Our first update to Mark Twain Day By Day Online address several technical difficulties with the rollout version. There is a prominent searchbar associated with each volume, allowing scholars to quickly find keywords and dates from throughout the massive resource. Also, Paul Stonier has address many (all? most?) of the spacing and other formatting problems that were sprinkled throughout the text. We consider Day By Day to be a living resource, so additional updates are to be expected from time to time. If you encounter problems while using the database or imagine functionalities which would improve its utility, please let us know, recognizing of course that updates will be made as time, resources, and technical capacity allow.
David Fears’s Mark Twain Day By Day is an exhaustive chronology of the life of Samuel Clemens which was originally published in four enormous print volumes between 2008 and 2014. It has since become and invaluable reference for scholars who have the good fortune of having access to it, but the size and expense of the books have kept it primarily confined to university libraries and a few private collections. That is, until now. Independent Twain scholars, teachers, students, hobbyists, and all variety of Twainiac can now access a fully-searchable online edition of Mark Twain Day By Day for free from anywhere with an internet connection.
CMTS is incredibly grateful to Mr. Fears for entrusting us with the fruit of his extraordinary labors, and also to the late Dr. Thomas A. Tenney, Dr. Barbara Snedecor, Leslie Myrick, Dr. Susan K. Harris, Nathanial Ball, and Paul Stonier, all of whom donated time and labor essential to getting this project online.
The Center for Mark
Twain Studies is again sponsoring a creative writing contest for area students
in grades 2-6, encouraging students to explore Mark Twain’s legacy in Elmira
and the Southern Tier. Submissions for
the competition are due by April 19.
While staying at
Quarry Farm, Mark Twain often encouraged his children to create and tell their
own stories based off the tiles adorning the parlor fireplace. The 24 tiles around the fireplace depict
fables written by ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, who utilized animals, such
as crows, snakes, mice, and foxes, to illustrate moral lessons.
schools within a 25-mile radius of Quarry Farm are encouraged to access the
fireplace tiles on the CMTS website, marktwainstudies.org, and create their own
stories based on the tile images.
Three winners from
three different schools will be chosen by CMTS staff. CMTS has
received special permission to give the winners a personal tour inside Quarry
Farm, normally only open to Twain Scholars.
The winning students will be able to read their story next to the Quarry
Farm parlor fireplace, tour Quarry Farm, and enjoy Mark Twain’s favorite
dessert: gingerbread, vanilla ice cream, and lemonade.
Submissions for the contest should be submitted by Friday, April 19, to the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, 1 Park Place, Elmira, NY 14901. Additional information, including a virtual tour of Quarry Farm, can be found online at marktwainstudies.org.
All the contest information and high-resolution pictures of the Quarry Farm fireplace tiles can be found at MarkTwainStudies.org.
About the Center for Mark Twain Studies –The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain. –
The Center for Mark Twain Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2019 Trouble Begins Lecture Series. This diverse, accomplished line-up is a testament to the rich potential of Mark Twain Studies. CMTS is honored to present and support these scholars. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Visit the “Trouble Begins Archives”for a downloadable recording of all these talks and other past lectures. You can also see past “Trouble Begins” programs and CMTS quadrennial conference and symposia programs.
In 1985, the Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins Lecture Series. The title comes from a handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series is sponsored by the Michael J. Kiskis Memorial Fund. The “Trouble Begins” and the “Summer at The Park Church” Lecture Series are also made possible by the support of the Mark Twain Foundation and the Friends of the Center.
Wednesday, May 8 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.
“Writing About Sexuality: Mark Twain’s Private Work Made Public”
Linda Morris, University of California, Davis
After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young women from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable reading for young men and women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Nevertheless, when speaking before all-male groups, or writing privately, he addressed sexual topics with frankness suffused with humor. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.
Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis. She has writ- ten extensively about women’s humor in 19th and 20th century America, including a book-length study on the writer Miriam Whitcher (“The Widow Bedott”), and essays on Mary Lasswell and Roz Chast. Her work on Mark Twain includes her book Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression, and essays on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, “Gender Bending as Child’s Play,” Aunt Sally Phelps in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and “Hellfire Hotchkiss.” She was the 2017 recipient of “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America, and the 2018 recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association.
Wednesday, May 15 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus
“‘Infinitely-Divided Stardust’: Mark Twain and Lawyer Talk”
J. Mark Baggett, Samford University
Told by the New Orleans fortune teller Madame Caprell that he should have been a lawyer, Samuel Clemens dismissed the law as “too prosy and tiresome.” But his immersion in legal language and legal fictions betrayed him. From the early days of his career, covering the Nevada Territorial legislature and reporting on the police and court beat in the Territorial Enterprise, he plied what he called the “trade language” of the law. His legal burlesques of that formative period, including the first use of the pseudonym “Mark Twain” in “Ye Sentimental Law Student,” show the emerging burlesque patterns that appear in his novels. These burlesques also parallel important 19th century movements in American law that democratized and simplified legalese. This lecture will explore these burlesques from a legal perspective and trace their influence, particularly in the dramatic stagings of court trials that appear so often in his longer works. Twain himself once pronounced that a great writer must have an “infinitely divided stardust,” a genius who understood humanity from the two essential disciplines: literature and the law.
