Mark Twain writes from the dead

Adrienne Savoldi

Mark Twain, the man who brought us the immortal Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, now reveals the whole truth about himself.

Twain, the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorn Clemens, is publishing yet another book, 100 years after his death on April 21, 1910. This time it’s not just any work, but his unexpurgated autobiography.


English professor Robert Trogdon said Twain dictated his autobiography at the end of his life, but didn’t want to publish it until 100 years after his death. ?

“It was good publishing sense on his part. Twain was a self-promoter and knew how to market things, mainly himself,” he said. ?

Trogdon said he is looking forward to reading Twain’s view of his contemporaries, such as William Dean Howells, Henry James and Walt Whitman. Trogdon said as Twain got older, he became more “caustic,” particularly about topics like religion, United States foreign policy and life in general. He wanted to write the complete truth as he saw it, but as Twain was one of the most beloved writers in America during his lifetime, for him, to voice his true scathing opinions about those subjects would be “out of character.” However, snippets of the autobiography have been published over the years.

Trogdon said he is also curious as to what Twain thought about his own work. ?

“The best insight into a writer’s work is the writer themselves,” Trogdon said. ?

The autobiography is a part of the University of California edition of the Mark Twain Papers, an ongoing series since 1967. The Mark Twain Papers continually collect Twain’s letters, manuscripts and other written documents to preserve them and better understand the man behind the written works.

The autobiography is the project’s most recent publication and was started six years ago, said Harriet Smith, the principal editor of Twain’s autobiography.

“It’s not a chronological narrative. It’s a series of reminiscences,” she said. ?

The first volume only contains the first three months of dictations. The other two volumes of the autobiography should be released within the next five to six years. ?

“It’s a good way for people who don’t know Mark Twain the person as opposed to Mark Twain the author to discover more about him,” Smith said. ?

Contact Adrienne Savoldi at [email protected].