Drinking With Twain: A Rare Manuscript

In her recent salute to Mad Magazine, Barbara Schmidt alluded to the rare pamphlet, Drinking With Twain, self-published by Frank E. Kelsey. The Center for Mark Twain Studies is in possession of one of the five hundred copies which Kelsey printed in 1936. As the copyright has not been renewed, we are pleased to make it available to the public. You may read the complete text, embedded below.

Beneath the digital edition of Drinking With Twain, I have provided some commentary about Kelsey and his co-author, Laurel O’Connor. Whether or not you are inclined to read such commentary, I warn you that this pamphlet, though certainly worthy of the curiosity of Twainiacs and local historians, should not be regarded as an especially reliable source of biographical information about Samuel Clemens or his associates. There are a few outright falsities, as well as numerous claims which are difficult, if not impossible, to corroborate. This does not prevent Kelsey’s memoir from being entertaining, or relevant to scholars. But it should be treated with healthy skepticism. It is one resident’s reflection, after a span of nearly forty years, upon the social climate of Elmira in the later stages of Clemen’s residency here.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: For best reading, launch full-screen mode from the toolbar at the bottom of the reader. This reader only allows for documents of up to 30 pages. The final four pages of the manuscript can be found in another reader at the bottom of this post.

Frank Edward Kelsey was, much like Samuel Clemens, endowed with the entrepreneurial energy of the Gilded Age. He moved freely between trades and across territories, seemingly motivated as much by cosmopolitan curiosity as by fortune-seeking. He died not far from where he had been born, in Battle Creek, Michigan, but in the interim he resided for extended periods in at least four other states and periodically worked as a salesman and promotor, exploring the entirety of the U.S. by train and later by car.

Kelsey moved to Elmira from Goshen, Indiana sometime between early 1890 and the middle of 1892. He was still a young man, not yet 30. His furniture factory, The Elmira Table Company, was incorporated on November 15, 1892, but he had clearly been in town for some time prior making preparations and overseeing construction. The Elmira Table Company remained in continuous operation until 1913, when it was purchased by a rival. The factory shuttered soon thereafter. Kelsey had presumably sold his position many years earlier. His family left the Elmira area sometime between 1898 and 1900. During his relatively brief residency, he managed to get himself elected, in 1896, as the first mayor of the village of Elmira Heights, a hard-fought election that was decided by only ten votes. Clearly an active member of the New York Republican Party, that same year he was sent as a delegate to the RNC convention in St. Louis.

Kelsey’s residency in Elmira had only minimal overlap with Clemens’s. In 1890, for the first time since 1873, the Clemenes did not spend the whole summer at Quarry Farm. They did not arrive until mid-August and then only because Olivia Lewis Langdon had fallen ill. They returned in November, and Livy remainder until after her mother’s death, but Sam spent only a few days before returning to Hartford. The Clemenses did not return for another visit to Elmira until the Summer of 1892, and even then, Sam was only in residence at Quarry Farm for a couple weeks before embarking to Europe. The following Summer they planned to resume their usual long residency. Livy and the girls arrived in late March or early April, and Sam followed them at the beginning of May, but business, namely the Panic of 1893, again interfered with his plans. Sam left for New York City after only a week at the Farm and did not return until October, and then for only a weekend. Sam made two more weekend trips to Elmira, mainly on business, in 1894.

For the first time in six years, Sam Clemens and his family did have an extended residency at Quarry Farm from mid-May to mid-July 1895, though this was still nothing like the six or seven month stretches they routinely stayed during the 1870s and 1880s. As Clemens would not return until after Kelsey moved away, this seems to be the last time he could have spent any considerable amount of time “drinking with Twain.”

Given these dates, Kelsey may have met Samuel Clemens on no more than a small handful of occasions. His pamphlet is likely far more dependent upon the second-hand stories he heard from those who frequented places like Klapproth’s tavern when Clemens was really a “regular” during the preceding decades. There are several places in the narrative where Kelsey reveals his ignorance about the man he claims to know well. Perhaps most glaringly, he claims that Clemens brought “colored servants” with him from Missouri. It is a ridiculous claim. Clemens had not lived in Missouri for well over a decade before he set foot in Elmira. The idea that he was followed around by doting African-Americans, presumably former slaves, is part of a broader pattern of casual racist fantasy in Drinking With Twain.

