The Mark Twain Project Needs Your Support--Now!
(The following is reprinted from _The Mark Twain Circular_
Good News--and Serious News!
Victor A. Doyno
I wish to offer an unusual point of view and an opinion. As an ex-president
I still hold the Mark Twain Circle of America in a central place, orbiting
pretty near the core of my heart.
First the good news. I have just returned from a brief, exciting research
visit to the Mark Twain Project facilities at the Bancroft Library in
Berkeley. (One personal goal was to read the letters to Mark Twain for a
time period near the composition of _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_.) All
the records and materials were in excellent order, accurately arranged and
safely preserved to serve this and future generations of scholars. The
primary archival material and background references are unbeatable. We are
fortunate to have this scholarly/cultural resource up and, at present,
_Letters 5_ will be going to the printers soon, and we should be able to
read the extraordinarily rich volume in May or June. Some of us have been
reading as hard and as fast as we can to try to keep up with the flood of
information that is now rapidly becoming available. The Letters volumes
certainly continue to offer information to us at the same level as the
prize-winning _Roughing It._
For one small example, I recommend to all readers the amazing, blistering
satirical column that Twain wrote for publication when President Andrew
Johnson was leaving office. Before its appearance in an appendix in
_Letters 3_, almost NO ONE even knew of the satire! (Well, Lou Budd did
know, but who else? Admittedly, Lou knows almost everything!) The satire
had been typeset but then suppressed at the galley stage. Talk about
discovering a gem! The annotations are helpful and precise.
Now to the more serious news I recently also learned that the staff at the
Mark Twain Project have had extra duties, such as paper stock selection,
copy-editing, run-over, and layout work, added to their scholarly and
textual responsibilities. Most of us usually think of such work as the duty
of the Press.
Twain stands as a _central_ figure for nineteenth and twentieth century
studies (literary, cultural, political, societal, national and
international). He knew many influential and vital people, and he wrote to
them. He traveled almost everywhere--usually writing his observations. What
knowledge could be more crucial to our national formation?
Now to be blunt . . . . I judge that the need for contributions is great
and IMMEDIATE. Because of Twain's centrality we are fortunate that the
National Endowment for the Humanities will add to our contributions!
Dr. Robert Hirst has the serious duty of raising $135,500 by July 30, 1997.
We can all do the math. If all 435 members of the Twain Circle had
identical incomes and expenses, and if each could and did contribute $320,
there would be a wonderful sense of relief! But as we know that would be
unrealistic. Many individuals will be able and willing to dedicate a
self-determined amount, and that will be a significant personal commitment.
Meanwhile a few individuals will, upon reflection, be able to give a larger
amount. And all will have a very welcome place in the choir!
It is important that we have a large number of contributors because many
institutions consider the number of popular supporters.
Of course, all our contributions are tax-deductible-please think about that
when you are laboring over some IRS forms this March or April! All
contributors will receive an official acknowledgment, suitable for waving
proudly in front of any major or minor questioner. (Any assets that have
appreciated over the years can be donated, and then you do not pay any tax
on the gain but do get to deduct the full amount of the gift.)
Many contributors will be recognized in the front of a future volume. It
can't hurt to show a grandchild that you have actually supported what you
value. "Ah, yes, much better than to be memorialized only in those police
blotters!" Or, instead, "If I can't take the money with me, I'll send some
As many of us know, the funding of cultural institutions has recently been
under serious attack. If the Twain Project suffers, we, and scholarship,
may lose well-trained, knowledgeable staff members who simply could not
ever be replaced. Moreover, valuable work will not be done as soon as it
should be. OR EVER.
If any author represents "National" and "Humanity," it is Twain. Some of us
may be able to help by contributing a continuing, solidly funded,
intellectually important financial Endowment, a gift to present and future
Twainians! You can call at (510) 642-6480 and speak to Bob Hirst to discuss
Please send your contribution directly to Dr. Robert Hirst, marked for the
Twain Project (480 Bancroft Library, Univ. of Cal., Berkeley, CA
94720-6000). I cannot guarantee that you will sleep better, but I can
guarantee that you will feel better--and probably read better--knowing that
you have helped continue a significant project, that you have made a shared
commitment to an important goal. Not for any particular individual--but
"For Twain's sake!" Please stretch.