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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
tdempsey <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 19 Mar 2004 23:37:21 -0600
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear Forum members.  I have just about recovered my breath from the slavery book and am about to start anew on a biography of Sam Clemens from birth through his young manhood.  I have arranged with the local college for students to work with me starting in the autumn.  I am convinced there is primary information out there that has been overlooked beyond slavery.  I know I stumbled past some interesting material doing the slavery research simply because I didn't know it wasn't known.
    While I realize I am going to find what I find -- I have the greatest respect for serendipity -- I would like to know what specific questions or areas you are curious about.  If you have suggestions, I would very much appreciate hearing from you. 
    I imagine the research will take several years.  I intend to comb city halls, county courthouses, newspapers, and other local institutions.   At Gregg Camfield's suggestion I am thinking of covering Iowa as well as St. Louis.  (I am particularly curious about James Clemens and dissatisfied by what is available to date.) 
    As my thinking about young Sam has matured, I have come to realize that the story of his childhood has been distorted dramatically -- and not just about slavery.  If his youth is in fact the material that Mark Twain mined for his greatest works, then it is worthy of serious study and attention.  We have to go beyond just recycling the same old material that is in the cathechism.
    So if you have any nagging questions or suggestions, please e-mail them to me at [log in to unmask] or snail-mail them to me at Terrell Dempsey, 400 North Fifth, Hannibal, Missouri 63401.  
    Hope everyone has a great weekend.