In The Man Who Was Mark Twain, Guy Cardwell, emeritus professor of English at Washington University, sets up a rather flimsy strawman and then knocks it down in a pugnacious show of Political Correctness. He argues that America is in serious danger of mistaking Mark Twain for an “American hero"—an ideal role model for the lives of her citizens. And before he will let that happen, Cardwell wants America to know what Twain was really like.

The “heroic” Mark Twain—the false image that Cardwell is at pains to demolish—is said to be the invention of various Twain critics and biographers who commend him as an “archetype of the national character,” “the independent western hero,” and “the type of a virtuous America.” This Twain is the concoction of “Patriots,” a sinister lot who have distorted Twain in order to acclaim the United...

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