Attempting to ungarble posting from Raymond Malewitz <
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Hi, Mark Twain Listserv.
My name is Ray Malewitz, and I’m in the process of putting together a
literary essay on representations of rabies in American literature. The
reason I’m writing is that I’m interested in finding out more info on the
“hairball” that Jim talks to near the beginning of Huck Finn, which as far
as I can tell is what newspapers in the 19th century called a bezoar or
madstone. Though Jim uses it to tell fortunes, its more common use at the
time (again, as far as I know) was a quack method for treating rabies
infections. Do you have any sense of whether Twain wrote or alluded to
this usage elsewhere in his work? I checked out the facsimile of the
manuscript, but unfortunately, it doesn’t include these relevant pages.
I’ve also tried to track how Howells’ strange fear of rabies might have
shown up in letters to Twain, but I haven’t found anything on that end
either. I did find some allusions to rabies in Moral Sense and his story
“The Grateful Poodle,” but they don’t reference bezoars. In archival work
on Twain, has anyone out there come across any other references to either
rabies or hairballs / bezoars /madstones?
Associate Professor and M.A. Director
School of Writing, Literature, and Film
Oregon State University
Author of The Practice of Misuse