TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Andrew J Hoffman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 13:08:01 EST
text/plain (34 lines)
A couple of replies:

First, in answer to Joe Staples question about folkloric interpretations
of _Huck Finn_, I have to immodestly point to _Twain's Heroes, Twain's
Worlds_ (UPenn, 1988) as the most recent and most comprehensive.  Even if
you don't like the book (or my mentioning it) it will at least direct you
to interpretations you may find more congenial.

Second, on the origin of the pen-name Mark Twain: the jury is still out,
deciding between the version Twain himself gave (and stuck with
throughout his life) and the barroom tale.  I favor the two-drink story,
mostly because there is at least a shred of corroberating evidence
supporting it; the source is folk SLC knew in Nevada.  Despite Horst
Kruse's excellent article offering reasons to believe Twain's own story
of the name's origin, there is still nothing to prove that Captain Isaiah
Sellers, or anyone else, for that matter, ever used the name Mark Twain
in any Mississippi River Valley newspaper correspondence.  Kruse's
argument depends on SLC having received a mistransmission of the
telegraphed report of Sellers' death; it was actually a Captain Russell
who died soon before SLC first employed his pseudonym.  The problem with
Kruse's point, though, is that Clemens would have known that the Sellers
story was a lie when word arrive two years later that Sellers himself had
died.  So Twain knew he was telling a stretcher from the very beginning,
because he didn't begin to explain the origin of the name until after
Sellers' demise.  Hope this clears up some mysteries.

And lastly, most descriptions of Clemens as a youth seem to peg his hair
as a sort of chestnut, not the carroty color people typically first think
of when they hear "red hair."  Most people with that shade of hair tend
to look brunette in low light and red-headed out of doors.  That may
account for what confusion reigns concerning his mane.

Andy Hoffman