Gift Guide

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1

( 733 )


"Mark Twain dictated much of this book—now it is a book at last—from a big rumpled bed. Reading it is a bit like climbing in there with him."—Roy Blount, Jr.

"To say that the editors have done an extremely good job is a little like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel does a good job of keeping the rain off the Pope's head. It is true but it doesn't give even a whiff of the grandeur of the thing."—Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire

"Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has...

See more details below
$29.08 price
(Save 35%)$45.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (288) from $1.99   
  • New (19) from $9.18   
  • Used (269) from $1.99   
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$29.25 price
(Save 35%)$45.00 List Price

All Available Formats & Editions


"Mark Twain dictated much of this book—now it is a book at last—from a big rumpled bed. Reading it is a bit like climbing in there with him."—Roy Blount, Jr.

"To say that the editors have done an extremely good job is a little like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel does a good job of keeping the rain off the Pope's head. It is true but it doesn't give even a whiff of the grandeur of the thing."—Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire

"Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he's brought us an Autobiography from beyond the grave: a hundred-year-old relic that yet manages to accomplish something new. It anticipates the Cubism just taking form in Samuel Clemens's last years, by exploding the confines of orderliness, sequence, the dutiful march of this-then-that. In so doing, it gives us not simply Mark Twain's life—that is the prosaic work of biographers—but the ways in which he thought of his life: in all the fragmented recollection, distraction, creation, revision and dreaming that make up the true, divinely jumbled devices we all use to recapture experience and feeling. If this prodigious and prodigal pastiche were a machine, it would be the Paige typesetter—except that it works."—Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life

A classic of American letters to be ranked with the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Adams.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mark Twain is his own greatest character in this brilliant self-portrait, the first of three volumes collected by the Mark Twain Project on the centenary of the author's death. It is published complete and unexpurgated for the first time. (Twain wanted his more scalding opinions suppressed until long after his death.) Eschewing chronology and organization, Twain simply meanders from observation to anecdote and between past and present. There are gorgeous reminiscences from his youth of landscapes, rural idylls, and Tom Sawyeresque japes; acid-etched profiles of friends and enemies, from his "fiendish" Florentine landlady to the fatuous and "grotesque" Rockefellers; a searing polemic on a 1906 American massacre of Filipino insurgents; a hilarious screed against a hapless editor who dared tweak his prose; and countless tales of the author's own bamboozlement, unto bankruptcy, by publishers, business partners, doctors, miscellaneous moochers; he was even outsmarted by a wild turkey. Laced with Twain's unique blend of humor and vitriol, the haphazard narrative is engrossing, hugely funny, and deeply revealing of its author's mind. His is a world where every piety conceals fraud and every arcadia a trace of violence; he relishes the human comedy and reveres true nobility, yet as he tolls the bell for friends and family--most tenderly in an elegy for his daughter Susy, who died in her early 20s of meningitis--he feels that life is a pointless charade. Twain's memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America--half paradise, half swindle--emerges with indelible force. 66 photos and line illus. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"Sometimes the autobiography seems Twain's letter to posterity. At other times, reading it feels like eavesdropping on a conversation he is having with himself. . . . This first installment of Twain's autobiography brings us closer to all of him than we have ever come before."--New York Review of Books

"Dip into the first enormous volume of Twain's autobiography that he had decreed should not appear until 100 years after his death. And Twain will begin to seem strange again, alluring and still astonishing, but less sure-footed, and at times both puzzled and puzzling in ways that still resonate with us, though not the ways we might expect."--New York Times

"This is a book for dipping, not plunging. Read, as Twain might put it, until interest pales, and then jump. It feels like a form of time travel."--New York Times/The Opinion Pages

"Twain generously provides the 21st century aficionado a marvelous read. His crystalline humor and expansive range are a continuous source of delight and awe. . . . [He] has given us 'an astonishment' in his autobiography with his final, beautifully unorganized genius and intemperate thoughts. Pull up a chair and revel."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Promises a no-holds barred perspective on Twain's life, and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions."--Herald Scotland

New York Review Of Books

“Sometimes the autobiography seems Twain’s letter to posterity. At other times, reading it feels like eavesdropping on a conversation he is having with himself. . . . This first installment of Twain’s autobiography brings us closer to all of him than we have ever come before.”
Acadiana Lifestyle Magazine

“This is a book to treasure for all friends of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”
New York Times

