Happy Halloween!: Twain’s Favorite Ghost Story and Twain Speaks From The Netherworld

It’s Halloween, the day when, according to legend, the veil between this world and the spirit realm is at its most delicate. A fitting time to remember Mark Twain’s love for a good ghost story. He was particularly fond of “The Golden Arm”, a folktale that spooked him during childhood visits to his Uncle John Quarles’ farm in the 1840s. He noted decades later in a letter to Joel Chandler […]

Scrub Angels & Practical Cats at Quarry Farm

About halfway through my recent two-week fellowship at Quarry Farm I felt a new affinity with something Mark Twain wrote while perched there “on top of the hill near heaven.” “I have the feeling of being a sort of scrub angel,” Twain mused, “& am more moved to help shove the clouds around, & get the stars on deck promptly, & keep all things trim & ship-shape in the firmament […]

A Tragic Spring For Joe Twichell

Saturday, April 21, marked the 108th anniversary of Mark Twain’s passing. For Twain, whose final decade was wracked by overwhelming bereavement, the promise of death’s release was something welcome. By the end of his life, Twain’s sentiments toward life and death were akin to Satan’s musings in Letters From the Earth (1909): Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by […]

An Unlikely Patron of Civil Rights Jurisprudence

Although I generally like Chris Rock as a comedian, one of his jokes has always rubbed me the wrong way. Rock told the joke back in 1999 as part of the Kennedy Center’s program honoring Richard Pryor as the first recipient of its first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. According to the Chicago Tribune’s account: Chris Rock wondered what would have happened if Mark Twain had ever met Richard […]

Mark Twain, The Mason: Anticipating The Premiere of MARK TWAIN’S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM

A new documentary, Mark Twain’s Journey to Jerusalem: Dreamland, airs tonight on PBS. Narrated by Martin Sheen, the award-winning film features insights from Twain scholars around the world. According to the filmmakers, Mark Twain’s Journey to Jerusalem will retrace “Twain’s footsteps using actual details from his letters and journals. The film tells a little-known story of Mark Twain as a young reporter, embarking on a maiden voyage over the Atlantic and across […]

“That Friendless Child’s Noise Would Make You Glad”: Unremembered Slaves on Frederick Douglass Day

As a follow-up to a post I wrote earlier this year on Mark Twain’s friendship with Frederick Douglass (who is from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I live), I wanted to share the following excerpt from Chris Polk’s article in the Sunday edition of my local paper, The Star Democrat: It was a day for Talbot County’s native son. Frederick Douglass, the legendary former slave, abolitionist author, statesman and more has […]