Mark Twain and Male Friendship: The Twichell, Howells, and Rogers Friendships

Mark Twain and Male Friendship: The Twichell, Howells, and Rogers Friendships

by Peter Messent
     
 

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Biographies of America's greatest humorist abound, but none have charted the overall influence of the key male friendships that profoundly informed his life and work. Combining biography, literary history, and gender studies, Mark Twain and Male Friendship presents a welcome new perspective as it examines three vastly different friendships and the stamp they left

Overview

Biographies of America's greatest humorist abound, but none have charted the overall influence of the key male friendships that profoundly informed his life and work. Combining biography, literary history, and gender studies, Mark Twain and Male Friendship presents a welcome new perspective as it examines three vastly different friendships and the stamp they left on Samuel Clemens's life.

With accessible prose informed by impressive research, the study provides an illuminating history of the friendships it explores, and the personal and cultural dynamic of the relationships. In the case of Twain and his pastor, Joseph Twichell, emphasis is put on the latter's role as mentor and spiritual advisor and on Twain's own waning sense of religious belonging. Messent then shifts gears to consider Twain's friendship with fellow author and collaborator William Dean Howells. Fascinating in its own right, this relationship also serves as a prism through which to view the literary marketplace of nineteenth-century America. A third, seemingly unlikely friendship between Twain and Standard Oil executive H.H. Rogers focuses on Twain's attitude toward business and shows how Rogers and his wife served as a surrogate family for the novelist after the death of his own wife.

As he charts these relationships, Messent uses existing work on male friendship, gender roles, and cultural change as a framework in which to situate altered conceptions of masculinity and of men's roles, not just in marriage but in the larger social networks of their time. In sum, Mark Twain and Male Friendship is not only a valuable new resource on the great novelist but also a lively cultural history of male friendship in nineteenth-century America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Messent's detailed account of Twain's friendships, his lucid argumentation, supported by his carefully researched and meticulously selected evidence, constructs a significant contribution not only to Twain's scholarship but also to the underexplored and often contradictory area of the Victorian masculine ethos in the United States. The author's insightful remarks as well as his findings can be of fundamental importance to students and scholars alike, researching the obscure and occasionally ambiguous patriarchal conceptualization of manliness and male identity in this period." —European Journal of American Studies

"Peter Messent's sensitive and lucid exploration of Samuel Clemens's interactions with Joseph Twichell, William Dean Howells, and Henry Rogers offers useful insights into both late nineteenth-century gender relations and the life and work of Mark Twain. Messent deftly situates his central concerns in the context of broader cultural currents that inform them. His stimulating book will interest anyone who cares about Mark Twain or the subject of friendship."-Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Stanford University

"A must for Mark Twain fans! This book is the first detailed exploration of Mark Twain's long-term friendships with three fascinating men: the minister Joseph Twichell, the author/editor William Dean Howells, and the mogul Henry H. Rogers. Peter Messent makes a significant contribution to Twain biography and provides fresh information and insightful analyses that will be of great use to those interested in same-sex intimacy, literary realism, and gender studies."-David S. Reynolds, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

"Messent flawlessly integrates his seasoned insight and the freshest theorizing with deep reading of archival materials. We feel closer both to Mark Twain's psyche and his public personality; we understand why his three most intimate friendships flowed with their time and its values. Compellingly, Messent evokes a more responsive, far less eccentric, and intellectually and emotionally richer Mark Twain."-Louis J. Budd, Duke University

"This book gives us a nuanced and deeply researched picture of a social and professional culture. In a fluent weaving together of all kinds of fascinating material, Messent explores how and why Twain made friends, and why his friendship was prized."-Peter Stoneley, University of Reading

"Messent's in-depth research illuminates fascinating subtleties adn eccentricities of three male friendships of the private man behind the mask of America's iconic writer."—Times Higher Education

"In this meticulously researched, lucid book on Mark Twain and male friendship, Peter Messent makes a major contribution to our understanding of the complex personality of Samuel Clemens." —Nineteenth-Century Literature

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199964109
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/02/2013
Pages:
270
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Messent is Professor of Modern American Literature at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of several books, including The Cambridge Introduction to Mark Twain and New Readings of the American Novel.

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