Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/Mark in France and Italy
MARK IN FRANCE AND ITALY
From Paris Mark Twain usually returned disgruntled. His stories did not go in France, and there was that "Dreyfus affair" that made him sick of the "frog-eaters forever and a day." Nor was Mark appreciated in Italy.
"The Dagoes," he used to say, "like their humor colored with politics, of which I know nothing, or flavored with risqué stories, which my wife won't let me write—there you are. As to France—one critical Madame gave me to understand that I am 'lacking in the stupendous task of interpreting the great tableaux of real American life.' See? When a wet blanket of that kind is clapped on to you, what is the use of further efforts? I am a dead one, according to Madame, and Mark Twain is too humane to whip a dead horse. I will tell you what is really the matter with France," concluded Twain. "Every Frenchman who can read and write has in his closet a frock coat embroidered with the lilies (or whatever flower it may be) of the Académie Française—hoping against hope that he may be elected to the Institute like Molière or Zola. Hence Monsieur is very critical and pronounces everything he doesn't understand 'bosh!' A joke in Chicago, you know, is a riddle in Paris, and, as one Frenchman put it, 'I get guffaws out of people by thumping them on the ribs.' I would never dare thump a Frenchman, of course—I might bust him."