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chapter 3 ‘‘The Gospel of Self’’: Philanthropy and Political Economy in Mark Twain It goes without saying that Mark Twain was one of the most successful American authors of the nineteenth century. This success, as Theodore Dreiser pointed out, involved both ‘‘great fame and acclaim.’’1 Twain’s books and stories sold well, apparently to all classes of readers, and over the course of his career he gained increasing critical approval in the United States and abroad. He was seen as the quintessential American writer, or as his friend William Dean Howells resonantly put it, ‘‘the Lincoln of our literature.’’2 This latter phrase deserves the scrutiny it has received: it captures the myths of essential American identity that have woven themselves around Twain’s authorship—that of the self-made man, both deeply committed to and an exemplary product of democracy, unpretentious yet preternaturally eloquent, imbued with an innate sense of justice and humanity, who proves and is also recognized for his worth. At the same time, by citing Lincoln, Howells also gestures to the tragic side of this equation, to the kind of heroic martyrdom for democracy that is also part of the Twain story. Dreiser’s version of this tragedy has been a particularly influential one in literary criticism: namely, that Twain’s success on the literary market led to his accession to convention. While some of his published writings register the unconventional and revolutionary thinker underneath his conventional exterior, Dreiser argues that we ‘‘Mark the Twain’’ in Twain’s published but especially his unpublished writings. Like Dreiser, critics have noted the complex, multilayered, and rich thematic of doubleness throughout Twain’s work and have tended to link it biographically to Twain’s self-division.3 Also like Dreiser, critics have frequently gendered this selfdivision . The ‘‘Iron Madonna’’ and the ‘‘genteel tradition,’’ represented by Philanthropy and Political Economy in Twain 101 Olivia Langdon Clemens and William Dean Howells, so the argument goes, bowdlerized and feminized Twain to make him acceptable on the market.4 I too am interested in the thematic of doubleness in Twain, specifically as it relates to the ‘‘market,’’ but I have a differently gendered story to tell about literary economics. My story focuses not on femininity but on masculinity: on men’s relations to each other within the expanding culture of corporate capitalism and the promises and compromises those relations entailed. Analyzing Twain’s involvement in what E. Anthony Rotundo has called the ‘‘fundamentally social’’ and recreational ‘‘male culture of the workplace,’’ I show the way this male culture helped establish new, but structurally familiar economic links between the realm of business and that of intellectual or aesthetic work.5 These connections resemble traditional patronage relationships, as defined in the Introduction, linking elite men across vocational and monetary hierarchies in terms of mutual selfinterestedness . I also argue, however, that these patronage relationships serve to mark a shift to the institutional philanthropy that came to fund much intellectual and aesthetic work in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries , and that Twain’s writings register this shift. More than any other author in this study, Twain seems to confirm what Gordon Bigelow describes as the expressivist and democratizing myths of the market that literary historians have adopted from political economy, myths in which consumers freely express their choices through their consumption patterns, thereby undermining the judgment and power of cultural elites and opening up the literary field to a broader and more diverse range of producers and products (Fiction, 1–2). However, this chapter argues that Twain’s authorship, as well as his imaginative writings, undermines the expressivist and democratizing myths of the market, by highlighting instead interventionist social practices that construct the market: namely, patronage and modern philanthropy. Relying on recent work in masculinity studies and the extensive scholarship about Twain’s closest male friendships, this chapter examines how elite male social networks help us rethink our notion of the ‘‘literary market’’ at the fin de siècle. Friendship, as Ivy Schweitzer puts it, is not ‘‘merely a form of or vehicle for sensibility and sympathy,’’ but an important ‘‘cultural practice and institution.’’6 Twain’s life and career demonstrate this clearly. His friendship with Henry H. Rogers, the vice-president of Standard Oil who not only helped Twain out of bankruptcy in 1893 but also invested Twain’s money for him so successfully that Twain never had to worry about 102 Chapter 3 finances again, demonstrates that Rogers served as a patron and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812290035
Related ISBN
9780812246308
MARC Record
OCLC
884615827
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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