Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
May 10, 1893
St. Charles Cosmos
Few men have done more to corrupt the youth of this county than Mr. Samuel Clemens. No doubt “Peck’s Bad Boy” has done its share of harm, but it is altogether probable that where one boy has been demoralized by it at least three have been depraved by reading Mark Twain’s stories, written to illustrate the author’s view that to escape being “a Sunday school milksop” a boy must be a fit candidate for the workhouse.
The influence of this view on boys is illustrated by yesterday’s dispatches from Mound City, Mo. where a merchant shot a burglar engaged in robbing his store. The burglar proved to be the young son of one of the leading citizens of the place, and he confessed that he and ten other boys had founded an oath-bound robbers league based on suggestion from “Tom Sawyer”. Before the pistol shot put an end to their depredations they had committed a series of robberies that had caused great excitement in the neighborhood.
The boy who was shot is dead of the wound, and if the Coroner’s jury returns a true verdict it will be that he came to his death at the hands of Samuel L. Clemens, who killed him for a certain sum of money obtained by the sale of a demoralizing and vicious book called “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, the said book having for its purpose the demonstration of the theory that no man can be really great or good without having been a most extraordinary ruffian and blackguard in his youth.
It is an unfortunate fact that such stories as “Tom Sawyer” are read with avidity by boys at a time when they are most impressionable, and a man of the persuasive power possessed by Mr. Clemens is too frequently able to convince them that to win the respect of mankind they must begin by being ruffians and toughs to the utmost extent of their talents. From the standpoint of the heroes of these books the boy who has been bred a gentleman must get rid of all ideas of decency and decorum to be the associate of the ideal boys whom Mr. Clemens choose for his heroes.
If a father finds “Tom Sawyer” or any other book of the “to Sawyer” class in his home he should tke it in the tongs and throw it behind the fire. It is a worse thing to have in the house than a snake or a tarantula.–St. Louis Republic.
Personal aside: I never remember whether it was this book or Huckleberry Finn that I was assigned to read in high school. I only remember it was the first and only time I ever took a test over a book I didn’t read. Maybe this is why.