on 15 October 1998
There are two unrelated pieces by Mark Twain in this volume, both of them fallen into (or perhaps, never rose from) obscurity, and deservedly so. "1601" is an lewd & raunchy imaginary conversation at the court of Elizabeth I. The narrator is disgusted by what he has heard -- the author partly shares the disgust and partly is fascinated with the fact that raunchy talk was not always taboo. This story has value as a look into Victorian sensibilities and into Twain's personality, but I did not enjoy reading it. I found it tedious, like Chaucer's Miller's Tale.
"Is Shakespeare Dead?" is a wonderful but misleading title. Actually this piece is about the old controversy of whether Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him, with Twain jousting for the Baconian cause. He admits at the outset that he originally developed his Baconian prejudice merely for the sake of argument with an ardent Avonian. This work adds nothing useful to the Baconian position, and would be of interest only to the most ardent collectors of Twainiana.