Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A note on Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass

Never heard of him? You sure? I think you have. T.J. Snodgrass, an early Mark Twain. Clemens used many different pen names in his early career (another was W. Epaminandos Adrastus Blab) and in the 1850s he used for a short time, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.

This particular pen name is of note because this is one of the first times that Clemens begins to write in the vernacular. Snodgrass becomes something of a character for Clemens; as Kent Rasmussen puts it, "he makes 'Snodgrass' a country bumpkin with atrocious spelling and grammar...who comments disdainfully on big city life."In three letters that Clemens gets published in the Keokuk post, Snodgrass describes a trip on the railroad, seeing a play, and "a adventure".


"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice." -Mark Twain

1 comment:

Steve Courtney said...

I like the way he uses three adjectives in a row to demonstrate what he's saying. A brilliant craftsman.