Mark Baggett is Associate Professor of English and Law at Samford University and Cumberland School of Law. His recent research on Twain’s use of legal rhetoric is an outgrowth of his teaching law at Cumberland since 1987. He contributed articles on legal issues in the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and is working on a book-length project on Mark Twain and the law, building on interdisciplinary research on Twain’s broad appropriation of legal rhetoric.
Wednesday, May 22 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus
“Quarry Farm: Family Retreat with 1,631 Lightning Rods”
In May 1869, Jervis Langdon purchases the land on Elmira’s east hill. It is there that he establishes the Langdon’s summer home, Quarry Farm – a place of respite which the family enjoys for 100 years. Sadly, Langdon dies shortly after its completion, but his oldest daughter, Susan Crane, inherits the house. She generously and joyously shares Quarry Farm with her sister, Olivia Clemens, Livy’s new husband, Samuel Clemens, and the Clemens children for the next twenty years. Sam and Livy embark on their “long European sojourn” in 1890 and do not return until 1895, which turns out to be Livy’s last stay. During a time of transition, before Susan and Theodore Crane begin their chapter of life at Quarry Farm, Sam Clemens is “running two house- holds – one up here on the farm & one in Buffalo…and Mr. and Mrs. Crane stay here with us, & we do have perfectly royal good times.” This lecture will focus on how Quarry Farm was used by the family and changes made to the house by Langdon family members. It will also discuss the lecturer’s interpretation of a story written during Clemens’ management of the farm – “The Lightning Rod Story” – a satire about dealing with contractors – which could be as true today as it was then.
Elise Johnson-Schmidt is a preservation architect with 35 years of experience, whose firm specializes in historic preservation. Her firm has undertaken over 200 revitalization and restoration projects. She was also formerly the Director of Market Street Restoration Agency. She previously worked on the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in NYC & Boston’s Trinity Church. She is a frequent lecturer across NYS on revitalizing historic buildings, and a (former) longtime member of NYS’s Board for Historic Preservation. Her firm is currently writing the Historic Structure Report for Quarry Farm.
Wednesday, May 29 in the Barn at Quarry Farm ***Two Events***
5:30 p.m. Theatrical Reading of Waiting For Susy
A one-act play by Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois
Waiting for Susy is a one-act comedy about a famous, momentous, historic encounter that never took place. The setting is the great square in front of Rouen Cathedral in France; the time is October of 1894. Sam Clemens and his daughter Susy, living with the rest of the family in nearby Étretat, have come to town shopping for night-gowns and cigars. With brushes and an easel, and parked comfortably on a stool in this plaza, a strange, round, bearded French gentleman is dabbing at a couple of his paintings. What happens next is entirely made up, and you can safely believe every word of it. (“Susy Clemens” photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum)
7:00 p.m. “Mark Twain’s Homes and the Public Private Life”
Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois
When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing — including breakthroughs in printing of pictures — provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. Where they were born and where they resided; the byways they wandered for epiphanies or Deep Thoughts; where their spouses or their Lost Loves grew up or passed away – all of this and more became fair game for mass-market words and pictures. Over the course of Mark Twain’s life we can trace this cultural transformation, and see how Quarry Farm, the Hartford mansion, and other residences here and abroad figured in a long campaign by Sam and his family to live in this new limelight, and also to evade it. The Clemenses performed a “private” family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others — in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the rest of it brought American personal privacy to an end.
Bruce Michelson is the author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, as well as many articles and book chapters about Mark Twain and other writers. He is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois, and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and The American Humor Studies Association. A Contributing Editor at Studies in American Humor, he is also a Fulbright Ambassador, having received two fellowships from the Fulbright Program. His most recent work includes a translation of George Clemenceau’s writings on Claude Monet and the fine arts, and a one-act comedy about Sam Clemens, his daughter Susy, and a Mysterious Stranger in France
Although Mark Twain is often characterized as a quintessentially American writer, he is almost as frequently noted as a citizen of the world. The Mark Twain Circle seeks proposals for papers that investigate Twain’s writings in a transnational context, interpreting representations of the American and the other in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, international politics, and cultural contact.
MLA requires that presenters be members of MLA at the time of the panel’s submission to the program. We also encourage panelists to become members of the Mark Twain Circle. We are especially eager to receive submissions from emerging scholars and members of underrepresented groups.
