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

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

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520267190
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 11/15/2010
Series: Mark Twain Papers , #10
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 760
Sales rank: 386,888
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 10.20(h) x 2.70(d)

About 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.

Date of Birth:

November 30, 1835

Date of Death:

April 21, 1910

Place of Birth:

Florida, Missouri

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.

Table of Contents


An Early Attempt
My Autobiography [Random Extracts from It]
The Latest Attempt
The Final (and Right) Plan
Preface. As from the Grave
The Florentine Dictations
Autobiographical Dictations, January–March 1906

Appendix: Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations
Samuel L. Clemens: A Brief Chronology
Family Biographies
Excerpt from Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2

What People are Saying About This

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

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Autobiography of Mark Twain 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 737 reviews.
BradonVashon More than 1 year ago
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!
keanewebb More than 1 year ago
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.
Matt_Levin More than 1 year ago
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.
KBinLDO More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
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
Reckoner More than 1 year ago
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.
LANGFORD More than 1 year ago
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.
juliusa More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
History-sponge More than 1 year ago
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.
EAbbeyFan More than 1 year ago
The cover tells everyone that this book was created by the Mark Twain Project.  Inside the the front cover the pages tells everyone that University of California Press at Berkley is the  publisher.  It states the funding sources as well and there are multiple editors listed. Therefore, those who are intelligent enough to understand Twain will understand as well that this is a in depth analysis of a  very rare, intelligent, brilliant, eccentric author and how complicated of a writer he was.   The very title and sub-title indicate that this is not for those desiring or requiring a simple, saucy read. Excellent details and in depth insights to how the whole Mark Twain "worked".   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't expect a chronological depiction of his life but rather his stream of conciousness recollections. A wonderful insight into what made Samuel Clemmens the iconic American storyteller tick.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The editors bloviate in such a moribund way that I can see Mark Twain rolling his eyes and wanting to poke them with his sharp pen. I'll await the next volumes and invest in them as well... he is there in a way that only his friends knew him as he talks about the things that made an impression on him as he came up and through the experiences of his life. I applaud his efforts and thank him for sharing it in such a sweet fashion that leaves me feeling he is sitting across the room in comfortable chair regaling me with the tales he couldn't write then. He was a dear man to care that some of what he may have to say would or could offend or hurt someone somewhere.... likely his own reputation as well, I'd guess. It's the ramblings of my grandpa, I hear as I read it.... lighten up folks.....
AshRyan on LibraryThing 10 months ago
"Whenever a man preferred being fed by any other man to starving in independence he ought to be shot."Mark Twain dictated his autobiography with the stated intention that it wouldn't be published for 100 years after his death. Accordingly, the first volume (of three) of the first complete edition just came out about a year ago.Not a chronological autobiography, but more a free association of (mostly humorous) stories, it still somehow manages to add up to an integrated picture of the man. Early on he relates the death of his middle daughter Suzie at the age of 25, and from that point on quotes from a biography of him she had written about ten years earlier. This provides some structure, as he quotes passages and then elaborates on them or tells a story they remind him of, but it also provides a sort of emotional line, regularly reminding us of Twain's family life besides his professional life.It does jump around a lot, ranging from recollections of his boyhood, to his early attempts at making a living, to becoming a successful writer, to his middle age as a family man, to his old age. The effect is a picture of a whole life, even if it is only in snapshots.And of course, Twain is often very funny, sometimes poignant, and uses language beautifully. Definitely worth reading. And Grover Gardner's narration of this audio edition is quite good (though his reading of Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth is even better)---straightforward to let the material speak for itself, rather than over-the-top comedic as most readers tend to interpret Twain. Four and a half stars.
matthew7874 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Brilliant! Twain had good reason to request that the publication of his autobiography wait until 100 years after his death. He speaks with great candor about many of his contemporaries and in doing so, gives us a wonderfully unvarnished view of many historical figures. This is a must read. Also, due to the heft of this massive tome, it might remain useful to the reader as a weapon for home defense.
JeffV on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Perhaps I need to take a break from autobiographies -- only one of the last three I read was truly good.Mark Twain wrote the basis for this volume in his late years, with orders given that it was not to be published until a century after his death. This was done to avoid harming those living or their immediate heirs. I think having him "speak from the grave" all these years later was somewhat appealing to him as well.This volume was put together by a group of people compiling not only Twain's final autobiographical manuscript, but content from several other starts, as well as content from other Twain contemporaries. It is not by any means a "cradle to the grave" narrative, and most of it isn't even about Twain himself! It begins with summary of General Grant's final years and financial problems, and often strays to tell the stories of others -- some whose names still resonate in history (including some presidents, such as Cleveland), and some that were completely inconsequential, resembling the reminiscing of a doddering old man. There are moment of revelation and interest. When he was young and penniless, Twain took a riverboat from Cincinnati to New Orleans with the intent of booking passage to the Amazon and becoming a coke dealer. However, he neglected to check and see if there was any shipping from that port which traveled that way (there was not!) so he undertook training to be a riverboat captain instead. There are numerous passages quoted from Twain's daughter's biography of him -- a work in progress when she died at age 24. The deaths of children, his own and others, seemed to have the most emotional impact upon him. That and editors. He hated them with a passion -- recounted in amusing detail a dressing-down he gave to one who dared to presume to know better, and then afterward congratulated himself on his restraint because the "toad-brained fool" simply didn't know any better.Not all of his anecdotes are amusing or even significant, however. The group that published this book has a lot of original source material available on their website, and it seems this volume could have withstood a fair amount more editing, with the outtakes consigned to the web for those who can't get enough. I suppose I'd probably enjoy a biography culled from this source material. Jumping the time line was too much of a distraction. In the final passages. he spoke of Helen Keller (with an epitaph that she would be remembered as one of the great names in History); the Russian Revolution (he thought Teddy Roosevelt set it back centuries or killed it permanently and lamented this in a conversation with Tchaikovsky); and he lambasted US policy and the atrocities committed in the Philippines. But then he spoke of his early years when as a teenager he worked in a small printing house where they were rarely paid in cash, just barter. I'm not sure what Volume 2 will contain, but I would guess more about his childhood, and perhaps more surrounding the creation of some of his greatest works.
dclxvispqr on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This was my only chance to own a first edition of Mark Twain. Kidding aside, this was highly entertaining and the rather buckshot-pattern narrative was charming.
Vianna on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The material suggests S. Clements might have created the first unofficial social network system to promote himself; always finding ways to tell "his" story regardless if the truth was verifiable; using many modalities to advance his writings, mostly as a speaker. I wish the auto was chronological rather than a display of thoughts as they came to him. I'm only half way through the book, but so far the material up to the "official" auto is more interesting than the auto itself.
photoeditor51 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I was excited about this book, hoping to read more of the witty humor from Twain. I was one of the first to order it. I am extremely disappointed in the fact that the type is about 6 points with excerpts even smaller (4 pt?). The book is over 700 pages and this is only Vol. 1. This wonderful man would have been better served if the publisher had assigned some editors to edit this massive amount of information about Twain's life. This book is better left to the literary scholars of Twain. Like many my age, I need reading glasses to read and this presents an impossible task. I hope I can return it to Amazon!
Fledgist on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Twain was a curmudgeon's curmudgeon, an author's author, and certainly one of the finest writers of English prose that the United States has produced. His account of his life is a work worth reading.
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