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Wesley Britton <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 21 Jul 2001 19:05:38 -0500
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If memory serves, Delancy Ferguson published a Twain bio in the 1970s called
MARK TWAIN: MAN AND MYTH. In my edition, he added an introduction in which
he said many of his colleagues praised this book, but asked when he was
going to write a "definitive biography." He replied he thought he already

Outside of Clemens' own AUTOBIOGRAPHY, we have yet to have a "definitive"
one-volume biography which is an important statement about Our Author.  We
have been blessed with many books covering specific periods and many "thesis
biographies" which trace Twain's writing or personal development through
specific prisms.  A few years back, one writer claimed to be writing the
long overdue "definitive" bio, but sadly added interpretative material that
eroded its usefulness.  There are many good books on the early years (I'd
choose Emerson's AUTHENTIC MARK TWAIN), many on the middle years (sure,
Kaplan's is readable and reliable), and, despite some problems, Ham Hill's
MARK TWAIN: GOD'S FOOL is still the best on the final years.

With this in mind, perhaps it's time to consider a major project akin to the
Oxford writings set in which a "definitive" bio could be put together in
several volumes with sections from the best of what we have.  Rather than
hoping one scholar can bring it all together, maybe an anthology of passages
would be the most expansive and inclusive way to go . . .
----- Original Message -----
From: <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, July 21, 2001 2:09 PM
Subject: Re: Biographer


You've received many good suggestions.

While I much prefer reading Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
by Justin Kaplan, at some point you may want to jump in
on Mark Twain, A Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine.

It's in three volumes. Some of the details will both aggravate
you and reward you.  And, he has an annoying habit of relating
incidents and then saying something like, "but we need not go
into that here."

Yet, he was at Twain's side in the final years.  As an authorized,
first-hand account it's the best we have.  Keep in mind that he
and Twain's daughter Clara co-conspired to keep his memory
as lily-white as one of his suits -- so don't expect "the dark side
of the moon."

Good luck to you.

Roger Durrett