Kudos to Kim Martin Long for her review of Susan Harris's excellent
examination of the relationship between Sam and Olivia Langdon. I
must confess I felt total sympathy with Ms. Long beginning with her
first paragraph, as her sentiments on the book's title were nearly
word-for-word what I told Susan at the Elmira conference. If memory
serves, Susan told me the title was chosen by the publishers, not
her. At any rate, I think Susan's book is the best secondary
source contribution to Twain scholarship this year.
for the record, here's my short review of the same book for
_Choice_ magazine which underlines what Kim said:
Susan Harris, The Courtship of MT & Olivia . . .
Choice, submitted May 1997.
Recently, along with fellow Twain scholar Laura Skandara-
Trombley, Susan Harris's work has emphasized the importance of
women in Mark Twain's life. This volume focuses on Twain's wife,
Olivia Langdon Clemens, and, while other books have elevated
Langdon from the deprecating myths of earlier biographies,
Harris, for the first time, pulls together the threads that
interwove the lives of two intellectually-similar minds. But
Harris's title does not fully indicate the breadth of her
contribution to Twain studies. All readers will benefit from
Harris's chronicle of two lovers as well as the lengthy
discussions of the scientific, philosophic, religious, and
literary milieus that shaped two widely dissimilar backgrounds.
Further, all readers will learn needed corrections to Mark
Twain's biography. Of particular note is Harris's carefully
researched chapters on the education of Langdon and her
contemporaries in a lively intellectual atmosphere vastly
different from her husband's frontier development. Harris is
also especially credible and helpful in her analysis of Mark
Twain's courtship techniques. This is a volume scholars can rely
on while general readers will appreciate the readability, flow,
and infrequent interruptions in the text of citations and notes.
(who wishes he too were teaching at Shippensburg)