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Reviews 155 Clemens of the 'Call’: Mark Twain in San Francisco. Edited by Edgar M. Branch. (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1969. 335 pages, $ 10.00.) For about five months, from June to October of 1864, Samuel Clemens was the local reporter for San Francisco’s “working man’s and washerwoman’s newspaper,” the Daily Morning Call. This was an interim period for “the Washoe Giant,” just publically disgraced as “the most conceited ass in the [Nevada] Territory,” and not yet to make his mark as Mark Twain, author of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Kept more than busy on the Call, reporting fast-breaking events in the summer before Lincoln’s re-election, Clemens turned all creative energies into this job—according to his autobiographical dictations later published as Mark Twain in Eruption. The challenge of identifying just what Clemens did produce for the anony­ mously written Call and the nature and value of this production has been taken up by Edgar M. Branch, well-qualified as the author of The Literary Apprenticeship of Mark Twain. Branch’s book, quite simply, is a beautiful job. He took the fifty-four hundred or so local items printed in the Call during Clemens’ tenure there, and on the basis of external and internal evidence, selected the best two hundred entries that can reasonably be attributed to Clemens. Rather than organizing this disparate group around the obvious principle of chronology, Branch groups the material according to what he sees as Clemens’ major concerns: “The Local at Large,” “Crime and Court Reporter,” and “Critic and Political Reporter.” A chronology of these pieces is included in an appendix. Instead of annotating by foot-notes, Branch prefaces most entries with well-written explanatory material. This occasionally waxes absurd, as when a squib of reporting makes sense only with an elaborately discursive headnote. However, Branch for the most part is clear and lively in his introductions, with a secure grasp of the nature and merit his material exhibits. The inclusion of numerous photographs and illustrations with the text greatly enriches the book’s value as a social document. In fact, these samplings of early Clemens journalism are the most valuable as statements of nineteenth-century attitudes. Ia may be granted that Clemens’ exciting originality often rose above the restrictions of “who, what, where, when, and why.” His practice of turning the police blotter, domestic mishaps, local building dedications, and anecdotal coincidences into audience-attracting articles of wit and irony helped train the young writer’s literary voice. But Clemons produced nothing of great literary merit for the Call. What he did produce was a number of reportings unabashedly filled with personal opinions, biases, and a prenascent Mark Twain bite— a combination likely to be responsible for the timid Call’s abrupt termination of Clemens’ services. 156 Western American Literature It seems to me that the most valuable material deals with Clemens’ perplexing racial views. Rather than offering any particular consistent view about racial minorities, the Call writings explore the dramatic possibilities the Chinese, particularly, afford. “Ah Sin and his brethern” are pictured as picturesque, foolish, civilized, barbaric, industrious, lazy, cunning, and even as a people whose ability to parody American values holds a warning to all. Clemens’ outraged reports (possibly originating more from a dramatic than a moral sense) of the frequent beatings, robberies, and murders the Chinese suffered from various whites, the Call simply refused to print. The commercial dependence on a large poor white reader class, led the Call to preach "Justice to all, but privileges, patronage, favors for our own people." Such a policy disgusted more than inhibited Clemens. Although a more precise and detailed methodology for determining Clemens’ authorship of these Call pieces is needed, the book still rates as a highly successful edition. Edgar Branch is to be congratulated for much painstaking research and critical acumen and for presenting a well-displayed text accompanied by highly informative notes. P a tric k M o rro w , University of Southern California The Lion of the Lord: A Biography of Brigham Young. By Stanley P. Hirshson. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. xx 391 pages, 26 photographs, bibliography, notes, index...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 155-156
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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