Hartford House Hosts Conversation with Kerry Driscoll, Mark Twain Scholar; New Conversation Scheduled for Thursday

On Thursday, May 14, 2020, the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford CT., hosted its first virtual “Trouble Begins at 5:30,” entitled “The Trouble at Home.” The event featured a conversation between Steve Courtney, Curatorial Special Projects Coordinator at the Hartford Mark Twain House, and Dr. Kerry Driscoll, Associate Editor at the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the University of California, Berkeley, and Professor Emeritus at the University of St. Joseph, Hartford, CT.

Dr. Kerry Driscoll

The conversation included discussions about the nature of the Mark Twain Papers and Project, Dr. Driscoll’s own work, and a range of other Twainian subjects.

The recorded conversation can be found HERE. Please note that to view the talk, each person must register with “Crowdcast,” an interactive, live conversation, web-based platform.

The next event, on Thursday, May 28, at 5;30 p.m. EST, will focus on Susy Clemens whose father hailed her “vivacity, enthusiasm, precocious wisdom, wit, elegance, penetration, nobility of character.” The interview guest will be Grace DiModugno of the Mark Twain House and Museum’s Living History historical interpreter staff. She takes visitors around the Hartford house in costume, recreating Susy’s life there for them. Her experience doing that, along with a natural talent for absorbing and interpreting information, is sure to provide a terrific experience for those visitors. She will also relay what she has learned about Susy, and some tales of visitors and their curious ways.

The link to register for Thursday’s event can be found here. As mentioned before, to view the talk, each person must register with “Crowdcast.”

Lecture on Mark Twain’s eager criticism of ‘bad’ poetry kicks off the Trouble Begins Lecture Series

“Guilty Pleasure Editing: Mark Twain’s Marginalia of ‘Bad’ Poetry”

Lisa McGunigal, Hope College

“The exquisitely bad is as satisfying to the soul as the exquisitely good—only the mediocre is unendurable”

Mark Twain, Notebook 39, 1896
“The Last Meeting and Final Parting”
Sketch drawn by Mark Twain in 1890 that accompanied one of his poems

Considered a satirist, travel writer, and lecturer, Twain was rarely presented as a poet or appreciator of poetry to the public during his life—and still today many people assume an antagonistic relationship between Twain and verse. In fact, Twain penned 120 poems (the bulk being of a humorous nature) and was an avid reader and performer of Robert Browning’s works. Additionally, Twain was clearly familiar with the popular poets of his era as he frequently parodied them within his novels. This lecture will discuss how Twain enjoyed not only reading bad poetry but also writing marginalia within his personal poetry collection—often consisting of snarky remarks criticizing the sentimental tone or rhyming structure— illustrating his active investment in altering and questioning the text as an enjoyable activity. In fact, Twain solicited editions of bad poetry from his friends and admirers with the expressed purpose to criticize them, and several of these copies are held today by the Elmira College Mark Twain Archive.

Lisa McGunigal is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hope College. Her research examines the intersection of performance studies and nineteenth-century American literary realism, focusing on how authors adopted and adapted strategies from performance sites in their novels to interrogate societal attitudes about race, class, and gender. She was a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellow, and her work has appeared in several journals including the Mark Twain Annual and American Literary Realism. Lisa received her B.A. from the University of Rhode Island, M.A. from the University of Virginia, and Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.

Professor McGunigal’s lecture can be found HERE. Lecture images can be found HERE.

Spring Virtual ‘Trouble Begins’ Lecture Begins May 13

The spring portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, begins on Wednesday, May 13.  All four lectures are free and available to the public on marktwainstudies.org.

“The Last Meeting and Final Parting”
Sketch drawn by Mark Twain in 1890 that accompanied one of his poems

The first lecture, “Guilty Pleasure Editing: Mark Twain’s Marginalia of ‘Bad’ Poetry,” will be presented by Lisa McGunigal of Hope College. Considered a satirist, travel writer, and lecturer, Twain was rarely presented as a poet or appreciator of poetry to the public during his life—and still today many people assume an antagonistic relationship between Twain and verse. In fact, Twain penned 120 poems (the bulk being of a humorous nature) and was an avid reader and performer of Robert Browning’s works. Additionally, Twain was clearly familiar with the popular poets of his era as he frequently parodied them within his novels. This lecture will discuss how Twain enjoyed not only reading bad poetry but also writing marginalia within his personal poetry collection—often consisting of snarky remarks criticizing the sentimental tone or rhyming structure— illustrating his active investment in altering and questioning the text as an enjoyable activity. In fact, Twain solicited editions of bad poetry from his friends and admirers with the expressed purpose to criticize them, and several of these copies are held today by the Elmira College Mark Twain Archive.

