TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Proportional Font
Show Text Part by Default
Condense Mail Headers

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

Print Reply
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 21 Nov 1994 18:12:17 +0000
text/plain (57 lines)
After studying Mark Twain's involvement with the Anti-Imperialist
League, I am now working on a dissertation about the Anti-Imperialist
League more generally and have found some things that I think
raise interesting issues about Twain's later writings.

Most criticism seems to attribute the "darkness"
of  Twain's later writings to his personal tragedies.  I
recently found this interpretation summed up in Frederic Cople Jaher's
_Doubters and Dissenters: Cataclysmic Thought in America, 1885-1918_
(New York: The Free Press, 1964).  Jaher differentiates Twain from
other anti-imperialist cataclysmic thinkers by saying that "Twain's
estrangement...was personal.  He had never joined abortive crusades
or belonged to defeated movements--his tragedy was death, illness in
the family, and financial failure."  That seems to sum up the
"personal tragedy" view but, as we now know, Twain did join "abortive
crusades" and "defeated movements"--not just the Anti-Imperialist
League but the Congo Reform Association and other contemporary reform
movements.  What this leads me to is the idea that Twain's later
writings should be reassessed in light of his organizational
involvements.  The Anti-Imperialist League, for example, published a
number of tracts with stark contrasts between "Republic or Empire"
that were not unlike some that Twain himself wrote (especially his
"Passage from 'Outlines of History'" that first appeared in _Letters
from the Earth_).  How can we determine the extent to which such
writings by Twain were inspired by personal tragedy or were just part of a
discussion that was going on within the country at large and in which he
participated?  Biographies of others in the anti-imperialist movement
do not try to make such a distinction, partly because far less is
known about their private lives than is known about Twain.  But many
of them suffered nervous breakdowns and had other traumas in their
lives that are generally attributed to their opposition to
imperialism.  Knowing about Twain, I feel like I need to be skeptical
and not attribute cause so easily.  But Twain also demonstrates the
complexity involved.  Any suggestions?

In the William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., Family Papers in the Sophia Smith
Collection at Smith College, I found a copy of the
card version of Twain's "Salutation Speech from the Nineteenth
Century to the Twentieth" that has William Lloyd Garrison, Jr's
initials written in after the final couplet ("Give her the glass; it
may from error free her / When she shall see herself as others see
her."),  apparently indicating that he wrote the final couplet.  I
tried to find some corroborating evidence in Garrison's
correspondence but was not able to find any.  Has anyone else found
anything related to this piece that would indicate who wrote the
couplet?  I also examined the record books of the New England
Anti-Imperialist League which generally recorded all of its
publications and found that this card was not mentioned there.  It appears
that Albert S. Parsons, who was then the chair of the League's executive
committee and is attributed on the card as its publisher, published the
card on his own.  Garrison was a vice president of the League and
wrote a couple of pamphlets of anti-imperialist sonnets so if he did
write the couplet it would be consistent with other things he was
doing at the time.

Jim Zwick