I feel this is something I should know - but don't.  Does anyone know of any
living relatives of Mark Twain?

Thanks, Heather Morgan.
Date:         Sat, 26 Jul 2008 20:55:29 -0700
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That long link worked!  And I enjoyed her story.
THANKS. Arianne Laidlaw
Date:         Mon, 28 Jul 2008 19:15:49 -0500
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Clara's daughter Nina (d. 1966, age 55) was the end of the road. She told a
bartender the night that she died that when she died she wanted plastic
flowers, booze, and jitterbug music at her grave,

There are distant --and I mean distant-- relatives through the Langdons,
Websters, etc.

Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 09:09:02 -0400
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Dear Members of the Twain List,

       Could anyone advise me of recent publications on Twain that
explore the influence of Calvinism on his work? I know Laurence
Berkove's argument that the retrospective narrator of *Roughing It*
adopts a Calvinist perspective on his experiences in the West but would
be grateful for any other citations.

       Many thanks.

Christopher Morris
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 10:19:59 -0400
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Larry Berkove and I just finished a book on this very topic (should be
coming out in the spring).  Larry's written several pieces about the
influence of Calvinism in HF and CY.  Stanley Brodwin, Joe Fulton,
Terrell Dempsey (I know I'm leaving out lots of people but these are the
names that come to mind right now) have have also explored to varying
degrees the subject of Twain and Calvinism.  I'm certain other members
of the Forum can help supplement the list here.

Feel free to send me an email at <[log in to unmask]> and I'll send
specific citations.

Joe Csicsila
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 10:41:20 -0400
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Gregg Camfield's __Sentimental Twain__ includes some discussion of
Calvinism and Twain.

Barbara Ladd
Emory University
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I also have a few things to say about Calvinism and Twain in my book,
MT AND THE SPIRITUAL CRISIS OF MY AGE.  I really love the letter
exchange in around 1902, between Twain and Joe Twichell, about
Jonathan Edwards's book FREEDOM OF THE WILL.  Very funny stuff.  It
has the additional strength of containing savvy theological critique
from both writers.

ps -- it occurs to me to say that the term Calvinism is probably one
of the more misused and misunderstood terms in our national
vocabulary.  it would rank right up there with things like
"evangelical" "fundamentalism."  Things like that.  Or, in our own
field:  "realism"; "postmodernism".

Caveat Emptor.  I have noticed over the years how it has been twisted
and abused in often brilliant ways by critics and historians who
either have an axe to grind, or wish to dull and already too-sharp
axe.  I certainly tried not to do either that in my own work.

Harold K. Bush, Ph.D
Dept. of English, Saint Louis University
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 13:23:20 -0700
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Check out

Dunne, Michael. Calvinist Humor in American Literature. Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State UP, 2007.

- - -
Paul P. Reuben
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Subject:      BOOK REVIEW: Caron, _Mark Twain: Unsanctified Newspaper
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_ Mark Twain: Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter _. By James E. Caron.
University of Missouri Press, 2008. Pp. xiv + 448. Cloth. $49.95. ISBN

Many books reviewed on the Mark Twain Forum are available at discounted
prices from the Twain Web Bookstore. Purchases from this site generate
commissions that benefit the Mark Twain Project. Please visit

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.

How did Samuel Clemens transform himself from "one of the boys" who
reported news and caused mayhem in Washoe into the most popular
stand-up comic of the nineteenth century? With a fresh approach and the
advantage of having so many pieces of the puzzle to study, James E.
Caron's _Mark Twain: Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter_ uncovers what
seems to have been hidden in plain sight for a very long time.

