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INTRODUCTORY: MARK TWAINS DESPAIRWhat a man sees in the human race is merely himself in the deep and honest privacy of his own heart. Byron despised the race because he despised himself. I feel as Byron did, and for the same reason.—Marginal noteMoreINTRODUCTORY: MARK TWAINS DESPAIRWhat a man sees in the human race is merely himself in the deep and honest privacy of his own heart. Byron despised the race because he despised himself. I feel as Byron did, and for the same reason.—Marginal note in one of Mark Twains books.To those who are interested in American life and letters there has been no question of greater significance, during the last few years, than the pessimism of Mark Twain. During the last few years, I say, for his own friends and contemporaries were rather inclined to make light of his oft-expressed belief that man is the meanest of the animals and life a tragic mistake.For some time before his death Mark Twain had appeared before the public in the rôle less of a laughing philosopher than of a somewhat gloomy prophet of modern civilization. But he was old and he had suffered many misfortunes and the progress of society is not a matter for anyone to be very jubilant about: to be gloomy about the world is a sort of prerogative of those who have lived long and thought much. The public that had grown old with him could hardly, therefore, accept at its face value a point of view that seemed to be contradicted by so many of the facts of Mark Twains life and character. Mr. Howells, who knew him intimately for forty years, spoke only with an affectionate derision of his pose regarding the damned human race, and we know the opinion of his loyal biographer, Mr. Paine, that he was not a pessimist in his heart, but only by premeditation. These views were apparently borne out by his own testimony. My temperament, he wrote, shortly after the death of his daughter Jean, has never allowed my spirits to remain depressed long at a time. That he remained active and buoyant to the end was, in fact, for his associates, sufficient evidence that his philosophical despair was only an anomaly, which had no organic part in the structure of his life.