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Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:06:04 -0600
text/plain (183 lines)
Both of your responses indicate you have made some incorrect assumptions 
about exactly what I say and don't say in my article. The evidence is 
circumstantial, but consistent and non-contradictory, and from multiple 
sources. The meaning of "Mark Twain" is exactly what everyone has thought 
(two fathoms, meaning safe or dangerous water depending on whether you are 
entering or leaving that depth). But where he got the idea for the nom de 
plume is NOT what had been traditionally supposed. The bar tab story (with 
an entirely different meaning) is based on patently false newspaper accounts 
by people who did not know or ever meet Twain. Twain's own account 
attributing it to Capt Sellers was long ago proven false on two counts, and 
subsequent research has continued to confirm this. My account is based on a 
body of facts and a logical application of those facts --the fact the name 
was in print in VF in 1861, that VF was available in Virginia City in places 
where Twain would have had to shut his eyes tight to avoiding seeing it in 
1862-3, the role of the exchange system, Twain's familiarity with pieces by 
Ward that appeared in VF, Twain's efforts to distance himself from Ward and 
the Phunny Phellows being the motivation to hide VF as the source of his nom 
de plume, Twain's need for a nom de plume at that point in time to brand his 
writings in the exchange system, his propensity for self-mythologizing, etc.

I'll resist commenting on your refusal to read anything that challenges what 
you think you know, but should warn you that I've written quite a bit lately 
that upsets some apple-carts: Charlie Webster killed himself I'm sorry to 
report, one of Twain's hoaxes has been misunderstood for 160 years, and in a 
few weeks the next MTJ will appear and reveal indisputable proof of Sam 
Clemens' first real girlfriend (no, it ain't Laura Hawkins or Laura Wright). 
At the moment I'm writing up the story of a crime spree involving a dead 
teenage who was inspired by HUCK FINN-- and Twain's reaction to it. And I 
have a pile of two dozen articles in various stages of neglect that either 
deconstruct or amplify our knowledge of Mark Twain. But if you don't like 
reading anything that challenges what we all thought we knew about Mark 
Twain, then for goodness sake, don't read them!

Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730
Member: ABAA, ILAB
You may browse our books at:

-----Original Message----- 
From: Dustin Zima
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 4:38 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Connection between Twain and Lincoln

I can see how the way that I said that could come off as disrespectful, and
I apologize for that. I think that Kevin is one of the most knowledgeable
and gracious Twain people I've ever come into contact with, but I have just
not been able to bring myself to read the article.  I do not question why a
fat guy is called slim, just like I do not question why Sam Clemens is
called Mark Twain--it's obvious. I'm as stubborn as a Missouri mule--and
for that,again, I am sorry.

Dustin Zima
Elmira College

On Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 1:47 PM, Kevin Mac Donnell <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> "an obscure book that he may have read"??
> Clearly, you have not read my article. It was not a book and not obscure.
> Vanity Fair was the most popular and widely distributed humor journal of
> its
> day. It was edited by Artemus Ward and Charles J. Leland, both of whom
> became good friends of Mark Twain, not to mention many of its 
> contributors.
> It was also one of the two major journals that published Bohemian authors;
> the other was the Saturday Press, in which Twain's jumping frog story
> gained
> national fame. To imagine that Twain was not familiar with Vanity Fair
> (which was being copied in Virginia City newspapers and sold off Virginia
> City newsstands even before Twain arrived there) but that he was at the
> same
> time very familiar with several minor humor magazines and was being
> influenced by Ward's writings that appeared in Vanity Fair is absurd. I
> have
> a modest proposal: read my article.
> Kevin
> @
> Mac Donnell Rare Books
> 9307 Glenlake Drive
> Austin TX 78730
> 512-345-4139
> Member: ABAA, ILAB
> *************************
> You may browse our books at:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dustin Zima
> Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2015 4:06 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Connection between Twain and Lincoln
> I think we are paddling into the similarly muddy waters of Sam taking
> his name from an obscure book that he may have read.  There seems to
> be a lot of this going on in Twain scholarship--scholarship in
> general, really.
> Dustin Zima
> Elmira College
> On 1/25/15, Arianne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > It would be interesting to learn if there was a book on Lincoln in Mark
> > TWain's library.  Wouldn't surprise me to learn that Mark Twain indeed
> > read
> > the account Lincoln wrote of a raft trip down the river.  If so, it
> surely
> > could be an influence.  I'd love to read the Lincoln story.
> >
> > Appreciate the Kaplan comments, too!
> > Arianne
> >
> > On Sun, Jan 25, 2015 at 6:04 AM, Hal Bush <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> >> For the record, the assertions in that article are extremely tenuous at
> >> best.  It's always fun to speculate but there is evidently, in this
> case,
> >> no real evidence to support that Lincoln's stories are behind Huck 
> >> Finn.
> >> If I missed the evidence please enlighten me.
> >>
> >> As far as somewhat less specific connections between AL & MT, now that
> is
> >> an interesting question.  Twain wrote about Lincoln on at least 2
> >> occasions
> >> and also gave at least one speech about Lincoln, for example.  I tried
> to
> >> imagine the implications of that connection myself, in some of my work;
> >> I
> >> figure them both, in Twain's words, as "men of the border," a phrase I
> >> like
> >> a lot.  But maybe my favorite formulation is by Fred Kaplan:  "Just as
> >> Howells has called Twain the Lincoln of our literature," Kaplan writes,
> >> "I
> >> could envision Lincoln as the Twain of our politics."  I like that!!
> >>
> >> On Sun, Jan 25, 2015 at 7:18 AM, Dave Davis <[log in to unmask]
> >
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >> > That's pretty interesting. First I'd ever heard of this Vote Lincoln!
> >> book.
> >> >
> >> > SLC's (unpaid; maybe room & board, at best?) berth out West came
> >> > through
> >> > Orion. I don't know how big brother was selected for his post-- he
> must
> >> > have had some connection to the territorial governor, James Nye? (Nye
> >> was,
> >> > of course, a Lincoln appointee.)
> >> >
> >> > DDD
> >> >
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> Prof. Harold K. Bush
> >> Professor of English
> >> 3800 Lindell
> >> Saint Louis University
> >> St. Louis, MO  63108
> >> 314-977-3616 (w); 314-771-6795 (h)
> >> <>
> >>
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Arianne Laidlaw A '58
> >