Scene: The Mississippi Valley Time: Forty to fifty years ago:
IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike County" dialect; and four modified varie-ties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.
I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.
Now the way that the book winds up is this:
Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body could tell what to do with.
The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.
The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them,—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.
After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.
In this centenary year of the first American edition of Huckleberry Finn, Neider, who has worked long and well in the thickets of Twain scholarship (this is the ninth Twain volume he has edited), offers a most fitting tribute, for which he will be thanked in some quarters, damned in others. Neider's contribution is twofold: he has restored to its rightful place the great rafting chapter, which the author had lifted from the manuscript-in-progress and dropped into Life on the Mississippi, and he has abridged some of the childish larkiness in the portions in which Huck's friend Tom Sawyer intrudes into this novel. For decades, critics have lamented the absence of the "missing'' chapter and deplored the jarring presence of Tom in episodes that slow the narrative, but not until now has anyone had the temerity to set matters right. In paring back the ``Tom'' chapters (which he fully documents in his lengthy, spirited introduction, with literal line counts of the excised material), Neider has achieved a brisker read. Though there may be some brickbats thrown at him for this ``sacrilege,'' few should object to the belated appearance of the transplanted rafting chapter in the novel in which it clearly belongs. October 25