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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:53:16 -0600
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
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I've been out of town and very busy or would respond a bit quicker--

To reply to two points:

1. Alf Doten and the timing of his prank: Clemens took on his nom de plume 
early in 1863 and if my memory serves the first newspaper account with the 
bar tab story did not appear until 1877, so Doten had plenty of time to pull 
his prank AFTER Clemens became Mark Twain. If Doten met Twain a few times in 
1864 he could have been telling his story any time after that, and like all 
gossip, the story spread from that point on among others in various forms.

2. Why did Clemens adopt a nom de plume? I hate to repeat myself, but please 
read my article where I address this specific point in considerable detail. 
The short version: It has to do with gaining a reputation in the newspaper 
exchange system (there was no newspaper called THE EXCHANGE as an article in 
the MARK TWAIN ANNUAL asserts, so I suggest that writer read --or reread--  
my article also). Newspaper editors often copied pieces from other papers 
without attribution, but when a comic nom de plume was attached to a piece 
they tended to include it. If the author of a piece was clever enough to 
insinuate his own persona and nom de plume into the structure of the piece 
he was writing --say, as a character, as Twain often did-- it made it harder 
for other editors copying one of his pieces to drop his name. By having your 
pieces spread under your own name (that is, your own nom de plume) you made 
yourself more valuable to your own newspaper because that paper became more 
popular in the exchange system, and you could get paid more. It also built a 
brand through the exchange system, and once you had a recognized nom de 
plume, you could launch a lecture career or gather up your newspaper pieces 
into a book and earn even more from your writings. Virtually every newspaper 
writer aspired to be better known, increase his income, and advance his 
career, and virtually every such writer who established even a minor 
reputation with a nom de plume tried his hand at the lecture circuit and 
published collections of his writings in book form --as did Twain. This 
explains both his motivation and the timing of his decision to create a nom 
de plume that he then stuck with to the end of his life. This is not my 
theory alone; for more information on the exchange system and how nom de 
plumes functioned as I've described I strongly suggest reading WRITING WITH 
SCISSORS by Ellen Gruber Garvey, whom I credit in my article. It's an 
excellent piece of scholarship which I reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum. Of 
course, if you fear that reading Garvey's book might challenge what you 
think you know about nom de plumes and the newspaper exchange system then 
don't go anywhere near this book and if you dare to read my article then 
avert your eyes from my citations and footnotes.

3. OK, here's a third "bonus" point: as for how often Sam Clemens heard the 
term "mark twain" when working on the lower Mississippi and what term he 
actually used at the time instead of "mark twain" those are not addressed in 
my article, but I know the answers and they are explained and amply 
documented in the text of my updated article on his nom de plume --but that 
won't be offered for publication until I have a couple of other articles put 
to bed. The answers may surprise you. Like so much of Twain's self-generated 
mythologies, the facts are at serious variance with the myth.

Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730
Member: ABAA, ILAB
You may browse our books at:

-----Original Message----- 
From: Robert E. Stewart [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 11:59 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: That bar tab story.

We cannot ask Alf Doten himself, but we can check his diaries:

In the 1960s, into the 1970s, author Walter Van Tilberg Clark heavily
edited the diaries of Alf Doten into three volumes with a total of 2,224 
plus appendices and index, published by the University of Nevada  Press. To
the great frustration of historians in Nevada, the published  pages
represent perhaps a half of Doten's extensive files. From the entries  about 
below, I think it is doubtful that Doten was the  jokester creating the bar
tab story. I also doubt that editor  Clark omitted any mentions Doten made
of Twain. After reading all the  Twain entries in the Index, I append those
I think you will agree make  it highly unlikely that Doten gave enough time
and attention to Twain  to bother with creating the bar tab story.

On Page 767 (Vol. 1), Doten wrote:
Sunday, March 6, 1864. Clear & peasant. rose late. AM I went to  Creoss's
awhile. J.D. Winters introduced me to "Mark Twain" --had pleasant  little
chat with him.... [no further mention that day of Twain.]

Then on March 4, Doten, who is living in the mining camp of Como, some
distance from Virginia City, writes: ...Evening stage brought a noted
correspondent of the Territorial Enterprise who writes under the"nomme de 
plume"  of
"Mark Twain."  His name is Samuel Clements.  [sic]

The next mention is on page 830, (Vol 2) 1865: Sunday, April 9. ...Went to
Sutterleys -- took my portrait twice--small cards, and one big picture to
hang  up in the gallery with Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille. [Sutterley's is a
photo  emporium.]

Page 900 1866: "Mark Twain" (Sam Clemens) arrived this evening from
California. D. E. McCarthy, one of the former proprietors of the Enterprise 
with him.

There are other, later, mentions of Twain, but none pertinent to this

Bob Stewart
Carson City