TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum

TWAIN-L@YORKU.CA

Options: Use Classic View

Use Monospaced Font
Show HTML Part by Default
Condense Mail Headers

Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2023 21:06:10 +0000
MIME-Version: 1.0
Message-ID: <[log in to unmask]>
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Parts/Attachments: text/plain (2 lines)
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.

ATOM RSS1 RSS2