McGunigal is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hope College. Her research examines the intersection of performance studies and nineteenth-century American literary realism, focusing on how authors adopted and adapted strategies from performance sites in their novels to interrogate societal attitudes about race, class, and gender. She was a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellow, and her work has appeared in several journals including the Mark Twain Annual and American Literary Realism. Lisa received her B.A. from the University of Rhode Island, M.A. from the University of Virginia, and Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

CMTS Announces the Spring “Trouble Begins” Lectures Line Up

Please note:  In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, CMTS has taken precautionary measures to move all lectures from the Barn at Quarry Farm to online at MarkTwainStudies.org. Presenters have agreed to record their lectures and make their talks available at the “Trouble Begins Archive.” Stay safe, everyone.

Wednesday, May 13

“Guilty Pleasure Editing: Mark Twain’s Marginalia of ‘Bad’ Poetry”

Lisa McGunigal, Hope College

“The exquisitely bad is as satisfying to the soul as the exquisitely good—only the mediocre is unendurable”

Mark Twain, Notebook 39, 1896
“The Last Meeting and Final Parting”
Sketch drawn by Mark Twain in 1890 that accompanied one of his poems

Considered a satirist, travel writer, and lecturer, Twain was rarely presented as a poet or appreciator of poetry to the public during his life—and still today many people assume an antagonistic relationship between Twain and verse. In fact, Twain penned 120 poems (the bulk being of a humorous nature) and was an avid reader and performer of Robert Browning’s works. Additionally, Twain was clearly familiar with the popular poets of his era as he frequently parodied them within his novels. This lecture will discuss how Twain enjoyed not only reading bad poetry but also writing marginalia within his personal poetry collection—often consisting of snarky remarks criticizing the sentimental tone or rhyming structure— illustrating his active investment in altering and questioning the text as an enjoyable activity. In fact, Twain solicited editions of bad poetry from his friends and admirers with the expressed purpose to criticize them, and several of these copies are held today by the Elmira College Mark Twain Archive.

Lisa McGunigal is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hope College. Her research examines the intersection of performance studies and nineteenth-century American literary realism, focusing on how authors adopted and adapted strategies from performance sites in their novels to interrogate societal attitudes about race, class, and gender. She was a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellow, and her work has appeared in several journals including the Mark Twain Annual and American Literary Realism. Lisa received her B.A. from the University of Rhode Island, M.A. from the University of Virginia, and Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.


Wednesday, May 20

“Witnessing the Civil War: In Elmira with Mark Twain”

Shirley Samuels, Cornell University

“The ‘Baton Rouge’”
Frontispiece for Life on the Mississippi

Mark Twain did not go to Elmira during the Civil War, so the title has some deliberate ambiguity. What Elmira held during the last year of the war was a prisoner of war camp, and I am intrigued with the idea that Twain might have visited the site with the small dread that he could have been confined there or in a place like it if he had been captured during his brief foray into serving with a renegade group of would-be confederate soldiers. Most of the presentation focuses on his uncomfortable writing about the war in Life on the Mississippi. The revisions that appear between the early drafts of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that appear in Life and its later, more familiar, appearance also fascinate me. Since Twain wrote most of Huckleberry Finn while sitting in his lair above Elmira, the title of the talk comes full circle.

Shirley Samuels is working on a monograph, currently titled “Haunted by the Civil War,” on witnessing, testimony, and culture in the United States. She teaches at Cornell University in several departments, including American Studies, English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  Her books include Race and Vision in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. (2019); The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln (2012); Reading the American Novel: 1780-1865 (2012); Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War (2004); Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865 (2004); Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation (1996); and The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 19th Century America (1992.) In addition to Cornell University, she has taught at Princeton University, Brandeis University, and the University of Delaware. She has held fellowships from The American Council of Learned Societies, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Huntington Library. She is a member of the 2020 class of Quarry Farm Fellows.

