What? Only four stars for Mark Twain? Well, this is not Huckleberry Finn under review, it's a collection of Twain's short stories. These stories vary dramatically in quality, with some displaying some of the same humor and moral punch that has made Huckleberry Finn such an enduring classic. Others, though, are tedious or lack much point. In a useful introduction, Adam Gopnik, a writer for the New Yorker, notes that Twain had a reputation for giving humorous public lectures even before he developed a reputation as a writer. Of course, no one now alive has ever heard Twain give a public lecture, but many people have seen Hal Holbrook's "Mark Twain Tonight." I can envision Holbrook delivering many of the anecdotes contained in these stories in a way that would make them much more appealing than they are on the printed page. Unfortunately, as readers all we have is the printed page.
This edition apparently reprints a collection published by Doubleday in 1957 and edited by Charles Neider. I assume that Neider contributed an introduction to the Doubleday volume, but it is not reprinted in this edition. That omission is unfortunate because, among other matters that might have been covered in that introduction, it is unclear whether this volume really does reprint every story Twain ever wrote. It would also have been nice to know where these stories were originally printed. The dates are given but the sources are only given for those stories reproduced from Twain's book "Roughing It." It also seems a curious decision to have labeled as short stories several excerpts from "Roughing It." If Neider decided to include excerpts from that book, why not include excerpts from other books? Perhaps he explained his reasoning in the missing introduction. At any rate, Everyman's Library has the goal, I think, of providing handy collections of works by well-known authors and unlike, say, the Library of America, they are less interested in discussing bibliographical details.
This is a nicely produced volume, well bound, with a fabric bookmark sewn in. I should note, though, that the typeface is rather small. So if you have vision problems, you should definitely check out a copy in a store before ordering it.
One final note: In his useful introduction, Gopnik says that Henry James "has played Willie Mays to Twain's Mickey Mantle for more than a century." I'm a big baseball fan, but I have no idea what that means. Does it mean Willie Mays was admired more by baseball analysts and Mickey Mantle was admired more by the general public? Not sure the comparison works.