The War Prayer

( 7 )

Overview

Written by Mark Twain during the Philippine-American War in the first decade of the twentieth century, The War Prayer tells of a patriotic church service held to send the town's young men off to war. During the service, a stranger enters and addresses the gathering. He tells the patriotic crowd that their prayers for victory are double-edged-by praying for victory they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy...for the destruction of human life.

Originally rejected for ...

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The War Prayer

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Overview

Written by Mark Twain during the Philippine-American War in the first decade of the twentieth century, The War Prayer tells of a patriotic church service held to send the town's young men off to war. During the service, a stranger enters and addresses the gathering. He tells the patriotic crowd that their prayers for victory are double-edged-by praying for victory they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy...for the destruction of human life.

Originally rejected for publication in 1905 as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine," this antiwar parable remained unpublished until 1923, when Twain's literary executor collected it in the volume Europe and Elsewhere. Handsomely illustrated by the artist and war correspondent Philip Groth, The War Prayer remains a relevant classic by an American icon.

"I have told the whole truth in The War Prayer...and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead."--Mark Twain

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809590612
  • Publisher: Wildside Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/1991
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 96

Meet the Author

Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in Missouri in 1835. He wrote some of the most enduring works of American fiction, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He died in 1910.

Biography

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartford, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces --The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Samuel Langhorne Clemens (real name); Sieur Louis de Conte
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1835
    2. Place of Birth:
      Florida, Missouri
    1. Date of Death:
      April 21, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Redding, Connecticut

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Insanity and War

    I wasn't looking for another Mark Twain when I wandered round Powell's book store the other day. But I was browsing the sales table and was surprised to spot a very slender volume bearing his name -- the War Prayer. The fact that it was slender attracted me as much as the price -- a short classic? Then I opened the book and found that, true to its size, it's really just a short story, or story poem, published after his death because Mark Twain said "I have told the whole truth...and only dead men can tell the truth in this world..." And it's about a church service held to pray for young men about to go to war.

    I guess Mark Twain never saw the illustrations by John Groth. They complement the tale perfectly; I think he would be pleased. The white space on the sparsely written pages leaves time for the reader to think; one page contains only one word, "Listen!" and issues its challenge. Then on the final written page, just before the last, most devastating illustration, "the man" is called insane. I stood there in the store, wondering which man, or all of us.

    Yes. I read the whole book in the store. And then I wondered if I should buy it or leave it for someone else. But there were several copies, so I purchased one to bring home. Maybe my sons will pick it up, or visitors.

    Apparently when Dan Beard heard Samuel Clemens read the tale, he asked if he was going to publish it. "No," said Clemens. "It can be published after I'm dead." I'm glad it's been republished. I'm glad it's in print. And I'm sad that it's still so very relevant.

    If you find a copy, open it, read it, and see if you can say who's insane by the time you reach the end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    30 Year Fan! Soul-searching piece from Twain

    This piece first came to my attention 30 years ago. It is still as timely as ever! I have recommended this work to others for many years; given it as gifts & gone through several copies of my own! This is a MUST HAVE for anyone, any culture, especially in these relevant times. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! It's relatively short, to the point, and outstanding in it's imagery! I'd give it a thousand stars***************

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    A Smart 7th grader, immature elders

    If a 7th grader can say this about war, why is he or she not in a position of power like those politicians? I say to give this kid millions for saying what they said, as not too many people I know will say it. it takes GUTS!!!!!!!! PS Did I mention that this kid should be a politician? He would have my respect concerning war issues, and they are issues!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2002

    Powerful

    A book that shows that patriotic prayers are double-edged-by praying for victory, and they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy and for the destruction of human life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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