But while I think we should have grave doubts about Kelsey’s personal relationship to Clemens, his contention that aspects of the social culture in Elmira reflected the enduring influence of Clemens and his circle is easier to swallow. Most of the people and places Kelsey describes are part of the historical record. In some cases, like Lew Shilden’s, Kelsey provides a more detailed account which usefully supplements other sources, like the Elmira Star-Gazette, which, in 1902, wrote the following:

Kelsey’s reflections also provide a tentative answer to a minor mystery of Samuel Clemens’s biography. There is strong evidence that well into his thirties, Clemens had a drinking problem. He was arrested for public drunkenness at least once and many of his Western friends and acquaintances testified that he “got drunk oftener than was necessary.” He never succeeded in getting himself fully “on the wagon,” but after his engagement to Livy, there is sparse evidence that his drinking interfered with his domestic or professional life. It seems reasonable to speculate that something changed in Sam Clemens’s relationship to liquor after 1867. Kelsey’s outline of Twain’s supposed “philosophy of drinking,” as well as the expectations for behavior at Klapproth’s and other Elmira establishments, is a substantive and persuasive explanation of this change. The rules Kelsey alleges Clemens and his associates followed are in keeping with many of Twain’s public and private writings on drinking, including humorous aphorisms, like, “Temperate temperance is best. Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance.”

The co-author and so-called “raconteuse” (gifted female storyteller) of Drinking With Twain, the pseudonymous Laurel O’Connor, is, according to Barbara Schmidt, an actress and writer from Battle Creek, Laurabell Reed Connor Stones.

Mrs. Stones became familiar with Mr. Kelsey when she was still Mrs. Connor, specifically during her brother, Jimmy Reed’s, prolonged battle with tuberculosis, which he succumbed to in March 1935. O’Connor reports that both she and her brother, each of whom also worked for local newspapers, took “little odd jobs of writing for [Kelsey].” It’s unclear why exactly Kelsey was employing freelance writers, aside from the composition of Drinking With Twain, which did not begin until after Reed’s death. Kelsey was the business manager of both the Battle Creek Journal and Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press from 1911 to 1915, but his direct involvement in the newspaper business seems to have ended long before his friendship with the Reeds began.

It seems possible that some of the awkward Confederate romanticism, including overt racism, which runs through Drinking With Twain could have come from O’Connor/Stones. In her introduction, she alludes with pride to a great-grandfather, who was an “admirable drinker” and “the first Attorney General from the State of Mississippi.” She is referring, presumably, to Thomas Buck Reed, who was actually the third Attorney General from Mississippi, from 1821 to 1826, as well as a U.S. Senator from 1826 to 1829.

O’Connor also mentions another great grandfather, who she describes as “a glorious rogue who rode a white charger with magnificent dignity and doffed his tall black hat to every pretty petticoat.” This is probably Thomas Hurst, the Virginian plantation owner whose daughter, Elizabeth Lee Hurst, married John Hampton Reed. Their son (and Laurabell’s father) James Hall Reed migrated to Battle Creek after serving as a doctor for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. There he met and married Josephine Norton. O’Connor shows much more pride in the Southern side of her family than in the Nortons, who could trace their ancestry back to the original settlement of Battle Creek. At the time of her mother’s death, in 1962, Laurabell Stones was reported living with her second husband, Frank Stones, in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Frank Kelsey with his great-grandchildren, from Battle Creek Enquirer, in 1952, the year of his death.

There are two more things worth mentioning about Frank Kelsey’s career, which had many twists and turns. In the early years of the 20th century, Kelsey left the furniture business and became a full-time promoter, first for the Battle Creek Breakfast Food Co., which would produce several of the most popular cereal brands of the era and eventually be acquired by Kellogg’s. Battle Creek Breakfast Food had facilities in Buffalo (NY), Chicago (IL), Dayton (OH), and Quincy (IL), in addition to Battle Creek, and Kelsey was a frequent visitor to these cities.

