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  • 5 Mark Twain
  • Alan Gribben

Ron Powers's writings on Mark Twain culminate in a major trade-press biography. Peter Messent and Louis J. Budd bring out an expansive "companion" volume organized around seven thematic rubrics and involving numerous contributors. Yet another intrepid scholar under-takes an examination of Mark Twain's ideas about religion. A special "Mark Twain" issue of ArQ edited by Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Forrest G. Robinson enriches the available fund of quotable essays. Jonathan Arac's views become the focal point for five essays in the MTA. A first book-length look at Twain's reception in Japan illuminates that neglected subject. Two disturbing trends continue unabated: the refusal by various critics to make any acknowledgment of the fact that Twain primarily earned his livelihood as a literary humorist (words like comic or humor seem increasingly verboten in these commentaries) and a stubborn insistence on reading Twain as a defective 21st-century sociologist who maddeningly errs in his terminology and concepts.

i Editions

The second Norton Critical Edition of Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins makes its appearance. (Its first edition came out more than a quarter of a century ago, in 1980.) Again edited by Sidney E. Berger, this version adds five passages from the original manuscript, seven articles primarily dealing with racial and gender identity, more illustrations from the first American edition of 1894, and an enlarged [End Page 103] bibliography. One might wish that space could have been found to include an excerpt from Hershel Parker's provocative Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons: Literary Authority in American Fiction (see AmLS 1983, p. 106, and AmLS 1984, p. 111), which led to fresh understandings about the genetic history of Twain's novel, but Berger has commissioned a new essay by John Matson, "The Text That Wrote Itself" (discussed below), which supplies an appraisal of the book's strange textual background. In any event, it is good to have an updated Norton Critical Edition of Pudd'nhead Wilson available as a classroom resource. Berger notes that "Pudd'nhead Wilson has become a classic, much cited, often assigned, and yielding many rewards."

Albert Bigelow Paine is under indictment for editorial tampering yet again in Joe B. Fulton's "The Lost Manuscript Conclusion to Mark Twain's 'Corn-Pone Opinions': An Editorial History and an Edition of the Restored Text" (ALR 37: 238–58). Fulton is convinced that a six-sheet manuscript titled "Moral and Intellectual Man," now among the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley, represents the original conclusion to "Corn Pone Opinions," which Fulton calls a "sermon in dialect." Clippings attached to the fragment Fulton has identified suggest 1903 as the year Twain was writing the manuscript. It has already been established that Paine omitted two sentences from the version of "Corn-Pone Opinions" published in 1923, a deletion that Paul Baender restored when he edited the piece in 1973. However, Fulton "suspects" that Paine removed much more, the entirety of Twain's original conclusion, "in order to create a marketable philosophical essay." Fulton's article publishes what he terms "the only authoritative text of 'Corn-Pone Opinions.' "

"An After Dinner Speech: Girard College and Religion" (Meridian 15: 33–39) puts into print a talk that Mark Twain intended to deliver on 6 February 1889 at an annual Yale Alumni Association banquet in Hartford. (He ultimately changed his mind and his topic.) The 11-page holograph manuscript belongs to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. Oddly, Twain chose as his subject the controversies over the terms of the legal will left behind by Stephen Girard stipulating policies for the founding of Girard College. Cory MacLauchlin provides an introduction that lays out the background for Twain's remarks.

During the latter 1890s or early 1900s Twain jotted 20 lines of penciled memoranda on the interior lid of a trunk that his family used in their overseas travels. These words—overlooked until 1987 because they [End Page 104] had become so faint—list a London hotel, the names of several people Twain had met, a few investments, several book titles, and some literary pieces he had written. Alan Gribben...


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