Send proposals to Larry Howe, President of the Mark Twain Circle: [email protected] Deadline: March 15, 2019
The Center for Mark Twain Studies is pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of American Literary Realism (Winter 2019, Vol. 51, No. 2) dealing with Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/39501). It originated from the workshop on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc chaired by Paula Harrington at Elmira 2017: The Eighth International Conference of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, which was part of the France-Berkeley-Fund project headed by Linda Morris and Ronald Jenn (“The ‘French Marginalia’ of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1895-96) at Berkeley: Patriotism without Borders”). The issue, coordinated by Ronald Jenn and Delphine Louis-Dimitrov, contains contributions by Linda A. Morris (“What is ‘Personal’ about: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc?”), Jeanne Campbell Reesman (“Discourses of Faith vs. Fraud in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and Christian Science”, Susan K. Harris (“Whohoo!!! Joan of Arc!!!!!”), Geoffrey C. Williams (“What Joan of Arc can Teach Us about Human Motivation and Well-being”) and Delphine Louis-Dimitrov (“The Democratic Reconfiguration of History in Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc”). In true Twainian fashion, a twin special issue on “Joan of Arc through American Eyes / Jeanne d’Arc au Prisme de l’Amérique ” will be published in the RFEA (Revue Française d’Etudes Américaines) in Fall 2019. It will set Twain’s passion for Joan of Arc in a broader context by considering various aspects of her presence in American literature and culture.
Stemming from this work, Mark Twain et Jeanne d’Arc: L’hisoire d’une passion, a French-language short documentary about Twain’s lifelong interest in the iconic heroine, Joan of Arc, was recently awarded the top prize in the documentary category at the Anstia Film Festival in Paris. The film, written by recent Quarry Farm Fellow, Ronald Jenn, and directed by Patrice Thery, uses pictures and documents from French and American archives, including our own, to familiarize its audience with the author, the subject of his passionate interest, and, finally, the novel, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which he published in 1896. The film can be seen here.
“You can call it a barrier, you can call it a wall, you can call it a wangdoodle for all I care.” – Sen. John Kennedy (Louisiana)
The above quote from the ongoing (some might say “never-ending”) discussion over what to call President Trump’s proposed border wall/fence/barrier reminds me of one of Mark Twain’s more obscure, early letters.
In a letter to William Clagett in March 1862, Twain wrote:
“Sunday.—I intended to finish this letter to-day, but I went to church—and busted! For a man who can listen for an hour to Mr. White, the whining, nasal, Whangdoodle preacher, and then sit down and write, without shedding melancholy from his pen as from a duck’s back, is more than mortal. Or less. I fear I shall not feel cheerful again until the beans I had for dinner begin to operate.”
I certainly feel the same melancholia about the interminable border wall debate as Twain did about his “Whangdoodle preacher”—although there doesn’t appear to be an impending, cheerful release from our quandary, as he was anticipating from his. Even so, investigating the origin of such a strange word like “whangdoodle” may offer something of a pleasant diversion while we wait for the proverbial beans of our national government to begin to operate.
According to the Merriam-Webster definition, a “Whangdoodle” is “an imaginary creature of undefined character.” The Online Etymology Dictionary adds that it is a “thing for which the correct name is not known.” There are other, less savory definitions for the word offered on “Urban Dictionary,” but I don’t want to besmirch the clean lines of the Twain Center’s new website with them.
There are literary references to Whangdoodles in beloved children’s books like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; however, Twain’s use of it in his biting critique of The Rev. A.F. White is likely from a parody sermon that was popular out West, where Twain lived at the time. Mark Twain’s Letters, Vol. 1notes:
No doubt Clemens associated White’s pulpit style with that of the “Hard-shell Baptist” preacher whose sermon, “Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang-Doodle Mourneth,” was a staple of frontier humor. The “Whangdoodle,” a “mysterious animal, like the ‘gyascutis’ of circus fame, has never been beheld of man and its attributes and habits are entirely unknown.”
In the satirical sermon, the “unlarnt” preacher offers a jumble of misspelled words and specious theology to his “brethering”:
…my tex which I shall choose for the occasion is in the leds of the Bible, somewhar between the Second Chronik-ills and the last chapter of Timothytitus; and when you find it, you’ll find it in these words: “And they shall gnaw a file, and flee unto the mountains of Hepsidam, where the lion roareth and the wang-doodle mourneth for his first born…
…Now, my brethering, “they shall flee unto the mountains of Hepsidam;” but thar’s more dams than Hepsidam. Thar’s Rotter-dam, Had-dam, Amster-dam, and “Don’t-care-a-dam”—the last of which, my brethering, is the worst of all…
In reading these words, it occurs to me that our diversionary quest for the legendary Whangdoodle’s origin has led us right back here to modern-day “Don’t-care-a-dam,” where presidential “tex” about “covfefe” and “hamberders” make Kennedy’s allusion to “wangdoodle” an all-the-more-fitting label for the elusive border wall.
Each year the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College welcomes a new class of Quarry Farm Fellows. These fellows receive a 2-4 week residency at Quarry Farm, as well as a stipend, to pursue research related to Mark Twain and his circle. If you are interested in applying for a Quarry Farm Fellowship, be on the lookout for the 2020 application, which will be posted here in the coming months. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the ten scholars who will visit us this year.
