Mark Twain, by a nose

Mark Twain, by a nose

Reading an odd little book the other day – a reprint of Mark Twain’s “A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage” – I came upon this paragraph in the foreword by Roy Blount Jr.:

“When [William Dean] Howells had taken Twain to meet [James Russell] Lowell two years before, that worthy had not been impressed, except that something about Twain’s nose lent fuel to Lowell’s belief that all humanity was descended from the Jews.”

So I went to Google – what did we ever do without it? – and found this in a biography of Lowell by Horace Elisha Scudder:

“He detected a Jew in every hiding place and under every disguise…. He spoke of their talent and versatility….” (For the whole passage, go to

They never told us about this at Passaic High School, where we were required to study American literature – including works by Lowell – during junior year. Fascinating and funny.

Twain, of course, is the far better writer, by a very, very long nose.