Monday, December 6, 2021

Mark Twain's 'The Christmas Fireside (For Good Little Boys And Girls)'

The Library of America offers a Mark Twain Christmas story that, as the Library of America notes, only he could write - about the wicked boy who got everything.

When Twain arrived in San Francisco in 1864, he quickly landed a job writing for a newly launched literary weekly called The Californian, which was co-edited by Bret Harte (future author of “The Outcast of Poker Flat”) and Charles Henry Webb. With their encouragement and guidance, he honed his skills as a satirist and within a few months he was paid $50 a month to write one piece per issue—a respectable amount at the time, although never enough for the young Samuel Clemens, whose financial woes were a recurrent theme in his journals and letters. The newspaper was a success, but turnover among owners and editors led to its eventual demise. Before the periodical ceased publication in 1868, it had also introduced Ambrose Bierce to its readers.

Published two days before Christmas in the newspaper’s first year, “The Christmas Fireside” features a character familiar to readers of Mark Twain: the naughty boy. Compared with the affably mischievous Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, however, “Jim” is a downright monster. But Twain’s satire isn’t really about boyhood. If anything, Twain has written what might be called an “anti-story”—less about what does happen to Jim and more about what does not. He has two targets: the laughably implausible Sunday school catechisms of the era and (particularly in the closing paragraphs) the American propensity for rewarding corruption and vice among members of its political and entrepreneurial class. “Bah, humbug!” one might think, but what keeps the young Mark Twain from being the Californian Scrooge is a sense of impishness to mitigate the cynicism. 

You can read the story via the below link:

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