Lit - Huck Finn Reviews

If you're teaching Huck Finn, these reviews work well in order to show students how people once viewed the classic novel. Plus, these are short, so you can have students get into groups and read them quickly.

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The (San Francisco) Argonaut
March 14, 1885
Vol. XVI, No. 11
p. 10

Mark Twain's new book, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," the sequel to "Tom Sawyer," has at length been published. It was finished fully a year ago, but owing to difficulties with publishers, etc., it has just appeared. Like its predecessor, "Tom Sawyer," it is written to demonstrate the powers of the American boy in the way of adroit and successful lying. But where Tom Sawyer was fanciful and ornate, Huck Finn is purely practical. The story has almost no plot; in fact, the author states in the preface that "all persons seeking to find a plot in this book will be shot." But the incidents are of that wildly improbable character, and in their achievement require that supreme assurance and fertility of expedient in danger, that constitute Mark Twain's chief charm as a humorist. The entire book is amusing, only one or two passages approaching pathos or even earnestness. A remarkable feature is the variety of dialects spoken by the characters; but the author assures us that they are not inaccuracies on his part, but representative of six different sections of the Southwest. It is published by Charles L. Webster, New York; for sale in this city, by subscription, by the Occidental Publishing Company, 120 Sutter Street.

Boston Evening Traveller
March 5, 1885
p. 1

It is little wonder that Mr. Samuel Clemens, otherwise Mark Twain, resorted to real or mock lawsuits, as may be, to restrain some real or imaginary selling of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as a means of advertising that extraordinarily senseless publication. Before the work is disposed of, Mr. Mark Twain will probably have to resort to law to compel some to sell it by any sort of bribery or corruption. It is doubtful if the edition could be disposed of to people of average intellect at anything short of the point of the bayonet. This publication rejoices in two frontispieces, of which the one is supposed to be a faithful portrait of Huckleberry Finn, and the other an engraving of the classic features of Mr. Mark Twain as seen in the bust made by Karl Gerhardt. The taste of this gratuitous presentation is as bad as is the book itself, which is an extreme statement. Mr. Clemens has contributed some humorous literature that is excellent and will hold its place, but his Huckleberry Finn appears to be singularly flat, stale and unprofitable. The book is sold by subscription.

April 1885
p. 576

Mark Twain's new book for young folks, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (C.L. Webster & Co.), is in some sense a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, though each of the two stories is complete in itself. Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer's old comrade, is not only the hero but the historian of his adventures, and certainly Mr. Clemens himself could not have related them more amusingly. The work is sold only by subscription


The (Chicago) Dial
Literary Notes.
July 1, 1896
p. 24

Messrs. Harper & Brothers have published a handsome library edition of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which is nearly, if not quite, the best of the books that we owe to Mr. Clemens; and have followed it with "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." Such an edition has long been wanted.

The (Boston) Herald
February 1, 1885
Excerpts in Century Magazine--review


Mark Twain's "Royalty on the Mississippi" has a trifle of "too muchness of that sort of thing," which is the prevailing characteristic of that sort of writing. It is pitched in but one key, and that is the key of a vulgar and abhorrent life.

Boston Daily Globe
Feb. 20, 1885
p. 4

Mark Twain makes the hero of his new book tell the story in what is supposed to be a boy's dialect. On the very second page this "low-down," uneducated urchin is made to say "commence," where any boy, especially if he hadn't been to school, would have said "begin." The less education the more Anglo-Saxon, and, generally, the better grammar. Mark ought to know this.

February 26, 1885
p. 119

Mark Twain is a humorist or nothing. He is well aware of the fact himself, for he prefaces the "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" with a brief notice, warning persons in search of a moral, motive or plot that they are liable to be prosecuted, banished or shot. This is a nice little artifice to scare off the critics--a kind of "trespassers on these grounds will be dealt with according to law."

However, as there is no penalty attached, we organized a search expedition for the humorous qualities of this book with the following hilarious results:

A very refined and delicate piece of narration by Huck Finn, describin his venerable and dilapidated "pap" as afflicted with delirium tremens, rolling over and over, "kicking things eveyr which way," and "saying there are devils ahold of him." This chapter is especially suited to amuse the children on long, rainy afternoons.

An elevating and laughable description of how Huck killed a pig, smeared its blood on an axe and mixed in a little of his own hair, and then ran off, setting up a job on the old man and the community, and leading them to believe him murdered. This little joke can be repeated by any smart boy for the amusement of his fond parents.

A graphic and romantic tale of a Southern family feud, which resulted in an elopement and from six to eight choice corpses.

A polite version of the "Giascutus" story, in which a nude man, striped with the colors of the rainbow, is exhibited as "The King's Camelopard; or, The Royal Nonesuch." This is a chapter for lenten parlor entertainments and church festivals.

A side-splitting account of a funeral, enlivened by a "sick melodeun," a "long-legged undertaker," and rat episode in the cellar.

The Nation
June 11, 1896
p. 454

The Harpers have given a handsome new dress to Mark Twain's anti-slavery tract, 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' providing it with a frontispiece portrait of the author and with some rather slight illustrations by E.W. Kemble. Its power to interest and amuse has suffered nothing in the dozen years since it first saw light.

Boston Daily Advertiser
March 12, 1885
p. 2

Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" had a certain relishable flavor when mixed up with the miscellaneous assortment of magazine literature; but in a book form, and covering more than 350 pages, they are wearisome and labored. It would be about as easy to read through a jest book, as to keep up one's interest in the monotonous humor and the dialectic variations of "Huck Finn's" narrative. Here and there are spatches of Mark Twain's best work, which could be read over and over again, and yet bring each time an outburst of laugher; but one cannot have the book long in his hands without being tempted to regret that the author should so often have laid himself open to the charge of coarseness and bad taste. The illustrations are admirable in their way. As to the general character of the book, it may be sufficient to remind the reader of the author's notice, that "all persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."