Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction

Henry B. Wonham

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pp. 13-27

In his September 1870 column for The Galaxy, Mark Twain took on a topic of unusual gravity. “Political economy is the basis of all good government,” the narrator begins (“Political Economy” 21). “The wisest men of all ages have brought to bear upon this subject the—[Here I was interrupted and informed that a stranger wished to see me down at the door. . . .]” The stranger is a lightning-rod salesman, whose aggressive sales pitch detains the author for half an hour, after which he resumes his unfinished sentence: “—richest...

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1. Narrating the Tennessee Land: Real Property, Fictional Land, and Mark Twain’s Literary Enterprise

Lawrence Howe

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pp. 28-50

In the center of Roughing It, Mark Twain gives a very prominent place to the episode of the “blind lead.” With masterfully paced suspense, he recounts the moment when he and his partner—Calvin Higbie, the man to whom he dedicates the book—examine the rock from the Wide West mine.1 Observing something suspicious in the specimen, Higbie makes a clandestine descent into the shaft of the Wide West claim and confirms what his examination of the rock had suggested. The mine had more than one vein...

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2. Brand Management: Samuel Clemens, Trademarks, and the Mark Twain Enterprise

Judith Yaross Lee

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pp. 51-81

Samuel L. Clemens died a rich man, leaving an estate of more than $600,000 in 1910 (over $15 million in 2014 dollars)—a success all the more remarkable in light of his many famous losses, both small (the Kaolatype swindle and the Scott embezzlement) and large (the Paige compositor and the bankruptcy of Charles L. Webster & Co.). His triumphs as Mark Twain, on the other hand, set him apart from authors like Herman Melville, with his famous 1851 lament to Nathaniel Hawthorne, “dollars damn me” (Parker 841),...

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3. “Society’s Very Choicest Brands”: Hank Morgan’s Brand Magic in Camelot

Mark Schiebe

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pp. 82-94

In her recent study Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary Culture (2012), Judith Yaross Lee proposes that by inventing “Mark Twain,” Samuel Clemens created the seminal American “comic commodity,” a multifaceted comic brand capable of being marketed to the public in a variety of mutually reinforcing ways. In doing so Clemens not only powerfully influenced the direction of several twentieth- and twenty-first-century American comic traditions but also shaped the way in which we think about humor’s place in the larger...

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4. The Quality (and Cost) of Mercy: Mark Twain’s Evasion of the Poor

Ann M. Ryan

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pp. 95-116

Before Henry George exposed the myth of industrial progress and its betrayal of the poor, before Jacob Riis focused his camera on the “Other” half, before Thorstein Veblen described a culture of conspicuous consumption, and long before Thomas Piketty warned about unchecked accumulations of wealth, Mark Twain placed the fate of a prince in the hands of a pauper. In a scene worthy of Oliver Twist, a poor boy, Tom Canty, stands outside an opulent palace, “face against the gate-bars,” hoping to get “a good...

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5. The Robber Barons’ Fool?: Mark Twain and the Four Ps of Patronage

Gregg Camfield

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pp. 117-138

In the sixth installment of “Old Times on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain makes this extravagant claim about the “Rank and Dignity of Piloting”:

A pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth. Kings are but the hampered servants of parliament and people; parliaments sit in chains forged by their constituency; the editor of a newspaper cannot be...

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6. “These Hideous Times”: Mark Twain’s Bankruptcy and the Panic of 1893

Joseph Csicsila

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pp. 139-152

An old standby of Twain biography is that Mark Twain was a bad businessman. Critics routinely (and perhaps a little too casually) cast him as a reckless speculator, a foolish investor, and a failed entrepreneur as they advance the notion that Twain was hopelessly irresponsible with his wealth, making poor financial decisions one after another throughout much of his adult life, until his well-publicized and personally humiliating bankruptcy in April 1894. Twain would actually help perpetuate this view with his own...