“Dip into the first enormous volume of Twain’s autobiography that he had decreed should not appear until 100 years after his death. And Twain will begin to seem strange again, alluring and still astonishing, but less sure-footed, and at times both puzzled and puzzling in ways that still resonate with us, though not the ways we might expect.”
New York Times/The Opinion Pages

“This is a book for dipping, not plunging. Read, as Twain might put it, until interest pales, and then jump. It feels like a form of time travel.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Twain generously provides the 21st century aficionado a marvelous read. His crystalline humor and expansive range are a continuous source of delight and awe. . . . [He] has given us ‘an astonishment’ in his autobiography with his final, beautifully unorganized genius and intemperate thoughts. Pull up a chair and revel.”
Boston Review - Roger Boylan

“Mission accomplished, Mr. Clemens.”
Entertainment Weekly

“His '’whole frank mind,’ sharp and funny, is seared onto every page. A”

“Brimming with Twain’s humor, ideas and opinions, this is a book for anyone interested in the writer’s work and life.”
American Heritage Publishing Staff

“Pure Twain at his typically discursive, rambling, and droll. . . . The bard of Hannibal still has much to say.”
The Times - Debra Craine

“The bestseller chart is awash with memoirs -- but none offer the extreme reading of the Autobiography of Mark Twain.”
Wall Street Journal

“Twain's autobiography, finally available after a century, is a garrulous outpouring—and every word beguiles.”
Herald Scotland

“Promises a no-holds barred perspective on Twain’s life, and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions.”

“Twain would approve!”

“A major achevement.”
Engineering & Technology - Vitali Vitaliev

“Twian’s ‘Final Plan’ has been released in a truly spectacular first volume of his posthumous ‘Autobiography’.”
Time Magazine

“With the uncensored Twain finally here, we're the furthest thing from indifferent.”

“A major achevement.”
Library Journal
Before his death in 1910, Mark Twain left instructions that his autobiography, on which he'd been working by fits and starts, be left unpublished for 100 years. Now, at the century mark, from the army of Twain scholars at the University of California's Mark Twain Project, comes the dazzling first volume of the ultimate, authoritative three-volume Autobiography of Mark Twain. With no fear of reprisals, always in the center of mid-19th-century America's political, social, and cultural life, and acquainted with everyone of note, Twain wrote briskly and both favorably and fiercely on how he felt about people and events. Twain's writing here is electric, alternately moving and hilarious. He couldn't write a ho-hum sentence. Disappointed with other systems of organization, Twain settled on writing on a topic that interested him before switching to another when it so moved him. To read this volume is to be introduced to Twain as if, thrillingly, for the first time. A 58-page introduction, 138 pages of "Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations," 176 pages of "Explanatory Notes," and a section of "Family Biographies" (all freshly fascinating) round out the volume. VERDICT Enthusiastically recommended. This may overwhelm Twain newcomers, but it is essential for specialists.—Charles C. Nash, formerly with Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO
Garrison Keillor
He speaks from the grave, he writes, so that he can speak freely — “as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter” — but there’s precious little frankness and freedom here and plenty of proof that Mark Twain, in the hands of academics, can be just as tedious as anybody else when he is under the burden of his own reputation.
—The New York Times
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520267190
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2010
  • Series: Mark Twain Papers Series
  • Pages: 760
  • Sales rank: 77,398
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 2.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Harriet Elinor Smith is an editor at the Mark Twain Project, which is housed within the Mark Twain Papers, the world's largest archive of primary materials by this major American writer. Under the direction of General Editor Robert H. Hirst, the Project's editors are producing the first comprehensive edition of all of Mark Twain's writings.


Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartford, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces --The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Samuel Langhorne Clemens (real name); Sieur Louis de Conte
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1835
    2. Place of Birth:
      Florida, Missouri
    1. Date of Death:
      April 21, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Redding, Connecticut

Read an Excerpt

Autobiography of Mark Twain

Volume 1 | Reader's Edition



Copyright © 2012 Mark Twain Foundation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-26719-0


An Early Attempt

The chapters which immediately follow constitute a fragment of one of my many attempts (after I was in my forties) to put my life on paper.

It starts out with good confidence, but suffers the fate of its brethren—is presently abandoned for some other and newer interest. This is not to be wondered at, for its plan is the old, old, old unflexible and difficult one—the plan that starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side-excursions permitted on the way. Whereas the side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also, of its history.