Mark Baggett is Associate Professor of English and Law,
Samford University and Cumberland School of Law. His teaching and research
concentrates on American humor; American language and literature, particularly
Mark Twain; Southern literature; and law and literature. His recent research on
Twain’s use of legal rhetoric is an outgrowth of his teaching legal writing,
now “Lawyering and Legal Reasoning,” at Cumberland since 1987. He contributed
articles on legal issues in the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and is working on a
book-length project on Mark Twain and the law, building on interdisciplinary
research on Twain’s broad appropriation of legal rhetoric.
I propose to contextualize Twain’s legal fictions in nineteenth century movements and practices within the legal profession. Using Twain’s criteria for judging Shakespeare’s literary greatness in “Is Shakespeare Dead?”—whether Shakespeare was a lawyer who knew the “trade language” of the law—I will start by tracing the sources of his extensive knowledge of legal rhetoric. Twain’s engagements with the law are well documented, from his apprenticeships in legislative language, to his career covering court trials on the Territorial Enterprise, to his legal burlesques such as “Ye Sentimental Law Student” (the first use of the pseudonym “Mark Twain”), to the court trials in practically all of his longer works, and to his lifelong work on the copyright law. From the side of legal scholarship, however, there have been few applications of legal theory and practice to Mark Twain’s work and few, if any, full-length and studies of his attitudes toward the law. I hope to use the resources at Quarry Farm to explore the legal and political cultures that informed his life and work, and to study the degree to which his representations of the law reflect his attitudes toward the law and the American legal system and history. I propose to add a postscript of the ways the law continues to shape Mark Twain studies, including the evolution of the copyright law in recent decades, the persistent issues of censorship, and the reception of the legal community to Twain and his works.
Cadle is an Associate Professor of English at Florida International
University. He is the author of The Mediating Nation: Late American Realism, Globalization, and the
Progressive State, winner of the 2015 SAMLA Studies Book Award, as well as
essays on subjects ranging from the anti-imperial politics of W.E.B. Du Bois to
the teaching of American literary realism.
In addition to a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellowship, his current research
project is supported by a 2019-20 award from the National Endowment for the
My current book project examines an important but largely forgotten literary movement at the turn of the twentieth century known as the Romantic Revival. The renewed popularity of such old-fashioned, “romantic” genres as historical novels and sensational fiction caught the publishing industry off guard and gave rise to the first bestseller lists, which helped industry insiders keep up with rapid changes in taste. While the implausible plots and one-dimensional characters of romance seem antithetical to the aesthetics of realism—Henry James doubted that any nineteenth-century author could inhabit the minds of characters who lived centuries earlier, and William Dean Howells dismissed the movement as an exercise in false nostalgia—nearly every major American realist wrote at least one romance, including both James and Howells. By contextualizing these romances written by realists within the wider Romantic Revival, my project demonstrates a coherence among novels that are often dismissed as outliers in a given author’s body of work. During my time at Quarry Farm, I will finish my chapter on the historical romances of the 1880s and 1890s, including those by Mark Twain, with particular attention paid to Twain’s seemingly singular Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896).
Larry Howe is president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, Professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University, and editor of Studies in American Humor. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority and co-editor with Harry Wonham of Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture.
“Mark Twain and America’s Ownership Society: Property and Its Discontents” applies strategies of New Economic Criticism to expose ambivalences between Samuel Clemens active embrace of the ideal of property in American culture and Mark Twain’s more jaundiced view of the responsibilities and consequences of ownership. Working through both details of Clemens’s life and of Twain’s writings, the project seeks 1) to advance our understanding of Mark Twain’s insight into the economic basis of American culture; 2) to correct some long-standing myths about Samuel Clemens as a failed businessman; and 3) to expose the complex rhetorical intersections of literature and economics.
Don James McLaughlin
McLaughlin is an assistant professor of English at The University of Tulsa specializing
in 19th-century and early American literature. He earned his Ph.D.
in English at the University of Pennsylvania in July 2017. He completed his
dissertation “Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature”
under the direction of Heather Love, Max Cavitch, Nancy Bentley, and Chi-ming
Yang. The dissertation (now first book project) provides an intellectual
history of phobia in American print culture as a medical diagnosis, political
metaphor, and aesthetic sensation in the 18th and 19th
centuries. In January 2016, an essay from the project was published in The
New Republic, titled “The Anti-Slavery Roots of Today’s -PhobiaObsession.” Two additional essays from
the project are currently forthcoming in Literature and Medicine and J19:
The Journal of 19th-Century Americanists. In 2018, Penn
English awarded Don James the Diane Hunter Prize for Best Dissertation
submitted during the 2017/18 academic year. In the summer of 2018, Don James
was awarded the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian
Society to support completion of his first book. His research has also been
supported by a Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellowship from the
McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Penn Humanities Forum.