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7. “Drop Sentiment, and Come Down to Business”: Debt and the Disintegration of “Manly” Character in “Indiantown” and “Which Was It?”

Susanne Weil

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pp. 153-172

It is impossible to discount the number and effects of bankruptcies caused by the Great Recession in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. USCourts.gov reports an average of 1,314,697 bankruptcies per year since the fiscal meltdown of 2008. In 2013, some 2,960 Americans a day filed for bankruptcy (“It’s in the Numbers”), despite legislation to stem the tide of filings (United States). Studies have shown that those who struggle with debt are three times more likely to suffer from mental illness (“Debt Linked,” par. 1): one...

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8. The Pain Economy: Mark Twain’s Masochistic Understanding of Pain

M. Christine Benner Dixon

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pp. 173-188

Mark Twain peddles his stories of pain with only a perfunctory apology to the sensitive reader. About to launch into a description of one man’s exceptional tolerance for physical pain in Following the Equator, Twain writes, “Do not read the following instances if horrors are not pleasant to you” (553). It is a fair warning. What follows is quite grisly: living bodies plunged into fire, limbs amputated, and other such legitimate “horrors.” So what makes Mark Twain think that “horrors” are “pleasant” to anyone? Because they are...

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9. Minstrel Economics: Mark Twain, the San Francisco Minstrels, and Folk Investment in the American Dream

Sharon D. McCoy

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pp. 189-212

During the postbellum era, Mark Twain’s writings increasingly explore how economic class and social aspirations intertwine with racial identity in American culture. Not coincidentally, those writings also increasingly incorporate aspects of blackface minstrel masking into their economic, political, and moral satire. Though intensely polarizing from its beginnings, the blackface stage remained one of the only venues in nineteenth-century American culture—and the minstrel mask one of the only tropes—in which issues...

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10. “A House of Cards”: Fictitious Capital and The Gilded Age

Jonathan Hayes

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pp. 213-229

Three decades before Thorstein Veblen described modern America as organized by business enterprise, Mark Twain’s first novel, The Gilded Age, coauthored with Charles Dudley Warner, depicted the dramatic shift of the mid-nineteenth-century U.S. economy toward finance and the market for fictitious capital.1 In The Gilded Age (1873), Wall Street investors exercise their social power through financial credit, which induces a “fever of speculation” (363) among the working and middle classes that fails to relieve them...

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11. “By and By I Was Smitten with the Silver Fever”: Literary Veins in Roughing It

Jeffrey W. Miller

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pp. 230-244

The above passage—from Mark Twain’s 1872 novel Roughing It, touches on a key ontological distinction—that of “being rich” versus acting rich. What makes one “actually rich”? Is it having cold, hard cash on hand, or does it require changed social and economic relations? In the mining world of Washoe depicted in the novel, how does one acquire this status? How does one go about getting rich? Arguably, this is the single question that motivates the narrator more than any other. Over the course of the novel, he goes West...

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12. The Art of Arbitrage: Reimagining Mark Twain, Business Man

Henry B. Wonham

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pp. 245-267

Among American writers, only one holds the distinction of having lent his name to the jargon of Wall Street traders, who refer to the “Mark Twain Effect” when they describe the oddly regular phenomenon of declining stock prices in the month of October. Despite this personal association with the occult operations of Wall Street, Twain could muster little enthusiasm for the folly of speculation as he crafted Pudd’nhead Wilson’s witticisms throughout the period that climaxed with his bankruptcy proceedings in 1894....

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Coda: “Follow the Money”

Lawrence Howe

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pp. 268-272

“Follow the money”: the now-famous line from the film All the President’s Men (1976), uttered by the Watergate informant, alias “Deep Throat,” has become a cultural touchstone. Whenever scandal breaks, this shrewd maxim is bound to follow. And yet for all of its seeming simplicity, the line itself contains a threefold irony:...

Contributors

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pp. 273-276

Index

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pp. 277-283