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"Kevin. Mac Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 7 Apr 2006 14:27:09 -0500
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Gribben, pp 763-4, provides a handy summary of the divided critical opinion
on Twain's letter to WW for his 70th birthday dinner.  He also provides most
of the other info cited in several MT Forum postings on their relationship
(T's financial support, an essay he wrote in WW's defense, etc.). One view I
have not seen expressed (although somebody may have pointed this out
somewhere) is that Twain certainly knew he was writing a letter that would
be read aloud at the dinner, as was the custom, and very likely be
published, which was also the custom. The letters Twain wrote when he could
not personally attend similar events had been read aloud and published.
Knowing this, he may have deliberately written the letter in the manner he
did, cataloging in Whitmanesque tones the same "advances" of the 19th
century that WW had celebrated in his writings. Another way to put this
letter in reasonable context would be to compare it to the various letters
Twain wrote when he was unable to attend other dinners, before and after
this event. Cf. BAL, Johnson, and Camfield for citations for these other

Somebody --I don't remember who-- mentioned Twain's heavily annotated LEAVES
OF GRASS. That would be news to me. As I pointed out, Gribben cites one copy
(Kate Leary's) with "markings" on just four pages. The only other copy I
know about is Clara's 1908 edition, which is heavily annotated by Clara, but
with only a few marginal lines that might be by Twain (and that's a tough
call). Clara's copy was unknown to Gribben (and otherwise unknown or
unrecognized for what it is) until I stumbled across it two years ago.

Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX