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Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2023 01:04:25 +0000
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Comments: To: James E Caron <[log in to unmask]>
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I would not be a bit surprised if Twain was teased about his nom de 
plume after he adopted it, but I've seen no evidence that he was being 
teased with Alf Doten's bar tab hoax before he adopted it. The argument 
is the origin of the nom de plume, not whether there was a bar tab hoax 
after the fact.

As for the myth that Twain was scrubbing the record of his western 
years, there is simply too much evidence to the contrary to take that 
notion seriously. Both he and his wife (and their daughters at early 
ages) drank lager beer. The correspondence with and between the 
Langdons, which I've cited previously, expresses concern about his 
smoking, not his drinking. Several of his western buddies spent 
significant time as guests in the Hartford house (Harte, Wright, 
Goodman) which hardly seems a good strategy for keeping his western 
"secrets" a secret.

There's a new book out that examines hoaxing among the "sagebrush 
school," and the more I read in those western newspapers, the more I'm 
convinced that many scholars have been taken in by such hoaxes.

That's all I should say for now. My formal response (with citations) 
will appear in the MTJ soon enough.

Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730

You can browse our books at:

------ Original Message ------
From: "James E Caron" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Cc: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 12/30/2023 1:14:19 PM
Subject: Re: Comment on the Nomme de Plume

>Here's two or three cents worth of thought.
>(for who can resist a good academic controversy, especially when there 
>can be no definitive answer?)
>First there is the inference from 0000002(etc) that the answer to the 
>riddle is SLC's state of mind about choosing a nom-de-plume that 
>sticks, obviously speculation, which is fine, because all the arguments 
>rest first on speculation, with varying sorts of evidence to back them 
>The notion that SLC was tutored by Wm Wright on the issue, however, 
>doesn't work because Wright was on an extended vacation back home to 
>Iowa when Sam first signed a squib "Mark Twain" in February 1863. Sam 
>was hired to cover for Wright, who doesn't return to Nevada until the 
>end of the summer.
>Also, the claim that Sam knew his fate was to be a writer and so gave 
>lots of thought to the nom-de-plume is suspect, first because doing the 
>sort of journalism he was practicing in Nevada was not the same as a 
>career as a writer.
>The difference became apparent when Sam in the summer of 1864 very 
>seriously thought about quitting Nevada altogether and returning to the 
>river as a pilot in the pay of the Federal government: twice the salary 
>he was getting at the time from the SF Call. Mining stocks were 
>devaluing from the height of the 1863 boom, and he was not the hotshot 
>in SF he was in Nevada after being effectively exiled from the 
>territory after the Sanitary Fund fiasco.
>I agree with Kevin that having a nom-de-plume associated with beer 
>drinking would not have deterred Sam. In early 1863, his main audience 
>were all "the boys" working the mines. It would be a good joke to go 
>with all the joking and bantering and hoaxing he had been doing before 
>"Mark Twain" appeared. AND...  he would surely have also associated the 
>name with the river from his piloting days, as Max argues in his 
>interesting article about the autobiography.
>Final thought: why is there any controversy? Why can't it be that the 
>bar tab theory as well as the leadsman's cry are both the sources? Why 
>choose at all?
>(Sorry Kevin, but to me those speculations seem more probable, maybe 
>especially harnessed together, than the Vanity Fair argument.)
>The story Sam concocts for the Langdons about Isiah Sellers was 
>necessary to scrub the bar-tab story from the record, a very different 
>circumstance from the conviviality of Piper's Saloon. Wanting to appear 
>as respectable as possible, Sam was then all about the river and not 
>about lager beer, as 0000002(etc) suggests. His state of mind as he 
>campaigns for Livy's hand looks clear on the matter.
>On Fri, Dec 29, 2023 at 4:25 PM <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>Those are interesting comments. But don't you think somebody like
>>Clemens, afflicted with venereal disease, ADHD, and latent
>>pedophilia--as a certain recent biography sensationally claims--would 
>>the same sort of fellow to pick up his nom de plume in a bar?
>>OK, seriously, my brief response to the latest Scharnhorst screed will
>>appear in the next Mark Twain Journal. It will involve lager beer, 
>>ale, and another hoax that Alf Doten published that is also located in
>>Piper's Saloon (and drew a crowd).
>>Happy holidays everyone!
>>Mac Donnell Rare Books
>>9307 Glenlake Drive
>>Austin TX 78730
>>You can browse our books at:
>>------ Original Message ------
>>From: [log in to unmask]
>>To: [log in to unmask]
>>Sent: 12/29/2023 3:06:10 PM
>>Subject: Comment on the Nomme de Plume
>> >I have been re-reading Gary Scharnhorst's fall 2023 MT Journal 
>>article on Sam Clemens earning the nickname "Mark Twain" from a bar 
>>tab. I found the list of editors who copied the article on the topic 
>>interesting, while remembering that when Jules Verne wrote "In Search 
>>of The Castaways" in 1868 he had one of the characters say "A 
>>falsehood repeated a hundred times does not become a truth by the mere 
>>force of repetition." I have trouble believing that Sam Clemens would 
>>allow a somewhat derogatory reference to his love of lager beer to 
>>become his trade mark. Before joining the staff of the Territorial 
>>Enterprise, Sam had written letters from a mining camp and signed them 
>>"Josh." Now Sam was on that newspaper's staff, working with and 
>>doubtless being mentored by William Wright, who wrote under the 
>>colorful nomme de plume of Dan DeQuille. Ohio born Wright was six 
>>years Sam's senior. I am not aware that any of Sam's early Comstock 
>>Humor writing at the paper in the fall of 1862 was signed. It was, 
>>however, clear to readers that the new local writer Sam Clemens was 
>>occasionally "roasting" his friend "The Unreliable" (opposition 
>>newspaper writer C. T. Rice). In the letter introducing Mark Twain, 
>>"the Unreliable" is used as the key to tell readers who is introducing 
>>the name "Mark Twain." I am also comfortable in the belief that 
>>William Wright would have steered Sam Clemens away from any of the 
>>"nommes" Sam had used in the past. While the "DeQuille" nomme captures 
>>Wright's love of writing, "Mark Twain" hearkens back to Sam's beloved 
>>days on the Mississippi River. Both DeQuille and Twain, as names, have 
>>a personal tie to the individual. In the February 2, 1863 publication 
>>of his "letter" he has the dreamer greeted by "The Unreliable" as 
>>"Mark" in the text. I believe it is the longest piece of mixed roast 
>>and humor Sam Clemens ever wrote. He gave a great deal of thought to 
>>that piece. To me, the long letter and the use of the name in the text 
>>seem like the studied introduction of a permanent trade mark. The all 
>>too common humorist name Josh was already shopworn by others, and had 
>>come to be associated with (if not the parent of the word) "joshing." 
>>Sam Clemens had more in mind. He was to be a writer. He had reached 
>>the point in his career to emerge with a permanent name that no one 
>>else could use, much like DeQuille. Meaningful to him, easy to say or 
>>read, and fitting his self image and comfortable to him. I do not 
>>dismiss Kevin MacDonnell's source that the personification of a 
>>measure of depth into a name could well have come from Vanity Fair, 
>>but if so, between reading it and writing it the pen name Mark Twain 
>>underwent a lot of thought by Samuel Langhorne Clemens. And then he 
>>launched it in the winter of 1862-63.