During my residence at Quarry Farm, I will be writing a chapter in my first book project, titled Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature, on Twain’s unfinished manuscript 3,000 Years among the Microbes, written in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 1905. This chapter puts Twain’s manuscript in dialogue with two major shifts in medical thought at the end of the nineteenth century: (1) the rise of microbiology, introducing a new discourse for articulating the relationship of bacteria and viruses to infectious disease, established largely by Louis Pasteur’s successes in vaccination; and (2) the emergence of an international psychiatric discourse revolving around mysophobia, meaning a dread of filth and contamination, which coincided with and drew momentum from the triumph of the germ theory of disease. Written from the perspective of a cholera germ named Huck who has infected a tramp named Blitzowski, 3,000 Years meditates on both discourses, exploring microbiology’s ramifications for human understandings of biology, agency, and subjectivity, while also pursuing a mysophobic aesthetic: a state of readerly repugnance generated by the landscape of infection and bodily functions, which Huck and his microbe friends have made their home.
Lisa McGunigal is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in
the English Department at the Pennsylvania State University, where she received
her Ph.D. specializing in late nineteenth-century American literature. Her
current book project argues
that popular entertainments and cultural performances influenced the formation
of American realist novels. She has published on the shared performance
strategies between Mark Twain and the character of Huck Finn in The Mark Twain
Annual and has an article forthcoming this year in American Literary Realism on
the place of the literary salon in Henry Adams’s work.
“Considered a satirist, travel writer, and lecturer, Twain was rarely presented as a poet or appreciator of poetry to the public during his life—and still today many people assume an antagonistic relationship between Twain and verse. In fact, Twain penned 120 poems (the bulk being of a humorous nature) and was an avid reader and performer of Robert Browning’s works. Additionally, Twain was clearly familiar with the popular poets of his era as he frequently parodied them within his novels; he also wrote marginalia within poetry collections that he owned. I plan to contribute to the fields of Twain marginalia, Twain as editor, and his relationship with poetry by building an article around his poetry collections within his personal library. Focusing on grammar and writing style, Twain offers a commentary laced with snark. I will connect this approach to other instances of Twain writing between and within the lines of “bad” poetry.”
Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of California, Davis. Her book-length studies include Women’s Humor in the Age of Gentility: The Life and Works of Frances Miriam Whitcher, American Women Humorists: Critical Essays (Ed.), and Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression. She has written a number of essays about Mark Twain, including “What is Personal about Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc?”, “The Sources of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” (with Ronald Jenn), “Gender Bending as Childs’ Play,” “Identity Switching in Huckleberry Finn,” “Twice-Told Tales: Aunt Sally Phelps and the ‘Evasion’ in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “the Eloquent Silence in ‘Hellfire Hotchkiss’”, and an in-press essay on “Mark Twain and Sexuality,” for Mark Twain inContext.” Her essays on American women’s humor include “Good Food, Great Friends, Cold Beer: The Domestic Humor of Mary Lasswell,” “Domestic Manners ofthe Americans: A Transatlantic Phenomenon,” and most recently “Roz Chast: From Whimsy to Transgression.” She was the recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association, and “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America.
My project is to write a comprehensive, I hope definitive, essay about Susy Clemens. While much has been written about Susy in passing, there has been no in-depth analysis of her life. We know that Susy occupied a unique place in the Clemens family, both as a living, eldest daughter, and in the aftermath of her unexpected death, but I want to focus as well on Susy herself. In assessing the impact of her death on her parents and sisters, I want to distinguish more fully those effects on her mother, Livy, and her father, effects that I believe have been conflated.
Germaine to this study will be the many stories about her as a precocious child, but also her bid for greater independence as a young woman. Not incidentally, Quarry Farm plays a special role throughout. I will examine her own writing, her biography of her father, “Papa,” her dramatic writing and acting, and her relationship with fellow Bryn Mawr student Louise Brownell.
Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is an independent
decorative arts scholar and architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century
American domestic architecture, interiors, and furniture. He has written, lectured, and taught courses
on a variety of decorative arts subjects, in addition to organizing decorative
arts exhibitions for museums and researching and developing furnishings plans
for the restoration of period rooms in historic house museums. Prior to becoming an independent consultant,
Mr. Ritchie held the position of director of furniture and decorative arts at
several auction houses. He also served
as executive director and curator of a number of historic house museums. After
earning a bachelor’s degree in the history of art and architecture from
Carnegie-Mellon University, he pursued graduate studies in the history of
decorative arts at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum/Parson’s School of Design Master’s
Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. Mr. Ritchie is currently researching and
writing a book on the history, furniture, and interior decoration of Pottier
& Stymus, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms in New York
City during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Mark Twain included in his novel Life on the Mississippi a chapter titled “The House Beautiful,” in which he described in almost excruciating detail the furnishings and decorations typically found in the parlors of upper-class homes in the South. While the image he conjured was accurate, his tone was disparaging and his use of the title, ironic. The type of interior detailed by Twain was woefully out of fashion when he wrote his memoir about his personal experiences as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. The title he sardonically chose for the chapter was no doubt adopted from a highly popular book that discussed the period’s most advanced theories regarding household furniture and interior decoration, The House Beautiful (1878), which advocated design principles that, if followed closely, would result in tasteful and aesthetically pleasing rooms characterized by simplicity, balance, and harmony. By the time Twain published Life on the Mississippi in 1883, he was already intimately acquainted with the ideas associated with what came to be known as the “Household Art Movement,” allowing the tenets of design reform to guide the decoration and furnishing of his own home in Hartford, Connecticut.