This lecture was previously presented for the Chemung County Historical Society 2020 Civil War Lecture Series.


Wednesday, May 27

“Riding with Mark Twain”

Laura Skandera Trombley, Southwestern University

“I Wept”
Illustration from The Innocents Abroad, Chpt.50

I was about to trek into the desert to try to find what Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, had experienced over one hundred and fifty years ago on his foray through the Holy Land. Clemens had signed up because he was desperate for a future he couldn’t imagine. He had arrived at this juncture exhausted from fighting for a sense of self-worth and fearing that whatever he had managed to accomplish would vanish unnoticed. As contrarian as it might appear, he was convinced that travelling to Europe and then galloping through Palestine was his best opportunity to secure a lucrative future. As for me, I was longing for a feeling of intensity, a strengthened connection, a heightening of awareness, a clearer pathway. I figured I wasn’t the first person to seek enlightenment in the Judean Desert and neither was Clemens. We would be, together, Innocents Abroad.

Laura Skandera Trombley is the forthcoming president of Southwestern University. She is president emerita of Pitzer College, where she served for 13 years, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Previously, she served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dr. Trombley is the author of five books and a number of articles. She is the recipient of many awards for her scholarship, including being recognized by the Mark Twain Journal as a Legacy Scholar in spring 2019 for her efforts in rehabilitating the intellectual reputations of the women who surrounded Mark Twain. In 2017, she won the Louis J. Budd Award for her contributions to Mark Twain Studies. Dr. Trombley graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Arts in English from Pepperdine University. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Southern California.


Wednesday, June 3

“Scandal at Stormfield: Mark Twain’s ‘Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript’”

Lawrence Howe, Roosevelt University

Samuel Clemens with Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft (circa 1908)

In 1908, when Sam Clemens moved into his Italianate mansion, Stormfield, in Redding, Connecticut, he seemed to have turned the page on his sadness of recent years and begun a happy chapter. About a year later, this happiness was disrupted by a scandal: his personal secretary Isabel Lyon and his business manager Ralph Ashcroft betrayed his trust. Mark Twain addressed their deceptions in his final text, the “Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript,” a tortured piece of writing in which he struggles to come to terms with their treachery. In this presentation, Howe will offer an account of the events and Twain’s text that disputes criticism of the manuscript as evidence of his irascibility and exhausted talent.  Instead, Howe will show how the text’s compositional problems provide insight into Clemens’s vulnerability in the last stage of his life. In light of evidence proving that the trusted couple exploited him, the text documents a crime that we now recognize as elder abuse. Twain’s emotional tone in this text signals how unsettling this nearly disastrous episode was for him. Indeed, the Ashcroft-Lyon manuscript is his attempt to regain control of his life by the means he knew best—through narrative.  

Lawrence Howe is Professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University, past-president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, and editor of Studies in American Humor.  His publications include Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture, edited with Henry Wonham, and Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Novelistic Discourse. And he is currently at work on a book on Mark Twain and property. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe on Mark Twain and other topics in American culture.

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)

Special “Trouble Begins” Event Features Play and Lecture

The spring portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, May 29 in the Barn at Quarry Farm, with a special theatrical reading of a one-act play followed by the lecture.  The play and lecture are free and open to the public.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with the theatrical reading of “Waiting for Susy,” a one-act play by Bruce Michelson from the University of Illinois. The play is a one-act comedy about a famous, momentous, historic encounter that never took place. The setting is the great square in front of Rouen Cathedral in France; the time is October of 1894. Sam Clemens and his daughter Susy, living with the rest of the family in nearby Étretat, have come to town shopping for night-gowns and cigars. With brushes and an easel, and parked comfortably on a stool in this plaza, a strange, round, bearded French gentleman is dabbing at a couple of his paintings. What happens next is entirely made up, and you can safely believe every word of it.

