Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers

Overview


A voracious pack-rat, Mark Twain hoarded his readers' letters as did few of his contemporaries. Dear Mark Twain collects 200 of these letters written by a diverse cross-section of correspondents from around the world—children, farmers, schoolteachers, businessmen, preachers, railroad clerks, inmates of mental institutions, con artists, and even a former president. It is a unique and groundbreaking book—the first published collection of reader letters to any writer of Mark Twain's time. Its contents afford a rare...
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Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers

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Overview


A voracious pack-rat, Mark Twain hoarded his readers' letters as did few of his contemporaries. Dear Mark Twain collects 200 of these letters written by a diverse cross-section of correspondents from around the world—children, farmers, schoolteachers, businessmen, preachers, railroad clerks, inmates of mental institutions, con artists, and even a former president. It is a unique and groundbreaking book—the first published collection of reader letters to any writer of Mark Twain's time. Its contents afford a rare and exhilarating glimpse into the sensibilities of nineteenth-century people while revealing the impact Samuel L. Clemens had on his readers. Clemens’s own and often startling comments and replies are also included.

R. Kent Rasmussen’s extensive research provides fascinating profiles of the correspondents, whose personal stories are often as interesting as their letters. Ranging from gushing fan appreciations and requests for help and advice to suggestions for writing projects and stinging criticisms, the letters are filled with perceptive insights, pathos, and unintentional but often riotous humor. Many are deeply moving, more than a few are hilarious, some may be shocking, but none are dull.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Daily News - Alexander Nazaryan

“It is a special delight to read Twain’s interactions with the readers who made him 19th-century America’s most popular writer.”
Mark Twain Forum - Shelley Fisher Fishkin

“Kent Rasmussen has done it again: he has come up with a book that will give every Twainiac and lots of others with only a casual interest in Mark Twain much enjoyment and a non-trivial amount of insight into one of the most remarkable writers the world has ever known.”
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings - Maria Popova

“A magnificent, remarkably researched book.”
Missourian - Chris Stuckenschneider

"A devoted Samuel Clemons/Mark Twain fan will want to pick up this book and will appreciate Rasmussen’s research."
San Francisco Book Review and Sacramento Book Review - Aron Row

"This series of letters makes delightful reading."
Mark Twain Annual - Joseph Csicsila

"Over the past two decades Kent Rasmussen has consistently produced some of the most useful, practically minded, and accessible scholarship in Mark Twain studies. With Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers, Rasmussen comes through again. . . . Rasmussen enlarges what we know of Mark Twain from his correspondence as it provides the most substantive understanding yet of who were buying his books and reading him in newspapers and magazines at the turn of the century. As such, this collection will be of interest to Mark twain specialists, students of American literary and cultural studies, and general readers alike."
From the Publisher

"Well-selected, thoroughly researched and thoughtfully annotated--a surprising, welcome addition to the apparently endless Twain shelf."--Kirkus Reviews

"It is a special delight to read Twain's interactions with the readers who made him 19th-century America's most popular writer."--New York Daily News

"Kent Rasmussen has done it again: he has come up with a book that will give every Twainiac and lots of others with only a casual interest in Mark Twain much enjoyment and a non-trivial amount of insight into one of the most remarkable writers the world has ever known."--Mark Twain Forum

"A magnificent, remarkably researched book."--Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Library Journal
Twain scholar Rasmussen (Mark Twain A to Z; The Quotable Mark Twain; Bloom's How To Write About Mark Twain; Critical Companion to Mark Twain) introduces previously unpublished letters written to Twain, adding another perspective to the writer's life. Among the rarer qualities of the letters is that they are all penned by general readers; some request money, others seek autographs or assistance with publishing. Overall, the content is diverse and intriguing. Rasmussen divides the book into five sections beginning with letters written from 1861 to 1870 and ending with the period 1901–10; a time line of significant events in Twain's professional and personal life provides context. Arranged chronologically, each piece of correspondence is followed by Twain's skeptical and often hilarious comments on the authenticity of its author. Rasmussen's tireless research taken from census reports, obituaries, and online resources such as ancestry.com tracks the information of Twain's respected fans. VERDICT Rasmussen is clearly an expert curator and researcher. Fans of Twain and most libraries will want to secure a copy.—Stacy Russo, Santa Ana Coll. Lib., CA
Kirkus Reviews
Just when we thought there was nothing else to learn about Twain, another facet of that literary jewel appears. Well-known Twain scholar Rasmussen (Critical Companion to Mark Twain, 2007, etc.) has selected 200 letters from among the many thousands Twain's fans and foes wrote to Twain during his career. Even more impressive is the fact that the editor has researched the lives of the correspondents, relying heavily on online sources like Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com to help him supply information about the writers--a number of whom, often autograph hounds, were not who they claimed to be. Twain seemed to have a keen nose for smelling the bogus and often noted his distrust and/or disdain on the letter before filing it. The letters range from adoration to disgust, the latter occurring more during Twain's later years when his writings darkened and he satirized his targets more savagely--especially religion and imperialism. It's surprising how many writers sent Twain poems they had composed in his honor (not much is memorable), and many wanted to tell him stories--about their reactions to his books, their own childhood experiences and, later, how his works enriched their lives. Some wrote to console him on the losses of his wife and daughter. A few, hearing he was dying, wrote to tell him how much he'd meant to them. There are smaller moments, too. A boy collector wants some of Twain's cigar bands. A little girl wants Twain to write about Tom Sawyer as an adult. Some folks want money; others want to meet him. Although most are common folks, Twain also heard from poet James Whitcomb Riley and former president Rutherford B. Hayes. Well-selected, thoroughly researched and thoughtfully annotated--a surprising, welcome addition to the apparently endless Twain shelf.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


R. Kent Rasmussen is a prolific and widely respected scholar of Mark Twain. Among his books are Mark Twain A to Z, The Quotable Mark Twain, Bloom’s How to Write About Mark Twain and Critical Companion to Mark Twain. He is also the editor of the recently published Penguin Classics edition of Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Writings.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Foreword by Ron Powers

Introduction
Note on Texts

Letters
1861–1870
1871–1880
1881–1890
1891–1900
1901–1910

Note on Sources
Acknowledgments
Index

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