Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

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Mark Twain’s complete, uncensored Autobiography was an instant bestseller when the first volume was published in 2010, on the centennial of the author’s death, as he requested. Published to rave reviews, the Autobiography was hailed as the capstone of Twain’s career. It captures his authentic and unsuppressed voice, speaking clearly from the grave and brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions.

The eagerly-awaited Volume 2 delves deeper into Mark Twain’s life, uncovering the many roles he played in his private and public worlds. Filled with his characteristic blend of humor and ire, the narrative ranges effortlessly across the contemporary scene. He shares his views on writing and speaking, his preoccupation with money, and his contempt for the politics and politicians of his day. Affectionate and scathing by turns, his intractable curiosity and candor are everywhere on view.

Editors: Benjamin Griffin and Harriet E. Smith

Associate Editors: Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, Sharon K. Goetz and Leslie Diane Myrick

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520272781
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/05/2013
Series: Mark Twain Papers , #11
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 776
Sales rank: 168,894
Product dimensions: 7.62(w) x 10.24(h) x 2.42(d)

About the Author

Benjamin Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith are editors 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

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Copyright © 2013 Mark Twain Foundation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-27278-1



Monday, April 2, 1906

Government of new Territory of Nevada—Governor Nye and the practical jokers—Mr. Clemens begins journalistic life on Virginia City Enterprise—Reports legislative sessions—He and Orion prosper—Orion builds twelve-thousand-dollar house—Governor Nye turns Territory of Nevada into a State.


Had Woman Ejected from White House; to be Postmaster.


Present Postmaster at Washington to be Made Collector at Niagara—Platt Not Consulted.

Special to The New York Times.

WASHINGTON, March 31.—President Roosevelt surprised the capital this afternoon by announcing that he would appoint Benjamin F. Barnes as Postmaster of Washington, to succeed John A. Merritt of New York. Mr. Merritt, who for several years has been Postmaster here, has been chosen for Collector of the Port of Niagara, succeeding the late Major James Low.

Mr. Barnes is at present assistant secretary to the President. Only a short time ago he figured extensively in the newspapers for having ordered the forcible ejection from the White House of Mrs. Minor Morris, a Washington woman who had called to see the President. What attracted attention to the case was not the ejection itself, but the violence with which it was performed.

Mrs. Morris, who had been talking to Barnes in an ordinary conversational tone, and with no indications of excitement, so far as the spectators observed, was seized by two policemen and dragged by the arms out of the building and across the asphalt walk in front of the White House, a distance corresponding to that of two ordinary city blocks. During a part of the journey a negro carried her by the feet. Her dress was torn and trampled.

She was locked up on a charge of disorderly conduct, and when it was learned that she would be released on that charge a policeman, a relative of Barnes's, was sent to the House of Detention to prefer a charge of insanity against her so that she would have to be held. She was held accordingly until two physicians had examined her and pronounced her sane. He was denounced by Mrs. Morris, by various newspapers, and by Mr. Tillman in the Senate.

The appointment of Barnes to be Postmaster so soon after this incident has created endless talk here. It is taken to be the President's way of expressing confidence in Barnes and repaying him for the pain he suffered as a result of the newspaper criticisms of his course.

Orion Clemens again. To continue.

The Government of the new Territory of Nevada was an interesting menagerie. Governor Nye was an old and seasoned politician from New York—politician, not statesman. He had white hair; he was in fine physical condition; he had a winningly friendly face and deep lustrous brown eyes that could talk as a native language the tongue of every feeling, every passion, every emotion. His eyes could out-talk his tongue, and this is saying a good deal, for he was a very remarkable talker, both in private and on the stump. He was a shrewd man; he generally saw through surfaces and perceived what was going on inside without being suspected of having an eye on the matter.

