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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Oct 2011 13:07:20 -0700
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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I am not familiar with "Brief Biography of Government" (though if you find it, 
I'd love to know where it might be, if you've a mind to share), but I believe 
that "A Difficult Conundrum" was actually a manuscript title for a piece 
unpublished in Twain's lifetime, a title he later changed to "Flies and 
Russians."  I looked for this one, because the title made me think it might be 
related to the minstrel shows, but it wasn't.

Barb Schmidt has a wonderful feature essay on, "Mark Twain on 
Czars, Siberia, and the Russian Revolution," in which she argues that the 
manuscripts show signs that Twain was thinking of combining the re-named piece 
with "The Czar's Soliloquy," but that he chose not to.  Her bibliography shows 
that "Flies and Russians" was first published in John Tuckey's 1972 Mark Twain's 
Fables of Man.  I did not write it down in my notes, but I think the manuscript 
might be at the Twain Papers in Berkeley.

And I could be completely mistaken about this, but as I recall both Lou's 
argument and Sundquist's, the connection is more circumstantial and contextual 
than directly evidential.  The case was notorious in its day and would have been 
difficult to miss, especially with Clemens's fondness for keeping up with 
current events.  It seems a likely deduction that the case would still have been 
fresh in his mind when he made the twins Italian as a way of exploring the 
attitudes of the townspeople and how quickly their fascination with exoticism 
and Old World charm and their ambivalent denial of the color line can turn 

It was also one of those cases that mark the turning point of racial lynching, 
as the reasons given for the lynching were that Italian crime syndicate members 
(not sure whether they were called "mafia" then), who were impossible to 
convict.  This would seem to belong to the old style of lynching (about 
vigilante justice, redressing wrongs that the system could not), but as it was 
also unclear that the so-called mob ties were anything but racist fantasy, it 
also seems to belong to the new, paranoid racial lynching that was on the rise.  
It seems likely that Twain would be particularly interested in this case and 
that it would have had some influence on the writing of PW, but I can't recall 
there being any direct evidence.


From: Harold Bush <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, October 6, 2011 10:56:50 AM
Subject: a couple of little known pieces

Does anyone know of, and perhaps can direct my attention to the location of,
a couple of minor pieces by MT --both mentioned by the late Lou Budd in his
still amazingly relevant and useful book MT: Social Philosopher:

"Brief Biography of the Government" & "A Difficult Conundrum"? (both around
the turn of century)

Prof. Budd also asserts in this book that Puddn'head Wilson's use of
lynching was somehow spurred onward by the infamous lynching of eleven
Italians in New Orleans, March 1891, but he gives no reason for this
assertion.  Any ideas about this possible connection; or evidence that Twain
had this specific incident in mind as he wrote PW?

thanks, -hb

Harold K. Bush, Ph.D
Professor of English
Saint Louis University
St. Louis, MO  63108
314-977-3616 (w); 314-771-6795 (h)