The lost art of lambasting a police chief

Mark Twain’s response1 to critics of his lambasting a police chief:

I want to compliment Chief Burke — I do honestly. But I can’t find anything to compliment him about. He is always rushing furiously around, like a dog after his own tail — and with the same general result, it seems to me; if he (the dog, not the Chief,) catches it, it don’t amount to anything, after all the fuss; and if he (the dog, not the Chief,) don’t catch it it don’t make any difference, because he (the dog, not the Chief,) didn’t want it anyhow; he (the dog, not the Chief,) only wanted the exercise, and the happiness of “showing off” before his (the dog’s, not the Chief’s,) mistress and the other young ladies. But if the Chief (not the dog,) would only do something praiseworthy, I would be the first and the most earnest and cordial to give him (the Chief, not the dog,) the credit due. I would sling him (the Chief, not the dog,) a compliment that would knock him down. I mean that it would be such a first-class compliment that it might surprise him (the Chief, not the dog,) to that extent as coming from me. […]

Certain friends of the Chief’s were really distressed about this thing, and my object in [clarifying] this paragraph now, is to assure them emphatically that I did not intend to hint that he kept a mistress, and to further assure them that I have never heard any one in the world intimate such a thing. I think that is plain enough. I have written hard things about Chief Burke, in his official capacity, and I have no doubt I shall do it again; but I have not the remotest idea of meddling with his private affairs. Even if he kept a mistress, I would hardly parade it in the public prints; nor would I object to his performing any gymnastic miracle which might suggest itself to his mind as being calculated to afford her wholesome amusement. […]

Chief Burke don’t keep a mistress. On second thoughts, I only wish he did. I would call it malfeasance in office and publish it in a minute!

A new cache of writings by Twain has recently been discovered. I often wish that Twain were still alive, though it’s likely that his output today would be so great, he’d suffer an aneurysm.

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