When grown-up persons indulge in practical jokes, the fact gauges them. They have lived narrow, obscure, and ignorant lives, and at full manhood they still retain and cherish a job lot of left-over standards and ideals that would have been discarded with their boyhood if they had then moved out into the world and a broader life. There were many practical jokers in the new Territory. I do not take pleasure in exposing this fact, for I liked those people; but what I am saying is true. I wish I could say a kindlier thing about them instead—that they were burglars, or hat-rack thieves, or something like that, that wouldn't be utterly uncomplimentary. I would prefer it, but I can't say those things, they would not be true. These people were practical jokers, and I will not try to disguise it. In other respects they were plenty good enough people; honest people; reputable and likable. They played practical jokes upon each other with success, and got the admiration and applause and also the envy of the rest of the community. Naturally they were eager to try their arts on big game, and that was what the Governor was. But they were not able to score. They made several efforts, but the Governor defeated these efforts without any trouble and went on smiling his pleasant smile as if nothing had happened. Finally the joker-chiefs of Carson City and Virginia City conspired together to see if their combined talent couldn't win a victory, for the jokers were getting into a very uncomfortable place. The people were laughing at them, instead of at their proposed victim. They banded themselves together to the number of ten and invited the Governor to what was a most extraordinary attention in those days—pickled oyster-stew and champagne—luxuries very seldom seen in that region, and existing rather as fabrics of the imagination than as facts.

The Governor took me with him. He said disparagingly,

"It's a poor invention. It doesn't deceive. Their idea is to get me drunk and leave me under the table, and from their standpoint this will be very funny. But they don't know me. I am familiar with champagne and have no prejudices against it."

The fate of the joke was not decided until two o'clock in the morning. At that hour the Governor was serene, genial, comfortable, contented, happy, and sober, although he was so full that he couldn't laugh without shedding champagne tears. Also, at that hour the last joker joined his comrades under the table, drunk to the last perfection. The Governor remarked,

"This is a dry place, Sam, let's go and get something to drink and go to bed."

The Governor's official menagerie had been drawn from the humblest ranks of his constituents at home—harmless good fellows who had helped in his campaigns, and now they had their reward in petty salaries payable in greenbacks that were worth next to nothing. Those boys had a hard time to make both ends meet. Orion's salary was eighteen hundred dollars a year, and he couldn't even support his dictionary on it. But the Irishwoman who had come out on the Governor's staff charged the menagerie only ten dollars a week apiece for board and lodging. Orion and I were of her boarders and lodgers; and so, on these cheap terms the silver I had brought from home held out very well.

At first I roamed about the country seeking silver, but at the end of '62 or the beginning of '63 when I came up from Aurora to begin a journalistic life on the Virginia City Enterprise, I was presently sent down to Carson City to report the legislative session. Orion was soon very popular with the members of the legislature, because they found that whereas they couldn't usually trust each other, nor anybody else, they could trust him. He easily held the belt for honesty in that country, but it didn't do him any good in a pecuniary way, because he had no talent for either persuading or scaring legislators. But I was differently situated. I was there every day in the legislature to distribute compliment and censure with evenly balanced justice and spread the same over half a page of the Enterprise every morning, consequently I was an influence. I got the legislature to pass a wise and very necessary law requiring every corporation doing business in the Territory to record its charter in full, without skipping a word, in a record to be kept by the Secretary of the Territory—my brother. All the charters were framed in exactly the same words. For this record-service he was authorized to charge forty cents a folio of a hundred words for making the record; also five dollars for furnishing a certificate of each record, and so on. Everybody had a toll-road franchise but no toll-road. But the franchise had to be recorded and paid for. Everybody was a mining corporation, and had to have himself recorded and pay for it. Very well, we prospered. The record-service paid an average of a thousand dollars a month, in gold.

Governor Nye was often absent from the Territory. He liked to run down to San Francisco every little while and enjoy a rest from Territorial civilization. Nobody complained, for he was prodigiously popular. He had been a stage-driver in his early days in New York or New England, and had acquired the habit of remembering names and faces, and of making himself agreeable to his passengers. As a politician this had been valuable to him, and he kept his arts in good condition by practice. By the time he had been Governor a year, he had shaken hands with every human being in the Territory of Nevada, and after that he always knew these people instantly at sight and could call them by name. The whole population, of twenty thousand persons, were his personal friends, and he could do anything he chose to do and count upon their being contented with it. Whenever he was absent from the Territory—which was generally—Orion served his office in his place, as Acting Governor, a title which was soon and easily shortened to "Governor." Mrs. Governor Clemens enjoyed being a Governor's wife. No one on this planet ever enjoyed a distinction more than she enjoyed that one. Her delight in being the head of society was so frank that it disarmed criticism, and even envy. Being the Governor's wife and head of society, she looked for a proper kind of house to live in—a house commensurate with these dignities—and she easily persuaded Orion to build that house. Orion could be persuaded to do anything. He recklessly built and furnished a house at a cost of twelve thousand dollars, and there was no other house in that sagebrush capital that could approach this property for style and cost.

