“Adieu, Dear Friend”: A Tribute To Victor Doyno, the First Quarry Farm Fellow

Gretchen Sharlow is the Director Emerita of the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.  Two downloadable lectures from Victor Doyno are available at the end of Director Sharlow’s rememberance.  By showcasing Professor Doyno’s contributions to Mark Twain Studies and his support to CMTS, we hope to honor this seminal Twain scholar.


Victor Doyno died on November 16, 2016, at the age of 79. Dr. Doyno contributed significantly to the field of Mark Twain Studies, including as president of the Mark Twain Circle and advisor to the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies. He was respected and loved by Twainians worldwide.

Dr. Doyno earned a Bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio, a Master’s degree from Harvard University, and the Doctoral degree from Indiana University. He joined the SUNY – Buffalo faculty in 1969 and became Professor Emeritus in 2004. In tribute to his extraordinary dedication to students, he was honored with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Doyno’s Writing “Huck Finn”: Mark Twain’s Creative Process (1991) was the first extended exploration of the writer’s methods of composition. His analysis build upon the editorial work he had done for the groundbreaking collection Mark Twain: Writings of an American Skeptic (1983). Doyno lent his editorial talents to Random House and Oxford editions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and published numerous essays on Twain’s work, pedagogy, and academia.

Throughout his work, Vic argues that Twain stands as a central figure for the study of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Twain was not only a seminal U.S. literary figure, but also an object of broader cultural, political, social, and transnational analysis. He traveled nearly everywhere, interacting with influential world figures and writing about vital events. Who could be more crucial to our national formation?

It seems like yesterday, but it was thirty-two years ago, in the summer of 1984, when I welcomed Dr. Doyno to Elmira College and Quarry Farm for the first time. I had been asked by Dr. Herb Wisbey, then Director of CMTS, to “look after the fellow from Buffalo, who is coming to teach a two-week summer graduate course on Mark Twain.” (Herb wanted to spend some time at the lake. I was a volunteer.) So, I made Huckleberry muffins and arranged for some linen service from Elmira College for Quarry Farm. At that early stage, we barely had dishes at the Farm.

Victor was so gracious, friendly, and thrilled to be our first Scholar in Residence at Quarry Farm. The next morning, I escorted him to his classroom. Only seven people had registered for the course. I decided to join the class, mainly just to fill another chair. That decision changed my life!

Vic Doyno was far and away the best teacher I’d ever experienced. The text book his recently-published Writings of an American Skeptic. His enthusiasm and passion for Twain was contagious. He encouraged each of us to find an area of Twain studies, then develop a specialty; mine became the Cranes of Quarry Farm and all their Elmira associations. Thank you, Vic.

The Twain course in 1984 was the beginning of Vic’s long relationship with Elmira College’s Center for Mark Twain Studies. He became one of our most valued advisors and an active participant in seminars for faculty, conference planning sessions, panels, the Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series, and “just a phone call away” for wise counsel. This relationship continued for many years, as long as he was capable.

In recent years, we have missed him terribly. His death makes our loss and grief more poignant. His friendship, his many contributions to the field of Mark Twain Studies, and his direct contributions to the growth and development of the CMTS is a legacy to be cherished and remembered.


Two lecture from Victor Doyno for CMTS

Victor Doyno, “Writing Huck Finn” (September 1991)

Victor Doyno, “Twain Writes with Burning Ink: King Leopold’s Soliloquy” (August 2001)