Sam’s notebook: “Dec. 2. ’98. News of Ned Bunce’s death” [NB 40 TS 51]. Note. Bunce died on Nov. 19.
December 3 Saturday
December 4 Sunday – At the Hotel Krantz in Vienna, Austria, from 10 a.m. to midnight, Sam read Sir John Adams’ book (see Dec. 5 entry) to page 232 without a break.
December 5 Monday – At the Hotel Krantz in Vienna, Austria, Sam wrote to Sir John Adams (1857-1934), British Psychologist, who had recently sent his book, The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education, etc. (1897) . Adams was on the faculty of the Free Church Training College in Glasgow, Scotland. At the close Sam wrote it had been “the longest letter I have written in ten years [it wasn’t], I think; but I do not apologise, for that would make it still longer.” Sam praised Adams’ book, confessing that he had read it from 10 a.m. to midnight the previous day to page 232 without a break [MTP].
Despite Mark Twain’s enthusiasm for Adams’s treatise, in 1911 Adams would publish an extremely unsympathetic criticism of “What Is Man?” Adams dismissed Twain’s entire dialogue in “Mark Twain as Psychologist,” The Bookman (London) 39 (March 1911), 270 -272: Twain’s style was unsuited for “this class of composition” and he was obviously “working in an unfamiliar medium.” Mark Twain’s basic assumption of man’s dual mental nature Adams rejected outright. He concluded by advising readers to avoid this “discouraging” book; “we can well believe that many temperaments will be greatly depressed by Twain’s ingenious pages” [9-10].
J. Kaplan writes:
…he [Twain] outlined the few and pathetic basic ideas of What Is Man? , He described it as a book on psychology. Life had no dignity or meaning, he said, for each and every member of “the damned human race” was driven wholly by self-interest, the need to conform, the need, powerful above all others, for “peace of mind, spiritual comfort, for himself.” The Paige typesetter which once seemed to him capable of thinking and therefore second only to man, had now become, by a turnabout which sums up the whole bitter experience, the model for human personality: “Man’s proudest possession—his mind—is a mere machine: an automatic machine.” Adams recognized one fallacy right away: If man is truly a machine, why should he need “spiritual comfort?” But there is another, and a poignant, contradiction. Without choice there can be no responsibility, and—as if Clemens dimly perceived the logical goal of his illogic— without responsibility guilt has no meaning. “No one,” Bernard DeVoto wrote, “can read this wearisomely repeated argument without feeling the terrible force of an inner cry: Do not blame me, for it was not my fault” .
F. Kaplan writes:
That winter, in December 1898, he found himself compulsively reading a study of the psychological theories of J.F. Herbart, an early-nineteenth-century German philosopher and psychologist who believed that the individual consisted of multiple selves, and that these different selves establish reality for the individual by their constant competition with one another for self-preservation. …Partly in response, Twain created, from April to June , a draft of a substantial manuscript, What Is Man? It expressed his deterministic views in a lengthy dialogue. Something called he was aware of something called his mind, which acted with a frightening and humiliating independence. Livy and Clara hated it. Publishing it seemed out of the question….
Herbart’s theory corroborated his own view, developed over the last decade and reinforced by Susy’s death: multiple selves make cohesive human identity and individual responsibility impossible: a
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.