Courtney kicks off the 2023 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The 2023 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) kicks off its first lecture at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 10 at Quarry Farm (131 Crane Road, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website. 

Joseph Hopkins Twichell (left) and Thomas K. Beecher (right)

The first lecture, “’Somewhere Between Where You Live and Where I Live is the Place Where We Ought to Live’: The Friendship Between the Revs. Thomas K. Beecher and Joseph H. Twichell”, will be presented by Steve Courtney.

Thomas K. Beecher of Elmira was the outspoken and eccentric 19th-century minister who turned his Park Congregational Church into a force in the community, rejected creeds, and espoused a populist form of politics that supported farmers and the labor movement. The Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell of Hartford, Connecticut, ministered to a gilt-edged church, was intimate friend and traveling companion to Mark Twain, and remained of a conservative and relatively placid frame of mind throughout his life. The two men co-officiated at Samuel and Livy Clemens’s wedding in 1870 and occasionally swapped pulpits in the following years. They remained close despite personality differences that Beecher characterized in a letter to Twichell: “I can well believe that there is an intensity in certain directions in me that is needed by you. But I am equally persuaded that there is a sweetness, a cheerfulness, a love to mankind and an interest in their affairs illustrated by you, the want of which is in me a fearful defect.” Their frank and warm relationship provides a fascinating tale and casts light on the social background of Mark Twain’s world.

Steve Courtney is the author of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend (Georgia, 2008), winner of the Connecticut Book Award; ‘The Loveliest Home That Ever Was’: The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford (Dover, 2011); and Mark Twain’s Hartford (Arcadia, 2016), among other works. He is co-editor, with Peter Messent of the University of Nottingham and Harold K. Bush of St. Louis University, of The Mark Twain-Joseph Hopkins Twichell Letters (Georgia, 2017, paperback edition published 2020). He has been a journalist for forty years, much of that time at The Hartford Courant, and has served as both publicist and curatorial project coordinator at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. 

The 2023 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series:

  • Wednesday, May 17 – Jessica Camille Jordan, “Between Mark Twain and Bella Z. Spencer: Satire and Sentiment on the Subscription Book Market”
  • Wednesday, May 24 – Ann M. Ryan, “The Dangers of Loving Mark Twain”
  • Wednesday, May 31 – Lawrence Howe, “Mark Twain, Property, and Poetry”

In 1985, the Elmira College 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 lectures are now held in the Fall and Spring in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. In the Summer the lectures are held at the Park Church. All lectures are free and open to the public.

The Trouble Begins and Park Church Lecture Series are made possible by the support of the Mark Twain Foundation and from generous gifts from individual donors.

Steve Courtney in the Hartford House

Steve Courtney has given a number of CMTS lectures and has contributed to CMTS’s ever-growing collection of Mark Twain Studies Information Pages.