Preliminary research into the maturation
of Samuel and Oliva Clemens as “aesthetes” who followed the dictates of the
Household Art Movement was inspired by my investigation and analysis of the
surviving late-nineteenth-century furnishings and interior decoration at Quarry
Farm in the summer of 2017. A close
examination of the Quarry Farm interiors brought to light many parallels with
the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.
Similar types and styles of furniture and interior architectural
decoration, while simpler and less expensive than those in the Mark Twain
House, are found in the rooms of Quarry Farm, indicating that there was most
likely an exchange of ideas between the Clemenses and Susan and Theodore Crane
about how to tastefully and artistically decorate and furnish the home.
The purpose of my project is to explore in greater depth how Samuel and Olivia Clemens familiarized themselves with the reform principles of the Household Art Movement. As part of my research, I shall attempt to identify the published material—including periodicals, trade journals, and home decorating advice books—as well as the designers, purveyors of household furnishings, and actual domestic interiors that influenced the Clemenses’ development from mid-Victorian householders with commonplace tastes to sophisticated cosmopolites who adroitly created an aesthetically advanced home that reflected the most fashionable theories of the day. Consideration will also be given to the similarities between the interiors of Quarry Farm, as they appeared in the late nineteenth century, and those of Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, and how ideas regarding the creation of “artistic” interiors were exchanged between the Clemenses and the Cranes.
Nathan Thompson is Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania,
where he also serves as Assistant Chair of the English Department. He is also
Treasurer-Secretary of the American Humor Studies Association. Todd is author
of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln
and the Politics of Satire (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). His
work on political satire and pre-1900 American literature has also appeared in Scholarly Editing, Early American Literature, ESQ,
Nineteenth-Century Prose, Journal of American Culture, Teaching American Literature, and
elsewhere. He currently is at work on a book
project entitled Savage Laughter:
Nineteenth-Century American Humor and the Pacific, 1840-1880.
Mark Twain cuts a large and persistent figure throughout Savage Laughter. First, I will analyze Twain’s jokes about cannibalism in Chapter 3, “‘Cheering for Ye, Cannibal’: The Politics of Boiled Missionaries,” which will feature cultural close readings of “cannibal and boiled missionary” jokes (and, sometimes, accompanying cartoons) that were ubiquitous throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. My analysis will demonstrate how such jokes express, and attempt to laugh away, anxieties about Pacific Islanders’ otherness, thus reinforcing stereotypes and reproducing the unease of contact. In making (and mocking) blanket accusations of cannibalism, the jokes juxtapose for comic effect Pacific Islander and Western epistemologies, as represented through alleged cannibalism and western travelers’ genteel (or similarly savage) reactions to it. But these jokes also allow their tellers and auditors to pithily, and without much risk, question cultural imperialism by comically celebrating the demise of missionaries. That is, there are two butts to every cannibal and missionary joke: the cannibal, whom we laugh at in disgust and terror at an inhumane act, and the missionary, who gets his comeuppance for cultural and religious imposition.
I will examine other elements of Twain’s travel writing in Chapter 4, “Pacific in Repose: Genial Travel Writing and the Lure of the Polynesia,” which focuses on the centrality of comic geniality to Americans’ visions of the Pacific and its inhabitants. This chapter explores how popular, humorous, travel writing about the Pacific by Herman Melville and his literary inheritors—including Twain, Edward T. Perkins, Conflagration Jones, and others—shaped a persistently jovial and inviting image of the Pacific Islands through their easygoing humor. Certainly all these humorists set out to puncture their readers’ preconceptions as much as they add to them; but even so, as their genial style lent to their depictions of the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Hawaii an alluring sense of comic repose that augmented earlier and more poetic depictions of the South Seas as an Eden. At the same time, I will argue, the good-natured self-searching of their authorial voices led them to challenge imperialist and missionary assumptions about “civilized” superiority over “savage” innocence. I will investigate the comic strategies these humorists deploy in their travel writings—particularly self-effacement, satiric levelling, comic foils, physical comedy, and sarcastic irony—to show how they leveraged the ambivalence of social humor to stoke Americans’ interest in Pacific Islands while (at times) defending Pacific Islanders from “other”-ing stereotypes that were intimately tied to Americans’ imperialist urges.
