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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Robert Hirst <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 29 Dec 2008 15:36:48 -0800
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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As some have already noticed, "The Privilege of the Grave" is just
one of 24 previously unpublished short manuscripts by Mark Twain, all
but two of which are in the Mark Twain Papers, to be published next
April by HarperStudio as Who Is Mark Twain? Paine took notice of this
essay in chapter 235 of the biography, pointing out that it referred
specifically to "Interpreting the Deity," which Paine was the first
to publish in What Is Man? (1917), pp. 265-74, subsequently reprinted
in various places (e.g., Baender's What Is Man and Other
Philosophical Writings (1973).

The New Yorker reviewed all twenty-four pieces and picked "The
Privilege of the Grave" for its December issue. According to
HarperStudio's blog, 26th story
( Fiction Editor
Deborah Treisman at The New Yorker said this about the text before
they published it: "We felt that the piece was both sharp and funny
in its satire and timeless in its take on the notion of free speech
in western culture. Coming at the end of a difficult election year,
it seemed particularly prescient."

If it seems odd that Mark Twain would be talking about stuff he
didn't dare publish in 1905, consider that just one year later he
began the final form of his autobiography, which also contained
material he was unwilling to see published in his lifetime. And much
of what DeVoto published and what the Mark Twain Papers have
published in the 1960s was likewise not something he would publish
while alive. The twenty-four pieces in Who Is Mark Twain? are part of
roughly 50 or 60 short works in the Mark Twain Papers which have not
yet appeared in the scholarly edition. I made sure the texts in
HarperStudio's book are sound, even though they have no notes or
textual apparatus to accompany them. Virtually all of these short
works are familiar to scholars who have used the Papers over the
years. This little book is just an attempt to give them a wider
audience in advance of the scholarly edition, where their publication
will certainly come sometime after the autobiography, due to issue
(volume 1 only) in 2010.