Many of Clemens's newspaper and magazine contributions from the 1860s
have been available to scholars for decades. Clemens's _Letters from
the Sandwich Islands_ was published in 1938 by G. Ezra Dane and Dorothy
Grover. In 1940 Dane teamed up with Franklin Walker and published
Clemens's American travel correspondence to the San Francisco _Alta
California_ in _Mark Twain's Travels with Mr. Brown_. Gladys Bellamy
(_Mark Twain as a Literary Artist_) and Edgar Branch (_Literary
Apprenticeship of Mark Twain_) both published their studies in 1950. In
1957 Henry Nash Smith published _Mark Twain of the Enterprise_ and
Edgar Branch published _Clemens of the Call_ in 1969. Branch, along
with Robert Hirst, edited two volumes of _Early Tales & Sketches_, in
1979 and 1981. However, none of the previous studies examines the
entire body of Clemens's work of the 1860s with the depth and analysis
that Caron provides. To enjoy the full benefits of Caron's book,
scholars will find it useful to have at hand many of these earlier
sources in order to follow his careful analyses. While Caron reprints
many choice stories that are signposts along the way, other stories are
referred to only by page numbers in earlier sources.

In his Prologue, Caron lays out the goals for his book which include
charting Samuel Clemens's early professional newspaper and magazine
writings within their historical and cultural context. He provides
extensive background material on major periodicals and the history of
professional comic writing as well as demographics of readers who made
up the marketplace for literary magazines. He also examines Clemens's
early influences including Charles Henry Webb, Bret Harte, Charles
Farrar Browne, and William Wright. According to Caron, "Clemens most
resembles Webb of all his early contemporaries, not only due to the
intensity of their comic energy, but also due to its volume, that is,
their consistent willingness to use all manner of comic devices--witty,
satire, elaborate puns, double entendre, sexual allusions, impious
jokes, disreputable behavior, and mere slapstick--in order to challenge
and disrupt centric patterns of thought and behavior" (p. 280).

Caron emphatically states that when one concentrates on the initial
phase of Clemens's career, from 1862 to 1869, that "thorough
examination of the contemporary context undermines long-accepted tenets
of Mark Twain scholarship" (p. 8). Clemens's connection to the comic
tradition of the Old Southwest becomes overstated and the significance
of his story "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" diminishes under Caron's
scrutiny. This argument is one of the highlights of his book. Caron
explains that the "Jumping Frog" tale closely corresponds with
Clemens's efforts to transform himself into a comic magazine writer for
literary periodicals. Caron points out that the tale's form was likely
inspired by the performance of Charles Farrar Browne as Artemus Ward
which Clemens witnessed in Virginia City. Browne's stage technique was
the rambling narrative deadpan that Clemens used for garrulous old
Simon Wheeler in the "Jumping Frog." Caron considers Simon Wheeler a
figure more aligned to Yankee traditions of humor than characters
created by Old Southwest writers. "The pseudonym 'Mark Twain' had
already reached an East Coast audience with some frequency by early
1865" (p. 259). Caron further argues, "Trimmed to fit an interpretation
by twentieth-century scholars about regional influence and
misunderstood within the context of the contemporary periodical world,
'Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog' has assumed a significance out of
proportion to the facts" (p. 261-62).

Caron's book is divided into five major sections which he labels "Acts"
which are further subdivided into numerous "Scenes." This unusual
segmenting of the book remains unexplained, but is symbolic of Caron's
theory that "Understanding the comic aspects of texts signed 'Mark
Twain' is a fundamental goal of this study, and I begin with the notion
that the signature [Mark Twain] functions as a play frame licensing
comic antics" (p. 9).

Act One, titled "The Comic Lineage of Washoe Mark Twain," provides
historical context for Clemens's work. Links between Clemens and his
predecessors are not so much found in the use of vernacular but in the
comic ambiguity of an earlier comic figure that Caron labels "Gentleman
Roarer"--an untutored man who modeled a positive though humorous view
of plain folks. (In fact, the term "Gentleman Roarer" appears to be
coined by Caron and not found in any Google internet searches prior to
Caron's book.) Well-known comic characters of the 1830s and 1840s such
as Nimrod Wildfire, Colonel Pete Whetstone and Major Joseph Jones
established "a trajectory toward gentility" that embody a "Gentleman
Roarer" type of comic and provided a link to Charles Farrar Browne's
comic character of Artemus Ward. The final candidate for Mark Twain's
comic genealogy is William Wright's Dan De Quille--an apparently
responsible newspaper reporter who often behaved like the uncouth
Comstock miner that he was.

