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Kenneth Sanderson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 15 Mar 1996 12:05:56 -0800
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On Wed, 13 Mar 1996, Don Burden wrote:

> I'm nearing the end of reading the 2nd volume of Mark Twain's Letters (my local
> college library has volumes 1 through 3).  I would have thought there would be many
> more examples displaying the bawdy side of Twain - e.g. letters along the lines of
> the two "cundrum" letters in volume two.  Can we be sure these volumes contain all
> extant letters from Twain for the given time period, or are the letters included in
> these volumes just the ones that were decided to be made public by perhaps Twain's
> ancestors?
> ---
> Don Burden                                                      [log in to unmask]
> New Albany, Indiana

Mr. Burden:

I can assure you that the volumes of _Mark Twain's Letters_ include
every letter or letter fragment we can find anywhere.

To be sure, some letters have been lost, maybe a good many letters. _Mark
Twain's Letters_, vol. 1, pp. 459-461, discusses family letters that have
been or may have been lost, including the burning of " `almost four trunks'
of Clemens's letters to his mother." It's also true that while she lived,
Clemens's surviving daughter Clara tried to guard her father's reputation
in ways that seemed best to her (and which of us would not do the same?).
Nowadays, however, no Clemens heirs or descendants survive, and no one is
suppressing any letters.

That's not to say there aren't many surviving letters still to come to
light. Volume 5 of our edition will contain a half dozen or so that we
have learned about since publication of the volumes in which they would
have appeared. Doubtless many letters belong to people who prefer to keep
them private, and many more are probably sitting just waiting to be
recognized for what they are.

A famous instance is the shoe box of 100 letters from Clemens to his
daughters that was bought a few years ago in a Los Angeles junk store
for the stamps on their envelopes. Only after taking them home did the
purchaser realize what he had. Two sales at Christie's were required to
sell them all.

Then there's the 2/5 of the MS of _Huck_, mislaid for a hundred years and
found in a trunk in an attic in North Hollywood.

Albert Bigelow Paine began looking for Mark Twain letters before Clemens
died in 1910, and his successors have been looking for letters ever since.
We're still looking, with a lot of help from our friends. We read auction
and dealer catalogs, and we try to stay in touch with collectors, dealers,
libraries, historical societies--in short, with anyone who might be able
to give us a lead. Letters still turn up, sometimes because of the search,
sometimes because of luck, with a regularity that continues to surprise
me. It was once estimated that Clemens may have averaged five letters a
day, seven days a week, for fifty years. They certainly haven't all
survived, and equally certainly not all of those that have survived have
turned up yet.

Lest I forget to ask: if you, or anyone who reads Twain-L, has or knows
of any letters not printed in our ongoing edition of _Mark Twain's
Letters_ or recorded in Paul Machlis's _Union Catalog of Clemens Letters_
(Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1986), PLEASE let
us know. I promise you, we won't suppress them.

Kenneth M. Sanderson
Mark Twain Project
The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94706-6000