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Ben Wise <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 20 Aug 2010 11:30:58 -0400
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As the "someone" of your reference, I really appreciate the 
marvelously detailed and subtly researched response!

It's also nice to hear from someone who was a contemporary resident 
of Amherst in the 19th century, when "a lot of us" gazed into the 
bottom of wine glasses...and evidently still do.


>Someone asked about Twain and Amherst and curiosity got the best of me & =
>I looked into it. Here are two tidbits--
>1. Twain visited Amherst on Feb. 27, 1872 and lectured. He drew a crowd =
>of 800. The next day the local paper printed a short notice that =
>concluded "As a lecturer we are of the opinion that he is a first class =
>failure."  It is highly unlikely that ED attended this lecture, but from =
>her letters it's clear she read the local papers, so she was surely =
>aware of his appearance. While not the shut-in she is often portrayed to =
>have been, she seems to have avoided crowds, especially where vuvuzelas =
>were being blown. Actually, those Amherst crowds of the 19th century =
>don't come across as a lively bunch, and a lot of us might have chosen a =
>quiet evening at home baking cakes or gazing into the bottom of wine =
>glasses to double-check the color of our eyes.
>2. On Dec 9, 1884 Mabel Loomis Todd recorded in her diary that "In the =
>evening Mr Dickinson came in like a brilliant north west breeze & read =
>us a sparkling little story in the current Century." The only "sparkling =
>story" in the Dec 1884 issue of Century Magazine was the first of three =
>installments of Huckleberry Finn before publication of the book. Todd, =
>best-known for editing ED's poems, carried on an affair with ED's =
>brother Austin Dickinson who lived next door to ED. She was a frequent =
>visitor to Austin Dickinson's household and worshipped the ground he =
>walked on. The consensus of opinion is that ED was aware of the affair =
>but never met Todd in person, so ED was not likely present when her =
>brother read part of HF. But this passage in Todd's diary is significant =
>because it places this magazine in close proximity and makes it very =
>likely that ED at least read those three issues even if she never read =
>the book itself. ED had a sly sense of humor that could not have gone =
>unnoticed by her adulterous brother next door, and he may have pointed =
>out the HF pieces to her, or discussed them with her.
>There is actually a third connection via Rev Wadsworth. First, go find a =
>portrait of Wadsworth and contemplate it for a moment and let the =
>dourness sink in; then read Twain's hilarious dig at Wadsworth in =
>"Reflections on the Sabbath" and imagine this guy staring down his =
>congregation whenever he said something inadvertently funny. It really =
>makes you wonder what the heck Twain was thinking when he used Wadsworth =
>as a reference later on. It also makes clear where Twain got the idea =
>for his pair of subversive sketches on the Good and Bad Little Boys.  =20
>  =20
>Mac Donnell Rare Books
>9307 Glenlake Drive
>Austin TX 78730
>Member: ABAA, ILAB
>You may browse our books at=20