impure and lustful thoughts.
"Whether a particular book would tend to excite such impulses and thoughts must be tested by the court's opinion as to its effect on a person with average sex instincts—what the French would call 'l'homme moyen sensuel'—who plays, in this branch of legal inquiry, the same role of hypothetical reagent as does the 'reasonable man' in the law of torts and 'the learned man in the art' on questions of invention in patent law."
Obviously, it is ridiculous to say that the "leer of the sensualist" lurks in the pages of Mark Twain's 1601.
"In a way," observed William Marion Reedy, "1601 is to Twain's whole works what the 'Droll Stories' are to Balzac's. It is better than the privately circulated ribaldry and vulgarity of Eugene Field; is, indeed, an essay in a sort of primordial humor such as we find in Rabelais, or in the plays of some of the lesser stars that drew their light from Shakespeare's urn. It is humor or fun such as one expects, let us say, from the peasants of Thomas Hardy, outside of Hardy's books. And, though it be filthy, it yet hath a splendor of mere animalism of good spirits... I would say it is scatalogical rather than erotic, save for one touch toward the end. Indeed, it seems more of Rabelais than of Boccaccio or Masuccio or Aretino—is brutally British rather than lasciviously latinate, as to the subjects, but sumptuous as regards the language."
Immediately upon first reading, John Hay, later Secretary of State, had proclaimed 1601 a masterpiece. Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain's biographer, likewise acknowledged its greatness, when he said, "1601 is a genuine classic, as classics of that sort go. It is better than the gross obscenities of Rabelais, and perhaps in some day to come, the taste that justified Gargantua and the Decameron will give this literary refugee shelter and setting among the more conventional writing of Mark Twain. Human taste is a curious thing; delicacy is purely a matter of environment and point of view."
"It depends on who writes a thing whether it is coarse or not," wrote Clemens in his notebook in 1879. "I built a conversation which could have happened—I used words such as were used at that time—1601. I sent it anonymously to a magazine, and how the editor abused it and the sender!"
"But that man was a praiser of Rabelais and had been saying, 'O that we had a Rabelais!' I judged that I could furnish him one."
"Then I took it to one of the greatest, best and most learned of Divines [Rev. Joseph H. Twichell] and read it to him. He came within an ace of killing himself with laughter (for between you and me the thing was dreadfully funny. I don't often write anything that I laugh at myself, but I can hardly think of that thing without laughing). That old Divine said it was a piece of the finest kind of literary art—and David Gray of the Buffalo Courier said it ought to be printed privately and left behind me when I died, and then my fame as a literary artist would last."
FRANKLIN J. MEINE
THE FIRST PRINTING Verbatim Reprint
CONVERSATION, AS IT WAS BY THE SOCIAL FIRESIDE, IN THE TIME OF THE TUDORS.
[Mem.—The following is supposed to be an extract from the
diary of the Pepys of that day, the same being Queen
Elizabeth's cup-bearer. He is supposed to be of ancient and
noble lineage; that he despises these literary canaille;
that his soul consumes with wrath, to see the queen stooping
to talk with such; and that the old man feels that his
nobility is defiled by contact with Shakespeare, etc., and
yet he has got to stay there till her Majesty chooses to
YESTERNIGHT toke her maiste ye queene a fantasie such as she sometimes hath, and had to her closet certain that doe write playes, bokes, and such like, these being my lord Bacon, his worship Sir Walter Ralegh, Mr. Ben Jonson, and ye child Francis Beaumonte, which being but sixteen, hath yet turned his hand to ye doing of ye Lattin masters into our Englishe tong, with grete discretion and much applaus. Also came with these ye famous Shaxpur. A righte straunge mixing truly of mighty blode with mean, ye more in especial since ye queenes grace was present, as likewise these following, to wit: Ye Duchess of Bilgewater, twenty-six yeres of age; ye Countesse of Granby, thirty; her doter, ye Lady Helen, fifteen; as also these two maides of honor, to-wit, ye Lady Margery Boothy, sixty-five, and ye Lady Alice Dilberry, turned seventy, she being two yeres ye queenes graces elder.
I being her maites cup-bearer, had no choice but to remaine and beholde rank forgot, and ye high holde converse wh ye low as uppon equal termes, a grete scandal did ye world heare thereof.
In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore, and then—
Ye Queene.—Verily in mine eight and sixty yeres have I not heard the fellow to this fart. Meseemeth, by ye grete sound and clamour of it, it was male; yet ye belly it did lurk behinde shoulde now fall lean and flat against ye spine of him yt hath bene delivered of so stately and so waste a bulk, where as ye guts of them yt doe quiff-splitters bear, stand comely still and rounde. Prithee let ye author confess ye offspring. Will my Lady Alice testify?
Lady Alice.—Good your grace, an' I had room for such a thunderbust within mine ancient bowels, 'tis not in reason I coulde discharge ye same and live to thank God for yt He did choose handmaid so humble whereby to shew his power. Nay, 'tis not I yt have broughte forth this rich o'ermastering fog, this fragrant gloom, so pray you seeke ye further.
Ye Queene.—Mayhap ye Lady Margery hath done ye companie this favor?
Lady Margery.—So please you madam, my limbs are feeble wh ye weighte and drouth of five and sixty winters, and it behoveth yt I be tender unto them. In ye good providence of God, an' I had contained this wonder, forsoothe wolde I have gi'en 'ye whole evening of my sinking life to ye dribbling of it forth, with trembling and uneasy soul, not launched it sudden in its matchless might, taking mine own life with violence, rending my weak frame like rotten rags. It was not I, your maisty.
Ye Queene.—O' God's name, who hath favored us? Hath it come to pass yt a fart shall fart itself? Not such a one as this, I trow. Young Master Beaumont—but no; 'twould have wafted him to heaven like down of goose's boddy. 'Twas not ye little Lady Helen—nay, ne'er blush, my child; thoul't tickle thy tender maidenhedde with many a mousie-squeak before thou learnest to blow a harricane like this. Wasn't you, my learned and ingenious Jonson?
Jonson.—So fell a blast hath ne'er mine ears saluted, nor yet a stench so all-pervading and immortal. 'Twas not a novice did it, good your maisty, but one of veteran experience—else hadde he failed of confidence. In sooth it was not I.
Ye Queene.—My lord Bacon?
Lord Bacon.-Not from my leane entrailes hath this prodigy burst forth, so please your grace. Naught doth so befit ye grete as grete performance; and haply shall ye finde yt 'tis not from mediocrity this miracle hath issued.
[Tho' ye subjct be but a fart, yet will this tedious sink of learning pondrously phillosophize. Meantime did the foul and deadly stink pervade all places to that degree, yt never smelt I ye like, yet dare I not to leave ye presence, albeit I was like to suffocate.]
Ye Queene.—What saith ye worshipful Master Shaxpur?
Shaxpur.—In the great hand of God I stand and so proclaim mine innocence. Though ye sinless hosts of heaven had foretold ye coming of this most desolating breath, proclaiming it a work of uninspired man, its quaking thunders, its