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Barbara Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 6 Mar 2005 20:53:31 -0600
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_The Portable Mark Twain_. Edited with an introduction by Thomas Quirk.
Penguin Classics, 2004. Pp. 640. Paper. 7.7 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches. $17.00.
ISBN 0-14-243775-1.

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Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by
Barbara Schmidt

Copyright 2005 Mark Twain Forum. This review may not be published or
redistributed in any medium without permission.

_The Portable Mark Twain_ edited by Thomas Quirk is the first major
overhaul of this classic anthology since Bernard DeVoto first compiled it
for Viking Press in 1946. DeVoto, who became the second editor of the Mark
Twain Papers in 1938--a year after Albert Bigelow Paine died, chose to
emphasize Twain's general and profound satire rather than his humor in the
1946 edition. While _The Portable Mark Twain_ has gone through many
cosmetic changes over the years, the only substantive change, before now,
was John Seelye's addition of a bibliography during the 1960s.

Thomas Quirk, Professor of English at University of Missouri, Columbia has
served as editor of numerous Penguin Classic editions. His new edition of
this old classic takes advantage of over fifty years of intervening
scholarship. Quirk has added new material, deleted old material and as
Professor Louis J. Budd writes in a blurb for the volume, "put
state-of-the-art wheels, styling, and accessories on this pacesetter of
Mark Twain anthologies."

Quirk's goal for the book was to present an anthology that touched upon all
phases of Twain's work, including his humor. Both DeVoto and Quirk provide
their readers with an extensive introduction to Twain's life and his
career. However, after his introduction, DeVoto basically exits the scene
and leaves his readers to explore and experience Twain on their own. Quirk,
on the other hand, serves as an unobtrusive and valued guide throughout the
volume by providing his readers with notes on sources for texts;
suggestions for further reading; headnotes or mini-introductions to each
section of the book; a brief chronology of Twain's life; and a thumbnail
sketch of correspondents to whom Twain wrote letters. All are welcome
additions and representative of information that educators, scholars and
students have come to value.

Both the old and new edition of _Portable Mark Twain_ are out of the
starting gate with a version of the jumping frog story. But after a similar
start, content differences abound. DeVoto's edition virtually ignores
Twain's early humorous sketches and such major works as _Roughing It_, _The
Innocents Abroad_, and _The Gilded Age_. Quirk's edition ignores none of
these. The new _Portable Mark Twain_ now includes such contrasting sketches
as Twain's "An Encounter with an Interviewer" written in 1874 and "A True
Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It," also published in 1874. The
new edition now includes "The Story of the Old Ram" and "Buck Fanshaw's
Funeral" from  _Roughing It_; "At the Tomb of Adam" from _The Innocents
Abroad_; and "Colonel Sellers Entertains Washington Hawkins" from _The
Gilded Age_. DeVoto's edition includes "Jim Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn" from _A
Tramp Abroad_ as does Quirk's who also adds "The Hair Trunk" passage from
the same work.

DeVoto's volume includes a greater amount of material from _Life on the
Mississippi_. Quirk's selections are fewer from this work, but he showcases
"Sunrise on the River" from Chapter 30 and "The House Beautiful" from
Chapter 38 and encourages his readers to compare these passages to similar
passages that can be found in _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_. Both the
DeVoto and Quirk editions include the complete first edition text of
_Huckleberry Finn_ along with the "raftsman" passage which was intended for
the first edition but later deleted. Quirk does not incorporate any changes
to the text that have been made by the latest University of California
editions of _Huckleberry Finn_. For example, the misnamed "Bessie Thatcher"
can still be found in Chapter Eight. Both editions have samplings from _A
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court_. 

Quirk's edition of _Portable Mark Twain_ retains "The Private History of a
Campaign That Failed." His introduction emphasizes the differences between
the known fact and fiction of the story and points out that it is
inaccurate to claim that Sam Clemens was a Confederate soldier--a
clarification which is no doubt a nod to Terrell Dempsey's research
published in _Searching for Jim_ (University of Missouri Press, 2003).

Quirk offers "Extracts from Adam's Diary." DeVoto does not. DeVoto offers
"Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Quirk does not. Both editions
feature "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" and "Corn Pone Opinions." "The
War Prayer" and "Civic Virtue" have been dropped from Quirk's edition. Both
editions feature a similar passage from Twain's _Autobiography_ and
collections of maxims from _Pudd'nhead Wilson_ and _Following the Equator_.
Quirk also includes a passage from Chapter 21 of _Following the Equator_
which he titles "Decimating the Savages" to illustrate Twain's growing
tendency toward his future anti-imperialism stance. Quirk's edition
features five speeches and sixteen letters. DeVoto ignores Twain's speeches
and features twenty-eight letters. While some letters are the same, most
are different. Quirk's edition includes one letter from Sam Clemens to
Susan Crane that has been provided courtesy of the Mark Twain House in
Hartford and will be new to many scholars. For other letters, obtaining
public domain texts for the new edition was a priority and that most likely
explains the disappearance of such long-time favorites as Clemens's "Letter
to the Gas Company" written in February 1891. However, all is not lost--the
Gas Company letter can now be found in _Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good
Living_ (University of California Press, 2004).

So, the larger question remains--with all the new material in Quirk's
edition, what has been eliminated or dropped? The first edition text of
_The Mysterious Stranger_, published in 1916 after Twain's death, and "The
United States of Lyncherdom" are the two most obvious missing pieces. If
DeVoto was ever aware that his version of _The Mysterious Stranger_ (the
astrologer version) was bowdlerized and had been tampered with by his
predecessor Paine, he never gives a hint of it in his edition of this
printing. The first full extent of the "editorial intervention" was not
made public until 1963. Terry Oggel's research on the tampering of the
texts by Paine of "The United States of Lyncherdom" was only publicized
within the last few years. (See the Forum review of Oggel's article at: Quirk has made wise
and judicious decisions in eliminating and rejecting further use of these
two texts. Overall, the new edition of _The Portable Mark Twain_ is a
positive and worthwhile endeavor that should serve educators and students

A comprehensive comparison chart of both editions is available on the web
version of this review at: