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Lawrence Howe <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:40:55 +0000
text/plain (78 lines)
With respect to Kevin's question about Mississippi literature, anyone interested should consult Thomas Ruys Smith's _River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain_ (LSU Press).  Tom's research is impeccable. 


Larry Howe
Professor of English
Chair, Department of Literature and Languages
Roosevelt University

Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies, Syddansk Universitet--Odense, 2014-15
From: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2015 9:27 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Connection between Twain and Lincoln

I agree with Larry Howe=E2=80=99s fine posting I decided to go ahead and =
send this private message to the list after reading his comment. Being a =
private message to a colleague it=E2=80=99s a little sharper in tone =
than a public message, but what the heck. The only change I might make =
is to suggest that some might prefer a different beverage than DP. =20

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

I was tempted to post something about it to the MTF but they=E2=80=99ve =
heard enough from me this week.

The first edition of Howells=E2=80=99 Lincoln bio was 170pp. and got a =
small circulation, although the edition size is unknown. The expanded =
edition was over 400pp. and was widely circulated (cf BAL). Extracts may =
have appeared in newspapers; in fact I=E2=80=99d be more surprised if =
they didn=E2=80=99t, but that=E2=80=99s easy enough to verify. Whether =
Lincoln=E2=80=99s raft story appeared in either, or both, or neither of =
those editions I have no idea. I=E2=80=99m doubtful Twain ever read the =
thing, but if an extract with the raft story from Howells=E2=80=99 =
Lincoln bio (or the other one) appeared in a newspaper where Twain was =
likely to have seen it, then one could speculate. But comparing this to =
Twain=E2=80=99s likelihood of seeing Vanity Fair in Virginia City is =
comparing apples and oranges. Just because such an extract from =
Howells=E2=80=99 Lincoln bio appeared in a city where Twain might have =
seen it does not make it likely that he did; he had no compelling reason =
to read every issue of every paper in every city he visited at that time =
in his life. But in Virginia City he was a reporter and one of his major =
chores was to scour over magazines and newspapers from the exchange =
system (he used a knife instead of scissors according to a witness) and =
there is strong evidence that exchange files of that magazine were at =
his disposal as well as being sold from a news-stand in Virginia City. =
In the end I think it may depend on how closely the Lincoln raft story =
parallels the HF raft story. I think the more interesting question is =
what =E2=80=9CMississippi raft literature=E2=80=9D =E2=80=93for lack of =
a better name=E2=80=94 had appeared before HF and how it was received =
and which ones Twain might have seen. If the studies of Twain=E2=80=99s =
humor in the context of southwestern humor are valid, then a study of =
=E2=80=9CMississippi raft literature=E2=80=9D would be equally valid =
=E2=80=93the evidence is no better or worse. No Davy Crockett =
autobiographies or almanacs, or Sut Lovingood books survive from =
Twain=E2=80=99s library, and I own the only annotated Artemus Ward book =
from Twain=E2=80=99s library (which doesn=E2=80=99t exactly confirm the =
claims of various scholars since it=E2=80=99s an 1870 edition), but =
nobody questions those influences on his writings. My reaction to all of =
this is that instead of refusing to read others=E2=80=99 research or =
taking uninformed potshots at the work of others, it would be more =
useful if some Twainians buckled down and started investigating the =
field of =E2=80=9CMississippi raft literature=E2=80=9D and see what they =
find. Like the research you and I do, they could spend hours and even =
days and find nothing, or they might discover something that contributes =
to what we know about Twain. It=E2=80=99s all right in front of them =
=E2=80=93all they need to do is pour a Dr Pepper, keep a pad of post-it =
notes at the ready, and start typing.    =20