He claimed to have invented Battle Creek Breakfast Food’s signature product, Egg-o-See, the most popular cereal of the first decade of the 20th century and the brandname which became Kellogg’s Eggo‘s toaster pastries. His foundational role in the company was reported in, among other papers, the Elmira Star-Gazette.

Over the next several decades, Kelsey would work as a promotor for several more companies, both large and small, including the Royal Fireless Cooker Co., Chevrolet, and, as he acknowledges in Drinking With Twain, Paris, Allen, & Co., the distributors of Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey. Kelsey’s professional relationship with Paris, Allen, & Co. throws into question his claim that Old Crow was Mark Twain’s preferred American whiskey, a claim which has not been corroborated elsewhere.

Kelsey clearly went through periods of boom and bust. Like Clemens, his fortunes were once swept away by a financial crisis. In 1929, he declared bankruptcy in Detroit. During the same year, the Star-Gazette wrongly reported that he had died. However, Kelsey recovered, living another 20+ years, and building a successful tax consulting firm in Battle Creek.

If you have more information about Frank E. Kelsey, Laurabell Reed Connor Stones, or Drinking With Twain, the Center for Mark Twain Studies would love to hear from you ([email protected]).

Thanks are due to both Barbara Schmidt of TwainQuotes.com and Nathaniel Ball, Elmira College archivist, for their help in researching and preparing this manuscript.

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Over 75 Past Lectures Added to the “Trouble Begins Archive”

Over 75 downloadable lectures have been added to the “Trouble BeginsArchives. Most of these lectures come from the years 1986 to 1999.

Louis. J. Budd at Quarry Farm

In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins at Eight 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 lectures are now held in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of each year, in the barn at Quarry Farm, Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus, or the Historic Park Church in downtown Elmira.  All lectures are free and open to the public. We will continue to work our way back and make these lectures to everyone.  Please stay tuned for more.  All the downloadable lectures and copies of “The Trouble Begins Programs” can be found in The Trouble Begins Archives.

Some highlights include:

  • Victor Doyno, “Mark Twain’s Family Life at Quarry Farm” (July 27, 1988 – Hamilton Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Hamlin Hill, “Late Mark Twain: Fro Bad Philosophy to Worse Literature” (July 24, 1989 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Alan Gribben, “Huckleberry Finn’s Missing Twin” (April 11, 1990 – Quarry Farm)
  • Howard Baetzhold, “The ‘Autobiography of Eve’: Mark Twain’s First Attempt to Tell Eve’s Story” (October 2, 1991 – Quarry Farm)
  • Michael Kiskis, “‘A Complete and Purposed Jumble: The Problem with Mark Twain’s Autobiography” (October 28, 1992 – Quarry Farm)
  • Lawrence I. Berkove, “The Ethical Records of Twain and his Circle of Old West Journalists” (March 24, 1993 – Quarry Farm)
  • Laura E. Skandera-Trombley, “Mark Twain’s Elmira Revisited: Through a Woman’s Eye”
  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “Mark Twain and African-American Voices” (September 12, 1995 – Quarry Farm)
  • Louis J. Budd, “Mark Twain’s Visual Humor” (June 5, 1995 – Quarry Farm)
  • Susan K. Harris, “Love Texts: The Role of Books in the Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain” (November 13, 1996 – Quarry Farm)
  • Kerry Driscoll, “‘Eating Indians for Breakfast’: Racial Ambivalence and American Identity in The Innocents Abroad” (October 21, 1998 – Quarry Farm)
  • Chad Rohman, “‘Yours Truly, Mark Twain’: Reconsidering the Intellectual and Epistemological Dimensions of an Ironic and Elusive Mind” (May 6, 1998 – Quarry Farm)

The “Quarry Farm” and “Antenne” Twain Marginalia Now Online

From the January 1985 issue of the Mark Twain Society Bulletin:

