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Barbara Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 30 Dec 2008 10:49:02 -0600
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_Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 343: Mark Twain's
__Adventures of Huckleberry Finn__: A Documentary Volume_. Edited by
Tom Quirk. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Gale Cengage Learning, 2008.
Pp. 424. Hardcover. $254. ISBN 978-0-7876-8161-6.

Many books reviewed on the Mark Twain Forum are available at discounted
prices from the Twain Web Bookstore. Purchases from this site generate
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Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
Barbara Schmidt

Copyright (c) 2008 Mark Twain Forum. This review may not be published
or redistributed in any medium without permission.

_Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 343_ is the latest edition in
a set of reference books from Gale Research Company which first began
the series in 1978. This volume devoted to Mark Twain's _Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn_ is only one of a handful of these editions which are
designated as a _Documentary Volume_ and focus on a single work of an
individual author. Other literary works in this series that have
received such scrutiny include F. Scott Fitzgerald's _Great Gatsby_;
Dashiell Hammett's _Maltese Falcon_; Bram Stoker's _Dracula_; and
Ernest Hemingway's _Farewell to Arms_.

The word _Dictionary_ in the title of this series of reference books as
a whole is misleading. The series is not a dictionary in any
traditional sense. These volumes are organized by topic, period, or
genre to provide a biographical and bibliographical guide as opposed to
a single alphabet entry method. The selection of Tom Quirk to edit such
a reference book on _Huckleberry Finn_ is the right choice for this
project. He brings a solid reputation as an editor and wealth of
knowledge as a Mark Twain scholar to the task at hand.

Quirk has written a brief introduction and a brief biography of Mark
Twain and has compiled a very brief chronology of the composition of
_Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_. The volume is divided into four major
sections devoted to "Background Sources" for _Huckleberry Finn_;
"Composition and Illustration"; "Marketing and Reception" of the book;
and finally the "Reputation" of _Huckleberry Finn_ as it has evolved
over the last one hundred and twenty-three years. The material found
within these major sections consists of previously published journal
articles, essays, and book chapters that have appeared over the last
fifty years and which are reprinted here along with their original
reference notes. Complementing all these sections are sidebars, texts
of letters and facsimiles of letters, photos, maps, graphics, editorial
cartoons, and facsimile reprints of a few of Mark Twain's working notes
and manuscript pages.

The "Background Sources" section of the book is divided into several
subsections including "Places and People" which feature passages from
Dixon Wecter's _Sam Clemens of Hannibal_ (1952). Also included in this
subsection is a segment from Arthur G. Pettit's _Mark Twain and the
South_ (1974). Although Pettit perpetuates a fallacy that Twain
referred to his character Jim as "Nigger Jim," Pettit's profiles of
John Lewis (a farm worker from Elmira) and George Griffin (Mark Twain's
butler) as inspirations for Jim are valuable insights into Twain's
creative process. This subsection also features David Carkeet's "The
Dialects in _Huckleberry Finn_ from _American Literature_ (November

Also included in "Background Sources" is a subsection on "Incidents and
Episodes" that likely influenced Twain's storylines. Edgar M. Branch's
detailed research on "Newspaper Items as Sources for _Huckleberry
Finn_" from _Nineteenth-Century Fiction_ (March 1983) is reprinted here
as well as an excerpt from Branch and Robert Hirst's _The
Grangerford-Shepherdson Feud by Mark Twain_ (1985). To illustrate
Twain's usage of ideas borrowed from other Southwestern humorists, a
segment from Johnson Jones Hooper's _Some Adventures of Captain Suggs_
(1845) titled "The Captain Attends a Camp-Meeting" is reprinted. This
segment is introduced as being the inspiration for Mark Twain's episode
of the king at the Pokeville camp meeting in chapter 20 of _Huckleberry
Finn_. Walter Blair's research on the "The Boggs Shooting" and its
counterpart in the real life Hannibal shooting of Sam Smarr by William
Owsley is reprinted from _Mark Twain and Huck Finn_ (1960). Rounding
out this section is James Ellis's essay from _American Literature_
(1991) on "The Bawdy Humor of The King's Camelopard or The Royal
Nonesuch." Ellis theorizes that the king's onstage antics in chapter 23
of _Huckleberry Finn_ included a phallic pantomime that Mark Twain
attempted to disguise.