My Autobiography [Random Extracts from It]

* * * * So much for the earlier days, and the New England branch of the Clemenses. The other brother settled in the South, and is remotely responsible for me. He has collected his reward generations ago, whatever it was. He went South with his particular friend Fairfax, and settled in Maryland with him, but afterward went further and made his home in Virginia. This is the Fairfax whose descendants were to enjoy a curious distinction—that of being American-born English earls. The founder of the house was Lord General Fairfax of the Parliamentary army, in Cromwell's time. The earldom, which is of recent date, came to the American Fairfaxes through the failure of male heirs in England. Old residents of San Francisco will remember "Charley," the American earl of the mid-'60s—tenth Lord Fairfax according to Burke's Peerage, and holder of a modest public office of some sort or other in the new mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. He was never out of America. I knew him, but not intimately. He had a golden character, and that was all his fortune. He laid his title aside, and gave it a holiday until his circumstances should improve to a degree consonant with its dignity; but that time never came, I think. He was a manly man, and had fine generosities in his make-up. A prominent and pestilent creature named Ferguson, who was always picking quarrels with better men than himself, picked one with him, one day, and Fairfax knocked him down. Ferguson gathered himself up and went off mumbling threats. Fairfax carried no arms, and refused to carry any now, though his friends warned him that Ferguson was of a treacherous disposition and would be sure to take revenge by base means sooner or later. Nothing happened for several days; then Ferguson took the earl by surprise and snapped a revolver at his breast. Fairfax wrenched the pistol from him and was going to shoot him, but the man fell on his knees and begged, and said "Don't kill me—I have a wife and children." Fairfax was in a towering passion, but the appeal reached his heart, and he said, "They have done me no harm," and he let the rascal go.

Back of the Virginian Clemenses is a dim procession of ancestors stretching back to Noah's time. According to tradition, some of them were pirates and slavers in Elizabeth's time. But this is no discredit to them, for so were Drake and Hawkins and the others. It was a respectable trade, then, and monarchs were partners in it. In my time I have had desires to be a pirate myself. The reader—if he will look deep down in his secret heart, will find—but never mind what he will find there: I am not writing his Autobiography, but mine. Later, according to tradition, one of the procession was Ambassador to Spain in the time of James I, or of Charles I, and married there and sent down a strain of Spanish blood to warm us up. Also, according to tradition, this one or another—Geoffrey Clement, by name—helped to sentence Charles to death. I have not examined into these traditions myself, partly because I was indolent, and partly because I was so busy polishing up this end of the line and trying to make it showy; but the other Clemenses claim that they have made the examination and that it stood the test. Therefore I have always taken for granted that I did help Charles out of his troubles, by ancestral proxy. My instincts have persuaded me, too. Whenever we have a strong and persistent and ineradicable instinct, we may be sure that it is not original with us, but inherited—inherited from away back, and hardened and perfected by the petrifying influence of time. Now I have been always and unchangingly bitter against Charles, and I am quite certain that this feeling trickled down to me through the veins of my forebears from the heart of that judge; for it is not my disposition to be bitter against people on my own personal account. I am not bitter against Jeffreys. I ought to be, but I am not. It indicates that my ancestors of James II's time were indifferent to him; I do not know why; I never could make it out; but that is what it indicates. And I have always felt friendly toward Satan. Of course that is ancestral; it must be in the blood, for I could not have originated it.

... And so, by the testimony of instinct, backed by the assertions of Clemenses who said they had examined the records, I have always been obliged to believe that Geoffrey Clement the martyr-maker was an ancestor of mine, and to regard him with favor, and in fact pride. This has not had a good effect upon me, for it has made me vain, and that is a fault. It has made me set myself above people who were less fortunate in their ancestry than I, and has moved me to take them down a peg, upon occasion, and say things to them which hurt them before company.

A case of the kind happened in Berlin several years ago. William Walter Phelps was our Minister at the Emperor's Court, then, and one evening he had me to dinner to meet Count S., a cabinet minister. This nobleman was of long and illustrious descent. Of course I wanted to let out the fact that I had some ancestors, too; but I did not want to pull them out of their graves by the ears, and I never could seem to get a chance to work them in in a way that would look sufficiently casual. I suppose Phelps was in the same difficulty. In fact he looked distraught, now and then—just as a person looks who wants to uncover an ancestor purely by accident, and cannot think of a way that will seem accidental enough. But at last, after dinner, he made a try. He took us about his drawing-room, showing us the pictures, and finally stopped before a rude and ancient engraving. It was a picture of the court that tried Charles I. There was a pyramid of judges in Puritan slouch hats, and below them three bare-headed secretaries seated at a table. Mr. Phelps put his finger upon one of the three, and said with exulting indifference—

"An ancestor of mine."

