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Excerpt from Excerpt from Mark Twain, A Biography Vol II, Part 2
From CLXXXIX. An Eventful Year Ends

That summer (July, '94.) the 'North American Review' published "In Defense of Harriet Shelley," a rare piece of literary criticism and probably the most human and convincing plea ever made for that injured, ill-fated woman. An admirer of Shelley's works, Clemens could not resist taking up the defense of Shelley's abandoned wife. It had become the fashion to refer to her slightingly, and to suggest that she had not been without blame for Shelley's behavior. A Shelley biography by Professor Dowden, Clemens had found particularly irritating. In the midst of his tangle of the previous year he had paused to give it attention. There were times when Mark Twain wrote without much sequence, digressing this way and that, as his fancy led him, charmingly and entertainingly enough, with no large, logical idea. He pursued no such method in this instance. The paper on Harriet Shelley is a brief as direct and compact and cumulative as could have been prepared by a trained legal mind of the highest order, and it has the added advantage of being the utterance of a human soul voicing an indignation inspired by human suffering and human wrong. By no means does it lack humor, searching and biting sarcasm. The characterization of Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley as a "literary cake-walk" is a touch which only Mark Twain could have laid on.

Contributed by Paine, Albert Bigelow


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