The Inaugural Trouble Begins Lectures (1985)

The voice in the above clip is that of John S. Tuckey, who, as Joe Csicsila puts it, “changed everything in Mark Twain studies back in 1963” with his book Mark Twain & Little Satan. 

In 1985, as America celebrated the sesquicentennial of Samuel Clemens’s birth, Tuckey was part of the star-studded inaugural season of The Trouble Begins lecture series, now entering its 33rd year. The series began with a lecture by Hamlin Hill, author of Mark Twain: God’s Fool (1973) and Mark Twain & Elisha Bliss (1964). It also included Henry Nash Smith, one of the founders of the discipline of American Studies, and author of Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol & Myth (1950), a text which is still required reading for American Literature and American Studies graduate students. Smith passed away less than a year after he visited Elmira. He and Tuckey became the namesakes for the two CMTS-sponsored lifetime achievement awards given at the Quadrennial International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies (next week!).

Darryl Baskin, in his first year as Director of CMTS, organized the first series. Recognizing that it was a unique undertaking with distinguished speakers, he arranged for recordings, a practice which has continued through the decades. Thanks to current CMTS Director Joe Lemak and Archivist Nathaniel Ball the recordings of the first season have been digitized and are now available in our Trouble Begins Archive. Below you will find the full program.