To the members of the Mark Twain Forum:
I have the sad task of informing my fellow Twainiacs of the passing of
Clark Griffith, who died July 6, 2001. That it has taken a year and a
half for this news to percolate out is quintessentially Clark--he had no
use for fuss and feathers. He asked that no obituary appear (fuss and
feathers) so I write not an obituary notice, but a brief and fond
recollection of the finest classroom teacher I have ever encountered and
a dissertation director who nourished my efforts.
Clark's first work was on Emily Dickinson, but his work on Poe forms a
lasting legacy. His "Poe's 'Ligiea' and the English Romantics" is one
of the truly seminal articles on Poe published in the 20th century,
opening new ways of exploring Poe's art and greatly making more complex
this most enigmatic of writers. His work on Twain I always found
insightful and intelligent, especially "Achilles and the Tortoise: Mark
Twain's Fictions"--a book that greatly reflects Clark: structurally a
bit quirky, intellectially deep.
Those who knew Clark are well aware of his idiosyncracies. He usually
dressed in rumpled khakis, adorned with cigarette ashes from the
unfiltered Camels he so liked (not unlike Mark's cheap cigars). His
shock of kinky white hair often seemed more a halo about his head. And
that voice--deeply melifluous, always riveting. Clark is the only
person I have ever met whose voice I could hear when I read his work.
Clark is gone now, but not the legacy he leaves for those who study Poe
and Twain. I feel lucky to have had him for a mentor, privileged to
have had him for a friend.