The third subsection of "Background Sources" is devoted to literary
influences. Twain's burlesques of Shakespeare are examined in an essay
by Anthony J. Berret which originally appeared in _American Literary
Realism_ (1985). Alan Gribben examines how _Huckleberry Finn_ stacks up
against other works in the genre of "Boy Books" including Thomas Bailey
Aldrich's _The Story of a Bad Boy_ (1869). Gribben concludes, "Mark
Twain set out to write another conventional Boy Book but his
experiences and reading--and above all, his literary imagination--got
the better of him, and the book veered away from generic formulas to
become something even more vital and inspiring--a combination of voice
and place and event that has moved and challenged writers and readers
ever since" (p. 90). Gribben's essay originally appeared in _South
Central Review_ (Winter 1988). Walter Blair's essay from 1957 _Modern
Philology_ examines the literary influences of Thomas Carlyle and
Charles Dickens on _Huckleberry Finn_. Lucinda MacKethan presents
evidence that Twain was influenced by slave narratives published in the
1840s and 1850s including those written by William Wells Brown,
Frederick Douglass and James Pennington. MacKethan's essay is reprinted
from _The Southern Review_ (April 1984). The final essay in this
section is from Howard Baetzhold's _Mark Twain and John Bull_ (1970)
which examines the influences of William Lecky, Thomas Paine, Charles
Darwin and Edward FitzGerald on Twain's story.

The second major section of _Volume 343_ is devoted to "Composition and
Illustration." Quirk has revised his own 1990 essay that appeared in
_Writing the American Classics_ (1990) to take into account the October
1990 discovery of the long-lost portion of the original manuscript of
_Huckleberry Finn_. Quirk writes that his revised essay "builds
especially on the work of Walter Blair. It also benefited enormously
from the published work of and conversation with Victor Fischer, who is
the editor of the revised edition of the novel published in 2003 by the
University of California Press" (p. 112). Quirk offers an inventory of
the most significant revelations that came forth with the discovery of
the missing manuscript. Also discussed in this section are the excised
episodes that never appeared in the first edition of the book,
including the raft episode which was published in _Life on the
Mississippi_ (1883) and Jim's ghost story which was first published in
1995 in _The New Yorker_.

Michael Patrick Hearn's essay from _American Book Collector_ (1981) on
Mark Twain and illustrator E. W. Kemble provides background and
biographical information on the man chosen to illustrate _Huckleberry
Finn_. Louis Budd's "A Nobler Roman Aspect" of _Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn_ examines the motives behind the use of the portrait
of Karl Gerhardt's bust of Mark Twain as a frontispiece for the book.
Budd's essay originally appeared in _One Hundred Years of Huckleberry
Finn_ (1985).

The final subsection under "Composition and Illustration" is titled
"The Further Adventures of Huck Finn." An essay by Claude M. Simpson,
Jr. discusses the role Huck played in _Tom Sawyer Abroad_ (1894); _Tom
Sawyer, Detective_ (1896); and unfinished fragments, stories and
novellas not published in Twain's lifetime. These include "Doughface,"
"Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians," "Tom Sawyer's
Conspiracy," Tom Sawyer's Gang Plans a Naval Battle," "Schoolhouse
Hill," and a lost manuscript from 1902 which brought back Tom Sawyer
and Huck Finn as old men. Simpson concludes that although Mark Twain
"never ceased to see the value of Huck as an outsider and foil, he was
primarily concerned with Huck's narrative voice rather than the full
range of the youth's personality. By not creating opportunities for
Huck to continue to reveal himself in all his ironic depths, Twain
misjudged the essence of his greatest book and sacrificed opportunities
he may never have been aware of" (p. 188). Simpson's essay originally
appeared in _American Humor: Essays Presented to John C. Gerber_ (1977).

