I have a couple of rather involved questions about Ned Wakeman's stories,
as told by Twain. One of these days I may write something about this topic,
and it occurred to me that I could use this list as a sort of sounding
board, to see if I've gone off the deep end. So here goes:
1. On Aug. 23, 1868, the Chicago Republican printed an article by Twain in
which he described an encounter with Wakeman in Panama. Wakeman tells a
terrific story of his first sea voyage, and the article concludes this way:
"The old gentleman told his remarkable dream, and about hanging the negro
in the Chincha Islands, and about his perilous cruise in a buggy, and about
his voyage to the Monkey Islands, and the entertaining legend of the rats of
Liverpool, and a good many other pleasant bits of history..."
The impression I get from this is that it's a list of Wakeman's standard
tall tales, most or all of which would be familiar to people who knew the
captain. And all of them have appeared in Twain's writing, whether in books,
newapaper articles or notebook entries. The one that really interests me
here is the one about "hanging the negro in the Chincha Islands". This
appears to relate to the story of Capt. Ned Blakely and Bill Noakes in
Roughing It. However, it seems to me that there's a big difference between
the two stories.
The phrasing of the Chicago Republican article (and I believe it's
repeated in a notebook entry too) indicates that Wakeman was the one
"hanging the negro", doesn't it? But by the time Twain gets through with it,
Wakeman/Blakely hangs the white Noakes -- for killing his black friend.
It looks to me like Twain altered the story himself because no hero of his
could have "hanged a negro". Instead, he made Wakeman the defender of the
wronged black friend. If that's true, I think it's particularly interesting.
Does anybody else have any ideas about this?
2. Regarding the captain's "remarkable dream", I have what may be a
simpler question. It seems to me that the closest Twain came to writing
Wakeman's own story of his visit to Heaven is the version that appears in
the unfinished novel "Simon Wheeler, Detective". As opposed to "Captain
Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", the voice of the narrator in "Simon Wheeler"
sounds much closer to Wakeman's (of course, as rendered by Twain) in the
early newspaper articles; and the story sounds like something he might very
well have told. Again, does anybody have any comments?
-- Bob G.