In his time, Mark Twain was known variously as the American Rabelais, the American Cervantes, and the American Dickens, but none of these definitions do him justice; he was the one and only American Mark Twain, humorist par excellence. Our Treasury is a priceless collection of vintage Twain. In these stories, satires, travel pieces, speeches, letters and anecdotes, Twain pokes fun at himself and his fellow creatures in places as diverse as the Mississippi riverboats and the castles of Europe. Here are excerpts from longer works, like Tom Sawyer whitewashing his fence, as well as a host of less well-known though equally funny pieces, like Concerning Chambermaids’, ‘Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences’ and the delightfully self-mocking ‘An Item Which the Editor Himself Could Not Understand’.
Twain also enjoyed ethical dilemmas. In ‘The £1,000,000 Bank Note’, a penniless American in London receives an eccentric gift with a sting in the tail; in ‘The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg’, an honest town is seduced by the arrival of a mysterious sack of gold. But in the end, ‘It is an honest town once more, and the man will have to rise early that catches it napping again.’ This ending, like all the writings gathered here, sums up Mark Twain’s uniquely irresistible combination of innocent, homespun wisdom and wickedly dry wit.