- Mark Twain
2012 brings special journal issues and tributes to departed Mark Twain scholars, a return of critical attention to Huckleberry Finn after a one-year hiatus, and a spate of articles spanning Twain’s career. There are fewer book-length studies, but several are of high quality, especially a book on Twain’s brand of humor. One article is advertised as a “blockbuster,” although that remains to be seen. The Mark Twain Annual turns ten and offers tributes to the late Michael J. Kiskis, James M. Cox, and Thomas A. Tenney. American Literary Realism devotes a special issue to Mark Twain, with memorials in honor of Louis J. Budd and Michael Kiskis. With the passing of Tom Tenney, Alan Gribben takes up the editorship of the Mark Twain Journal. Mark Twain studies are indeed robust, as this survey attests.
i Editions and Bibliography
Alan Gribben’s controversial NewSouth Edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (2011) paired those two texts, removing the multiple occurrences of “nigger” and other racial epithets. Gribben now follows with separate editions of the two novels, the “NewSouth Edition,” featuring the editorial omissions, and the “Original Text Edition,” publishing the books with the controversial language intact (NewSouth). Both editions contain similar introductory and editorial matter, leaving the reader free to choose. Gribben sees his emended editions as removing the last barrier to inclusion of Twain’s [End Page 75] novels in secondary school curricula. Teachers who wish to adopt the emended editions should choose the brown covers over the blue ones.
With Thomas A. Tenney’s passing in January 2012, his “Mark Twain Bibliography, Number 6” (MTJ 50, i–ii: 48–105) marks the end of his bibliographic work that began with Mark Twain: A Reference Guide (1979). With assistance from Barbara Snedecor and Alan Gribben, Tenney’s final update adds items ranging from 1872 to 2009. Tenney’s scholarly work on Twain bibliography has been an invaluable aid to several generations of Twain scholars.
ii Biographical Studies
Kevin Mac Donnell claims to have solved the riddle of the pen name in “How Samuel Clemens Found ‘Mark Twain’ in Carson City” (MTJ 50, i–ii: 8–47). A character named “Mark Twain” appears in an anonymous 1861 Vanity Fair comic sketch, “The North Star.” Rather than two marks on the sleeve from a bartender or a pen name borrowed from Captain Isaiah Sellers as Clemens claimed on multiple occasions, Mac Donnell argues that Clemens saw the magazine, or a reprint of the sketch in the local newspaper Silver Age, during a January 1862 visit to Carson City, Nevada, then decided to take the name “Mark Twain” in print for the first time on 3 February 1863: “Whether or not Clemens did see this piece in 1861, he certainly would have seen it in Carson City in 1863, perhaps in a now lost issue of the Silver Age, or in a file of Vanity Fair in the possession of his friend Clement T. Rice, who had worked for the Silver Age, or in the home of his brother Orion, or elsewhere.” Mac Donnell begins with certainty, but his argument leaves some room for doubt, and the reader may judge whether this finding is the “bombshell revelation” Alan Gribben calls it in an editor’s note. Mac Donnell’s sleuthing adds another possible explanation of the origin of the pen name, whether conclusive or not.
No full biography of Twain appears this year, but Hilary Iris Lowe’s Mark Twain’s Homes and Literary Tourism (Missouri) offers another way to view the author’s life and works. Her focus is on four homes in which Samuel Clemens lived: the birthplace home in Florida, Missouri; the boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri; the Clemens family home in Hartford, Connecticut; and Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York. Lowe examines the history of each site, including connections to Twain, but also detailing the often troubling and controversial history [End Page 76] of their preservation and renovation. She speculates about the ways these four homes inform us about the meaning and value of literary tourism. The history of each home is full and interesting: Lowe...