San Francisco Letter

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 16, 1865


These mosquitoes would swarm around him and bleed dramatic imperfections from him by the column. With their accustomed shameless presumption, they would tear the fabric of his well earned reputation to rags, and call him a poor, cheap humbug and an over[r]ated concentration of mediocrity….They would always wind up their long-winded “critiques” – these promoted newsboys and shoemakers would – with the caustic, the cutting, the withering old stand-by which they have used with such blighting effect on so many similar occasions, to wit: “If Mr. Forrest calls that sort of thing acting – very well; but we must inform him, that although it may answer in other places, it will not do here.” … Their grand final shot is always a six-hundred pounder, and always comes in the same elegant phraseology: they would pronounce Mr. Forrest a “bilk!” You cannot tell me anything about these ignorant asses who do up what is called “criticism” hereabouts – I know them “by the back.”


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