When Governor Nye's four-year term was drawing to a close, the mystery of why he had ever consented to leave the great State of New York and help inhabit that jack-rabbit desert was solved: he had gone out there in order to become a United States Senator.

All that was now necessary was to turn the Territory into a State. He did it without any difficulty. That patch of sand and that sparse population were not well fitted for the heavy burden of a state government, but no matter, the people were willing to have the change, and so the Governor's game was made.

Orion's game was made too, apparently, for he was as popular because of his honesty as the Governor was for more substantial reasons; but at the critical moment the inborn capriciousness of his character rose up without warning, and disaster followed.

Tuesday, April 3, 1906

The Barnes incident again—Barnes appointed to postmastership of Washington—Mr. Clemens prepares speech on King Leopold of Belgium, but suppresses it after learning that our Government will do nothing in the matter—Intends to speak at Majestic Theatre on "The American Gentleman" but is defeated by length of first part of program—Theodore Roosevelt the American gentleman—Mark Twain letter sells for forty-three dollars at Nast sale—Report cabled that Mr. Clemens was dying, in London—Reporters interview him for American papers.


"White House Strong-Arm Methods," Says a Local Newspaper.


New Postmaster Characterized as a Carpetbagger—Citizens Say Selection Is an Insult.

Special to The New York Times.

WASHINGTON, April 2.—The President's selection of Benjamin F. Barnes, his assistant secretary, to be Postmaster of Washington has raised a storm. It is being criticised as a "carpetbag" appointment, Barnes being a New Jersey man. Members of the House and Senate criticise it, and it is reported that an effort will be made to defeat the confirmation.

The feeling on the subject is shown to-night in the appearance of The Evening Star, the Administration's strongest supporter in the city press. The Barnes matter breaks out all over the paper. First, there is a cartoon representing the President handing the District of Columbia an April fool cigar, which explodes, the face of Barnes appearing in the smoke, while the President shouts "April Fool!" Next there are three columns of interviews with prominent citizens of the District and members of Congress, all condemning the appointment.

The leading editorial article is devoted to the subject, and says that the President has rewarded "his tactless and too strenuous bouncer" by giving him the Washington Post Office at double his present salary. The Star says:

"There remain, logically, to be rewarded at the expense of the District, the policemen who shared with Mr. Barnes the honors in the Morris drag-out. What shall their harvest be—a local Judgeship, Commissionership, or Superintendency of Police?"

The Star prints a string of clippings from other papers ridiculing the appointment. Then, all over the editorial page are scattered detached paragraphs like these:

The application of White House strong-arm methods to the local Postal Service may relieve the patrons of the office of the necessity of licking their own stamps.

Much as Oyster Bay approves of the President it would rise in indignation if he used his influence to supplant its local men in local offices.

The April Fool wag becomes less violent as the years go by. His style of humor is but seldom exploited to any shocking extent. The recent appointment of a Postmaster for Washington offers a contrary argument, but it is only one of those exceptions which prove the rule.

When in future your letters seem to have been hit by a cyclone, passed through a train wreck, and run through a sausage machine you will know that they have come out of the Washington Post Office. But don't go to the Post Office to complain unless in need of exercise. Ladies should observe extreme caution in this matter.

Some of the President's local proteges are as enthusiastic for Mr. Barnes as they were for the whipping post not long ago.

There is a strong feeling that in the matter of appointments Niagara Falls has very much the better of the transaction.

The last reference is to the transfer of Postmaster Merritt to Niagara Falls to make room for Mr. Barnes. Finally The Star prints letters from citizens to the editor protesting against the appointment.

Among the interviews with prominent citizens is one with R. Ross Perry, a leading lawyer, who says: "Apparently the President thinks this district should be governed as the Romans governed a conquered province." D. William Oyster calls it "an insult to our community." Mason W. Richardson says: "We seem to have no rights that are worthy of respect." John Ridout says, "in view of the temperament of Mr. Barnes, as disclosed in the Morris incident, the prospect for satisfactory interviews between him and citizens acting in the exercise of their right to criticise the administration of his office is not encouraging."

