Twain-Eddy Echoes

Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy - together again. There their pictures are, he with his pipe, she with her lace collar, in The New York Times. Why on earth are they side by side almost a century after the days of controversy? That was when he both criticized her and called her "the most interesting figure in the world today" - and she responded to one of his diatribes by writing to the New York Herald that "Mark Twain's wit was not wasted in certain directions.... What I am remains to be proved by the good I do."

Now the author of "Huckleberry Finn" and the founder of Christian Science (and of this newspaper) are brought together in a report on efforts to update the vast Dictionary of American Biography, going back to the 1920s. In it, the Times notes, Mrs. Eddy is given more pages than Twain.

Any revision might honor both of them by pruning encrusted inaccuracies. In the one potential cross-reference, Twain's "Christian Science" book is simplistically described as "his analysis of what he thought a menacing new cult." Whatever his barbs at Mrs. Eddy and his mixed reviews of her writing style, he "never opposed Christian Science as a religion," writes a Twain biographer. Among his varying opinions about this religion, Twain once saw a distinction that critics seldom note: "It is apparent ... that in Christian Science it is not one man's mind acting upon another man's mind that heals; that it is solely the Spirit of God that heals...."

With this much common ground, the two contemporaries might have had a lively chat, if their literary linking had ever brought them as close in person as these pictures in the Times.

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