The War Prayer
By Mark Twain
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060911133, 96pp.)
Publication Date: February 1984
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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Originally rejected for publication in 1905 as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine," this antiwar parable remained unpublished until 1923, when Twain's literary executor collected it in the volume Europe and Elsewhere.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.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, in the village of Florida, Missouri. He attended the ordinary western common school until he was twelve, the last of his formal schooling. In a span of fifteen years he was successively a typesetter, a steamboat pilot, a soldier for three weeks, a silver miner, a newspaper reporter, and a bohemian in San Francisco known as "Mark Twain." But in 1865, deeply in debt, he acknowledged a talent for "literature, of a low order, i.e., humorous." In the next forty years, he published more than a dozen books and hundreds of shorter works, including his masterpiece, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.