2015 Mark Twain Annual

The most recent issue of the Mark Twain Annual, the official publication of The Mark Twain Circle of America, is dense with connections to Elmira College. At the center of the issue is a special section, “Reflections: Life at Quarry Farm Today,” featuring three short essays by former Quarry Farm Fellows, recounting their experiences as guests of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, and another, by caretaker Steve Webb, addressing persistent rumors of ghosts on the property once frequented by Twain and his family. Webb admits, “there seems to be a presence,” but contends, “the ‘presence’ I feel when I’m in the house is not that of Twain – I can’t smell even the faintest hint of cigar smoke.” Instead, Webb postulates that the house in haunted by the friendly ghost of Twain’s sister-in-law, longtime Elmira resident and benefactor, Susan Crane.

The Quarry Farm essay by former Elmira faculty member, Kerry Driscoll, is inspired by a quote from Barbara Snedecor, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, who calls Quarry Farm “the quietest of all quiet places.” Dr. Snedecor also contributes to the 2015 Annual a review of the recently-published compilation of Twain’s writings about domestic life, A Family Sketch, and Other Private Writings, edited by Benjamin Griffin. Central to the collection are several writings about Elmira by Twain and his family, including a “Quarry Farm Diary” by Twain’s wife and Elmira College alumnus, Olivia Clemens.

Another Elmira faculty member, Matt Seybold, Assistant Professor of English, contributes one of the issue’s feature articles, “The Neoclassical Twain: The Zombie Economics of Colonel Sellers.” This essay “tracks the tendency of Twain to be appropriated as a commentator on economic theory, history, and policy.” Dr. Seybold examines the validity of these appropriations as well as the evolving figure of Colonel Sellers, a character who appears in The Gilded Age and two sequels.

Finally, the issue also includes a review of Andrew Levy’s Huck Finn’s America. Dr. Levy, who is the Edna Cooper Professor of English at Butler University, will be lecturing at Elmira College on November 30th at 7 PM, as part of the Center for Mark Twain Studies celebration of Twain’s 180th birthday. In her review, Ann Ryan calls Dr. Levy’s book “less a scholarly text than an extended reflection on American culture and history.”

The Mark Twain Annual is available for perusal at Gannett-Tripp Library, online through JSTOR and ProjectMuse, and by subscription from The Mark Twain Circle of America.