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Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 21:54:31 -0600
text/plain (139 lines)
Please be assured that my jesting comment about somebody being fearful of 
reading my article was not directed toward you. I don't understand anyone 
who would not want to read a book or article that might challenge their 
beliefs. I recently read Strausbaugh's BLACK LIKE YOU (on blackface and 
minstrelsy, etc.)with a good deal of skepticism, and it changed many of my 
views on those subjects. I also recently read Rush's HUCK FINN'S HIDDEN 
LESSONS with the same skepticism and found it mostly disagreeable, factually 
in error, but sincere and thought-provoking, and I'm glad I read it. So, one 
book was a pleasant surprise and the other a disappointment, but I'd 
recommend both of them to any Twainian.

Yes, you should be skeptical of how I could say how often Sam heard the term 
"mark twain" when he was a pilot. My answer is "a whole lot less than 
anybody has thought" and there is written evidence by Sam himself that 
suggests he may not have used it much himself as a pilot.

Yes, old guys make stuff up, and they misremember, and Sam did both. But Sam 
was making stuff up when he was still young. My admiration for Mhis ability 
to mythologize himself and manipulate his public image is boundless. That he 
got his name from a burlesque piece in a New York humor magazine when he did 
and then covered his tracks the way he did and for the reasons he did, shows 
much more creativity and self-awareness than his simply recalling some 
steamboat jargon and using it as a nom de plume. Sam was not simple-minded.

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

-----Original Message----- 
From: Carl J. Chimi
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 9:07 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: That bar tab story.

2.  I appreciate the answer.  I think it makes sense.  By the way, I have no
fear of reading your article, or any other article about Mark Twain; but I
admit I haven't read your yet.  I just retired (less than two weeks ago)
from a 30 year career as a professor.  That job kept me much too busy to do
much reading for my own enjoyment.  So, I've never subscribed to or read the
Mark Twain Journal.  That is a malnourishment I intend to cure in the next
month or so.  Your articles will likely be among the first I devour.

3.  Unless the answer to how many times Clemens heard the term "mark twain"
during his steamboat days is zero, I'd be extremely curious as to how you
can claim to know how many times he heard it, given the distance in time.
If the answer is that the term was never really used, then a river full of
biographers and writers have a lot of explaining to do!  So, in honesty, you
have piqued both my interest and my skepticism with this claim.

As for number 1 below, old guys make stuff up.  I'm old; I make stuff up.
But I am a rank amateur compared to the old Sam Clemens and his making stuff
up propensities.


-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Twain Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kevin Mac
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 3:53 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: That bar tab story.

2. Why did Clemens adopt a nom de plume? I hate to repeat myself, but please
read my article where I address this specific point in considerable detail.

3. OK, here's a third "bonus" point: as for how often Sam Clemens heard the
term "mark twain" when working on the lower Mississippi and what term he
actually used at the time instead of "mark twain" those are not addressed in
my article, but I know the answers and they are explained and amply
documented in the text of my updated article on his nom de plume --but that
won't be offered for publication until I have a couple of other articles put
to bed. The answers may surprise you. Like so much of Twain's self-generated
mythologies, the facts are at serious variance with the myth.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert E. Stewart [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 11:59 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: That bar tab story.

We cannot ask Alf Doten himself, but we can check his diaries:

In the 1960s, into the 1970s, author Walter Van Tilberg Clark heavily edited
the diaries of Alf Doten into three volumes with a total of 2,224 pages,
plus appendices and index, published by the University of Nevada  Press. To
the great frustration of historians in Nevada, the published  pages
represent perhaps a half of Doten's extensive files. From the entries  about
Twain, below, I think it is doubtful that Doten was the  jokester creating
the bar tab story. I also doubt that editor  Clark omitted any mentions
Doten made of Twain. After reading all the  Twain entries in the Index, I
append those I think you will agree make  it highly unlikely that Doten gave
enough time and attention to Twain  to bother with creating the bar tab

On Page 767 (Vol. 1), Doten wrote:
Sunday, March 6, 1864. Clear & peasant. rose late. AM I went to  Creoss's
awhile. J.D. Winters introduced me to "Mark Twain" --had pleasant  little
chat with him.... [no further mention that day of Twain.]

Then on March 4, Doten, who is living in the mining camp of Como, some
distance from Virginia City, writes: ...Evening stage brought a noted
correspondent of the Territorial Enterprise who writes under the"nomme de
plume"  of "Mark Twain."  His name is Samuel Clements.  [sic]

The next mention is on page 830, (Vol 2) 1865: Sunday, April 9. ...Went to
Sutterleys -- took my portrait twice--small cards, and one big picture to
hang  up in the gallery with Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille. [Sutterley's is a
photo  emporium.]

Page 900 1866: "Mark Twain" (Sam Clemens) arrived this evening from
California. D. E. McCarthy, one of the former proprietors of the Enterprise
came with him.

There are other, later, mentions of Twain, but none pertinent to this

Bob Stewart
Carson City