Mark Twain Truly Hated The Writings Of A Celebrated English Author

Not everybody is going to see eye to eye on things. According to Keeping Up with the Penguins, one of your all-time favorite authors very likely hated another one of your all-time favorite authors, and he wasn't afraid to show it. Who could Mark Twain possibly have despised so much that he admittedly wanted to "dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone"? Here's a hint: He took great pride in his prejudice toward her. 

Yes, that's right. Apparently, the literary architect of "Huckleberry Finn" hated Jane Austen so much, he couldn't even let her lifeless bones rest in the ground without throwing brutal shade at them. The "conflict" was primarily one sided, as Austen died 18 years before Mark Twain was even born, so it's tough to say how she would have felt about him. However, Twain made it very clear how much he abhorred her writing style and the content it emulated. "Any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen, he once scathingly proclaimed (via Keeping Up with the Penguins). "Even if it contains no other book." 

Why did Mark Twain hate Jane Austen so much?

Truth be told, there's no definitive indicator that points directly toward why Mark Twain so vehemently hated Jane Austen. However, he once dedicated an entire essay to the subject of her writings and his profound distaste for them (simply titled "Jane Austen"). As you'd probably expect, the majority of it is clad with stark vitriol and acrid diatribes, but when he narrows it all down to a point, there is in fact a tangible explanation at the core of it all: He absolutely hated her characters (per VQR).

On the subject of what he deemed misguided praise from critics, Twain shared in his essay, "To start with, they say she draws her characters with sharp discrimination and a sure touch. I believe that this is true, as long as the characters she is drawing are odious." Mark Twain developed his own characters who embodied the rudiments of everyday life — elbow grease, sweat, callused hands, and life on the river. Perhaps he viewed the aristocratic aura that enveloped Austen's characters as lacking relatability, believing that no sincere commonality could be drawn between them and the reader. "She makes me detest all her people, without reserve," Twain pondered (via VQR). "Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters?" 

Mark Twain also hated James Fenimore Cooper

As it turns out, Mark Twain's frigid chastisement and literary criticism wasn't reserved solely for Jane Austen. He reportedly hated James Fenimore Cooper ("The Last of the Mohicans") as well, and like he did with Austen, constructed an entire essay that summed up his unfavorable feelings toward him. In "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," (1895) Twain accused him of violating "114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115" and stated that his "eye was splendidly inaccurate. Cooper seldom saw anything correctly."

As to what those 114 out of 115 literary atrocities actually were, you'll have to read the essay to find out. In any case, it's clear that Mark Twain had a rigorous standard for what he considered good writing and good literature, and anybody who was in violation of it was doomed to suffer a tempest of his harsh and judgmental words.