I put my finger on a judge, and retorted with scathing languidness—

"Ancestor of mine. But it is a small matter. I have others."

It was not noble in me to do it. I have always regretted it since. But it landed him. I wonder how he felt? However, it made no difference in our friendship; which shows that he was fine and high, notwithstanding the humbleness of his origin. And it was also creditable in me, too, that I could overlook it. I made no change in my bearing toward him, but always treated him as an equal.

But it was a hard night for me in one way. Mr. Phelps thought I was the guest of honor, and so did Count S.; but I didn't, for there was nothing in my invitation to indicate it. It was just a friendly off-hand note, on a card. By the time dinner was announced Phelps was himself in a state of doubt. Something had to be done; and it was not a handy time for explanations. He tried to get me to go out with him, but I held back; then he tried S., and he also declined. There was another guest, but there was no trouble about him. We finally went out in a pile. There was a decorous plunge for seats, and I got the one at Mr. Phelps's left, the Count captured the one facing Phelps, and the other guest had to take the place of honor, since he could not help himself. We returned to the drawing-room in the original disorder. I had new shoes on, and they were tight. At eleven I was privately crying; I couldn't help it; the pain was so cruel. Conversation had been dead for an hour. S. had been due at the bedside of a dying official ever since half past nine. At last we all rose by one blessed impulse and went down to the street door without explanations—in a pile, and no precedence; and so, parted.

The evening had its defects; still, I got my ancestor in, and was satisfied.

Among the Virginian Clemenses were Jere. (already mentioned), and Sherrard. Jere. Clemens had a wide reputation as a good pistol-shot, and once it enabled him to get on the friendly side of some drummers when they would not have paid any attention to mere smooth words and arguments. He was out stumping the State at the time. The drummers were grouped in front of the stand, and had been hired by the opposition to drum while he made his speech. When he was ready to begin, he got out his revolver and laid it before him, and said in his soft, silky way—

"I do not wish to hurt anybody, and shall try not to; but I have got just a bullet apiece for those six drums, and if you should want to play on them, don't stand behind them."

Sherrard Clemens was a Republican Congressman from West Virginia in the war days, and then went out to St. Louis, where the James Clemens branch lived, and still lives, and there he became a warm rebel. This was after the war. At the time that he was a Republican I was a rebel; but by the time he had become a rebel I was become (temporarily) a Republican. The Clemenses have always done the best they could to keep the political balances level, no matter how much it might inconvenience them. I did not know what had become of Sherrard Clemens; but once I introduced Senator Hawley to a Republican mass meeting in New England, and then I got a bitter letter from Sherrard from St. Louis. He said that the Republicans of the North—no, the "mudsills of the North"—had swept away the old aristocracy of the South with fire and sword, and it ill became me, an aristocrat by blood, to train with that kind of swine. Did I forget that I was a Lambton?

That was a reference to my mother's side of the house. As I have already said, she was a Lambton—Lambton with a p, for some of the American Lamptons could not spell very well in early times, and so the name suffered at their hands. She was a native of Kentucky, and married my father in Lexington in 1823, when she was twenty years old and he twenty-four. Neither of them had an overplus of property. She brought him two or three negroes, but nothing else, I think. They removed to the remote and secluded village of Jamestown, in the mountain solitudes of east Tennessee. There their first crop of children was born, but as I was of a later vintage I do not remember anything about it. I was postponed—postponed to Missouri. Missouri was an unknown new State and needed attractions.

