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"Malewitz, Raymond" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:41:37 +0000
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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?


Raymond Malewitz
Associate Professor and M.A. Director
School of Writing, Literature, and Film
Oregon State University
Author of The Practice of Misuse