Literary Terms and Definitions A - Carson-Newman College
Mark Twain - Biography and Works
In 1897, Maulsby defended Cooper's characters, singling out Natty Bumppo, a figure hardly mentioned in Twain's attack. Cooper's hero, according to Maulsby, represented a "man, who is confessedly the creation of romance, yet whose life is more real to thousands than is many an historic character.... Nor are touches lacking in the minor characters to attest the author's adherence to the broad lines of nature." By asserting that Natty seems real, even though he is the hero of a romance, and that Cooper's portrayal of characters is truthful, Maulsby shows his awareness of the animosity of the Realists towards the writers of romance. But as Krause suggests, Twain's intent was not merely to defend Realism against romance; his purpose, rather, was to declare an unequivocal winner in the battle. While a Realist like Howells would take arms and "bang the babes of romance about" in critical essays, Twain's weapons were satire and ridicule. Attacking the unrelieved solemnity of characters in sentimental fiction, his irreverence also chipped away at the secure solidity of a literary canon into which, Twain feared, Cooper was being ensconced by the likes of Brander Matthews.
Literary Criticism: An Overview of ..
"The Restructuring of History and the Intrusion of Fantasy in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." In Forms and Functions of History in American Literature: Essays in Honor of Ursula Brumm.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Though some writers, from D. F. Hannigan and D. L. Maulsby in the 1890s to Sacvan Bercovitch and Sidney I. Krause in the present, have questioned the fairness of Twain's attack on his predecessor, many casual readers have accepted Twain's hilarious spoof of The Deerslayer (along with The Pathfinder and The Last of the Mohicans) as an essentially just assessment of Cooper's typical plots, characterization, and diction. Even Brander Matthews, whose praise of Cooper was one cause of Twain's diatribe, mentioned Twain's piece and described Cooper's style as at times "slovenly" in his introduction to Crowell's edition of The Leather-Stocking Tales. Typical of serious critics who offer faint praise conditioned by an acceptance of Twain's judgment is Stanley Williams, writing in The Literary History of the United States: "Despite his 'literary offenses,' as Mark Twain called them, Cooper stands with Dumas and Scott as one of the great romancers of all time." Not only has Twain's Cooper bedeviled the real Cooper as one of Twain's extraordinary twins plagued the other, but Twain's Cooper has threatened to replace completely the author who had died over forty years earlier. One of the present authors recalls spending more time in a year-long survey of American literature on Twain's 1895 attack than on any of Cooper's own prose. While Cooper wrote thirty-two longish novels as well as a dozen major volumes of social criticism, excerpts of a length suitable for anthologies can be pried out of them with difficulty. Consequently, Twain's brief spoof substitutes for Cooper with a frequency that Twain, with his penchant for impostors, would love.