Twain marginalia from Tent Life in the Holy Land by William Prine

“When Sam Clemens married Livy Langdon he married into a family that loved books, bought books, gave books, read books and enjoyed discussing books. In addition to discovering a young lady who was beautiful, charming had a sense of humor and was cultured and wealthy, young Mark Twain found a bride who shared his love of reading. The Langdon family library, or the more than 1,000 volumes of it that remain at Quarry Farm, represents the purchases and gifts to each other of four generations of Langdons. It would be surprising if Mark Twain had not read some of these books in the many summers he spent in Elmira. Only recently has an examination shown that he wrote in as well as read some of the volumes belonging to his in-laws.

When Mary Boewe and her husband, Charles Boewe, the Rafinesque scholar, stayed at Quarry Farm … they examined the library looking for specific titles of books that they knew Mark Twain and Livy had read. They found extensive Clemens marginalia in three works by Lecky…”

The link to the entire article is found here. The discovery by the Boewe’s was the first of many.  Since the initial Lecky discovery, an additional forty-six volumes from the Quarry Farm library have been identified as containing marginal notes and/or inscriptions by Mark Twain.  Given that over three decades have passed, there remains no indication that the scholarly potential has been exhausted.  Within the last year, selections from the Quarry Farm library have been featured in the Mark Twain Journal (Fall 2018) and “new” marginal notes have been confirmed in Ida C. Langdon’s copy of Rubaiyat

In 1993, another set of books, this time from Mark Twain’s personal library at Stormfield, came to Elmira College through Robert and Katharine Antenne, descendants of the Clemens’ housekeeper, Katy Leary.  The Antenne’s donated 90 volumes, the majority containing inscriptions and/or marginalia from Mark Twain. 

As a cornerstone of the Mark Twain collection, these two collections of books are an important resource and curiosity for Twain scholars and enthusiasts alike.  Having been exhibited, used in presentations, and studied by many a scholar for many a publication, these volumes have begun to show signs of their extensive use.  In an effort to care for the originals and provide greater access for further educational and scholarly research, the pages of marginalia are being made available at the following address: https://nyheritage.org/collections/mark-twain-collection. The complete CMTS Mark Twain Archive can be found here, along with other research opportunities afforded Quarry Farm Fellows.


Fourteen Downloadable “The Trouble Begins” Mark Twain Lectures Added to The Archives


Fourteen more downloadable lectures have been added to the “Trouble Begins” Archives.  Most of these lectures come from the years 2009-2014.

In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins at Eight 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 lectures are now held in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of each year, in the barn at Quarry Farm, Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus, or the Historic Park Church in downtown Elmira.  All lectures are free and open to the public. We will continue to work our way back and make these lectures to everyone.  Please stay tuned for more.  All the downloadable lectures and copies of “The Trouble Begins Programs” can be found in The Trouble Begins Archives.

Steve Courtney “The Loveliest Home That Ever Was:” The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford”   Presented on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Steve Courtney, former Publicist and Publications Editor for The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, now works on special projects for the museum. In the past decade, Courtney has written and spoken on Samuel Clemens’ friend Joseph Hopkins Twichell and his role in literary and social history.  

Steve Courtney shares glimpses of the Clemens’ family life in Hartford — how young Clara Clemens once screamed so loud and persistently after a pet calf had been been sold that her parents had to buy it back; how Twain had news bulletins piped up to his third-floor billiard room/study; how daughter Susy wowed the family with her grasp of ancient history. Mr. Courtney also relays the circumstances surrounding the family’s abandonment of their beloved home, along with the house’s amazing rescue from destruction and rebirth as a world-class house museum.


Kerry Driscoll “Mark Twain, The Maori, and The Mystery of Livy’s Jade Pendant”  Presented on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Kerry Driscoll is a Professor of English at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT and the current president of the Mark Twain Circle of America. She is the recipient of a 2007 faculty research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a book manuscript in progress, Mark Twain among the Indians, an examination of the writer’s attitudes toward, and representations of, Native Americans throughout his career. In the summer of 2011, she directed a three week-long NEH Institute for secondary teachers on “Mark Twain and the Culture of Progress,” under the aegis of Hartford’s Mark Twain House and Museum.

