Note: When Huckleberry Finn was banned from the Denver Public Library, Mark Twain(1835-1910) responded with a letter blaming the incident on General Frederick Funston who was stationed in Denver. A small and rather humorous reflection of Twain's Anti-Imperialist attitude.
Some Emphatic Opinions on Moral and Other Influences in the Denver Library
Published in the New York Tribune (August 22, 1902)
A few days ago it was reported that Mark Twain's book, "Huckleberry Finn,
had been barred out of the Denver Public Library. On learning this The Denver Post
telegraphed to Mark Twain for an expression of his opinion
on the subject. He sent the following letter, which is printed in The Post,
which adds, however, that the efforts of the people who were trying to have Huckleberry Finn
discarded from the library failed, and the book will be restored to the shelves. This is the letter:
Your telegram reached me (per post) from York Village
(which is a short brickbat throw from my house) yesterday
afternoon when it was thirty hours old. And yet, in my
experience, that was not only abnormally quick work for a
telegraph company to do, but abnormally intelligent work
for that kind of mummy to be whirling off out of its alleged
Twenty-four hours earlier the Country Club had notified
me that a stranger in Portsmouth (a half-hour from here)
wished me to come to the club at 7:30 p.m., and call him
up and talk upon a matter of business. I said: "Let him take
the trolley and come over, if his business is worth the time
and the fare to him." It was doubtless yourself -- and not in
Portsmouth, but in Denver. I was not thinking much about
business at the time, for the reason that a consultation of
physicians was appointed for that hour (7:30) at my house
to consider if means might be devised to save my wife's
life. At the present writing -- Thursday afternoon -- it is
believed that she will recover.
When the watch was relieved an hour ago and I left the
sick chamber to take my respite I began to frame answers
to your dispatch, but it was only to entertain myself, for I
am aware that I am not privileged to speak freely in this matter,
funny as the occasion is and dearly as I should like
to laugh at it; and when I can't speak freely I don't speak
You see, there are two or three pointers:
First -- Huck Finn was turned out of a New England
- library seventeen years ago -- ostensibly on account of his
morals; really to curry favor with a personage. There has
been no other instance until now.
Second -- A few months ago I published an article which
threw mud at that pinchbeck hero, Funston, and his
Third -- Huck's morals have stood the strain in Denver and in
every English, German and French-speaking
community in the world -- save one -- for seventeen years until now.
Fourth -- The strain breaks the connection now.
Fifth -- In Denver alone.
Sixth -- Funston commands there.
Seventh -- And has dependants and influence.
When one puts these things together, the cat that is in the
meal is disclosed -- and quite unmistakably.
Said cat consists of a few persons who wish to curry favor
with Funston, and whom God has not dealt kindly with in
the matter of wisdom.
Everybody in Denver knows this, even the dead people in
the cemeteries. It may be that Funston has wit enough to
know that these good idiots are adding another howling
absurdity to his funny history; it may be that God has
charitably spared him that degree of penetration, slight as it
is. In any case, he is -- as usual -- a proper object of
compassion, and the bowels of my sympathy are moved
There's nobody for me to attack in this matter even with
soft and gentle ridicule -- and I shouldn't ever think of
using a grown up weapon in this kind of a nursery. Above
all, I couldn't venture to attack the clergymen whom you
mention, for I have their habits and live in the same glass
house which they are occupying. I am always reading
immoral books on the sly, and then selfishly trying to
prevent other people from having the same wicked good
No, if Satan's morals and Funston's are preferable to
Huck's, let Huck's take a back seat; they can stand any
ordinary competition, but not a combination like that. And
I'm not going to defend them, anyway.
S. L. Clemens.
York Harbor, Aug. 14, 1902.
Public domain text taken from