Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol 1

Throughout his life Sam Clemons worried about money. He earned and lost several fortunes and his need for cash made him vulnerable to scam artists on three continents. One source of cash he felt he could count on were the residuals from his writings, but as the end of his life neared he feared what would happen to his family as the copyrights expired.

You may recall, after his wife died, Clemons, the man in white, appeared for the first time, so dressed, in mid winter at a Congressional hearing, which was considering the recommendation that copyrights be extended. He had strong opinions on that subject. At the time he still had two daughters to provide for.

To meet his family's future needs, he wrote several books, with the express intent that they be published after his death, spaced in such a way that his girls financial needs were covered.

By the time Clemons died, the youngest of his two remaining daughters had died, leaving his high Victorian, high maintenance daughter to watch over his literary estate, and it was she whom for the rest of her life controlled all elements of the literary legacy of Mark Twain. Guard it she did, with the zeal of a convert.

Books that Clemons expected would be published soon after his death were delayed for decades by his daughter. Letters from the Earth, edited for publication in 1939 was postponed until 1962. This week, 100 years after his death, the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol 1, edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and the Mark Twain Project was published.

It will sell well, especially over the holidays, and it is unlikely to be read in its entirety by anyone not paid to do so. Whatever its literary merits, the Autobiography is about the size of a King James Bible, weighs 5 pounds, and has what appears to be the same font and spacing as a Manhattan telephone directory.

I do not yet need reading glasses but will by the time I'm deep into this.

My recommendation is try your library first, if they don't have it, reread Huckleberry Finn.



ADG said...

So Toad, are you telling me not to buy it?

Toad said...

what I have read is fairly entertaining, but the damn thing is a handful. Too big to travel with, and I am suggesting that it may be too tiring to get through. I'll persevere though, and let you know. It won't be soon.

ADG said...

Got it. And I've enough stuff in the "to read" stack already-as you know.

lostpastremembered said...

I am cooking a menu from a dinner Twain gave at the Player's Club soon and the autobiography should be an small sips and nibbles.