Author Archives: Matt Seybold


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…


The quadrennial conference  co-sponsored by the American Humor Studies Association and the Mark Twain Circle of America will be held at Roosevelt University in Chicago from July 12-15, 2018. Please check out the Call for Papers at the conference website for complete information about submissions, registration, accommodations, etc. For the first time in 2018, the Center for Mark Twain Studies is offering a $500 grant to support travel and registration for a graduate student or emerging scholar presenting at the conference. The Read more…


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…

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