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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Kim Rogers <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 21 Jan 2015 13:56:36 -1000
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Could there be a fourth Hawaii notebook?

First, allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Kim Steutermann Rogers, and I am a writer and journalist living in Hawaii and researching Twain’s visit nearly 150 years ago. I find it ironic that I came of age and spent my early adult years in Mark Twain’s home state, graduating from Missouri School of Journalism, but it wasn’t until I moved to Hawaii 15 years ago that the Twain bug bit.

I made a brief appearance here some years back while working on my MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing. But, then, a j-o-b and life got in the way, and by the time I got back around to this little Twain project of mine, I’d changed emails and had to re-join the List.

Now, the fun.

In addition to re-joining the group, I returned to the Mark Twain Project & Papers in Berkeley this past November where I held in my hands one of two extant notebooks--the second was out for digitizing--from Twain’s visit to Hawaii, and I admit to holding it to my nose in hopes of a lingering scent of cigar smoke. Alas, there was none. 

These two notebooks cover Twain's ocean voyages to and from Hawaii along with notes from some weeks on O'ahu. However, most scholars believe there was a third Hawaii notebook that went missing some time after Twain returned to San Francisco. In it, it's felt, he wrote notes about his visits to Maui and Big Island--no matter how much he professed in personal letters to not writing a lick while he was on Maui. 

Presumably, he used his notes from this missing notebook to write the last eight of 25 letters about Hawaii for the Sacramento Union after his return to San Francisco. All but one of these eight are narrative in form and recount his adventures exploring Big Island with his fictive traveling companion Mr. Brown. The lone non-Big Island, non-Mr. Brown letter covers the growing enterprise of sugar in Hawaii. In it, Twain compares the productivity of sugar cane per acre in Hawaii to that in Louisiana and Mauritius. He lists the annual yield rates for 29 plantations in Hawaii. He identifies the costs of growing sugar cane in Louisiana and Hawaii. He shares specific details about the maturation rate of sugar cane. He goes into great detail about the processing of sugar cane. All in all, this is a straight business reportage letter filled with facts and figures and not a single character or anecdote, and, as such, quite different from the other seven letters on Big Island.

And that's what got me wondering: Could there have been a fourth notebook? And maybe it went missing before he got around to writing the last of his Sacramento Union letters.

Because Twain had plenty of adventures on Maui. He went for a week but stayed five. He toured sugar plantations, trekked up Haleakala, and explored 'Iao Valley, and he would spend the rest of his life pining to return to Hawaii, in particular Maui. So why didn't he write more about those experiences? He adds a few anecdotes about Maui in Roughing It but just barely.

According to a Mr. Armstrong with whom Twain often visited on Maui, sitting on Armstrong's lanai chatting and smoking cigars, "He would write over at the other house, where he slept, until two or three o'clock in the morning, then sleep the next day." (Goodhue, E.S., "Mark Twain's Hawaiian Home," Mid-Pacific Magazine, August 12, 1916, 177-181.)

In Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, Volume 1, the editors (Frederick Anderson, Michael B. Frank, and Kenneth M. Sanderson) write, "Upon receiving a commission to go to the Sandwich Islands in the spring of 1866 to report on conditions there for the Sacramento Union, the developing writer took at least three notebooks along."

With the great wealth of knowledge here, I am wondering if anyone’s heard or read anything on this theory with which I’m playing--about a fourth Hawaii notebook. Maybe someone already studied this possibility and ruled it out for one reason or another. But if not, I'm also curious what others think about the likelihood of a fourth Hawaii notebook. How likely/unlikely it could be. Or any other thoughts

I look forward to hearing what you think.


Kim Steutermann Rogers
PO Box 823
Anahola, HI 96703

Write: [log in to unmask]
Call: 808-634-6667

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