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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 181

race is merely himself in the deep and honest privacy of his own heart.” In such a companionship he pitied men more than he hated them. “Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”
  In various unendurable hours, however, Mark Twain did seek something upon which to throw off his burden. In theology a deist of the school of Paine and Ingersoll, with a tincture of modern science added to the iron conscience of old-fashioned backwoods Calvinism, he invented a machine more or less in the image of a god, and held it to account for the blunders of the world. The human individual, he argued in What Is Man? (written in 1898 but not printed until 1906 and then privately), is a mere automaton, without choice as to his birth or as to any impulse or thought or action, good or bad. Each decision follows irresistibly from precedent circumstances and so on back to the protoplasmic beginnings. Beliefs and resolutions cannot control behavior, which follows instinctively from the temperament with which the individual is endowed and which operates under the sleepless rule of the master-passion, the desire for self-approval. Punishment and censure are consequently meaningless; so is remorse. Mark Twain, who had no more than an amateur’s learning in ethical systems, believed his doctrine of scientific determinism to be far more novel and contributory than it was. As a matter of fact, not the logical but the personal aspects of his contentions are impressive. By them he unconsciously defended himself from the savage, the morbid attacks of self-condemnation and remorse from which he repeatedly suffered for all



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