“I intend that this autobiography . . . shall be read and admired a good many centuries because of its form and method-a form and method whereby the past and the present are constantly brought face to face, resulting in contrasts which newly fire up the interest all along, like contact of flint with steel.”
Thus Mark Twain began the first of the twenty-five “Chapters from My Autobiography” published in the North American Review 1906-1907. Those chapters contain a unified account of Twain's life recorded in his own unmistakable voice; in them we read his life's story as he intended it to be read and savored.
More than just the story of a literary career, Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography is securely anchored in the writer’s relation to his family. His memories of his beloved wife Livy and daughter Susy-what they meant to him as a husband, a father, and an artist-constitute a poignant self-portrait. At the same time, this text draws on Twain’s immense autobiographical writings for some of his best comic anecdotes, such as those that recall his rambunctious boyhood in Hannibal, his misadventures in the Nevada territory, and his notorious Whittier birthday speech.
Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography stands as the last of Twain’s great yarns. Here he tells his story in his own way, freely expressing his joys and sorrows, his affections and hatreds, his rages and reverence-ending, as always, tongue-in-cheek: “Now, then, that is the tale. Some of it is true.”
About the Author
Michael J. Kiskis (d. 2011) was the Leonard Tydings Grant Professor of American Literature at Elmira College. He was also the co-editor of Constructing Mark Twain: New Directions in Scholarship.
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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