If not for the fact that I get this digest once a week, I would have told
you the same thing. I haven't seen the Oxford editions, but the first
editions themselves look great. I've read all of Twain's books more than
once, and the most recent time through them I used the first editions -- and
in each case I think I enjoyed the book more in its original form. Somehow
all those illustrations pulled me into the stories in some different way.
Another treat with the first editions is how *heavy* they are. It's easy
to picture a salesman from the American Publishing Co. or the Webster Co.
telling a farmer, "You can tell you'll get your money's worth with this book
-- just feel that sucker!"
I should add, in case any of you are interested, that Twain's first
editions are by far the cheapest of any major author's (at least any I've
ever seen), because he sold so many copies. The first printing was generally
something like 30,000. I have 14 of them -- all the major books, from
Innocents Abroad to Joan of Arc -- and they cost me only about $700. It's
more than the Oxford edition, I know, but you'd have to pay twice that for a
first edition of Moby Dick, for instance.
I certainly don't qualify as part of the "academic community", but I don't
buy the argument. Of course Huck resembles Jimmy in some respects, but how
is Jimmy different from the dozens of other long-winded vernacular narrators
Twain loved so much? I'd say Huck resembles the narrator of the Jumping Frog
story as much as he resembles Jimmy. And to use a more obscure reference
(from one of his letters to the Territorial Enterprise, I believe), what
about the driver of the stagecoach who takes him over the moutains and
points out places where horses and men have fallen off the narrow ledge and
been turned into a "promisc'us pile of hash", or something like that? To me,
that sounds more like Huck than Jimmy does.
-- Bob G.