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Twain-Eddy Echoes

Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy - together again. There their pictures are, he with his pipe, she with her lace collar, in The New York Times. Why on earth are they side by side almost a century after the days of controversy? That was when he both criticized her and called her "the most interesting figure in the world today" - and she responded to one of his diatribes by writing to the New York Herald that "Mark Twain's wit was not wasted in certain directions.... What I am remains to be proved by the good I do."

Now the author of "Huckleberry Finn" and the founder of Christian Science (and of this newspaper) are brought together in a report on efforts to update the vast Dictionary of American Biography, going back to the 1920s. In it, the Times notes, Mrs. Eddy is given more pages than Twain.

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Any revision might honor both of them by pruning encrusted inaccuracies. In the one potential cross-reference, Twain's "Christian Science" book is simplistically described as "his analysis of what he thought a menacing new cult." Whatever his barbs at Mrs. Eddy and his mixed reviews of her writing style, he "never opposed Christian Science as a religion," writes a Twain biographer. Among his varying opinions about this religion, Twain once saw a distinction that critics seldom note: "It is apparent ... that in Christian Science it is not one man's mind acting upon another man's mind that heals; that it is solely the Spirit of God that heals...."

With this much common ground, the two contemporaries might have had a lively chat, if their literary linking had ever brought them as close in person as these pictures in the Times.

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