Author Archives: Matt Seybold


Yesterday, Los Angeles Review of Books published a piece I’ve been working on intermittently since the Amazon-Whole Foods merger was announced in mid-June. Please check it out. One of the implicit theses of the essay is that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is to President Trump what Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller was to President Roosevelt. Vice President Pence endorsed at least one half of the analogy, as he explicitly compared his running mate to Roosevelt a couple weeks ago. While Pence characterizes Read more…


Ben Tarnoff, author of The Bohemians: Mark Twain & the San Francisco Writer Who Reinvented American Literature, gave the keynote address at the 8th International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, hosted by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College. Tarnoff’s talk, “Vulgarity from Below, Vulgarity from Above: Twain in the Age of Trump,” creatively addresses the most common and confounding question addressed to Twain scholars in 2017: What would Mark Twain think of these times we live Read more…


The voice in the above clip is that of John S. Tuckey, who, as Joe Csicsila puts it, “changed everything in Mark Twain studies back in 1963” with his book Mark Twain & Little Satan.  In 1985, as America celebrated the sesquicentennial of Samuel Clemens’s birth, Tuckey was part of the star-studded inaugural season of The Trouble Begins lecture series, now entering its 33rd year. The series began with a lecture by Hamlin Hill, author of Mark Twain: God’s Fool (1973) and Mark Twain & Read more…


Malcolm Gladwell began the second season of his Revisionist History podcast with an episode about the public subsidization of expensive private golf clubs. He called the episode “A Good Walk Spoiled,” but wisely refrained from attributing that now ubiquitous phrase to any particular source. Many have not shown the same restraint. “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”–Mark Twain — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) September 23, 2013 Unlike many of the aphorisms which we’ve traced in these pages, the substance of this quip was Read more…


The virtual tour of Quarry Farm now features 26 different panoramas, covering the whole property, inside and out, as well as the Mark Twain Study, Mark Twain Archive, and GTL Lobby on the Elmira College Campus and the Clemens-Langdon Gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery. Visitors can also click on “map view” to see the property map and floor plans for the main house. Among the new additions are six panoramas from upper floor, which include the bedrooms were Sam Clemens and Read more…


Ashley Fredericks ’17 was awarded the 24th Annual Mark Twain Essay Prize as part of Commencement Weekend festivities for her graduating class at Elmira College. Ms. Frederick’s essay, titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: To Teach or Not to Teach,” enters the most volatile and publicized debate in Mark Twain Studies since the 1950s, concerning the appropriateness of Twain’s most acclaimed novel to secondary school classrooms based on its repeated invocation of the “n-word.” Ashley traces iterations of this controversy through 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…


Mark Twain was an immensely popular author. Based on this apparent truth, it has been convenient to regard him as populist as well. Contemporaneous critics dismissed him as “merely a humorist,” a characterization which he clearly internalized. Even those who praise his literary style often, like his friend William Dean Howells, invoke the slightly backhanded adjective natural. “Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extended writings the fashion we all use in thinking,” Howells said in 1901, “and to Read more…


James Baldwin said surprisingly little about Mark Twain. I say “surprising” because Baldwin was a renowned analyst of U.S. literary history. Many of the contemporaneous writers with whom he associated, both personally and professionally, published commentaries on Twain’s works, especially Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In many cases, these commentaries were subsumed into persistent public debates about the “N-word” and the appropriateness of Twain’s most famous novel in public school classrooms, where it was then a staple. Baldwin, one of the Read more…


Drawing by Elmira College student, Samantha Berger


Mark Twain described his Autobiography as an “apparently systemless system…a complete and purposed jumble,” and so it is, though it is not wholly without method. Over the course of its composition Twain relied heavily on a biography begun by his daughter, Susy Clemens, when she was just thirteen. Twain would copy a selection from “Susy’s Biography” then expound upon the events and episodes sparsely described therein. This ritual provoked both humor – the celebrated septuagenarian writer debating the details of his Read more…


The Mark Twain House & Museum, located in Hartford, Connecticut, recently  launched an interactive virtual tour with eighteen panoramic images from throughout the sprawling property. Last year, CMTS launched its own virtual tour of Quarry Farm, so now Twainiacs can view the Clemens family’s two favorite properties simultaneously from anywhere in the world. Enjoy!  

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