened specs. Arguing for looser interpretations, and more diligence on the part of the postal service, he points out that he once received a letter addressed only to:
Mark Twain.


(Try Satan.)
As Twain puts it, "That stranger's trust was not misplaced. Satan courteously sent it along."

This next bit doesn't have any satanic content--unless you're more down on Teddy Roosevelt than, for all his faults, I can ever bring myself to be--but I can't pass up a chance to share it, too: Twain also once received a letter that had been addressed to:
Mark Twain

c/o President Roosevelt

The White House




Seriously, folks: this book is so much fun that I could pass along entertaining bits from it every day until spring and not run short. And that's taking into account that, unlike a letter sent care of Satan, a Chicago spring can't in any way be counted on to arrive in a timely fashion.

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