The third major section of this volume is titled "Marketing and
Reception" and includes a discussion of subscription book marketing,
Mark Twain's lecture tour in 1884-1885 with George Washington Cable,
and the prepublication of passages from the novel in _Century
Magazine_. Portions of Victor Fischer's essay from _American Literary
Realism_ (Spring 1983) titled "Huck Finn Reviewed" spell out the
complications that accompanied the book's debut. These included
publicity about a defaced illustration which resulted in an obscene
graphic that appeared in early samples of the book; a lawsuit with
Estes & Lauriat book dealers; a ban on the book from the Concord
Library; and Mark Twain's overall attempts to "stage-manage" the book's
reception and its reviewers. About two dozen contemporary reviews are
reprinted. One of the earliest reviews appeared in the British journal
_The Athenaeum_ (December 1884) and is believed to have been written by
poet and critic William Ernest Henley. Henley wrote a glowing review of
_Huck_ and his adventures stating, "With Jim he goes south down the
river, and is the hero of such scrapes and experiences as make your
mouth water (if you have ever been a boy) to read them" (p. 215). Not
all reviews were filled with praise. A reviewer for the _Boston Evening
Traveller_ wrote: "It is doubtful if the edition could be disposed of
to people of average intellect at anything short of the point of the
bayonet" (p. 226). This section concludes with a summation from Victor
Fischer's essay pointing out that within six years, by the time the
second edition appeared in 1891, it had been proclaimed a "masterpiece."

The final section of _Volume 343_ examines the "Reputation" of
_Huckleberry Finn_. In an essay by Louis J. Budd from _Missouri Review_
(1987) titled "The Recomposition of _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_,"
Budd discusses today's ongoing controversy over the racial elements of
the novel; its worldwide popularity; its entrance into American
culture; and how the book has come to be regarded as a "classic." Tom
Quirk contributes another essay titled "Huckleberry Finn's Heirs" which
explores Twain's "literary bequest" to other writers including Ring
Lardner, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes. Quirk also presents
responses to Twain's novel by writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude
Stein, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Sherwood Anderson. Quirk's
essay is a reprint from his earlier contribution to _Coming to Grips
with Huckleberry Finn_ (1993). This section also includes a number of
stand-alone quotes from other literary figures regarding _Huckleberry
Finn_. These include comments from William Dean Howells, George Bernard
Shaw, H. L. Mencken, W. Somerset Maugham, Sinclair Lewis, William
Faulkner, Herman Wouk, William Styron, Robert Penn Warren, Norman
Mailer and Toni Morrison.

The final subsection under "Reputation" is titled "African American
Critics on _Huckleberry Finn_." This section is introduced with the
explanation that after the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in _Brown v.
Board of Education_ in 1954, Twain's novel was taught in desegregated
classrooms and inevitable charges of racism followed. In 1957 the New
York City Board of Education removed the book from the list of approved
texts for schools. The racial issue is one that continues to arise
today in classrooms across the country. One defense often voiced is
that the book "is not racist, but the literary sophistication required
to discern Mark Twain's true intent is quite above the capacities of
junior high school, or even high school students, white or black" (p.
285). The final essays in this section are opinions by African American
teachers, literary scholars and historians. Most of these essays are
reprinted from _Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on __Huckleberry
Finn__ (1992). There is no consensus of opinion among these
contributors on how to best deal with the issues and controversy that
often surround the novel.

The final one hundred pages are devoted to what the publishers describe
as a "Cumulative Index." It is an index of mostly proper names that
have appeared in the previous 342 volumes in this reference book series
plus the current _Volume 343_. As such, the "Cumulative Index" does not
include entries for most of the information pertinent to the volume at
hand. Almost none of the people whose names appear in _Volume 343_ are
listed in the "Cumulative Index." The lack of indexing for _Volume 343_
itself leaves many readers and students without the necessary tool
needed to take full advantage of the information presented.

Some of the most useful information in the end material of _Dictionary
of Literary Biography, Volume 343: Mark Twain's __Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn__: A Documentary Volume_ will be the extensive
bibliography of "Works about Mark Twain and _Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn_." The most likely purchasers of this volume will be school
libraries that have collected previous editions of this series. Many
Mark Twain scholars and researchers will probably have already
purchased many of the books and acquired the journal articles from
which this volume draws its material. For those who have not, this
volume packages the most pertinent information from many previous
publications into one useful resource. The book is a tribute to Tom
Quirk's knowledge of Mark Twain scholarship over the last half century.