Author Archives: Matt Seybold


On Thanksgiving Day, 1868, Olivia Langdon “yielded a conditional consent” to Sam Clemens’s third proposal of marriage. They had know each other for less than a year, having been introduced on the occasion of a Charles Dickens reading in New York City the previous New Year’s Eve. Sam had made himself a fixture in Elmira during the Summer and Fall of 1868, going out of his way to visit the Langdons whenever there was an interruption in his American Vandal lecture tour. 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…


At the outset of his chapter on “The Economics of American Literary Realism” in The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (published today, by the way), Henry Wonham asks whether “the diverse set of writers generally aligned with the aesthetic disposition of realism…share an overriding interpretation of the economic conditions that inspired [Mark] Twain and [Charles Dudley] Warner to give [the Gilded Age] its notorious moniker?” The 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium on “American Literary History & Economics in the New Gilded Age” is Read more…


2018 marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of Mark Twain’s first visit to Elmira, the town where he would meet his wife, spend many of his summers over the remainder of his life, write several of his most acclaimed books, and finally be laid to rest. In the following essay, Dr. Seybold commemorates the occasion by offering his estimation of what Elmira meant to Mark Twain.  January 26, 1905 It was the 30th birthday of Mark Twain’s nephew, Jervis Langdon. His father, Charley Langdon, Read more…


The 2018 Humor in America Conference at Roosevelt University in Chicago included the world premiere of “Waiting For Susy,” a one-act play by Bruce Michelson. “Waiting for Susy” is set in Rouen in September of 1894, at a moment when Twain and his family were living in France, trying to save money and preparing for the global lecture tour which would begin the next summer. During the same year, Monet finished his famous Rouen Cathedral series and was, similarly, preparing to relocate Read more…


The quadrennial Humor in America conference, co-sponsored by the American Humor Studies Association and the Mark Twain Circle of America, took place earlier this month on the campus of Roosevelt University in Chicago. The Center for Mark Twain Studies was also pleased to offer an award to supplement travel costs to the conference for five graduate students and emerging scholars. Among the three days of panels and plenaries, many of which touched on the work of Twain and his contemporaries, was Read more…


“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…

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