In a striking passage in “The Chronicle of Young Satan,” the “angel” Satan forms animals and little people out of clay and gives them life, only to kill them. This article investigates the episode in relation to its literary source in The Apocryphal New Testament, as edited in 1820 by William Hone. Clemens's interest in Hone's New Testament apocrypha situates him in a web of atheist and rationalist reading. As an inventor of pseudo-biblical apocrypha, he (like his Enlightenment-era models) mobilizes common sense and observed reality against scriptural or parascriptural phenomena, turning “orthodox” morality against itself. The Infancy Gospel fascinates him with its recognition that the advent of a wonder-working child would, in reality, be a disaster. Among Clemens's “philosophical” writings, the “Chronicle” is uniquely involving because it not only propounds Mark Twain's philosophy but also acknowledges its devastating effect on the human being.

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