I decided to indulge myself and buy a copy of Mark Twain’s autobiography (vol. I). It has sections that Twain (Clemens) determined should not be seen until a hundred years after his death. Well, a hundred years have passed, and the new autobiography has been released.
I called this book an indulgence because I usually read conservative books for this blog or I read the WSJ or the National Review. That is about all I have time for. As it turns out Twain may have been a fairly conservative fellow. On page 87 there is a passage in which he is discussing a sculptor he was helping to support until he could get some good commissions. The sculptor was one Karl Gerhardt, who though talented had particular notions about what he should be doing in order to make a livelihood.
When he failed to even look for work. Twain had a few choice words with him. He says, “I saw that he did not want to work for a living in outside ways when art had no living to offer…[His finally getting a job] saved me from applying in his case a maxim of mine that whenever a man preferred being fed by any other man to starving in independence he ought to be shot.”
Although Twain was given to hyperbole, and certainly exercized it in this case, it is easy to see that he had strong feeling on the subject of “living off the resources of others”. One wonders what he would have to say about the modern welfare state, the new deal, and the great society.