Twain in his
honorary Oxford regalia

Volume 49

 

 

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      Mark Twain and profanity are inseparable in the public mind, and yet scholars have seldom looked into the extent of and basis behind this impression. Sarah Fredericks contributes a substantial essay exploring this subject in �The Profane Twain: His Personal and Literary Cursing.� Interspersed in her article are illustrations from Life on the Mississippi that depicted assorted angry eruptions of cursing.

      Given the topic of Sarah Fredericks�s essay, it occurred to the editor that a drawing by Bill Watterson for the MTJ would wryly characterize Twain and the profanity he encountered on the Mississippi River. That led to an interview with Margaret Tenney in �Mark Twain in Cartoon,� which provides a back story to contributions to the MTJ in the 1980s by artist-philosopher Bill Watterson. A relatively unknown and young Watterson helped Dr. Thomas A. Tenney revamp the MTJ by drawing a series of evocative cartoons that were reproduced as postcards.

     Barbara Schmidt has compiled the extensive �Memorial Roster of Mark Twain Scholars.� She explains the genesis of her invaluable resource that has been welcomed by all those interested in Twain studies.

      Edward Piacentino examines Twain�s influence on a contemporary humorist who would outlive him, May Isabel Fisk, in �Mark Twain and May Isabel Fisk: Parallels in Comic Monologues.�

      Biographical studies of Twain continue to bring forth revealing incidents in his colorful career. Martin Zehr�s �Mark Twain and the Cloak of Culture� delves into Twain�s persona in an 1870 sketch and comments on the treatment of Chinese immigrants and other oppressed minorities.  ”

 



Copyright ©1983 Mark Twain Journal

   This drawing imagines an episode from Life on the Mississippi. The experienced river pilot Horace Bixby is obviously swearing at cub pilot Sam Clemens, who comments with a deadpan, �I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn�t know.� The river was a notorious place for profanity, and is probably where Clemens mainly picked up the lifelong habit that annoyed Olivia and others.

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