At 700+ pages, Following the Equator is Mark Twain’s longest book. Yet, despite this, it is far from a comprehensive account of the writer’s 1895-96 world lecture tour, during which he visited the farflung outposts of the British Empire—Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. The travelogue in fact offers a skewed, strangely elliptical narrative of his journey in which key personal information is suppressed. Twain, for example, names a number of obscure individuals he met along the way, but never fully introduces or contextualizes them; similarly, he provides detailed descriptions of unusual artifacts he saw, but neglects to identify the venue where they were displayed. This talk reconstructs the untold story of the five weeks in November-December 1895 that Clemens, his wife, and daughter spent in New Zealand, documenting where exactly the writer went, what he saw, and most importantly, how he interpreted it. Specifically, Twain’s exposure to the customs and culture of the colony’s remarkable indigenous people, the Maori—whom he deemed “a superior breed of savages”—produced an epiphany that transformed his thinking about race.


David Fears “The Making of ‘Mark Twain Day By Day’: Rudyard Kipling Meets Mark Twain  Presented on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at the Quarry Farm Barn. David H Fears has had a lifetime interest in Mark Twain. He has also written nearly one hundred short stories with about sixteen published, and four novels, one published by Amazon. Fears is a pretty handy name for horror stories, but he also focuses on mainstream nostalgic, literary, hard-boiled mystery and some fantasy-magical realism. For the past five years, David has devoted his full time to producing Mark Twain Day By Day, a three volume annotated chronology of the life of Samuel L. Clemens. Two volumes are now available and have been called “The Ultimate Mark Twain Reference” by top Twain scholars. His aim for these books is “to provide a reference and starting-off place for the Twain scholar, as well as a readable book for the masses,” one that provides many “tastes” of Twain and perspectives into his complex and fascinating life.

David Fears shares his experiences compiling his massive work — an accounting of the daily life and times of Mark Twain.  For the past five years, Mr. Fears has devoted himself to producing Mark Twain Day By Day, a three volume annotated chronology of the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  Fears’ aim for these books has been “to provide a reference and starting-off place for the Twain scholar, as well as a readable book for the masses,” one that provides many “tastes” of Twain and perspective into his complex and fascinating life.  The focus of this talk centers on Fears’ research efforts to determine the exact date of Rudyard Kipling’s visit to Quarry Farm in the summer of 1889 — a date heretofore variously referred to as occurring in the “summer of 1889” (Paine), or as “July or August,” or “one hot August morning” in 1889 (Baetzhold).


Benjamin Griffin “Mark Twain At Home‘: An Edition and Its Challenges”  Presented on Sunday, November 30 at Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus. Ben Griffin studied literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his doctorate at Cambridge University. Since 2005, he has been an editor at the Mark Twain Project where his editorial credits include the three volumes of Mark Twain’s Autobiography as well as A Family Sketch.

This 179th birthday lecture will feature insights from a new publication, A Family Sketch and Other Private Writings (November 2014). The volume includes, for the first time in full, two of the most revealing of Mark Twain’s private writings. Here he turns his mind to the daily life he shared with his wife, Livy; their three daughters; a great many servants; and an imposing array of pets. These first-hand accounts display this gifted and loving family in the period of its flourishing. Mark Twain began to write the first piece included in the volume, “A Family Sketch,” in response to the early death of his eldest daughter, Susy, but the manuscript grew under his hands to become an exuberant account of the entire household. His record of the childrens’ sayings—“Small Foolishnesses”—is next, followed by the related manuscript “At the Farm” (Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY). Also included are selections from Livy’s 1885 diary and an authoritative edition of Susy’s biography of her father, written when she was a teenager. Newly edited from the original manuscripts by Ben Griffin, this anthology is a unique record of a fascinating family.


