A Review of ‘The Delicate Art of the Forest’
In this selection Mark Twain levels a jovial and trenchant criticism at Cooper. Besides being
entertaining, the writing is informative and edifying. It is informative because it brings to view
certain spots where Cooper is surprisingly vulnerable. It is edifying because it lays down
truthfulness as the corner-stone of all good writing. Strict as he is on Cooper, Mark Twain’s
judgment of Cooper is in perfect agreement with the evidence he brings forward to support his
criticism. It sounds square and just and therefore it convinces. In spite of the rich humor that
pervades it, the writing seems not so much intended to poke fun at Cooper or to question his
literary fame as to stress the vital importance for a writer to remain true both to himself and to his
subject. We can infer from Mark Twain’s implication that as soon as a writer strays from what is
true, what he produces can only be second-rate.
As for the ideal readership, the essay is intended to be meant for readers ranging from the student
of literature to the student of literary criticism.