Act Two examines "Washoe Mark Twain." Virginia City, Nevada was a town
that "routinely behaved in uncivilized ways, flaunting a carnival
license without an expiration date" (p. 87). Caron states, "The
background for Sam Clemens inventing his earliest version of Mark Twain
was an unspoken carnival license for playing in all manner of ways at
all hours--not just nighttime gambling and whoring, drinking and opium
smoking, but also the day-and-night mania for becoming rich that
unhinges reason and opens a Pandora's box of trickery. Without this
atmosphere of reckless carnival, Washoe Mark Twain with his penchant
for aggressive comic raillery could not have flourished" (p. 97).

Clemens's early contributions to the _Enterprise_ featured burlesques,
hoaxes, yarns, and imaginary sidekicks (based on real people). His
stories deliberately blurred the line between fact and fiction. Caron
finds significance in the first appearance of an article signed "Mark
Twain." Clemens apparently first used the pseudonym in a travel letter
he wrote from nearby Carson City to the _Enterprise_. The article was a
fictional story featuring Clemens's side-kick "The Unreliable," based
on fellow rival reporter Clement Rice. With the use of the pen name
"Mark Twain," Clemens found a way to invent a character for himself who
could mock journalism and signify to his readers that stories signed
"Mark Twain" meant joking and not accurate reporting. Clemens ran into
trouble in Washoe, however, when not all the citizens understood the
joke. In May 1864 Mark Twain ventured into comic abuse with a story
that hinted that a Carson City women's fund-raising effort would be
diverted from legitimate purposes to aid a miscegenation society. He
had crossed a social boundary and it was in his best interests to leave
Washoe at the end of May 1864.

Act Three, "Mark Twain in San Francisco," is the longest section of the
book. For about four months, from June through September 1864, Clemens
labored as a reporter on the San Francisco _Daily Morning Call_--a
paper with little tolerance for comic antics. Caron documents numerous
instances of how Clemens struggled to find a creative outlet from the
drudgery of writing _Call_ news reports by utilizing comic phrasing and
irreverence within his new stories. "Discovering the madcap in the
mundane" and "comic structures within actual incidents" (p. 255) became
a hallmark for some of his _Call_ contributions.

In the fall of 1864 Clemens's work was being featured regularly in the
literary magazine _Californian_, due in part to his growing camaraderie
with the magazine's editors, Bret Harte and Charles Henry Webb. Clemens
fine-tuned his comic writing to appeal to literary audiences on the
East coast where the magazine articles were often reprinted. He
redirected his satire into more socially acceptable channels marked
with Bohemian irreverence and burlesque attacks on inferior literature
and bad writers. "Lucretia Smith's Soldier," which satirized
sentimental romance novels, appeared in the December 3, 1864
_Californian_ and was reprinted in literary weeklies in New York,
making it the first big hit signed "Mark Twain"--eleven months before
Henry Clapp published the "Jumping Frog" tale in the _New York Saturday

In addition to becoming a Bohemian literary critic, Clemens developed
yet another persona that Caron identifies as a comic version of the
_flaneur_--a French phrase meaning "painter of the passing moment" (p.
223)--a man-about-town reporter who interprets details of everyday life
more keenly than an ordinary observer. Clemens eventually came to
parody _flanerie_ itself by writing digressions so extensive that his
failure to get a real story became the story itself.

