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Rant #354
(published November 1, 2007)
Introductory to "Memoranda"
by Mark Twain
In taking upon myself the burden of editing a department in The Galaxy magazine, I have been actuated by a conviction that I was needed, almost imperatively, in this particular field of literature. I have long felt that while the magazine literature of the day had much to recommend it, it yet lacked stability, solidity, weight. It seemed plain to me that too much space was given to poetry and romance, and not enough to statistics and agriculture. This defect it shall be my earnest endeavour to remedy. If I succeed, the simple consciousness that I have done a good deed will be a sufficient reward (together with salary).

In this department of mine the public may always rely upon finding exhaustive statistical tables concerning the finances of the country, the ratio of births and deaths; the percentage of increase of population, etc., etc.—in a word, everything in the realm of statistics that can make existence bright and beautiful.

Also, in my department will always be found elaborate condensations of the Patent Office Reports, wherein a faithful endeavour will at all times be made to strip the nutritious facts bare of that effulgence of imagination and sublimity of diction which too often mar the excellence of those great works. (N. B.—No other magazine in the country makes a specialty of the Patent Office Reports.)

In my department will always be found ample excerpts from those able dissertations upon Political Economy which I have for a long time been contributing to a great metropolitan journal, and which, for reasons utterly incomprehensible to me, another party has chosen to usurp the credit of composing.

And, finally, I call attention with pride to the fact that in my department of the magazine the farmer will always find full market reports, and also complete instructions about farming, even from the grafting of the seed to the harrowing of the matured crop. I shall throw a pathos into the subject of Agriculture that will surprise and delight the world.

Such is my programme; and I am persuaded that by adhering to it with fidelity I shall succeed in materially changing the character of this magazine. Therefore I am emboldened to ask the assistance and encouragement of all whose sympathies are with Progress and Reform.

In the other departments of the magazine will be found poetry, tales, and other frothy trifles, and to these the reader can turn for relaxation from time to time, and thus guard against overstraining the powers of his mind.

M. T.

P. S.
  1. I have not sold out of the Buffalo Express, and shall not; neither shall I stop writing for it. This remark seems necessary in a business point of view.
  2. These MEMORANDA are not a "humorous" department. I would not conduct an exclusively and professedly humorous department for any one. I would always prefer to have the privilege of printing a serious and sensible remark, in case one occurred to me, without the reader's feeling obliged to consider himself outraged. We cannot keep the same mood day after day. I am liable, some day, to want to print my opinion on jurisprudence, or Homeric poetry, or international law, and I shall do it. It will be of small consequence to me whether the reader survive or not. I shall never go straining after jokes when in a cheerless mood, so long as the unhackneyed subject of international law is open to me. I will leave all that straining to people who edit professedly and inexorably "humorous" departments and publications.
  3. I have chosen the general title of MEMORANDA for this department because it is plain and simple, and makes no fraudulent promises. I can print under it statistics, hotel arrivals, or anything that comes handy, without violating faith with the reader.
  4. Puns cannot be allowed a place in this department. Inoffensive ignorance, benignant stupidity, and unostentatious imbecility will always be welcomed and cheerfully accorded a corner, and even the feeblest humour will be admitted, when we can do no better; but no circumstances, however dismal, will ever be considered a sufficient excuse for the admission of that last—and saddest evidence of intellectual poverty, the Pun.

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