I will also treat Twain somewhat more briefly in Chapter 5, “‘Didn’t our people laugh?’: Humor as Resistance,” in which I consider Twain’s account of half-Hawaiian Bill Ragsdale’s subversive translations, and in Chapter 6, “Collecting the Pacific,” in which I perform a reading of Twain’s character Brown’s ruinous appetite for collecting specimens from the Hawaiian Islands. In addition to studying the travel writing of canonical figures like Twain and Melville, Savage Laughter investigates how and why American humor—most notably Southwestern almanac humor, Yankee humor, sea yarns, joke books, newspapers and periodicals, burlesque museum exhibits, and blackface minstrelsy—appropriated (imagined) South Seas geography and culture into its comic myth-making. It also seeks to analyze humorous moments in literary, missionary, and travel writing to detail the subversive power of Pacific Islanders’ comic resistance to imperialism.
is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Houston, where she
specializes in American and multiethnic American literature of the long
nineteenth century. After receiving her PhD in English with a certificate in
Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, she was a Visiting
Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and an Assistant
Professor at Louisiana State University. She is currently completing her first
book manuscript, Fictions of
Territoriality, with the support of fellowships from the American Council
of Learned Societies and the American Association of University Women.
Fictions of Territoriality examines how U.S. national boundaries and racial hierarchies were consolidated and contested from 1844 to 1914. Analyzing legal and cultural documents from four sites of study (extraterritorial cities in China, the Panama Canal Zone, the Mexican Cession, and Indian Territory), the book uncovers the competing narratives about race and geography that structured both U.S. imperial governance and the alternatives proposed by anti-imperialists and writers of color. At Quarry Farm, Sunny will revise the first chapter of this manuscript, which centers on Ah Sin (1876),a convoluted frontier melodrama that Twain co-authored with Bret Harte. Though widely dismissed as a literary and financial failure (and even blamed for the demise of the authors’ friendship), the play has generated some critical attention because of the central role played by its titular Chinese character. While this scholarship has importantly situated the melodrama in contemporaneous American debates on race, it has interpreted Ah Sin through an exclusively domestic lens that foregrounds its critique of U.S. attitudes and policies towards Chinese immigrants. By examining Ah Sin alongside Twain’s commentary on Sino-American foreign relations (and specifically, the policy of extraterritoriality), my chapter reveals the transpacific concerns that animate the play and offer new insights into Twain’s complex anti-imperialism at this moment in his career.
Melissa Scholes Young
Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novel Flood, winner of the Literary Fiction Category for the 2017 Best Book Award. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of Grace in Darkness: D.C. Women Writers. She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.
Since Flood’s publication, I’ve been researching and writing on the topic of “Reimagining Becky Thatcher.” Often girls who grow up in Mark Twain’s boyhood home, as did I, aspire to the portrait of Becky Thatcher in our town’s annual pageant, even when it doesn’t fit. In my debut novel, set in Hannibal, Missouri during and after the 500-year flood of 1993, I reimagine Becky Thatcher through a female friendship more akin to Tom and Huck’s famous mischief. Flood’s protagonist, Laura Brooks returns home to wrestle with the story she’s been telling herself in contrast to her family’s expectations. Her high school sweetheart, Sammy McGuire, is narrated through Laura’s limited point of view. Some readers have wished my characters would behave themselves better as they are often more comfortable with the ‘boys will be boys’ story Clemens celebrated in America’s Hometown.
In 1895, Samuel Clemens wrote in his notebook:
We easily perceive that the people furtherest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furtherest apart—and we consider this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can’t see that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included.
Are Clemens’ beliefs in equality reflected in his fictional portrayals of females? Especially lacking is Becky Thatcher, who was based on his first sweetheart and lifelong friend, Laura Hawkins. Becky is statically portrayed through Tom Sawyer’s adoring eyes. She flips her blond braids and alternates as flirt and damsel in distress. The redeeming quality that intoxicates a young Tom is Becky’s looks. Becky is stuck undeveloped on the page in a cameo starring Clemens’ youthful assessment of a permissive culture for boys and a strict society for girls.
Of course the context of Clemens’ drafting of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, almost twenty years before he penned his declaration of equality in his notebook, matters too. It is a nostalgic examination of his own childhood. His daughters were toddlers when he wrote it, and he was more interested in entertaining them with tame stories than in considering their futures as females in world that might not receive their talents with an equal appreciation. Clemens had work to do and his future characters, such as Eve, Joan of Arc, and Roxy, demonstrate his development.
Clemens imagined a civilization where men and women are equal and my hope as a creative writer is that modern literature can create narratives that consider where we’ve been and what we hope to be through complicated characters that reflect our true potential and challenge readers to imagine a more just world, even as we live and write in a flawed one. My time in residence at Quarry Farm will allow more research into Becky’s portrayal in comparison to other contemporary characters in literature and to consider how this influence is reflected in my next novel.
