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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 5 Jan 2011 11:32:55 -0600
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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> at what point
> does the editing stop?
> Kit Barry
> The Ephemera Archive for American Studies=

In this edition I think the editing stops with substituting "slave" for 
"nigger" and "Indian" for "Injun."  Somebody mentiioned the John Wallace 
edition of HF, but I'd like to point out that he did much more than a few 
word substitutions. I'll give just one example. In the famous passage where 
Huck replies "No'm. Killed a nigger" that entire sentence is deleted in 
Wallace's edition, with the result that Huck simply replies "No'm" which in 
turn erases all the racism out of Aunt Sally's response. I don't think any 
of us can endorse that sort of defanging of Twain's text. But if all you do 
is substitute the word "slave" in Huck's reply, the racist impact of Aunt 
Sally's remark remains intact. There is co comparison between this new 
edition and the Wallace edition.

I've also seen a cyber-comment that Twain would never have allowed his texts 
to be defanged. Nonsense! He did it all the time, usually in response to 
Livy, or Howells, or after road-testing his texts before an audience. In 
`Journalism in Tennessee' there's a newspaper editor who is described as a 
"crawling insect" who is "braying."  Really? An insect that brays? 
Jack-asses bray, not insects, and in Twain's own copy of that printed text 
he corrected the printed text back to "jack-ass." Without original 
manuscripts and revised copies of his printed texts we may never know the 
full extent of Twain's self-editing, or how much he allowed others to fiddle 
with his texts. Twain's editing was not limited to word choices. Didn't he 
leave out a chapter about lynching from one book so as not to harm sales in 
the south?

As Twain once remarked when the Concord Library banned HF, all of the noise 
and chatter would probably just sell more copies. I hope that's the result 
this time around. More readers for HF!!

One last thought-- quibble as we may among ourselves, I hope we all circle 
our wagons if the attacks on Al Gribben escalate. He is one of us, a friend, 
a boon to Twain scholarship, and a good guy. I know a good safe-house in 
Austin, Texas.

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

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