On Wed, 12 Mar 1997, John Evans wrote:
> Dear Members: I have a question that goes beyond trivia into some
> unnamed realm, but I have a nagging curiosity about this. If there is
> an answer to be found, I am sure it will be here on the Forum.
> Whenever I read the whitewashing scene in _The Adventures of Tom
> Sawyer_, I am always struck by the clause:
> “Sighing he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost
> This suggests to me that the boards of the fence run horizontally with
> the “topmost plank” being the one farthest from the grou. . . .
It is actually a very good question, and you are not the first to have
wondered about that fence. If you look carefully at the first
edition illustrations by True Williams, you will see that he depicts a
fence with horizontal boards, much like the one you envision, in the
picture of the front of the house on page 17 and in the whitewashing scene
on page 30 (pages 1 and 14 in the Mark Twain Library edition, ed. John
Gerber and Paul Baender). Mark Twain originally intended it to be a four-
foot fence, like the one depicted, but altered in the manuscript to a
nine-foot fence: True Williams nonetheless drew it four feet high. John
Gerber, in an explanatory note in the Mark Twain
Works edition (p. 471), refers to two articles on the subject: Tyrus
Hillway's "Tom Sawyer's Fence," *College English* 19 (Jan 1958): 165-66,
and Bruce McElderry's "Tom Sawyer's Fence--Original Illustrations,"
*College English* 19 (May 1958): 370.
The fence at Hannibal resembles what is depicted in the first edition as
the *back* fence (page 18; page 2 in the the Mark Twain Library).
Mark Twain Project