Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches & Essays: 1891-1910

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The Library of America, 1992 - Fiction - 2126 pages
18 Reviews
This with its companion volume is the most comprehensive collection ever published of Mark Twain's short writings: the incomparable stories, sketches, burlesques, hoaxes, tall tales, speeches, satires, and maxims of America's greatest humorist. Arranged chronologically and containing many pieces restored to the form in which Twain intended them to appear, the volumes show with unprecedented clarity the literary evolution of Mark Twain over six decades of his career.
This volume contains eighty pieces from the years 1891 to 1910, when Twain emerged from bankruptcy and personal tragedy to become the white-suited, cigar- smoking international celebrity who reported on his own follies and those of humanity with an unerring sense of the absurd. Some stories display Twain's fascination with money and greed, such as "The Esquimau Maiden's Romance" and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." Other stories, written after the death of his daughter Susy in 1896, explore the outer limits of fantasy and psychic phenomena, including "Which Was the Dream?," "The Great Dark," and "My Platonic Sweetheart."
The United States military involvement in Cuba, China, and the Philippines turned Twain's attention to political satire and invective. "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," "The United States of Lyncherdom," "The Czar's Soliloquy," "King Leopold's Soliloquy," and "The War Prayer" are biting denunciations of European and American imperialism. Other political issues inspired articles and stories about the Jews, the notorious Dreyfus case, and vivisection. Twain's increasingly unorthodox religious opinions are powerfully, often comically expressed in "Extracts from Adam's Diary," "Eve's Diary," "Eve Speaks," "Adam's Soliloquy," "A Humane Word from Satan," "What Is Man?," "Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," and "Letters from the Earth."
"Against the assault of laughter," he said, "nothing can stand." Twain's brilliant inventiveness continues to shine in such later comic masterpieces as "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences," "Italian Without a Master," "Hunting the Deceitful Turkey," and "My First Lie and How I Got Out of It." A posthumous collection of proverbs and aphorisms ("More Maxims of Mark") is included as an appendix.
The publishing history of every story, essay, article, and speech has been thoroughly researched, and in each instance the most authoritative text has been reproduced. This collection also includes an extensive chronology of Twain's complex life, helpful notes on the people and events referred to in his works, and a guide to the texts.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AliceAnna - LibraryThing

Interesting to see his work as it develops. This volume was heavy on his early newspaper work -- mostly fabricated "journalism," letters, etc. Some of the essays are too serious. He gets his point ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JVioland - LibraryThing

Endearing. Extremely funny. Much material of a serious nature is attacked by Twain's caustic wit. We need an observer of humanity like him today. He'd skewer the celebrities, sports stars and politicians and show them as naked as a plucked chicken on a spit. Read full review

Contents

AixlesBains
1
Playing Courier
15
Mental Telegraphy
30
Copyright

56 other sections not shown

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About the author (1992)

Samuel Clemens - steamboat pilot, prospector, and newspaper reporter - adopted the pen name "Mark Twain" when he began his career as a literary humorist. The pen name - a river's pilot's term meaning "two fathoms deep" or "safe water" - appears to have freed Clemens to develop the humorous, deadpan manner that became his trademark. During his lifetime, Twain wrote a great deal. Much of his writing was turned out quickly to make money. Even his least significant writing, however, contains flashes of wit and reveals his marvelous command of colloquial American English. His best work is his "Mississippi writing" - Life on the Mississippi (1883) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). In the latter novel Twain was able to integrate his talent for comic invention with his satirical cast of mind and sense of moral outrage. Novelist Ernest Hemingway declared The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the greatest American novel and the source of all modern American fiction. Certainly it influenced Hemingway's own work and that of writers as diverse as Saul Bellow and J.D. Salinger. Twain was born in Florida, Missouri, and grew up in Hannibal, a small southern town very similar to the one in which he places his heroes Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Twain was a printer for a time, and then became a steamboat pilot, a profession he regarded with great respect all his life. He traveled in the West, writing humorous sketches for newspapers. In 1865, he wrote the short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which was very well received. He then began a career as a humorous travel writer and lecturer, publishing The Innocents Abroad in 1869, Roughing It in 1872, and, co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner, Gilded Age in 1873. His best-known works, however, are the novels that came out of his childhood in Hannibal: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Critic and editor of the Atlantic Monthly William Dean Howells, a friend of Twain's, encouraged him to write for that periodical. Howells later wrote an affectionate memoir, My Mark Twain, in which he called Twain, "the Lincoln of our literature." In 1894, a publishing house that Twain had invested in went bankrupt and Twain lost a great deal of money. This was but one of several fortunes he was to lose as a result of his poor business sense and propensity for unrealistic money-making schemes. His personal life was further blighted by the various deaths from illness of an infant son and two grown daughters and the long illness and eventual death of his wife. These experiences of success, failure, sorrow may account for the contrasting extremes of humor and bitterness in Twain's writing. Toward the close of his life, the bitterness predominated, and Twain turned to writing satirical diatribes against God and humanity - so much so that his surviving daughter, Clara, refused to allow these works to be published in her lifetime. Twain was born in the year of Haley's Comet and predicted that he would die in the year of the next Haley's Comet. He did, indeed, die of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth.

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