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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 19:11:19 -0500
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I was much sorrowed when I read on this Forum the news about the
passing of the fine Twain scholar, Pascal Covici, Jr.  I feel
moved to share some of my experiences with him and perhaps shed a
little light on his contributions to Mark Twain studies and our
Mark Twain community as well.

I met Pascal shortly after seeing his name in the first
membership list of the Mark Twain Circle.  I was organizing
graduate student lectures in Denton, Texas, at the time, noticed
Pascal lived in nearby Dallas, so I invited him to come speak at
the University of North Texas. I recall his wife's description of
him so I'd recognize him in the parking lot--"Oh,  you can't miss
him.  He's very tall, very distinguished, very professorial."

When he graciously came to our get-together, Pascal gave me an
autographed copy of the third printing of his book, _Mark Twain's
Humor: The Image of a World_ (SMU Press, 1962) which I later came
to see as the linchpin of his published thoughts on Twain,
American literary history, and--perhaps his second literary
love--John Steinbeck. (He wrote the introduction to _The Portable
John Steinbeck_.)  As a scholar with a historical bent myself, I
appreciated Pascal's linking of Twain to earlier names, notably
Franklin and Hawthorne. He was among the first to discuss Twain
in the context of Old Southwest Humor and was among the first to
analyze the techniques of Twain's humor. Pascal's studies are
still useful for both literary scholars and classroom teachers,
and _Mark Twain's Humor_, in particular, should have a long shelf

I also remember Pascal as a gifted lecturer, notably that lecture
he gave back in Denton where he pulled together historical themes
and the depth of his understanding of American literary humor,
presiding over a day of Twain events both enjoyable and
illuminating.  I remember his voice forced to cut through the bad
acoustics at our Mark Twain Circle dinner in Washington D.C. when
he served as our president, and how he grumbled about having to
see "that damn musical" in Elmira which he found an excessive
financial burden on Twain scholars at our first gathering at
Elmira College. I seem to be repeating the word "first"--an
indication of how integral Pascal was to modern Twain studies.

As a result of our shared interest in literary history, Pascal
invited me to do a paper on Carlyle, Dickens and Twain for one
ALA session a few years back, a privilege that led to one of my
first publications and other Twain projects that developed from
my always warm association with Pascal and his very special wife,
Joanne.  So I feel a personal debt of gratitude to Pascal and
want to wish his family well--they are a class act but will miss
so much with his passing.  As will we all.

Wesley Britton