I think that my eldest brother, Orion, my sisters Pamela and Margaret, and my brother Benjamin were born in Jamestown. There may have been others, but as to that I am not sure. It was a great lift for that little village to have my parents come there. It was hoped that they would stay, so that it would become a city. It was supposed that they would stay. And so there was a boom; but by and by they went away, and prices went down, and it was many years before Jamestown got another start. I have written about Jamestown in the "Gilded Age," a book of mine, but it was from hearsay, not from personal knowledge. My father left a fine estate behind him in the region round about Jamestown—75,000 acres. When he died in 1847 he had owned it about twenty years. The taxes were almost nothing (five dollars a year for the whole), and he had always paid them regularly and kept his title perfect. He had always said that the land would not become valuable in his time, but that it would be a commodious provision for his children some day. It contained coal, copper, iron and timber, and he said that in the course of time railways would pierce to that region, and then the property would be property in fact as well as in name. It also produced a wild grape of a promising sort. He had sent some samples to Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, to get his judgment upon them, and Mr. Longworth had said that they would make as good wine as his Catawbas. The land contained all these riches; and also oil, but my father did not know that, and of course in those early days he would have cared nothing about it if he had known it. The oil was not discovered until about 1895. I wish I owned a couple of acres of the land now. In which case I would not be writing Autobiographies for a living. My father's dying charge was, "Cling to the land and wait; let nothing beguile it away from you." My mother's favorite cousin, James Lampton, who figures in the "Gilded Age" as "Colonel Sellers," always said of that land—and said it with blazing enthusiasm, too,—"There's millions in it—millions!" It is true that he always said that about everything—and was always mistaken, too; but this time he was right; which shows that a man who goes around with a prophecy-gun ought never to get discouraged: if he will keep up his heart and fire at everything he sees, he is bound to hit something by and by.

Many persons regarded "Colonel Sellers" as a fiction, an invention, an extravagant impossibility, and did me the honor to call him a "creation;" but they were mistaken. I merely put him on paper as he was; he was not a person who could be exaggerated. The incidents which looked most extravagant, both in the book and on the stage, were not inventions of mine but were facts of his life; and I was present when they were developed. John T. Raymond's audiences used to come near to dying with laughter over the turnip-eating scene; but, extravagant as the scene was, it was faithful to the facts, in all its absurd details. The thing happened in Lampton's own house, and I was present. In fact I was myself the guest who ate the turnips. In the hands of a great actor that piteous scene would have dimmed any manly spectator's eyes with tears, and racked his ribs apart with laughter at the same time. But Raymond was great in humorous portrayal only. In that he was superb, he was wonderful—in a word, great; in all things else he was a pigmy of the pigmies. The real Colonel Sellers, as I knew him in James Lampton, was a pathetic and beautiful spirit, a manly man, a straight and honorable man, a man with a big, foolish, unselfish heart in his bosom, a man born to be loved; and he was loved by all his friends, and by his family worshiped. It is the right word. To them he was but little less than a god. The real Colonel Sellers was never on the stage. Only half of him was there. Raymond could not play the other half of him; it was above his level. That half was made up of qualities of which Raymond was wholly destitute. For Raymond was not a manly man, he was not an honorable man nor an honest one, he was empty and selfish and vulgar and ignorant and silly, and there was a vacancy in him where his heart should have been. There was only one man who could have played the whole of Colonel Sellers, and that was Frank Mayo.

It is a world of surprises. They fall, too, where one is least expecting them. When I introduced Sellers into the book, Charles Dudley Warner, who was writing the story with me, proposed a change of Sellers's Christian name. Ten years before, in a remote corner of the West, he had come across a man named Eschol Sellers, and he thought that Eschol was just the right and fitting name for our Sellers, since it was odd, and quaint, and all that. I liked the idea, but I said that that man might turn up and object. But Warner said it couldn't happen; that he was doubtless dead by this time, a man with a name like that couldn't live long; and be he dead or alive we must have the name, it was exactly the right one and we couldn't do without it. So the change was made. Warner's man was a farmer in a cheap and humble way. When the book had been out a week, a college-bred gentleman of courtly manners and ducal upholstery arrived in Hartford in a sultry state of mind and with a libel suit in his eye, and his name was Eschol Sellers! He had never heard of the other one, and had never been within a thousand miles of him. This damaged aristocrat's program was quite definite and business-like: the American Publishing Company must suppress the edition as far as printed, and change the name in the plates, or stand a suit for $10,000. He carried away the Company's promise and many apologies, and we changed the name back to Colonel Mulberry Sellers, in the plates. Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen. Even the existence of two unrelated men wearing the impossible name of Eschol Sellers is a possible thing.


