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Howard Harrelson, author
*Twain's 21st Century Reader*
On Thu, Nov 22, 2012 at 7:17 PM, John H. Muller <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hello, all Twain scholars.
> I am a relative newcomer to the historiography of Twain. My first
> book, *Frederick
> Douglass in Washington, D.C.* was published in early October by The History
> Press. I have recently begun research for "Mark Twain in Washington." I'm
> looking for more information on Twain's February 1868 short story, "General
> Washington's Negro Body-Servant" that he seemingly wrote while living in
> Washington, D.C.
> I've reviewed Twain's D.C.-related journalism online at TwainQuotes.com as
> well as the twenty-plus clips that David C. Mearns gathered that are now
> held at the LOC's Manuscript Division. Many of the Mearns clips are
> articles from the *Daily Evening Star *and *National Intelligence* that
> report on Twain in D.C. as oppose to Twain's writings on D.C., with the
> exception of a "Letter to the Editor." I've also done independent searches
> of the *Star* and other Washington papers for Twain hits from November 1867
> - March 1868. This research has yielded insights into not only Twain's time
> in Washington but how he interacted with the local city.
> My own speculation, which I would like to try to prove or disprove, is that
> when Twain was in D.C. he would have regularly heard of the story of
> General / President Washington's Negro Body Servant. (In D.C. today there
> are many urban myths that are told over and over again, so this is where my
> speculation comes from.) Following this speculation, my guess is Twain
> heard it enough times, and had read about enough times that he grew tired
> of it, and this inspired him to write the article in question. In George
> Alfred Townsend's 1873
> writes, =93It was not uncommon as well for Congressmen, Bureau officers,
> the loitering gentry of Washington to so embarrass themselves at the gaming
> tables as to be obliged to sell their body servants.=94
> I've read through Twain's autobiographical sketches for the *North American
> Review*, Justin Kaplan's Pulitzer-Prize winning work that details Twain in
> Washington, Fishkin's work "Was Huck Black," Paine's Vol. 1 with a short
> chapter on Twain in Washington, and other sources. I haven't found any
> specific or substantive references to "General Washington's Negro Body
> Servant" in these works, unless I have overlooked them which is possible. I
> have checked JSTOR which hasn't turned up anything of consequence.
> A search of Twain's letters at the MT Project show up three annotation hits
> on the story. In a Jan. 24, 1868 letter <http://bit.ly/RXSem3> from Twain
> (SLC) to his mother and sister he mentions the story as "I have a stupid
> article in the Galaxy, just issued."
> This is a synopsis of my research to this point which has yielded limited
> success. If there is any existing scholarship on "General Washington's
> Negro-Body Servant" that I have overlooked or missed I would appreciate any
> advice or guidance.
> Thank you for your time and help.
> John Muller
> [log in to unmask]
> Capital Community News
> Greater Greater Washington
> *Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C: The Lion of
> Published by The History Press, October 2012
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