Author Archives: Matt Seybold


To the Editor of The Tribune. I can truly say that this has been the most melancholy day of my life. When I arose this morning & reflected that on this day it was to be given me to see that noble band of patriots, the President & his Cabinet, delivered over to the cold charities of a thankless nation, my heart was ready to break. My brain was flooded with tender memories of blessings brought to me by this Read more…


On this date in 1856, Samuel Clemens, at barely twenty years of age, gave what was likely the first of the improvised comedic toasts for which he would, as Mark Twain, become widely renowned. The occasion was an impromptu celebration of the sesquicentennial of Benjamin Franklin’s birth. As the Keokuck Daily Gate City reported it, a group of local printers, including Orion Clemens, who ran the Ben Franklin Book & Job Office, gathered at the Eagle Hotel and “toasted their patron saint.” Read more…


Annotated editions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been relatively rare, especially considering how frequently the novel is taught in courses at both the secondary and collegiate level. The ever-popular Norton Critical Edition of the novel has not been revised since 1998. The most recent edition of the outstanding Bedford Case Study in Critical Controversy, edited by Gerald Graff and James Phelan, is more than a decade old. Both editions are geared towards advanced undergraduate literature students. They emphasize reception Read more…


The above image, courtesy of The Mark Twain Project at UC-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, comes from an engraved greeting card Twain circulated in January, 1876. William Dean Howells, upon receiving one, described the frog as “luridly hopping along, and looking as if he had just got out of a pond of hellfire.” The card was designed by True Williams, who offered it gratis to Twain and his publisher as thanks for the sustained employment they had recently provided him. Williams’s illustrations in Adventures of Tom 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…


On December 18, 1868, Mark Twain resumed his “American Vandals” lecture tour after the briefest respite. He had traveled overnight and throughout the day to arrive in Elmira following a performance in Scranton. Less than 24 hours later he boarded the first in the series of trains which would make a circuitous day-long journey to Fort Plain, where he was scheduled to appear on the evening of the 19th. There were several more direct routes which would’ve drastically reduced the hours 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…


Thanksgiving dinner at Quarry Farm in 1897 was planned by Susan Crane and described on elegant cards featuring the family cats. A surviving copy of these menu cards, located in the Mark Twain Archive at Elmira College, provides insight into how one prominent Elmira family celebrated the holidays near the turn of the century. Familiar Thanksgiving staples, like roast turkey and cranberry jelly, shared the table with fashionable preparations from the era and timeless delicacies. Mrs. Crane was clearly partial Read more…


As Hal Holbrook is quick to point out, he has been Mark Twain for longer than Mark Twain was. Holbrook premiered Mark Twain Tonight! in 1954. He has been performing a constantly evolving version of the show for over sixty years. Samuel Clemens bore his eponymous alter ego for less than fifty. Holbrook, who will turn 92 in February, will visit the following select cities over the next six months. November 15th – Waco Hall, Baylor University (Waco, TX) – Read more…


“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”                                                               – The Apocryphal Twain In November 1973, Gore Vidal’s Burr debuted at #4 on the NYT Best Seller List. The novel spent the next 39 weeks in the top ten, including 21 at #1. The topic Vidal chose for his much-anticipated sequel, Read more…


The Chicago Cubs first trip to the World Series since 1945 is, for many fans of the franchise, tinged with the melancholy remembrance of friends and family. Many lives were lived in the interim between World Series appearances, much less World Series victories. But such rare events can also have a telescoping effect, temporarily making the seemingly distant past seem oddly approachable and familiar. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Samuel Clemens was 72. He was living Read more…


In the recently published 2017 issue of Mark Twain Annual, Susan L. Eastman of University of Tennessee – Chattanooga discusses the distinctly contemporary resonances of a short story, “The War Prayer,” which was not published until thirteen years after the death of its author. Twain’s incisive posthumous indictment of imperial militarism, as Eastman puts it, “buoys the anti-war movement in the twenty-first century,” having been adapted and analyzed “in media beyond Twain’s imagination.” Though it’s never wise to doubt the limits of Read more…

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