The play will be followed by The Trouble Beings lecture, “Mark Twain’s Homes and the Public Private Life,” at 7:00 p.m., which will also be presented by Bruce Michelson. When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing — including breakthroughs in printing of pictures — provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. Where they were born and where they resided; the byways they wandered for epiphanies or Deep Thoughts; where their spouses or their Lost Loves grew up or passed away – all of this and more became fair game for mass-market words and pictures. Over the course of Mark Twain’s life we can trace this cultural transformation, and see how Quarry Farm, the Hartford mansion, and other residences here and abroad figured in a long campaign by Sam and his family to live in this new limelight, and also to evade it. The Clemenses performed a “private” family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others — in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the rest of it brought American personal privacy to an end.

Michelson is the author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, as well as many articles and book chapters about Mark Twain and other writers. He is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois, and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and The American Humor Studies Association. A contributing editor at Studies in American Humor, he is also a Fulbright Ambassador, having received two fellowships from the Fulbright Program. His most recent work includes a translation of George Clemenceau’s writings on Claude Monet and the fine arts, and a one-act comedy about Sam Clemens, his daughter Susy, and a Mysterious Stranger in France.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

Next “Trouble Begins” Lecture Focuses on the History and Preservation of Quarry Farm

The spring portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Cowles Hall at Elmira College.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

Quarry Farm in the 1870s

The lecture, “Quarry Farm: Family Retreat with 1,631 Lightning Rods,” will be presented by preservation architect, Elise Johnson-Schmidt, AIA. In May 1869, Jervis Langdon purchases the land on Elmira’s east hill. It is there that he establishes the Langdon’s summer home, Quarry Farm – a place of respite which the family enjoys for 100 years. Sadly, Langdon dies shortly after its completion, but his oldest daughter, Susan Crane, inherits the house. She generously and joyously shares Quarry Farm with her sister, Olivia Clemens, Livy’s new husband, Samuel Clemens, and the Clemens children for the next twenty years. Sam and Livy embark on their “long European sojourn” in 1890 and do not return until 1895. During a time of transition, before Susan and Theodore Crane begin their chapter of life at Quarry Farm, Sam Clemens is “running two households – one up here on the farm & one in Buffalo…and Mr. and Mrs. Crane stay here with us, & we do have perfectly royal good times.” This lecture will focus on how Quarry Farm was used by the family and changes made to the house by Langdon family members. It will also discuss the lecturer’s interpretation of a story written during Clemens’ management of the farm – “The Lightning Rod Story” – a satire about dealing with contractors – which could be as true today as it was then.

Quarry Farm Today

Johnson-Schmidt is a preservation architect with 35 years of experience, whose firm specializes in historic preservation. Her firm has undertaken over 200 revitalization and restoration projects. She was also formerly the director of Market Street Restoration Agency. She previously worked on the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in NYC & Boston’s Trinity Church. She is a frequent lecturer across NYS on revitalizing historic buildings, and a (former) longtime member of NYS’s Board for Historic Preservation. Her firm is currently writing the Historic Structure Report for Quarry Farm.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

Linda Morris Kicks Off the 2019 Trouble Begins Lectures with a Discussion of Twain and Sexuality

The spring portion of the 2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, May 8 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Writing About Sexuality: Mark Twain’s Private Work Made Public”

Linda Morris, University of California, Davis

After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young women from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable reading for young men and women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Nevertheless, when speaking before all-male groups, or writing privately, he addressed sexual topics with frankness suffused with humor. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.

Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis. She has writ- ten extensively about women’s humor in 19th and 20th century America, including a book-length study on the writer Miriam Whitcher (“The Widow Bedott”), and essays on Mary Lasswell and Roz Chast. Her work on Mark Twain includes her book Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression, and essays on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, “Gender Bending as Child’s Play,” Aunt Sally Phelps in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and “Hellfire Hotchkiss.” She was the 2017 recipient of “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America, and the 2018 recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series
In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Spring “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series Set

The spring portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies features four lectures, with the first event set for Wednesday, May 8 at 7:00 p.m. in The Barn at Quarry Farm.  All four lectures are free and open to the public.

The Barn at Quarry Farm

The first lecture, “Writing About Sexuality: Mark Twain’s Private Work Made Public,” will be presented by Linda Morris from the University of California, Davis. After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young woman from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable reading for young men and women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.

