Review of Reviews,  16 (1897), 123–33.

Character Sketch. Mark Twain



Regular Feature, Biography


Machinery, Technology, Invention, Commerce

    Recounts a personal conversation with Mark Twain onboard the SS New York in 1894, during which the American humorist discussed his long held plans to gain 'the exclusive contract for the type-setting of the world' with the introduction of a 'perfect' self-adjusting type-setting machine [the so-called Paige Compositor invented by James W Paige] (126). Twain declared that he and his collaborators had 'constructed a machine which could think', and gave an 'elaborate explanation of the immense superiority of his machine over all others, and especially over one, which, he declared, seemed to develop more unscientific lying and bad spacing than any other machine invented [probably the Mergenthaler linotype]' (127). Reflects that 'if his machine would do all he said it would be an earthquake. Labour-saving machines in the long run increase employment no doubt, but in their immediate effects they inflict great hardships on multitudes' (128). Concludes by noting that since their conversation three years before, Twain has 'been involved in difficulties through no fault of his own' after the failure of the type-setting machine venture and is now 'manfully struggling [...] to satisfy his creditors' (132). Expresses the hope that the character sketch of Twain will 'have contributed, however little, to help the sale of the new edition of his works and the forthcoming volume of his latest travels', and suggests that readers 'who owe him many happy hours [...] at least pay a peppercorn acknowledgement of their debt by purchasing "The Surviving Innocent"' (132–33).

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