A tale of today – still

Steve Wishnevsky, who enjoys reading old books on new gadgets, takes a look at another of Mark Twain’s works.

By Stephen Wishnevsky

THE GILDED AGE: A TALE OF TODAY. By Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. Public Domain, 1873

It behooves the historically inclined reader to respect a novel that gave name to a whole era. This is one of those books. It is Twain and Warner’s first novel, written in a few months after a dare from their wives. Warner was, at that time, an editor and writer of travel books, as was Twain. Twain had made his name with Innocents Abroad and his lectures.

The Gilded Age has been criticized for lack of unity. Twain wrote the first dozen chapters, drawing on people he knew in the Wild West of Missouri. Warner did the same, using the New England literary circles he was familiar with. They merged the two threads, and wrote catch as catch can to finish the book.  A romp, in other words.

The story concerns innocence and politics, chicanery and optimism in Washington, with a good dollop of railroading and true love for seasoning. A masterpiece, in my estimation. It is relevant to this day, and it contains the most perfect paragraph I have ever read:

Laura was not much changed. The lovely woman had a devil in her heart. That was all.

How modern is that for being 137 years old?

Read this book.

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