On Wednesday, May 15 at 7:00 p.m., the Series continues in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus with “‘Infinitely-Divided Stardust’: Mark Twain and Lawyer Talk,” presented by J. Mark Baggett of Samford University. Told by the New Orleans fortune teller Madame Caprell that he should have been a lawyer, Samuel Clemens dismissed the law as “too prosy and tiresome.” But his immersion in legal language and legal fictions betrayed him. This lecture will explore Twain’s burlesques from a legal perspective and trace their influence, particularly in the dramatic stagings of court trials that appear so often in his longer works. 

Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus

The Series continues in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. with “Quarry Farm: Family Retreat with 1,631 Lightning Rods,” presented by Elise Johnson-Schmidt, AIA, preservation architect. In May 1869, Jervis Langdon purchases the land on Elmira’s east hill. It is there that he establishes the Langdon’s summer home, Quarry Farm – a place of respite which the family enjoys for 100 years. This lecture will focus on how Quarry Farm was used by the family and changes made to the house by Langdon family members. It will also discuss the lecturer’s interpretation of a story written during Clemens’ management of the farm – “The Lightning Rod Story” – a satire about dealing with contractors – which could be as true today as it was then.

The spring portion of the Series wraps up on Wednesday, May 29, in The Barn at Quarry Farm at 5:30 p.m. with a theatrical reading of “Waiting for Susy,” a one-act play by Bruce Michelson from the University of Illinois, followed by Michelson’s lecture at 7:00 p.m., “Mark Twain’s Homes and the Public Private Life.” When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing — including breakthroughs in printing of pictures — provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. The Clemenses performed a “private” family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others — in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the rest of it brought American personal privacy to an end.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

CMTS Announces the Spring 2019 Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The Center for Mark Twain Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2019 Trouble Begins Lecture Series. This diverse, accomplished line-up is a testament to the rich potential of Mark Twain Studies. CMTS is honored to present and support these scholars. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Visit the “Trouble Begins Archives” for a downloadable recording of all these talks and other past lectures. You can also see past “Trouble Begins” programs and CMTS quadrennial conference and symposia programs.

In 1985, the 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 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series is sponsored by the Michael J. Kiskis Memorial Fund. The “Trouble Begins” and the “Summer at The Park Church” Lecture Series are also made possible by the support of the Mark Twain Foundation and the Friends of the Center.

Wednesday, May 8 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Writing About Sexuality: Mark Twain’s Private Work Made Public”

Linda Morris, University of California, Davis

After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young women from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable reading for young men and women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Nevertheless, when speaking before all-male groups, or writing privately, he addressed sexual topics with frankness suffused with humor. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.

Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis. She has writ- ten extensively about women’s humor in 19th and 20th century America, including a book-length study on the writer Miriam Whitcher (“The Widow Bedott”), and essays on Mary Lasswell and Roz Chast. Her work on Mark Twain includes her book Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression, and essays on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, “Gender Bending as Child’s Play,” Aunt Sally Phelps in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and “Hellfire Hotchkiss.” She was the 2017 recipient of “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America, and the 2018 recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association.

Wednesday, May 15 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus

“‘Infinitely-Divided Stardust’: Mark Twain and Lawyer Talk”

J. Mark Baggett, Samford University
From the 1899 Harper & Brothers
 Edition of Puddn’Head Wilson

Told by the New Orleans fortune teller Madame Caprell that he should have been a lawyer, Samuel Clemens dismissed the law as “too prosy and tiresome.” But his immersion in legal language and legal fictions betrayed him. From the early days of his career, covering the Nevada Territorial legislature and reporting on the police and court beat in the Territorial Enterprise, he plied what he called the “trade language” of the law. His legal burlesques of that formative period, including the first use of the pseudonym “Mark Twain” in “Ye Sentimental Law Student,” show the emerging burlesque patterns that appear in his novels. These burlesques also parallel important 19th century movements in American law that democratized and simplified legalese. This lecture will explore these burlesques from a legal perspective and trace their influence, particularly in the dramatic stagings of court trials that appear so often in his longer works. Twain himself once pronounced that a great writer must have an “infinitely divided stardust,” a genius who understood humanity from the two essential disciplines: literature and the law.

