From Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1891–1910
|1904 American edition|
Among the tale’s clear influences is the poem “Tray,” by Robert Browning, which was also written in opposition to vivisection and relates a similar story. Some critics and readers have regarded Twain’s version in yet another light: as a parable about the evils of slavery, with the animals parodying “family separations, docile servitude, loss of identity, and roles as children’s playthings and guardians” (J. R. LeMaster, The Mark Twain Encyclopedia).
Have a suggestion for a story? This week’s selection was suggested by Kelly Nguyen from Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. We encourage our readers to offer their own suggestions—a story, essay, narrative poem, or article from any Library of America volume (which can be found listed here)—along with two or three sentences noting anything that might be of related interest to our readers: a current event, a commemoration, a new publication, etc. Send your recommendation to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “Story of the Week idea.” If we use your suggestion, we’ll send you a free Library of America volume of your choice and (with your permission) acknowledge you in the introduction.
Notes: Aileen Mavourneen, the hero-dog’s name, is the title of a popular ballad, with lyrics by the novelist Mrs S. C. Hall (Anna Maria Fielding Hall, 1800–81). The male dog’s name, Robin Adair, is also the title of ballad, this one by Lady Caroline Keppel (b. circa 1734); she wrote the song about her future husband, Robert (Robin) Adair. It was extremely popular in the nineteenth century and, in Jane Austen’s Emma, the character Jane Fairfax plays the tune on a pianoforte.
My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me; I do not know these nice distinctions myself. To me they are only fine large words meaning nothing. My mother had a fondness for such; she liked to say them, and see other dogs look surprised and envious, as wondering how she got so much education. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!
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