Act Four, "Correspondent on Assignment," discusses twenty-five travel
letters from the Sandwich Islands written for the Sacramento _Daily
Union_. Caron's knowledge of the history of the islands provides solid
reference material placing Clemens's trip in context with the politics
and culture of the islands. Subversive comic aspects of the letters
arise in the character of Mr. Brown, a fictitious travel companion who
functions in a role similar to "The Unreliable" from Clemens's Washoe
days. Mr. Brown allowed Clemens to engage in a variety of comic moods
from vulgar to refined while depicting life in the islands.

Act Five, "Correspondent at Large," documents how Clemens turned his
knowledge of the Sandwich Islands into a profitable lecture. Caron
discounts Clemens's own story that his first lecture was without
preparation and that he suffered a panic attack before going on stage.
Caron presents evidence that the lecture was well planned and arranged
to take advantage of publicity generated by the coming visit of
Hawai'ian Queen Emma to San Francisco. Clemens mocked the lyceum
lecture system itself by burlesquing its protocols--he insisted on
introducing himself to his audience--and the serious intent of
conveying information to the audience was replaced with storytelling.
Clemens's elaborate description of the volcano Kilauea became a
highlight of the lecture and was included to appeal to highbrow members
of the audience who believed a lecture should be informative. After his
Kilauea passages, Clemens would comment, "There--I'm glad I've got that
volcano off my mind" (p. 383). Without Caron's interpretation, the
humor of that line is often lost on today's readers.

While Clemens's stage performance can be compared to the performance of
Charles Farrar Browne as Artemus Ward, Caron states there was a clear
difference. "Satire complemented the quirky humors of the Mark Twain
comic character while Artemus Ward merely displayed whimsy and
absurdity. Thus the slangy and irreverent Mark Twain pretended to
dispense information when he was actually interested instead in
garnering laughter from shrewd observations of human behavior" (p.
387). Caron further explains, "Mark Twain, performed on stage, presents
the purest form of the Citizen Clown's symbolic action, lashing the
body politic with laughter to make it behave better than it normally
does. In this second public face, Mark Twain has as descendants all the
best stand-up comics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries" (p.

The final set of travel letters Caron examines are those written to the
San Francisco _Alta California_ as Clemens made the trip from San
Francisco, across Nicaragua, to New York and St. Louis, Missouri. In
these American travel letters Clemens reverts more to his old Washoe
personality of Mark Twain as he and the imaginary Brown become more
similar in behavior. The central joke running through the letters is
Mark Twain posing as a Sandwich Island missionary--a pose invented to
solicit laughter based on his unsanctified reputation. Unsanctified--a
typical member of a community, yet ready to subvert its values with
laughter; a trickster who is ready to subvert the rules of
journalism--the word well defines the career of Samuel Clemens that
Caron presents.

Caron's work is well researched and well documented and draws on a vast
array of both familiar and obscure resources. If there is any
significant shortcoming in the book it is in the index. For a work of
over 400 pages, the index consists of only four pages.  Notably missing
are the names of newspapers and periodicals that Caron often discusses
and are pertinent to Clemens's career. If a reader cannot recall who
the editor of a particular publication was, it is difficult to relocate
discussions of that publication without a page-by-page search. Also
missing are names of people who should be indexed but are not. Overall,
Caron has met the goals he set for himself in his Prologue. His book is
a worthy addition to any Mark Twain collection or library and will be
quoted and referred to by scholars in years to come.
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 18:31:01 -0400
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Christopher -- The influence seems pretty clear on the philosophical beliefs
of Mark Twain's later life. Joe Twichell wrote Clemens in the summer of
1901, after tiring of the deterministic rants of the "What Is Man?" variety:
“Really, you are getting quite orthodox on the doctrine of Total Human
Depravity.” It was what kids today would call a "snap" -- Twichell was going
for the jugular, referring to the old-style Calvinism both men knew well
from childhood and despised.