Mark Baggett is Associate Professor of English and Law at Samford University and Cumberland School of Law. His recent research on Twain’s use of legal rhetoric is an outgrowth of his teaching law at Cumberland since 1987. He contributed articles on legal issues in the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and is working on a book-length project on Mark Twain and the law, building on interdisciplinary research on Twain’s broad appropriation of legal rhetoric.

Wednesday, May 22 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus

“Quarry Farm: Family Retreat with 1,631 Lightning Rods”

Elise Johnson-Schmidt, AIA, Preservation Architect
Quarry Farm in the 1880’s

In May 1869, Jervis Langdon purchases the land on Elmira’s east hill. It is there that he establishes the Langdon’s summer home, Quarry Farm – a place of respite which the family enjoys for 100 years. Sadly, Langdon dies shortly after its completion, but his oldest daughter, Susan Crane, inherits the house. She generously and joyously shares Quarry Farm with her sister, Olivia Clemens, Livy’s new husband, Samuel Clemens, and the Clemens children for the next twenty years. Sam and Livy embark on their “long European sojourn” in 1890 and do not return until 1895, which turns out to be Livy’s last stay. During a time of transition, before Susan and Theodore Crane begin their chapter of life at Quarry Farm, Sam Clemens is “running two house- holds – one up here on the farm & one in Buffalo…and Mr. and Mrs. Crane stay here with us, & we do have perfectly royal good times.” This lecture will focus on how Quarry Farm was used by the family and changes made to the house by Langdon family members. It will also discuss the lecturer’s interpretation of a story written during Clemens’ management of the farm – “The Lightning Rod Story” – a satire about dealing with contractors – which could be as true today as it was then.

Quarry Farm Today

Elise Johnson-Schmidt is a preservation architect with 35 years of experience, whose firm specializes in historic preservation. Her firm has undertaken over 200 revitalization and restoration projects. She was also formerly the Director of Market Street Restoration Agency. She previously worked on the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in NYC & Boston’s Trinity Church. She is a frequent lecturer across NYS on revitalizing historic buildings, and a (former) longtime member of NYS’s Board for Historic Preservation. Her firm is currently writing the Historic Structure Report for Quarry Farm.

Wednesday, May 29 in the Barn at Quarry Farm ***Two Events***

5:30 p.m. Theatrical Reading of Waiting For Susy

A one-act play by Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois

Waiting for Susy is a one-act comedy about a famous, momentous, historic encounter that never took place. The setting is the great square in front of Rouen Cathedral in France; the time is October of 1894. Sam Clemens and his daughter Susy, living with the rest of the family in nearby Étretat, have come to town shopping for night-gowns and cigars. With brushes and an easel, and parked comfortably on a stool in this plaza, a strange, round, bearded French gentleman is dabbing at a couple of his paintings. What happens next is entirely made up, and you can safely believe every word of it. (“Susy Clemens” photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum)

7:00 p.m. “Mark Twain’s Homes and the Public Private Life”

Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois

When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing — including breakthroughs in printing of pictures — provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. Where they were born and where they resided; the byways they wandered for epiphanies or Deep Thoughts; where their spouses or their Lost Loves grew up or passed away – all of this and more became fair game for mass-market words and pictures. Over the course of Mark Twain’s life we can trace this cultural transformation, and see how Quarry Farm, the Hartford mansion, and other residences here and abroad figured in a long campaign by Sam and his family to live in this new limelight, and also to evade it. The Clemenses performed a “private” family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others — in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the rest of it brought American personal privacy to an end.

The Clemens Family and Flash in Hartford
Photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum

Bruce Michelson is the author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, as well as many articles and book chapters about Mark Twain and other writers. He is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois, and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and The American Humor Studies Association. A Contributing Editor at Studies in American Humor, he is also a Fulbright Ambassador, having received two fellowships from the Fulbright Program. His most recent work includes a translation of George Clemenceau’s writings on Claude Monet and the fine arts, and a one-act comedy about Sam Clemens, his daughter Susy, and a Mysterious Stranger in France