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P A U L D E L A N E Y Westmont College You Can’t Go Back to the Raft Ag’in Huck Honey!: Mark Twain’s Western Sequel to Huckleberry Finn Summering at Quarry Farm outside of Elmira, Mark Twain was reading galley proofs of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when he struck the plan for his next novel. “Send to me, right away,” Mark Twain directed Charles L. Webster, his business manager, on July 6, 1884, “a book by Lieut. Col. Dodge, USA, called ‘25 Years on the Frontier’— or some such title— I don’t remember just what. Maybe it is ‘25 Years Among the Indians,’ or maybe ‘25 Years in the Rocky Mountains.’ ... I want several other personal narratives of life &adven­ ture out yonder on the Plains & in the Mountains, if you can run across them. — especially life among the Indians. See what you can find. I mean to take Huck Finn out there.”1 Twain had already read and annotated Colonel Richard Irving Dodge’s first book, The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants.2 In addition to finding his overseer a second copy of that volume, Webster also forwarded Dodge’s recently-published, luxuriously-bound best seller which bore the full title of Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years’ Per­ sonal Experience among the Red Men of the Great West: A Popular 1Quoted in Mark Twain, Business Man, ed. Samuel Charles Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, 1946), pp. 264-65, hereafter cited as MTBM. 2Richard Irving Dodge, The Plains of the Great West (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1877) will hereafter be cited in my text as Plains. 216 Western American Literature Account of Their Social Life, Religion, Habits, Customs, Exploits, Etc. with Thrilling Adventures and Experiences on the Great Plains and in the Mountains of Our Wild FrontierJ Twain read Dodge both volum­ inously and minutely. Walter Blair reports that Twain “wrote three hundred and seventy-five notes in [the] margins” (HHT, p. 85)4of the later work alone, and also annotated the other book. Twain also draws on Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail (1849), Keim’s Sheridan’s Troopers on the Borders (1870), General Custer’s My Life on the Plains (1874), and a purported autobiography of Buffalo Bill issued in 1879.5 Intermittently reading these popular “factual” books and writing fiction, Twain drew on Dodge for an incredible number of specific details, as Blair notes, and adapted Dodge’s cultural assumptions to his own purpose. But Twain was not merely converting Dodge’s dubious facts into fiction; “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians” directly extends the thematic concerns of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Indeed, in many respects Twain’s Indian novel is more closely linked to Huck Finn than that book is to its predecessor. At the start of his book of Indian adventures Huck refers his readers to his previous writing: “That other book which I made before, was named ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ Maybe you remember it” (p. 92). Similarly Huckle­ berry Finn begins “You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.’” Twain even asked Webster to alter the title page of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn so it would read “Time, forty to fifty years ago” instead of “Time, forty years ago.”6 Twain’s request, which Webster carried out, probably reflected Twain’s realization that the incidents he was borrowing from his “Injun books” dated from the mid-1830’s, 3Richard Irving Dodge, Our Wild Indians (Hartford, Connecticut: A. D. Worthington and Company, 1882) will hereafter be cited in my text as Indians. 4A11 quotations from “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians” will be noted in my text and are from the CEAA edition of Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Huck & Tom, ed. Walter Blair (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969). The “Indians” fragment was first published with an afterword by Professor Blair in Life, 65 (December 20, 1968), pp. 33-48, 50A. Blair’s introductory and textual material contained in this volume will be cited in my text as HHT. 5The Life of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 215-229
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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