Excerpted from Autobiography of Mark Twain by HARRIET ELINOR SMITH. Copyright © 2012 Mark Twain Foundation. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, xv,
Introduction, 1,
An Early Attempt, 21,
My Autobiography [Random Extracts from It], 21,
The Latest Attempt, 43,
The Final (and Right) Plan, 44,
Preface. As from the Grave, 44,
The Florentine Dictations, 46,
Autobiographical Dictations, January–March 1906, 83,
Appendix: Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations, 369,
Samuel L. Clemens: A Brief Chronology, 397,
Family Biographies, 401,
References, 407,
Excerpt from Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2, 411,

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 733 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 741 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2010

    still reading, but just barely

    I really looked forward to my copy of the Twain autobiography. I didn't really think I was getting a text book. I looked forward to reading about Samuel Clemmons' life in his unique style of story telling. I didn't realized I would have to flip through 80 pages--nearly of 1/9th of the book-- of self-important pedegogy of their interpretation of Clemmons' thoughts on how to write an autobiography and a historical chronology of his several attempt to write an autobiography and how they do or do not constitute part of Clemmons' final wishes of what should be included.

    I don't need a bunch of professors at the Mark Twain project telling me their methods and approach to justifying how they put the book together. If they are compelled to waste pages on that, put it in the end of the book.

    Just give me the flippin' autobigraphy already and get out of the great man's way!

    60 out of 75 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Mark Twain would be amazed.

    Wouldn't Mark Twain be amazed that his autobiography, 100 years later, would be published in an ebook format? Mark Twain coming back in the 21st century... now there is another book of fiction I would read. His non-chronological, conversational autobiography is an easy read except for keeping up with his jumping around. In true Mark Twain spirit, his biting satire and lyrical descriptions are true entertainment.

    49 out of 54 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 28, 2010

    Fanfare for the Common Reader!

    Autobiography of Mark Twain, v.1: this's a book collector's book-- I should like to see what I think Twain himself would've liked to see, a common-reader's book. Twain's own actual words in a far less daunting format: this's 735 pgs & several pounds heavy. And, of those pages, only those from 201-468 are Twain's own. the following 240 pgs. are Explanatory notes, references, plus a 23-pg index. the preceeding 200 are of inerests--but it's too much information... ...I wasn't looking for the recipe, just wanted to sample the cake. I might then go for the annotated edition, might not. Surely would've been satisfied with parts 1 & 2, just Twain, in one volume. Us folk, down here in the road, lookin' fer th'man himself, first, then maybe later the hangers-on. Th'Twain part's mighty sweet, once the wrappin's're off.

    40 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 1, 2011

    You have to be pretty talented to make Twain a snooze fest

    And that's just what the editors have done.

    I'm so glad that my impressions of this book are shared by other readers. I was raised by a Mark Twain addict, so I grabbed this book off the shelf in the library, thanking my lucky stars that I had snagged it, scurried home, cracked the book open & (almost) instantly fell asleep.

    Quite frankly, Editors, I really don't give a durn what this person included or that person took out, or how Twain's thoughts were transcribed. I just want to read Twain's work. And why all the pages spent on General Grant, in Twain's autobiography? It's interesting, but it's the equivalent of historical filler.

    Seemed to me that Twain reached from beyond the grave & got some really good stuff put in there every now & then, but the Editors quickly come back & throw some boring stuff at you out of their concern you'll get too excited. For example, I thought the book was finally taking off once Twain started talking about his childhood, but no, the Editors had to come back & put in more boring stuff just so this could be a "serious, scholarly" book. I made it all the way to Italy & the house of horrors before giving up. Now that another reviewer has clued me in on where the really good stuff is, I'm going to give it another shot.

    How ironic that the editors labored so hard to make Twain "highbrow" & dry literature for the intelligentsia, when had they lived in Twain's time, they'd wouldn't be caught dead pawing through his "lowbrow, for the masses" books.

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

    It's really two books. The one Mr. Clemens wrote is well worth reading.

    I expected to open the book to a short introduction followed by Mark Twain's words and I'm obviously not the only one. However, wrapped around the actual autobiography is an amazingly dry academic study of the journey Mark Twain's work has taken over the last 100 years. While this does hold some interest, it stands in stark contrast to Mark Twain's famously personal and frank way of writing. I managed to get through a good twenty pages of it before jumping ahead to the actual autobiography. I may return to it someday if I'm having trouble falling asleep, but for now I'm really enjoying the actual autobiography.

    I feel it's worth noting that the two sections stand in such stark contrast that I'm unable to give a detailed review. In every category where one part is worth five stars, the other is undeniably only worthy of one.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 15, 2010


    Sometimes interesting, hardly ever biting, rarely emotional...I don't see the point of this book, and Twain has proven his ultimate marketing skill here making us wait 100 years..maybe that is the point, I don't know. Otherwise stay away, a real sleeper actually, and it's relevance to anything is questionable. Read his books, yes, but this one you can pass by.