So far as I can remember, I have kept track of the Barnes incident by occasionally inserting an informing clipping from the newspapers. If anything is lacking from this procession of signal-posts it is the President's letter of some weeks ago. Maybe I inserted it. Possibly I didn't. But it is no matter. Either way will do. It was splendidly brutal, frankly heartless. It contained not a word of pity for the abused lady; and an equally striking feature of it was that it contained not a word of pity for the President himself. Surely everybody else pitied him, and was ashamed of him. It contained not a word of rebuke, nor even of criticism of Barnes's conduct, and its approval of it was so pronounced that the spirit of it amounted to praise.

And now the President has appointed this obscene slave to the postmastership of Washington. The daring of it—the stupid blindness of it—is amazing. It would be unbelievable if it emanated from any human being in the United States except our incredible President.

When Choate and I agreed to speak at Carnegie Hall on the 22d of January, along with Booker Washington, in the interest of his Tuskegee Institute, I at first took that thief and assassin, Leopold II King of the Belgians, as my text, and carefully prepared a speech—wrote it out in full, in fact, several weeks beforehand. But when the appointed date was drawing near I began to grow suspicious of our Government's attitude toward Leopold and his fiendishnesses. Twice I went to Washington and conferred with the State Department. Then I began to suspect that the Congo Reform Association's conviction that our Government's pledged honor was at stake in the Congo matter was an exaggeration; that the Association was attaching meanings to certain public documents connected with the Congo which the strict sense of the documents did not confirm. A final visit to the State Department settled the matter. The Department had kept its promise, previously made to the President and to me, that it would examine into the matter exhaustively and see how our Government stood. It was found that of the fourteen Christian Governments pledged to watch over Leopold and keep him within treaty limits, our Government was not one. Our Government was only sentimentally concerned, not officially, not practically, not by any form of pledge or promise. Our Government could interfere in the form of prayer or protest, but so could a Sunday-school. I knew that the Administration was going to be properly and diplomatically polite, and keep out of the muddle; therefore I privately withdrew from the business of agitating the Congo matter in the united States, and wrote the Boston branch that I thought it would be a pity to wring the hearts of this nation further with the atrocities Leopold was committing upon those helpless black natives of the Congo, since this would be to harrow up the feelings of the nation to no purpose—since the nation itself could do nothing save through its Government, and the Government would of course do nothing.

Excerpted from AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN VOLUME 2 by BENJAMIN GRIFFIN, HARRIET ELINOR SMITH. Copyright © 2013 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


List of Dictations....................     xiv     

Acknowledgments....................     xvii     

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN....................     1     

Explanatory Notes....................     457     


Samuel L. Clemens: A Brief Chronology....................     649     

Family Biographies....................     652     

Previous Publication....................     656     

Note on the Text....................     661     

Word Division in This Volume....................     663     

References....................     665     

Index....................     697     

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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
JiffyPopYumYum More than 1 year ago
Absolutely brilliant. Even from beyond the grave, Twain is in a league by himself. This is Twain’s best work ever!
SarahMcClurg More than 1 year ago
An amazing book about Mark Twain told in his own words. It is a stunning look into the mind of a brilliant man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is very helpful if you have read volume one of his autobiography. Nevertheless, you only have to read a few pages of volume two to discovered twin's insight into the human condition. He has a unique view of his America that is just as applicable then as it is today. I wonder what he would have said of our politicians and the Republican shutdown. How illuminating it would have been. Highly recommended for intelligent readers of all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a gift for a serious Mark Twain fan. It got a lot of press when it was published a few years ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So enjoyable.  Takes you right back in time. Best of the best -- brilliant writer. Loved it.
otterly More than 1 year ago
Since I have already read the first part of the life of Mark Twain, I had to read this second part as well. He certainly had an exciting life. Unfortunately two of his three daughters and his wife all had poor health. Olivia his wife was never in good health. Suzy, the eldest died of meningitis and the middle daughter was epileptic. He made some bad investments, but got to travel to a number of places. Some people may find it somewhat dry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read several works by the autbor, and this one continues to give insight into the authentic Christianity that the author has been advocating for decades now. The form of Christianity espoused in this book, like in many other works by this author, maybe hard to swallow for some, but to me, it rings true. I was a little apprehensive about the content because of the title, but I'm glad I decided to add this book to my collection. It was a fast read for me, and like his other books, mind-blowing in its revelations. It actually made me want to go back and read the Gospel of John again, now being able to see the story of Jesus in a brand new light.