Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From the Stacks: Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi

Guest post by Esti Brennan, Social Media Intern.



Though it may occasionally be a confusion between 'Samuel L. Clemens' and 'William L. Clements' that brings people to our collections looking for Mark Twain, they won't be disappointed. Among other things, our Book Division currently houses two variant issues of the first edition of Twain's 1883 memoir Life on the Mississippi. The first issue includes a rare image (seen above) that was removed from later copies of the book, apparently at the request of his wife, Olivia Clemens (Kruse 119). The image accompanies a paragraph in which Twain writes that he would like to be cremated--but his family objects. Apparently the objection extended to the illustration of this scenario as well as the preference itself.

Life on the Mississippi chronicles Twain's time as a steamboat pilot in the days before the Civil War, an era during which he became intimately familiar with the river that is central to so many of his books. It was also this experience that provided Clemens with his immortal alias, 'mark twain' being the call sounded when the river depth reached two fathoms. The second part of the memoir, which takes places years after the first section, is an account of a single steamboat journey from St. Louis to New Orleans, in which Twain describes the changing face of the region as viewed from the river.

References:

Horst Hermann Kruse, Mark Twain and "Life on the Mississippi"

Further Reading in the Clements Library:

First edition of Life on the Mississippi, including the aforementioned image and a typescript of a "Suppressed Chapter of 'Life on the Mississippi' by Mark Twain."

An alternate version of the first edition.

Mark Twain's West, a set of the author's memoirs edited and arranged by Walter Blair.


1 comment:

PalmsRV said...

Thanks for the glimpse of a rare image.

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