Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 3: 1869

Overview

"Don't scold me, Livy—let me pay my due homage to your worth; let me honor you above all women; let me love you with a love that knows no doubt, no question—for you are my world, my life, my pride, my all of earth that is worth the having." These are the words of Samuel Clemens in love. Playful and reverential, jubilant and despondent, they are filled with tributes to his fiancée Olivia Langdon and with promises faithfully kept during a thirty-four-year marriage.

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Overview

"Don't scold me, Livy—let me pay my due homage to your worth; let me honor you above all women; let me love you with a love that knows no doubt, no question—for you are my world, my life, my pride, my all of earth that is worth the having." These are the words of Samuel Clemens in love. Playful and reverential, jubilant and despondent, they are filled with tributes to his fiancée Olivia Langdon and with promises faithfully kept during a thirty-four-year marriage.

The 188 superbly edited letters gathered here show Samuel Clemens having few idle moments in 1869. When he was not relentlessly "banged about from town to town" on the lecture circuit or busily revising The Innocents Abroad, the book that would make his reputation, he was writing impassioned letters to Olivia. These letters, the longest he ever wrote, make up the bulk of his correspondence for the year and are filled with his acute wit and dazzling language. This latest volume of Mark Twain's Letters captures Clemens on the verge of becoming the celebrity and family man he craved to be.

This volume has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by a major donation to the Friends of The Bancroft Library from the Pareto Fund.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Containing all 155 of Twain's letters surviving from this two-year period, the second volume of this scrupulously annotated, richly illustrated, definitive edition of Twain's letters follows the ambitious Twain, then in his early 30s, from his arrival in New York, through his trip among sanctimonious fellow-passengers on the ``Quaker City'' to the Holy Land, back to his establishing a lucrative career as humorous lecturer, and, finally, to his worshipful courtship of Olivia Langdon. A sheer pleasure in themselves, these letters also furnish a helpful context for The Innocents Abroad and show Twain trying showily to cast off his Western wildness and adjust to what he thought were the East's expectations. A fine continuation of volume 1, Mark Twain's Letters, 1853-66 ( LJ 4/15/87).-- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520036703
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Series: Mark Twain Papers Series
  • Pages: 775
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Fischer and Michael B. Frank are editors and Dahlia Armon is a former editor with the Mark Twain Project at The Bancroft Library.

Biography

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.

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    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

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