    13 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 18, 2010

    A grand conglomeration of malarky holding a paltry few chapters of Sams work hostage ! I gave it one star since you could prop something up with it.

    The "writers" of this book should thank what ever god they worship that Twain is no longer with us . Twain lived in the era in which when a man was insulted he could demand "satisfaction"... a duel. Most of the air bags who cobbled this travesty together would have been quickly deflated by Twains 60 cal musket ball , the rest would have smiply turned tail and beat a hasty retreat. As far as the reviewers you probably would have gotten off pretty well... Sam loved a good yarn! And by golly did you all spin one! In respect for Twain reread his works and bypass this trash.

    12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2010

    Can We Get Back To The Issue Of Reviewing Books?

    Why are people constantly using this medium as a way to attack other people and not as a way of reviewing the books that we have come to love or hate? I personally love Mark Twain, but to save time on the shipping I went to the store. It proved to be a gem.

    12 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    True to his word, Mr. Twain manages to insult a few people

    I got this book for free.

    One hundred years in the making, "The Autobiography of Mark Twain" (volume 1 of 3) is published as requested by Mr. Twain, a full century after his death. Samuel Clemens a.k.a Mark Twain insisted that his autobiography would be released under such circumstances to extend the copyright for his descendants as well as not to embarrass / insult any living person and/or their children.
    True to his word, Mr. Twain manages to insult a few people.

    The actual autobiography of this book is about 1/3 of it. So don't let the size of the book daunt you.
    The books is divided into five sections:
    - Introduction (p. 1-58): this section tells the reader how this book ended up in your hands after decades of detective work by the scholars who are working on what has become known as the Mark Twain Project.
    - Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations, 1870 - 1905 (p. 59 - 200): A collection of Mark Twain's false starts.
    - Autobiography of Mark Twain: The meat of the book, Mr. Twain's final publication.
    - Explanatory Notes (p. 469 - 650)
    - Appendixes, References, Index (p . 651 - 738)

    As you can see most of this huge book is not even the autobiography itself.

    "The Autobiography of Mark Twain" is a delightful, well edited, obviously well written and interesting book. In the world of social media, where the grammar and spelling errors on Facebook are not only jaw dropping , but also acceptable, and if you have anything to say it better be tweetable - this autobiography stands out as an eloquent narrative which cannot and should not be dumbed down to 140 characters or less.

    Mr. Twain spent years writing his autobiography in many forms - essays, transcripts, transcribing and notes producing an immense, and amazing body of work. He didn't simply go about witnessing his life in chronological order, but wrote in spurts about what interest him at the time.
    Yes, this autobiography is not in a chronological order.

    Clemens led an interesting life, which in turn makes an interesting autobiography. His sense of humor and sensibilities shine through the pages. The observations Clemens made about the people he met, famous and not-so-famous are acute and entertaining - as promised he manages to insult a few of folks (to my delight I might add).

    For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Easily the Most Misunderstood Book of 2010

    Can we all step back here for a moment and understand what this book REALLY is, rather than slamming for what it isn't and, frankly, never was supposed to be?

    Is this a by-the-books, chronological autobiography? No. Not at all. Is this an experiment by one of the greatest writers of all time that will either engage you or bore you? Yes. This definitely is not for everyone. Twain here has presented us with, basically, ramblings and musings that he wrote as he thought of them. Everyone here seems to have a bad case of "The Village Syndrome" (Shyamalan's The Village marketed as horror film, turned out to be an intriguing suspenseful thriller).

    Get this book if you're a fan of Mark Twain and don't necessarily want to read about his life but more about how his brain worked. What made him "tick," so to speak. And the information about how they compiled it is thorough and quite interesting as well.

    Stop giving this book bad reviews when you know the problem isn't the book. It's you.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 25, 2010


    @bobinbc, I don't know about you, but I got an autographed copy. All tongue in cheek the whole time.

    6 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2010

    Good, but.......

    I am disappointed the hardcover isn't autographed

    6 out of 71 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010


    Now I know why he didn't want this released for 100yrs.
    1st 59 pages explain in tedious detail why and how he went back and forth about writing his autobiography.
    Unfortunately the rest of the book presents more as ramblings than anything else.
    A disappointment.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Let's see what Mark Twain wrote

    I was dismayed and disappointed by the repeated self absorbed start of this book that I put it down because I felt "readers remorse" about skipping through to his actual words, I will pick it back up again (if I can lift it) and just deal with my guilt for skipping thee "gee, we are so wonderful, we did a lot of research begining. It's a shame that the first part of the book turns people off and makes it so you don't want to read the rest.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 18, 2010

    Must be a good book this review is for the bookseller not the book

    Maybe I can pick up the book at the local library. My order from B AND N is going to take THREE weeks From order placed on line Nov. 15 until ship date of Dec 6. That is not good book selling.

