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Chapter 11

Am I trying to convince anybody that Shakespeare did not write
Shakespeare's Works? Ah, now, what do you take me for? Would I be
so soft as that, after having known the human race familiarly for
nearly seventy-four years? It would grieve me to know that any one
could think so injuriously of me, so uncomplimentarily, so
unadmiringly of me. No-no, I am aware that when even the brightest
mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a
superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind,
in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and
conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem
to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if
I could do it myself. We always get at second hand our notions
about systems of government; and high-tariff and low-tariff; and
prohibition and anti-prohibition; and the holiness of peace and the
glories of war; and codes of honor and codes of morals; and
approval of the duel and disapproval of it; and our beliefs
concerning the nature of cats; and our ideas as to whether the
murder of helpless wild animals is base or is heroic; and our
preferences in the matter of religious and political parties; and
our acceptance or rejection of the Shakespeares and the Arthur
Ortons and the Mrs. Eddys. We get them all at second-hand, we
reason none of them out for ourselves. It is the way we are made.
It is the way we are all made, and we can't help it, we can't
change it. And whenever we have been furnished a fetish, and have
been taught to believe in it, and love it and worship it, and
refrain from examining it, there is no evidence, howsoever clear
and strong, that can persuade us to withdraw from it our loyalty
and our devotion. In morals, conduct, and beliefs we take the
color of our environment and associations, and it is a color that
can safely be warranted to wash. Whenever we have been furnished
with a tar baby ostensibly stuffed with jewels, and warned that it
will be dishonorable and irreverent to disembowel it and test the
jewels, we keep our sacrilegious hands off it. We submit, not
reluctantly, but rather gladly, for we are privately afraid we
should find, upon examination, that the jewels are of the sort that
are manufactured at North Adams, Mass.

I haven't any idea that Shakespeare will have to vacate his
pedestal this side of the year 2209. Disbelief in him cannot come
swiftly, disbelief in a healthy and deeply-loved tar baby has never
been known to disintegrate swiftly, it is a very slow process. It
took several thousand years to convince our fine race--including
every splendid intellect in it--that there is no such thing as a
witch; it has taken several thousand years to convince that same
fine race--including every splendid intellect in it--that there is
no such person as Satan; it has taken several centuries to remove
perdition from the Protestant Church's program of postmortem
entertainments; it has taken a weary long time to persuade American
Presbyterians to give up infant damnation and try to bear it the
best they can; and it looks as if their Scotch brethren will still
be burning babies in the everlasting fires when Shakespeare comes
down from his perch.

We are The Reasoning Race. We can't prove it by the above
examples, and we can't prove it by the miraculous "histories" built
by those Stratfordolaters out of a hatful of rags and a barrel of
sawdust, but there is a plenty of other things we can prove it by,
if I could think of them. We are The Reasoning Race, and when we
find a vague file of chipmunk-tracks stringing through the dust of
Stratford village, we know by our reasoning powers that Hercules
has been along there. I feel that our fetish is safe for three
centuries yet. The bust, too--there in the Stratford Church. The
precious bust, the priceless bust, the calm bust, the serene bust,
the emotionless bust, with the dandy moustache, and the putty face,
unseamed of care--that face which has looked passionlessly down
upon the awed pilgrim for a hundred and fifty years and will still
look down upon the awed pilgrim three hundred more, with the deep,
deep, deep, subtle, subtle, subtle, expression of a bladder.

Mark Twain

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