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Andrew Dickson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 8 Aug 2013 20:32:31 -0400
text/plain (147 lines)
just did the math, and mark twain had an $82,000/year salary as a steamboat
captain, adjusting inflation rates of $250~/month (which translates to

On Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 5:42 PM, Kevin Mac Donnell <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Yes, I dropped a bombshell at the Elmira Conference, but I could only cover
> the bare outlines of my article in my 15 minute paper, so I strongly urge
> anyone interested to read the much longer and documented article on the
> subject in the Mark Twain Journal. In fact, I urge everyone to subscribe to
> the MTJ. I'm not sure how soon volume 50 will be available for sale as a
> back issue, but that's also possible at some point. However, if you
> subscribe you'll be the first on your block to read my next bombshell in an
> upcoming issue of MTJ (I'm not kidding, and I'm not out of bombshells just
> yet).
> In a nutshell, while looking for something else in Google Books in
> 2005-6-7,
> I found a use of the name "Mark Twain" used as a proper name in a burlesque
> sketch in a comic journal in 1861 that was edited by a prominent Phunny
> Phellow. This burlesque piece made fun of southern mariners by giving them
> names made up from insulting nautical terms, whose meanings I explain in my
> article. It's a comic journal already known to have been read by Twain, and
> an Artemus Ward piece in that very same issue of this journal has
> previously
> been cited as a piece familiar to Twain, so it's hard to imagine that Twain
> did not turn two more pages in that issue and notice "Mark Twain" in the
> little burlesque sketch I found. I confided my discovery to a colleague who
> agreed to keep it under his hat. But in 2012 I was offered a copy of this
> comic journal by a bookseller who cited the burlesque piece with "Mark
> Twain" and I knew my secret was out. I assume my colleague let the secret
> slip while trying to help me in my research, but it's possible somebody
> else
> became aware of the same piece on their own. But the bookseller offering me
> the journal for sale said they could not recall how they'd heard of it, so
> I'm doubtful. Anyway, it was time to go into print with what I had, a
> little
> sooner than I had planned.
> Now, back to 1861... Twain was not in the market for a nom de plume at that
> point in his life, whether he read this journal in 1861 or not. He was a
> highly paid ($250/mo) successful steamboat pilot and had no body of writngs
> to call his own, and no intention of becoming an author at that moment in
> his life. But the war came and ended his chosen career. He was soon off to
> Nevada, and by 1863, when he visited Carson City, he was indeed a writer
> and
> had a body of work and needed a nom de plume. He abruptly adopted the name
> "Mark Twain" while in Carson City in Feb 1863 and ten years later when
> asked
> about it he claimed to have gotten it from Capt Sellers who he said had
> recently died and had used the name "Mark Twain" before him. This has been
> proven factually false. Sellers was not yet dead in Feb, 1863 and no piece
> by Sellers (or anyone else) has ever been found signed "Mark Twain" before
> Twain's use in Feb 1863. In my article I go into some detail to explain how
> the newspaper exchange system worked and which CA and NV newspapers were
> exchanging with this comic journal where this piece had appeared, and which
> papers would have had files of that journal sitting on their office shelves
> in Nevada in Feb., 1863 where Twain would have found them. Whetehr or not
> he
> saw it in 1861, I think he certainly saw it in 1863, and I explain why
> Twain
> would have made up the Sellers story to hide the true source of his nom de
> plume, how he began asserting his brand both in the literary and commercial
> marketplaces, and how he was deliberately changing his style of humor away
> from the Phunny Phellow style, and how this explains why he used the
> Sellers
> story to connect his nom de plume with the Mississippi River instead of the
> actual context in which the name was first used in that comic journal in
> 1861 (as a nautical term used by ocean-going sailing vessels to merely
> indicate shallow water --a mere two fathoms or 12 feet--keep in mind that
> ocean-going vessels of that day drafted 15 to 25 feet, while flat-bottomed
> Mississippi steamboats drafted just 6-8 feet). So, the Mark Twain who
> appeared as a character in that 1861 burlesque piece was merely a shallow
> fool; Twain wanted to connect his nom de plume to the Mississippi River
> that
> was central to his life and writings, where it has dual meanings (safe or
> dangerous water, depending on your direction of travel from shallow or
> deeper waters). I make the case that he saw this burlesque in 1863 in
> Carson
> City in a newspaper exchange file (or one of several other likely places)
> and that this suggested the possibilities to him, triggering his sudden
> decision to adopt his nom de plume. The real importance of all of this is
> that it demonstrates that Twain was more aware of the meanings and
> usefulness of his nom de plume, and more conscious of his public image and
> brand than we might have thought, and was motivated to adopt a good nom de
> plume to increase his value as an author being reprinted in the exchange
> system, and was willing to engage in creating his own mythology. Nothing
> wrong with any of this, and I admire his smarts.
> This is probably a terrible summary of my article, and if I take the time
> to
> reread what I've written in this posting I'll end up scratching around on
> it
> until I've written my entire article all over again, so I'll stop here.
> I've
> been a little vague on the details on purpose, hoping that the curious will
> consider themselves sufficiently teased into springing for a few bucks and
> supporting the MTJ with a subscription or at least a back issue request. I
> don't get a dime out of any of this, but the MTJ is very close to finally
> being caught up and deserves all the support anyone has to offer. Did I
> mention that volume 50, the issue in which my article appears, is full of
> purdy pichers of things that illustrate my article, including some things
> nobody has seen before? Well, I just did.
> Kevin
> @
> Mac Donnell Rare Books
> 9307 Glenlake Drive
> Austin TX 78730
> 512-345-4139
> Member: ABAA, ILAB
> *************************
> You may browse our books at
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Arianne" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2013 1:53 PM
> Subject: Kevin's Discovery?
> > Is there any chance we'll get any part of the revelation here?  I'm
> > profoundly interested in this subject.  Another take on the source
> > of TWAIN!
> >
> > --
> > Arianne Laidlaw
> >
> >
> >
> > -----
> > No virus found in this message.
> > Checked by AVG -
> > Version: 2013.0.3392 / Virus Database: 3209/6559 - Release Date: 08/08/13
> >
> -----
> No virus found in this message.
> Checked by AVG -
> Version: 2013.0.3392 / Virus Database: 3209/6559 - Release Date: 08/08/13