Samuel L. Clemens (18361902). Jim Smily and His Jumping Frog.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Criticisms and Interpretations
I. By T. Edgar Pemberton
BRET HARTE has himself told the story of how while occupied with his secretarial duties at the San Francisco Mintand his literary work religiously carried on outside mint hoursGeorge Barnes, a brother journalist, introduced him to a young man whose appearance was decidedly interesting. His head he writes, was striking. He had the curly hair, the aquiline nose, and even the aquiline eyean eye so eagle-like that a second lid would not have surprised meof an unusual and dominant nature. His eyebrows were very thick and bushy. His dress was careless, and his general manner one of supreme indifference to surroundings and circumstances. Barnes introduced him as Mr. Sam Clemens, and remarked that he had shown a very unusual talent in a number of newspaper articles contributed over the signature of Mark Twain. We talked on different topics, and about a month afterwards Clemens dropped in upon me again. He had been away in the mining districts on some newspaper assignment in the meantime. In the course of conversation he remarked that the unearthly laziness that prevailed in the town he had been visiting was beyond anything in his previous experience. He said the men did nothing all day long but sit around the bar-room stove, spit, and swop lies. He spoke in a slow, rather satirical drawl, which was in itself irresistible. He went on to tell one of those extravagant stories, and half unconsciously dropped into the lazy tone and manner of the original narrator. It was as graphic as it was delicious. I asked him to tell it again to a friend who came in, and then asked him to write it out for The Californian. He did so, and when published it was an emphatic success. It was the first work of his that attracted general attention, and it crossed the Sierras for an Eastern reading. The story was The Jumping Frog of Calaveras. It is known and laughed over, I suppose, wherever the English language is spoken; but it will never be as funny to anyone in print as it was to me, told for the first time by the unknown Twain himself on that morning in San Francisco Mint.From Bret Harte (1900).