A Scapegoat for Promiscuous Drunks, Friendly Calls, and Humbug Resolutions


From Mark Twain’s January 1st, 1863 column in the Territorial Enterprise:

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

3 thoughts on “A Scapegoat for Promiscuous Drunks, Friendly Calls, and Humbug Resolutions”

  1. Yeah. He wrote a book called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which is widely regarded as one of the greatest American novels. It’s an exercise in different voices, a kind of dialogic carnival of American accent, if you will. In some ways, it mirrors the biblical tale of Moses, an orphan who comes to free his people from oppression. To this day, the novel is widely misunderstood, criticized–often unread–for it’s prodigious use of the word “nigger.” (Admittedly, the final few chapters should be skipped).
    Twain (a pseudonym; his real name was Samuel Clemens) was also famous for his children’s book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as well as novels like The Prince and the Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. One of Twain’s great masterpieces that remains under-read today is Pudd’nhead Wilson, a story of race, inheritance, and mistaken identity.
    Twain remains a beloved yet controversial author, a staple in the American canon whose work reaches beyond the Gilded Age and into our own time, commenting on our own lives today.


  2. yes … ed bibliokept provided a good comment.

    I would also recommend two compilations of essays: “A Pen Warmed Up in Hell” and “The Damned Human Race” (off the top of my head … too lazy to go into the library and find the trade paperbacks reissued on the 60’s) but Google is your friend. :-)

    Some of these pieces were not published in his lifetime. As the ‘great American humorist” they would not have been well received by the jingoists of the day.


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