To emphasize this point, Twichell lent Clemens a copy of Jonathan Edwards'
Freedom of the Will, which Clemens read on the train as he returned to New
York after a visit to Hartford. He wrote Twichell in a letter dated February
1902: “From Bridgeport to New York; thence to home; and continuously until
near midnight I wallowed and reeked with Jonathan in his insane debauch;
rose immediately refreshed and fine at 10 this morning, but with a strange
and haunting sense of having been on a three days’ tear with a drunken

Clemens also acknowledged that he agreed with Edwards—“that the Man (or his
Soul or his Will) never creates an impulse itself, but is moved to action by
an impulse back of it. . . . Up to that point he could have written chapters
III and IV of my suppressed ‘Gospel”’ [i.e., "What Is Man?"].

Where Clemens believed Edwards went wrong was, ironically, the same point at
which Twichell later accused Clemens of going wrong: “He finally flies the
logic track and (to all seeming) makes the man and not these exterior forces
responsible to God for the man’s thoughts, words and acts. It is frank
insanity.” -- Regards, Steve

Steve Courtney
Terryville, CT
Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 19:36:18 EDT
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I couldn't help but note that Twain certainly mocks the Presbyterian version
(or what sounds a lot like what I remember) when he has Huck describe the
Grangerfords' discussion of the Sunday sermon, having "such a powerful lot
to say
about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination, and I
don't know what all...."  This, in between bouts of blasting away at the
equally pious Shepherdsons.
Dan Walker
Date:         Wed, 30 Jul 2008 12:14:44 -0500
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BOOKS AND MEDIA: Briefly Noted


_Mark Twain: Banned, Challenged and Censored_. By Michelle M. Houle.
Enslow Publishers, 2008. Pp. 160. Library binding. $34.60. 6 1/2 x 9
1/4 inches. ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-2689-6. Part of the series of "Authors
of Banned Books" for readers in grade levels 9–12. This series
typically includes biographical details, literary criticism, history,
arguments of those opposed to books and arguments of the books’
supporters. Author Michelle M. Houle discusses Twain's life and times
and analyzes two of his best known books. She also explores the history
of book censorship, outlining why it occurs and possible ways to
address it. She helps young readers make up their own minds about
whether the books should be banned. Grade levels 9-12.

The amazon link for this book is:



_The Invention of Everything Else_. By Samantha Hunt. Houghton Mifflin,
2008. Pp. 272. Hardcover. $24.00. 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches. ISBN-13:
978-0618801121. Set in New York in the 1940s, the ghost of Mark Twain
makes an appearance in this story about the aging inventor Nikola

The amazon link for this book is:


DVD: Children's entertainment (for the very young)

_Veggie Tales: Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue_.
Big Idea, 2008. 45 minutes. DVD. $14.95. ASIN: B0016MJ6L0. Described as
a "Lesson in Helping Others." One of a series of children's cartoons on
DVD featuring vegetables as the leading characters. Tom and Huck live
along the banks of the Mississippi River. When they meet a stranger who
needs their help, they must make some hard decisions. The story
features a Twain-like narrator "Clark Wain."

The amazon link for this DVD is:
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I'd take the Wecter biog with a heavy dose of salt, and I'd be even more
circumspect about MT's autobiographical utterances.  If you look at the
early letters, you'll see evidence to contradict many of the standard
visions of SLC's youth.  Consider, for example, the idea that Sam was lazy
and the "bad boy" of the family whereas Henry was a walking angel.  The
letters suggest a much more complicated reality, more that Henry was the
baby (i.e. pampered by contrast) and that Sam worked hard, scrupulously, and
with a sense of carrying more than his own weight as an apprentice printer.

This is a long way of saying that the MT Project letters volumes from UC
Press contain much biographical raw material and interpretation that you
might want to use as your primary biography for the early years.  I'll add a
plug, too, for Dempsey's book for the slice of life it gives; while it
doesn't profess to give a biog of SLC in Hannibal, it is scruplous in its
use of historical sources to create a picture of a significant part of SLC's
childhood environment and culture.