Paula Harrington “The French Face of Twain”  Presented on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Paula Harrington, a 2013 Fulbright Scholar, is Director of the Farnham Writers’ Center at Colby College, where she also teaches in the English Department. She has published in The Mark Twain Annual and the Minnesota Review.

When most people think of Mark Twain, France does not come immediately to mind. Readers associate him, naturally, with the Mississippi River and the towns—fictional and real—along its banks made famous by Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Students and scholars of Twain also understand his life and works in the geographical and cultural contexts of the American West and the global locales he describes in travel writings from The Innocents Abroad to Following the Equator. These, wisdom has it, are the places that formed and fed Twain, on which he built the body of work considered by many the foundation of American literature. But France and the French? They have remained in the shadows as the subjects of Twain’s only admitted bias—the one place and people he detested. This lecture will challenge the assumption that France—and French culture mediated through its presence in America, especially in Missouri—played little or no role in Twain’s development as an American writer. Harrington argues that France and the French instead exerted a formative pressure in Twain’s construction, through his writing, of a new kind of “American” identity in the later nineteenth century. She discusses her research and lectures at universities across France as a 2013 Fulbright Scholar and previews her work with her French colleague, Professor Ronald Jenn of the University of Lille, on their book-in-progress, The French Face of Twain.


Lance Heidig “Mark Twain’s Cornell: Venturing Far Above Cayuga’s Waters With Samuel Clemens”  Presented on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Lance Heidig is a Reference and Instruction Librarian in Research and Learning Services at Cornell University and is an independent scholar of Mark Twain.

One does not necessarily think of Cornell University when one is pondering the life and legacy of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but Mark Twain did. Several of the stories that he remembered late in his life and dictated for his Autobiography (the 1924 edition edited by Albert Bigelow Paine) contain references to and anecdotes about Cornell and the friends and acquaintances that he had there. Mark Twain and Cornell — the “first truly American writer” and the “first truly American university” as they have been called — share a rich history of associated friends and family, including four generations of Langdons who have been Cornellians. As Mark Twain has noted: “All schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge.” While much is known about the twenty summers that Clemens spent in Elmira, less has been said about his connections to nearby Ithaca. Concealed knowledge will be conferred.


Abraham Kupersmith “Twain and Freud on Personality and Politics” Presented on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Abraham Kupersmith is Professor Emeritus of Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.

This talk, based on Kupersmith’s recently published book, Twain and Freud on the Human Race: Parallels on Personality, Politics and Religion, will provide an overview of the psychological insights and theories of Mark Twain and Sigmund Freud. Although at first glance these two men seem to constitute an unlikely pairing, each formulated a comprehensive theory of individual and group psychology and subsequently applied that understanding to the realms of religion, morality, patriotism, and politics. The talk will focus on the similarities and differences in their theories of personality and will provide examples of how Twain’s theory of personality is reflected in the construction of some of his novels.


Judith Yaross Lee “Comic Imperialism and Connecticut Yankee Presented Wednesday, April 28 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Judith Yaross Lee is Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Charles E. Zumkehr Professor of Rhetoric & Culture in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. A contributor to the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and the Oxford Mark Twain, she is the author or editor of five books and some fifty essays and articles on American humor and related topics, most recently Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture, as well as editor of Studies in American Humor, the journal of the American Humor Studies Association.

Amid the exuberant humor of time travel and technological incongruity in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) lies a story about imperialism, as the Yankee outsider Hank Morgan remakes sixth century Britain in the mold of nineteenth-century industrial America. Judith Yaross Lee explores the interplay of biographical experience and imagination along with international politics and American comic traditions in shaping Mark Twain’s last major novel.


Tom Reigstad “Scribblin’ for a Livin’: Mark Twain’s Pivotal Period in Buffalo”  Presented on Saturday, November 30, 2013 at Hamilton Hall on the Elmira College Campus. Tom Reigstad is a native of Buffalo. He earned a B.A. in English and a Ph.D. in Composition & Rhetoric from the University at Buffalo and has been a features writer and copy editor at the Buffalo Courier-Express, Niagara Gazette and Business First.

