Moonstruck Eve and the lady librarian

Mark Twain delighted in logical absurdities, nowhere more so than in Eve’s Diary.

TwainPublished in 1905, Eve’s Diary is a sequel to Extracts from Adam’s Diary (1893). The narrator is the biblical Eve, who begins writing in fluent English (the language of the Bible, you know) just one day after her creation. Life delights her:

“This majestic new world is indeed a most noble and beautiful work. And certainly marvelously near to being perfect, notwithstanding the shortness of the time. There are too many stars in some places and not enough in others, but that can be remedied presently, no doubt. The moon got loose last night, and slid down and fell out of the scheme – a very great loss; it breaks my heart to think of it. There isn’t another thing among the ornaments and decorations that is comparable to it for beauty and finish. It should have been fastened better. If we can only get it back again.

But of course there is no telling where it went to. And besides, whoever gets it will hide it; I know it because I would do it myself. I believe I can be honest in all other matters, but I already begin to realize that the core and center of my nature is love of the beautiful, a passion for the beautiful, and that it would not be safe to trust me with a moon that belonged to another person and that person didn’t know I had it. I could give up a moon that I found in the daytime, because I should be afraid some one was looking; but if I found it in the dark, I am sure I should find some kind of an excuse for not saying anything about it. For I do love moons, they are so pretty and so romantic. I wish we had five or six; I would never go to bed; I should never get tired lying on the moss-bank and looking up at them.

Stars are good, too. I wish I could get some to put in my hair. But I suppose I never can. You would be surprised to find how far off they are, for they do not look it. When they first showed, last night, I tried to knock some down with a pole, but it didn’t reach, which astonished me; then I tried clods till I was all tired out, but I never got one. It was because I am left-handed and cannot throw good. Even when I aimed at the one I wasn’t after I couldn’t hit the other one, though I did make some close shots, for I saw the black blot of the clod sail right into the midst of the golden clusters forty or fifty times, just barely missing them, and if I could have held out a little longer maybe I could have got one.”

The book version of this fable was published with 55 illustrations by Lester Ralph. In those days, depicting an unclothed woman was considered unseemly and one library in Charlton, Massachusetts, tried to get the book banned. Mark Twain noted that the would-be censors had not objected to his story but to Ralph’s pictures. He wrote:

“It appears that the pictures in Eve’s Diary were first discovered by a lady librarian. When she made the dreadful find, being very careful, she jumped at no hasty conclusions – not she – she examined the horrid things in detail. It took her some time to examine them all, but she did her hateful duty! I don’t blame her for this careful examination; the time she spent was, I am sure, enjoyable, for I found considerable fascination in them myself. Then she took the book to another librarian, a male this time, and he, also, took a long time to examine the unclothed ladies. He must have found something of the same sort of fascination in them that I found.”

Eve(1)

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Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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