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.