This presentation is based on Tom Reigstad’s recent book, Scribblin’ for a Livin’, an engaging portrait of the famous author at a formative and important juncture of his life. Reigstad will detail the domestic, social, and professional experiences of Mark Twain while he lived in Buffalo. Derived from years of researching historical archives, combing through microfilm, and even interviewing descendants of Buffalonians who knew Twain, Reigstad has uncovered a wealth of fascinating information. The presentation offers a vivid picture of Twain’s work environment at the Buffalo Morning Express. Colorful anecdotes about his colleagues and his quirky work habits, along with original Twain stories and illustrations not previously reprinted, should give a new understanding of Twain’s commitment to full-time newspaper work. The talk also illuminates Twain’s previously unrecognized rich social life in Buffalo.


Chad Rohman “John Woolman, Quaker Saint. Mark Twain, Quaker Son?”  Presented on Wednesday, September 24 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Chad Rohman is Professor of English and Director of the Core Curriculum at Dominican University in River Forest, IL. He is the editor of the Mark Twain Annual and co-editor, with Joe Csicsila, of Centenary Reflections on Mark Twain’s No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger (University of Missouri Press, 2009). His primary research interests include nineteenth-century American literature, particularly Mark Twain and his cohort, American women regional writers, and American Gothic literature. He also publishes and presents papers on the life and works of Flannery O’Connor. His recent chapter, “Awful Mystery: Flannery O’Connor as Gothic Artist” appears in Wiley-Blackwell’s A Companion to the American Gothic (Ed. Charles L. Crow, 2014).

Although they lived in different ages, had radically different backgrounds and upbringings, and their personal and professional lives took drastically different tracks, certain ideological affinities exist between Quaker John Woolman’s lifelong commitment to social justice and Twain’s. Woolman spent his adult life opposing war and zealously working for social justice, including the
abolition of slavery and poverty reform. Just as passionately, Twain spent his adult life zealously writing satire that condemned intolerance and questioned the status quo in pre- and post-bellum American culture. Upon examination of their words and deeds, one might carefully conclude that Woolman and Twain were in some meaningful ways ideological ancestors and intellectual


Ann Ryan “The Ghosts of Mark Twain” Presented at the Quarry Farm Barn on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Ann Ryan is Professor of English at Le Moyne College where she chairs the English Department. She is coeditor of “A Due Voci: The Photography of Rita Hammond” and co-editor of Cosmopolitan Twain. She has served as the Editor of the “Mark Twain Annual” and has participated in many institutes and symposiums at the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.

Although Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often read and marketed as a picaresque
tale of friendship and adventure, it is far less sunny. From the moment when Huck declares that he “don’t take no stock in dead people” to the sudden return of Pap’s dead body at the end of the novel, Huck Finn traffics in gothic tropes and spiritual anxieties. Mark Twain’s most celebrated novel is haunted by an American past that the Civil War failed to exorcise, and by the specter of an American future that seems equally terrifying. In their journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim share their fears and occasionally inhabit each other’s nightmares as they negotiate the perils of a gothic American reality. In her presentation, Ryan examines — in some cases exhumes — the ghosts, spirits, and nameless dead bodies that float their way through “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, in order to contextualize not only Mark Twain’s guilty conscience, but that of the country that haunts him.


Harriet Elinor Smith “The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Did He Speak His ‘Whole, Frank Mind’?  Presented on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Harriet Elinor Smith was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and has been an editor at the Mark Twain Project in The Bancroft Library for over thirty-five years, producing numerous critical editions of the author’s literary works and letters. She is the editor of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (2010), Volume 2 (2013), and Volume 3 (2015), all published by the University of California Press.

Mark Twain wanted to write a completely honest and candid autobiography. But he realized that he could not reveal his most provocative ideas and private thoughts in a work that would be published during his lifetime. Only from the grave, he decided, could he speak freely without fear of being judged, and “mangle and mutilate” people without wounding their feelings. Ms. Smith, editor of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, discusses the author’s numerous observations about the difficulty of telling the truth and the strategies he adopted to remove his inhibitions, illustrating her talk with quotations from his letters and readings of passages he suppressed during his lifetime. In conclusion, she will answer the question of whether he did in fact speak his “whole, frank mind.”


