Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter III

Setting aside title-page, index, etc., the little Autobiography begins on page 7 and ends on page 130. My quotations are from the first forty pages. They seem to me to prove the presence of the 'prentice hand. The style of the forty pages is loose and feeble and 'prentice-like. The movement of the narrative is not orderly and sequential, but rambles around, and skips forward and back and here and there and yonder, 'prentice-fashion. Many a journeyman has broken up his narrative and skipped about and rambled around, but he did it for a purpose, for an advantage; there was art in it, and points to be scored by it; the observant reader perceived the game, and enjoyed it and respected it, if it was well played. But Mrs. Eddy's performance was without intention, and destitute of art. She could score no points by it on those terms, and almost any reader can see that her work was the uncalculated puttering of a novice.

In the above paragraph I have described the first third of the booklet. That third being completed, Mrs. Eddy leaves the rabbit-range, crosses the frontier, and steps out upon her far-spreading big-game territory-- Christian Science and there is an instant change! The style smartly improves; and the clumsy little technical offenses disappear. In these two-thirds of the booklet I find only one such offence, and it has the look of being a printer's error.

I leave the riddle with the reader. Perhaps he can explain how it is that a person-trained or untrained--who on the one day can write nothing better than Plague-Spot-Bacilli and feeble and stumbling and wandering personal history littered with false figures and obscurities and technical blunders, can on the next day sit down and write fluently, smoothly, compactly, capably, and confidently on a great big thundering subject, and do it as easily and comfortably as a whale paddles around the globe.

As for me, I have scribbled so much in fifty years that I have become saturated with convictions of one sort and another concerning a scribbler's limitations; and these are so strong that when I am familiar with a literary person's work I feel perfectly sure that I know enough about his limitations to know what he can not do. If Mr. Howells should pretend to me that he wrote the Plague-Spot Bacilli rhapsody, I should receive the statement courteously; but I should know it for a--well, for a perversion. If the late Josh Billings should rise up and tell me that he wrote Herbert Spencer's philosophies; I should answer and say that the spelling casts a doubt upon his claim. If the late Jonathan Edwards should rise up and tell me he wrote Mr. Dooley's books, I should answer and say that the marked difference between his style and Dooley's is argument against the soundness of his statement. You see how much I think of circumstantial evidence. In literary matters--in my belief--it is often better than any person's word, better than any shady character's oath. It is difficult for me to believe that the same hand that wrote the Plague-Spot-Bacilli and the first third of the little Eddy biography wrote also Science and Health. Indeed, it is more than difficult, it is impossible.

Largely speaking, I have read acres of what purported to be Mrs. Eddy's writings, in the past two months. I cannot know, but I am convinced, that the circumstantial evidence shows that her actual share in the work of composing and phrasing these things was so slight as to be inconsequential. Where she puts her literary foot down, her trail across her paid polisher's page is as plain as the elephant's in a Sunday-school procession. Her verbal output, when left undoctored by her clerks, is quite unmistakable It always exhibits the strongly distinctive features observable in the virgin passages from her pen already quoted by me:

Desert vacancy, as regards thought.
Affectations of scholarly learning.
Lust after eloquent and flowery expression.
Repetition of pet poetic picturesquenesses.
Confused and wandering statement.
Metaphor gone insane.
Meaningless words, used because they are pretty, or showy, or unusual.
Sorrowful attempts at the epigrammatic.
Destitution of originality.

The fat volume called Miscellaneous Writings of Mrs. Eddy contains several hundred pages. Of the five hundred and fifty-four pages of prose in it I find ten lines, on page 319, to be Mrs. Eddy's; also about a page of the preface or "Prospectus"; also about fifteen pages scattered along through the book. If she wrote any of the rest of the prose, it was rewritten after her by another hand. Here I will insert two-thirds of her page of the prospectus. It is evident that whenever, under the inspiration of the Deity, she turns out a book, she is always allowed to do some of the preface. I wonder why that is? It always mars the work. I think it is done in humorous malice I think the clerks like to see her give herself away. They know she will, her stock of usable materials being limited and her procedure in employing them always the same, substantially. They know that when the initiated come upon her first erudite allusion, or upon any one of her other stage-properties, they can shut their eyes and tell what will follow. She usually throws off an easy remark all sodden with Greek or Hebrew or Latin learning; she usually has a person watching for a star--she can seldom get away from that poetic idea--sometimes it is a Chaldee, sometimes a Walking Delegate, sometimes an entire stranger, but be he what he may, he is generally there when the train is ready to move, and has his pass in his hat-band; she generally has a Being with a Dome on him, or some other cover that is unusual and out of the fashion; she likes to fire off a Scripture-verse where it will make the handsomest noise and come nearest to breaking the connection; she often throws out a Forefelt, or a Foresplendor, or a Foreslander where it will have a fine nautical foreto'gallant sound and make the sentence sing; after which she is nearly sure to throw discretion away and take to her deadly passion, Intoxicated Metaphor. At such a time the Mrs. Eddy that does not hesitate is lost:

"The ancient Greek looked longingly for the Olympiad. The Chaldee watched the appearing of a star; to him no higher destiny dawned on the dome of being than that foreshadowed by signs in the heavens. The meek Nazarene, the scoffed of all scoffers, said, 'Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?'--for He forefelt and foresaw the ordeal of a perfect Christianity, hated by sinners.

"To kindle all minds with a gleam of gratitude, the new idea that comes welling up from infinite Truth needs to be understood. The seer of this age should be a sage.

"Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world. Meekness heightens immortal attributes, only by removing the dust that dims them. Goodness reveals another scene and another self seemingly rolled up in shades, but brought to light by the evolutions of advancing thought, whereby we discern the power of Truth and Love to heal the sick.

"Pride is ignorance; those assume most who have the least wisdom or experience; and they steal from their neighbor, because they have so little of their own."--Miscellaneous Writings, page 1, and six lines at top of page 2.

It is not believable that the hand that wrote those clumsy and affected sentences wrote the smooth English of Science and Health.

Mark Twain