The great American writer’s most controversial and suppressed work, Letters from Earth, consists of a series of detailed reports written by Satan to the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, in which the inhabitants of earth are described as long-suffering victims of their own ludicrous religious beliefs.
The essays were initially considered too “controversial” to publish, and were suppressed by Twain’s own family who felt that the writer’s reputation would be harmed if the depth of his dislike for Christianity, and his uncanny ability to see through all the foibles of human belief and the large number of biblical contradictions, became widely known.
It was only in 1962—more than fifty years after Twain’s death—that permission was finally granted by the family for the essays to be published.
They are without doubt some of Twain’s finest, funniest, and most sharp writing ever.
On man: “Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very, very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm.”
On God and man: “He took a pride in man; man was his finest invention; man was his pet, after the housefly . . .”
On the Bible: “It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”
About the author: Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910),better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist most famous for his The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). After working as a typesetter, a riverboat pilot and a miner, he started writing for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, and by 1865 had achieved his first success with his internationally-acclaimed “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” His writings became the standard by which all great American authors came to be measured, and is widely regarded as the father of American literature.