Produced by The Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Seekers and Scholars podcast explores the relevance of Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) to contemporary scholarship in a variety of disciplines and fields. Guests have frequently conducted research in the Library’s collections, which have contributed to publications with notable academic presses.
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was an influential American author, teacher, and religious leader, noted for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality and health, which she named Christian Science. She articulated those ideas in her major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, first published in 1875. Four years later she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, which today has branch churches and societies around the world. In 1908 she launched The Christian Science Monitor, a leading international newspaper, the recipient, to date, of seven Pulitzer Prizes.
Dr. L. Ashley Squires, guest speaker for the podcast episode “Mark Twain, Mary Baker Eddy, and the news,” has had two fellowships at the Library. Her archival research provided important information and insights for her book Healing the Nation: Literature, Progress, and Christian Science (Indiana University Press, 2017). Squires’s thesis seeks to fill what she perceives is a void in understanding Eddy and the impact Christian Science has had on literature and the media in the Progressive Era.
In this episode Squires explores Twain’s views on Eddy and Christian Science, discussing how we can better discern them. Twain is a key figure for Squires—a major literary and cultural force whose fixation with Eddy stands out. She notes that, while his critique of Eddy “is still the best known and most frequently studied . . . it is not particularly well understood” (Healing the Nation, 3).
The Library provides public access to original materials and educational experiences about Mary Baker Eddy; the ideas she advanced; her writings; and the institutions she founded and their healing mission.
By 1878 Sam Clemens had accomplished substantial wealth and fame and was living comfortably with his wife Livy and their family near Hartford, Connecticut. Yet something important was missing. A wide gap persisted between his personal cultural development and that of his upscale neighbors and social circles in the Hartford area.
Sam and Livy resolved to fix this gap by extended travel and cultural study in Western Europe. Beginning in 1878 they set out to tour seven countries in Western Europe. Given the prevailing stylistic differences between European and American music at the time, confrontation of these differences was inevitable. Following a symphonic musical performance in Baden Baden, Germany by the Baden Baden Philharmonie, Sam wrote his compelling and introspective analysis of music, defining the place of music in human society. Although he showed an interest in music and made passing reference to his musical preferences on prior occasions, this time he faced music head-on with a clear and compelling message. It was a time of an obvious inflection point in his cultural development regarding music.
In the musical production Mark Twain’s Music Box, the important role of a music box is woven into the story of Sam Clemens’ relationship to music. The mysteries surrounding the music box extend to this day. Perhaps our audience can play some role in finally resolving these 140 year old conundrums. Join the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble, consisting of what Twain would call ten “high grade” musicians, as they deliver the intriguing story of the music box and Mark Twain’s relationship to music.
We wish to thank the following organizations and individuals for their important contributions and collaborations in the development and presentation of Mark Twain’s Music Box:
The Park Church
Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies
Dr. Barbara Snedecor, former Director of CMTS
Dr. Joseph Lemak, current Director of CMTS
The Baden Baden Philharmonie, Baden Baden, Germany
Herr Arndt Joosten, Orchestermanager
Kiril Nikolow, Principle Cello
Dr. Kerry Driscoll, University of St. Joseph, Hartford, Connecticut
The Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes is proud to announce its third Musicians’ Choice Chamber Series concert of the 2018-19 season. This concert, titled Mark Twain’s Music Box, will be held in the majestic sanctuary of the historic Park Church in Elmira on Friday, February 8 at 7:30 PM. All ages are welcome.
Mark Twain’s Music Box explores Sam Clemens’ (Mark Twain’s) fascinating personal relationship with music. The production is filled with live music, drama, mystery, and the comedy befitting the title character. Mark Twain’s Music Box is a one of a kind concert that uses fine music to teach about important history, while using important history to teach about fine music.
25% Off Group Discount for 10 or more, group rates available by phone or in person.
You may have noticed that things look a little different around here. We are kicking off 2019 with a redesign by Paul Stonier. In addition to our fresh look, the relaunched site has a wider range of functionalities, which will make it possible for us to undertake exciting new projects and introduce valuable new resources in the coming years.
First among these is the digital edition of David Fears’s Mark Twain Day By Day. This exhaustive chronology of the life of Samuel Clemens was originally published in four enormous print volumes between 2008 and 2014. It has since become and invaluable reference for scholars who have the good fortune of having access to it, but the size and expense of the books have kept it primarily confined to university libraries and a few private collections.
That is, until now.
Independent Twain scholars, teachers, students, hobbyists, and all variety of Twainiac can now access a fully-searchable online edition of Mark Twain Day By Day for free from anywhere with an internet connection.
CMTS is incredibly grateful to Mr. Fears for entrusting us with the fruit of his extraordinary labors, and also to the late Dr. Thomas A. Tenney, Dr. Barbara Snedecor, Leslie Myrick, Dr. Susan K. Harris, and Nathanial Ball, all of whom donated time and labor essential to getting this project online.