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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 4 Nov 2010 09:22:03 -0700
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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"Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
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John Hay was one of the early entrusted readers of Twain's 1601 and one of its admirers, calling it a "masterpiece" and a "classic."  1601 was written in 1876 but not printed in its rare West Point edition until 1882.  In 1880 Hay wrote to a friend and art dealer named Gunn a series of letters about 1601, but apparently nothing came of that correspondence, at least insofar as publication is concerned.
martin zehr
kansas city

--- On Thu, 11/4/10, Harold Bush <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

From: Harold Bush <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: John Hay in the new volume .. and MT's theory/method
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Thursday, November 4, 2010, 9:51 AM

this AUTOBIOGRAPHY is rather astonishing.  bravo, MT Project folks, esp. Bo=
and Harriet!!

a great comment on its style and content=97and on the sheer audacity of
Twain=92s theory and method of autobiography--is captured in a small snippe=
Twain=92s encounter one day with his friend John Hay, former secretary of
Abraham Lincoln and then author of a ten-volume biography of the slain
president.   Hay gave him his theory, in effect:  =93each fact and each
fiction will be a dab of paint, each will fall into its right place, and
together they will paint his portrait; not the portrait he thinks they are
painting, but his real portrait, the inside of him, the soul of him, his
character.  Without intending to lie he will lie all the time. . . .
consciousness in twilight; a soft and merciful twilight which makes his
general form comely, with his virtuous prominences and projections
discernible and his ungracious ones in shadow.  His truths will be
recognizable as truths, his modifications of facts which would tell against
him will go for nothing, the reader will see the fact through the film and
know the man.  There is a subtle devilish something or other about
autobiographical composition that defeats all thte writer=92s attempts to
paint his portrait *his* way." (223-4)

This is great stuff and I'm wondering now about other places that MT's
connection with Hay is addressed -- I do not recall much about this
friendship but having just spent massive efforts on Lincoln it is now very
intriguing to me.  I think Hay is discussed in Paine's biography, but also
cannot recall seeing this anecdote in other editions but my memory is not
what it used to be.

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