Author Archives: Matt Seybold


“His outlook upon the world and its affairs was as wide as the horizon, and his speech was of a dignity and eloquence proper to it. He dealt in no commonplaces, for he had not commonplace thoughts. He was a kindly man, and most lovable. He was not a petty politician, but a great and magnanimous statesman. He did not serve his country alone, but China as well. He held the balances even. He wrought for justice and humanity. All Read more…


Mark Twain is frequently treated as a precursor to the New Journalists who rose to prominence in midcentury America, writers like Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, and Tom Wolfe, who died yesterday. Like many of them, Twain began his career as a conventional reporter (insofar as there was any such convention in the 1860s) and developed a habit of inserting himself into his stories, so much so that his carefully constructed persona – cynical, self-assured, and, at times, Read more…


Last week Ron Powers visited Elmira College and the Center for Mark Twain Studies. The bestselling and award-winning author of MarK Twain: A Life (2005) led several discussions, including of his most recent book, Nobody Cares About Crazy People (2017), recently named a finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Science Writing Award. Powers also gave the first Trouble Begins lecture of the 2018 season. In “Travelin’ Man,” Powers argues that Twain “staked out” a “roadmap for proletarian writing” which would be followed by 20th-century Read more…


There is perhaps no greater testament to Twain’s lasting reputation than the habitual misattribution of miscellaneous wit and wisdom to his name. The circulation of such apocryphal aphorisms was common enough in the 20th century. It has only increased with the popularization of digital media. The most common question addressed to the Center for Mark Twain Studies is some variety of “Did he really say that?” Whenever possible, we track down the original source, as well as attempt to trace Read more…


My name is Mac Morrison, I am an undergraduate student at Tulane University. I’ve loved Mark Twain’s books since I was a very small child, and I’d like to gain a deeper understanding of the man and his work. In most academic fields there seem to be a short list of works by modern scholars that are considered canonical within the field,  and I was just wondering if you might be able to recommend some titles that fit that description Read more…


1868 was a pretty important year for Sam Clemens. Over the course of it, he would turn the Quaker City cruise of the preceding year into a lucrative cross-country lecture tour and what would prove to be a bestselling book, The Innocents Abroad (1869). He made an extended stay in Washington, DC, gathering impressions which would form the basis for his first novel, The Gilded Age (1873), as well as several humorous stories and editorials. And he would make his first Read more…


WNPR (Hartford) ran a segment this week about Mark Twain’s “Letter From Santa Claus” featuring an interview with The Mark Twain House‘s Director of Education, James Golden. You can listen to it below: You can read the complete letter in the Mark Twain Project’s digital archive. It is clear that Sam succeeded in instilling Susy (the receiver of Santa’s letter) with the spirit of the season. A few years later, in 1878, as a precocious six-year-old, she wrote a lengthy, bilingual Read more…


The Greatest Showman, a film about one of Mark Twain’s contemporaries and kindred spirits, releases nationwide tomorrow. Twain and P. T. Barnum were, by various accounts, friends, acquaintances, mutual admirers, and rivals. Mark Storey describes Twain as “the only man who challenged Barnum’s position as the leading celebrity of Gilded Age America.” And while Twain clearly felt a certain kinship with Barnum and treated him with cordiality, he also kept him a arm’s length. Barnum’s invitations to more intimate friendship Read more…


Sam Clemens celebrated his 39th birthday on November 30, 1874 with his wife, Livy, and their two young daughters. Both Sam and Livy’s birthdays fell in close proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday. It was naturally a season dense with revelry and gift-giving, mostly focused around the children, but Livy did not forget her husband, presenting him with the recently-published first edition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Hanging of the Crane, illustrated by Mary Hallock and Thomas Moran. It is a gift rich Read more…


In 1905, Thanksgiving Day fell on the 30th of November, which also happened to be Sam Clemens’s 70th birthday. In his autobiography, he claims an effort was made “to get the President to select another day for the national Thanksgiving, and I furnished him with arguments to use which I thought persuasive and convincing.” Among these was that “the original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist – the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and Read more…


As we near the end of fall term, the days get shorter, the mornings get colder, and students, teachers, and parents alike get increasingly agitated. Under such conditions, the problems of our schools, real and imagined, are magnified and exaggerated. November is a ripe season for anti-intellectualism and dozens of Tweeters turn every day to one of the most enduring apocryphal aphorisms of America’s leading iconoclast: I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. – Mark Twain #quote Read more…


A recent issue of NCTE’s English Journal includes a Special Section on “Teaching Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The editors open the section by acknowledging it “may offend some readers” and predict “There will be backlash. So be it.” In the spirit of embracing the debate, the journal has made the essays in this section free to access and download. I encourage you to do so. In the central essay of the Special Section, to which all the others respond, Peter Smagorinsky’s argument rests on the production Read more…

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