    3 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2002

    Avenging racist affronts: The Twain ways

    From a little known conservative family in a little known conservative village to the centre stage of the world, crying out for a new social order by capturing for chronicling the old order and its dramatis personae in all their crude, cruel and idiosyncratic perversities as in a telescopic expose, at the same time captivating the world through the biting sarcasm, satire, wit, wizardry, and what have you of such chronicling, and in the process getting perched on world's pedestal as an all-time celebrity ¿ in some sense this has been the trajectory of some of the literary celebrities of the world. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1930) belonged to this rare species of Homo sapiens. Born and raised in the almost invisible village of Florida, Monroe County, Missouri where slavery and secession related violence was particularly brutal before the Civil War, he used his pen (for both fiction and non-fiction) so well to reveal the 'ugly American' as no one else before and after him could do, with much of his writings reflecting his anti-racist sentiments (instances: his novels Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur¿s Court, and Pudd¿Nhead Wilson, and his essay The United States of Lyncherdom), accusing the Church of spreading a pro-slavery mentality, depicting slavery as a destructive social institution in which as Twain said, ¿we used our own brother human beings to buy and sell them, lash them, thrash them, break their hearts¿ and ¿we ought to be ashamed of ourselves¿. Sarcasm, satire, and fictionalism notwithstanding, Twain¿s writings have certainly helped America and other racist countries look back with a sense of guilt and empathy at the hideous evils of racism and slavery which they perpetrated and which still persist like millstones round their necks. His autobiography, an exercise in plain speaking, should certainly serve to understand him and his social ambience better and through both help readers understand and appreciate his writings still better.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2011

    Wonderfully written and full of humor -- true Mark Twain

    Having little time for uninterrupted reading, I bought this book as an audio book on CD and listened to it on my way back and forth to work. What a pleasure! Twain dictated a colorful assortment of his life experiences as autobiography. It moves back and forth from scenes that happened in his childhood to things he experienced the day before he dictated them. He criss-crosses through his life without any apparent order. At times he interrupts himself and tells the listener that he had already covered that subject in one of his other books and won't go on. I do have to admit that reading this book on paper might be a bit of a challenge. The audio version is ideal for the book's format and the narrator, Grover Gardner is ideal for the job.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 16, 2010

    Very hard to read, couldn't get through it

    I guess I just didn't understand what this book is. I couldn't wade through any of it. The first couple hundred pages or so seems to be other authors' biographies about Twain. I'm not sure I ever got to the part that Twain dictated. At least, I couldn't find it in the Table of Contents. I decided to let this lie for a while, and maybe in a few years I'll get back to it.

    I guess I got suckered in because of Twain's name. Shame on me.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 15, 2010

    This is a review of the reviewers--not the book. I am sure that is a 5.

    I have decided to definitely pick up this book and read it because it is probably very thorough and detailed, as any Mark Twain lover would enjoy.

    As for the childish reviews preceding this, I have to laugh at people who are not even embarrassed to give their opinion on a book which is so decidedly too complicated and way over their heads. To think they are not even embarrassed to show their ignorance. Yet despite the misspelled words and their whining, "it was boring", they have the actual nerve to be so self absorbed as to put a review on a book website like this.

    Amazing! These literary midgets can't even spell or communicate in writing, yet they have the audacity to criticize an author, who is attempting to explain how the book came about.

    I would suggest these literary midgets stick to Harry Potter, which might also be too lofty for them. Or perhaps they could spend their time with a grammar book, learning the difference between to, too, and two or a dictionary. Good God!

    You might want to stay away from Twain. You really don't want to know what his opinion of you would be.

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 5, 2010

    One of the worst (auto)biography's I've ever read

    I can not believe that Mark Twain's intentions were to have the so much time spent on HOW the book was written and put together by the Mark Twain Project. It is an increadably boring and slow read. I would have expected better from the Mark Twain Project, which seems full of itself in how it decieded what the author wanted or did not want included in his autobiography. They spend to much time describing the labor pains and to little time on the baby. Not even worth the Nook price of $9.99 IMHO.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 741 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)