Jim Zwick (ed.). Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992.
(Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution.)
Pp. xlii, 213. Includes index. $34.95. Cloth, 6-1/4" x 9-1/4". ISBN 0-8156-0268-5.

The following review appeared 9 June 1995 on the Mark Twain Forum.

Copyright © Mark Twain Forum, 1995. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.

Reviewed by:

Robert C. Comeau
Drew University
Madison, NJ

Albert Bigelow Paine expressed, while discussing "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," the idea that Mark Twain, at the turn of the century, was no longer a mere storyteller or humorist, but had become almost exclusively a moralist. It is exactly this moralist who speaks to us from the pages of Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire, a Mark Twain who certainly had not abandoned the incisive wit, irony and gift for turning a phrase evident in most of his earlier writing, and a Mark Twain who took very seriously his contention, expressed in The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts, that the human race's most effective weapon against shams and frauds of all sorts was laughter and ridicule in other words, the satirist's stock-in-trade.

Jim Zwick has provided the world with a neat, compact look at Mark Twain's satiric writings relative to the Philippine-American war of February 1899-July 1902 and beyond, all of which date from 1900-1908. There are some well-known pieces, some already heavily anthologized, and there are a variety of more incidental writings collected here for the first time, ranging from newspaper articles and brief-mentions to little-known speeches and items of private correspondence and notebook jottings (see table of contents below), and a profusion of interesting and amusing illustrations and editorial cartoons. In some instances, the familiar is neatly juxtaposed with the obscure, as when the savage and justly famous "A Defence of General Funston" is followed immediately by the unknown "General Funston vs. Huck Finn," in which Twain, with a taste of rather bitter humor, describes the banning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Denver as a result of his attack on Funston in the earlier essay (though it's a bit like blaming Sir Walter Scott for the Civil War in Life On the Mississippi).

This book is a focused snapshot of one aspect of Twain's late period, but it seems to me to be a good place for someone just starting to investigate this phase, after reading "Hadleyburg" and The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts, to begin. The philosophies expressed fictionally in these two masterpieces are here given more factual substance. "The War Prayer" is here, and so is "To The Person Sitting In Darkness." Relevant excerpts from "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes" and "The Secret History of Eddypus" are also included, judiciously chosen by the editor, but there is a high enough percentage of newly available material here to interest even the most seasoned of Mark Twain specialists. "Dialogue on the Philippines," a socratic dialogue styled after What Is Man?, expands upon some of the ideas in the earlier effort, while applying Twain's philosophical theories in a more practically directed fashion. In "Introducing Winston S. Churchill," Twain uses the occasion of his introduction of Churchill at New York's Waldorf-Astoria on December 12, 1900 to accuse the United States of following the United Kingdom's policies in the Boer War, referring to England and America as "kin in sin."

Jim Zwick's Introduction and headnotes are exemplary, giving excellent historical and biographical context for the novice reader and specialist alike. Also, he has certainly done his archive and library time here, seeming to have carefully combed the Mark Twain Papers as well as other archives from far and near. Where possible he has used texts established by the editors of the Mark Twain Papers. In the absence of a Mark Twain Project edition, he has used the most recent and most accurate texts available, making good use of the previous editorial work of Frederick Anderson and Bernard DeVoto, among others. This was clearly a labor of love for Jim Zwick, and this is shown throughout by his meticulous attention to detail and his desire to present this facet of Mark Twain's career to the world in the best possible manner, giving it the seriousness of intention it deserves. It is a book which succeeds because of its intentions and the quality of the work which went into it. It is useful because of its ability to allow us to watch a great, courageous and highly moral mind track a subject which it found particularly pernicious.

My fear is that this valuable book will not gain the readership it deserves. College and university libraries should certainly acquire it, but so should high school and public libraries. The ideas lampooned by Twain have not gone away, and will not until more informed readers are able to articulate their objections to certain policies. In speaking for himself, Mark Twain spoke for everyone, and articulated his anger and disillusionment for all.

The Mark Twain whom we meet in this remarkable collection is no stranger to most of us. He is irascible, angry and standing on higher moral ground than practically anybody he knows. He has read the news and is outraged at the actions of his government in perpetuating a foreign military entanglement which he believes is none of our business, and which, even worse, he interprets as a colossal land-grab, an attempt at subjugating and enslaving an entire people half a world away. He has accepted his country's highest moral principals and is filled with loathing for its leaders who seem to have forgotten them. He is, in short, the spokesperson for all of us who have some ideal vision of America which we perceive as being compromised almost daily in more sordid pursuits. He speaks for you and he speaks for me, and while his subject matter may be America's involvement in the Philippines in the early twentieth century, we can change the names and the locations and find things remarkably unchanged since then. Good satire is timeless because human folly and depravity are timeless. I think Mark Twain knew that.


Introduction (by Jim Zwick)

Anti-Imperialist Homecoming
Welcome Home: Lotos Club Dinner Speech
Introducing Winston S. Churchill
A Salutation to the Twentieth Century
The American Flag
Why I Protest: Four Letters
To the Person Sitting In Darkness
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought Down to Date)
The Stupendous Procession
The Philippine Incident
Recruits for a Liberty-crucifying Crusade; Letter to William James Lampton
Training That Pays
Civilizations Proceed From the Heart: Letter to Albert Sonnichsen
Patriots and Traitors: Lotos Club Dinner Speech
History 1,000 Years from Now: A Translation
The Fall of the Great Republic
The Secret History of Eddypus, the World Empire
Review of Edwin Wildman's Biography of Aguinaldo
General Funston Is Satire Incarnated
Notes on Patriotism
As Regards Patriotism
A Defence of General Funston
General Funston vs. Huck Finn: Letter to the Denver Post
Dialogue On the Philippines
The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Major General Wood, M.D.
The War Prayer
Patriotic America
Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes
Comments on the Moro Massacre
Roosevelt, the American Gentleman
The Anglo-Saxon Race
The Stupendous Joke of the Century
True Patriotism and the Children's Theater
Monarchical and Republican Patriotism

Select Bibliography
Sources of Texts