Harry Wonham “Mark Twain and Money” Presented on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Harry Wonham is a Professor of English at University of Oregon and is the author of Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale and Playing the Races: Ethnic Caricature in American Literary Realism, both published by Oxford University Press. He is also the author of The Short Fiction of Charles W. Chesnutt and has edited several volumes, including the Norton Critical Tales of Henry James and Criticism and the Color Line. He has taught as a Fulbright Scholar in Prague and in Mannheim, Germany.

It is no secret that Mark Twain was fascinated with money, and yet his relationship to wealth is marked by paradox. He began life in nearly abject poverty and often championed the poor and downtrodden in novels like Huckleberry Finn, but he married into vast wealth and publicly defended some of the richest and most powerful plutocrats of his era. He earned more money than any other nineteenth-century American writer, by far, and through bad investments and poor financial discipline he lost more money than any other writer, by far. He was America’s most hilarious critic of the high-rolling culture he named the Gilded Age, and his extravagant tastes and lifestyle epitomized the era’s excessive materialism. So what did wealth mean to Mark Twain Biographers have debated this question for over 100 years, some arguing that Twain’s brazen commercial inclinations fostered his artistic achievement, while others have contended that he squandered his talent in pursuit of material riches. This talk will consider what Mark Twain’s voluminous writings can tell us about his fascination with wealth.


Martin Zehr “Mark Twain’s Chinese Connection: Empathy, Politics, and Race” Presented on Wednesday, June 4 at the Quarry Farm Barn. Martin Zehr, Ph.D., J.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Kansas City, Missouri. He has been an avid Twain reader, collector and amateur scholar for over twenty years and is presently a member of the Board of Directors of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum Foundation in Hannibal, Missouri.

Mark Twain and the Chinese are not generally linked by readers, but a close look at his writings during his authorial career reveals a developing empathy and emerging political awareness that mirrors his well-known writings regarding African-Americans in the post-Civil War era. Literary clues, in the form of letters, short stories, and essays, as well as the rediscovered major work, “The Treaty With China,” leave no doubt that Sam Clemens’s observations of Chinese immigrants in the West and the predations of the major powers in China in the latter half of the nineteenth century stirred the “pen warmed up in hell” to action, much of the time in writings that contrasted sharply with the widely-held views of his countrymen toward the Chinese.

Four Downloadable “Trouble Begins” Lectures Now Available

Matthew Seybold giving his talk for the “Trouble Begins” lecture series

Four lectures from the long-running CMTS “Trouble Begins” lecture series are now available for download in a variety of different formats, including MP3 and Apple Lossless.

We will continue to add more past lectures, including talks from some of the most famous scholars of Mark Twain Studies, including Henry Nash Smith, Louis Budd, and Michael Kiskis.  Additionally, we will post the most recent lectures to this website as soon as possible, from senior scholars and rising stars in academia and the creative arts.  Now, wherever you are and at your convenience, you can listen to lectures from some of the most important people involved in the study of Mark Twain and his literature.

All of the available and forthcoming lectures can be found on the Internet Archives hosting site by using the following link: Trouble Begins Lectures.

Judith Yaross Lee at this year’s “Trouble Begins” lecture

The four “Trouble Begins” lectures include:

  • Matthew Seybold, “The Making of Chimerica: Globalization, Economics, and Mark Twain’s ‘Fable of the Yellow Terror” (September 29, 2016 – Chemung Valley History Museum)
  • Peter Messent, “You know the secret places of our hearts:’ The Mark Twain-Joe Twichell Letters” (October 19, 2016 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Martin Zehr, “Dressing For Success: Mark Twain Fashions an Image to Suit His Disguise” (October 16, 2016 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Judith Yaross Lee, “Mark Twain’s Brand: Comic Performance and the Modern American Self (November 2, 2016 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)