Mark Twain Journal

Volume 57, Spring





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     54.1-MT Kills

     54.2-Mac Donnell

     55-Film Homage


     56.2-Legacy Directors



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Legacy Scholars

Laura Skandera Trombley and Susan K. Harris


Legacy Scholar
Laura Skandera Trombley





Legacy Scholar
Susan K. Harris


Books Received

Kevin J. Hayes, Mark Twain. Critical Lives Series. London: Reaktion Books, 2018. 194 pp. Paper..


Gary Scharnhorst, The Life of Mark Twain: The Middle Years 1871-1891. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2019. 622 pp. Index. Cloth


Kerry Driscoll, Mark Twain among the Indians and Other Indigenous Peoples. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. 448 99. Index. Cloth.


    Editor Alan Gribben's Note

This Spring 2019 issue of the Mark Twain Journal names as Legacy Scholars LAURA SKANDERA TROMBLEY and SUSAN K. HARRIS, whose pioneering biographical studies rehabilitated the stature of Olivia Langdon Clemens and called attention to the beneficial influences of other women who surrounded Samuel L. Clemens. Too often in the past Olivia (Clemens's beloved "Livy") had been seen as a lightweight appendage to her famous husband, a wealthy but poorly educated and frail woman vastly beneath his intellectual level who somehow happened to catch his fancy and marry him. The work of Drs. Trombley and Harris altered forever that erroneous image, demonstrating that in many regards Olivia was her spouse's match and in some areas his superior. Trombley and Harris also reminded readers of the crucial roles played by Clemens's daughters, his secretary Isabel V. Lyon, and other women who enriched Clemens's life and thought.

Our cover essay tells the fascinating story of a huge Hollywood musical version of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that several times nearly made it to the screen--or so it would seem. R. KENT RASMUSSEN brings his superb narrative skills to bear on this movie mystery involving many familiar, and quite a few less familiar, screenwriters, actors, directors, and producers. (Part 2 of Dr. Rasmussen's investigation will appear in the Fall 2019 issue.)

KEVIN MAC DONNELL'S groundbreaking article, "Samuel Clemens Found 'Mark Twain'" ( Mark Twain Journal 50.1-2 [2012]: 9-47), garnered national attention for its theory about when and how Clemens derived the idea for his famous pen name. Many scholars were grateful to have the matter seemingly resolved once and for all, but there still were doubters who either held to a rumored barroom origin or else remained not entirely convinced. Mac Donnell is back again in this issue with even more convincing evidence as to how plausible it seems that Sam Clemens stumbled across this inspiration in a certain magazine in 1863. If this new, even more persuasive proof does not bring around the nay-sayers, well, one can only say that Kevin Mac Donnell has tried his best to picture with realistic clarity the scenario where Clemens could have found Mark Twain.

One hardly thinks of the literary and historical classics of Greece and Rome in connection with Mark Twain, but ROBERT KLEVAY surveys the extent of his familiarity with ancient authors and reaches some unexpected conclusions based on information gleaned from an advance copy of Alan Gribben's forthcoming Mark Twain's Literary Resources. Clemens had a fondness for Suetonius's Lives of the Twelve Caesars , as Twain scholars are already aware, but he also devoured and relished (in English translations) dozens of other classical works. Dr. Klevay categorizes and discusses the ancient books that carried Clemens back to early eras of Western civilization.

It is good to recall from time to time Mark Twain's piloting days on the Mississippi River and what they meant to his literary career. MICHAEL H. MARLEAU takes a close look at one steamboat in particular, from its construction to its sinking. Marleau informs his essay with steamboat jargon. A youthful Sam Clemens briefly piloted this side-wheeler during which a bear was set loose on its deck.

In recent decades several authors have added new voices or viewpoints to Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and JOHN PETER ZAVEZ offers readers a fresh perspective, that of the enslaved runaway, Jim. In an interview with the Mark Twain Journal, Zavez explains what Jim can contribute to understanding the novel. Zavez also greatly expanded the roles of other African Americans merely mentioned in Huckleberry Finn's narrative, such as Nathaniel on the Phelpses' farm. Readers of this interview may find themselves wanting to ask their library to order a copy of Black Lives Matter Too: My Adventures with Huckleberry Finn (2018).

The Mark Twain Journal adds a new feature in this issue, a section honoring individuals no longer living who permanently altered the landscape of our field. Our first Stormfield Scholars to be recognized in this manner are LAWRENCE I. BERKOVE (commemorated in special essays by KEVIN MAC DONNELL and DONNELYN CURTIS) and WALTER BLAIR, to whom JOE B. FULTON pays tribute by summarizing his impactful career.

KELLY SNYDER briefly reminds us of the debt that Twainians owe to Justin Kaplan, who in 1966 wrote what was arguably the first "modern" biography of Mark Twain and gave succeeding biographers a new, absorbing standard against which to measure their efforts.

JEFFREY MELTON and ALAN GRIBBEN review recent books received by the Mark Twain Journal.

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Mock advertisement by R. Kent Rasmussen for "MGM's Huckleberry Finn Musical That Never Reached the Screen, Part 1"


Kevin Mac Donnell completes his research into how Sam Clemens could have gotten the idea for the "Mark Twain" pseudonym at J. G. Fox's newstand (arrow) at this Wells Fargo stage depot in Carson City.


Robert Klevay researches and summarizes Mark Twain's familiarity with Greek and Roman literature from an advanced copy of Alan Gribben's Mark Twain's Literary Resources.


Michael H. Marleau traces the life of the Arago steamboat before and after Sam Clemens was its pilot. Marleau gives a glimpse of the hectic schedules of incoming and outgoing boats and the dangers of piloting.


Donnelyn Curtis (interviewing Berkove in above photo) and Kevin Mac Donnell remember Lawrence I. Berkove as a friend, Mark Twain scholar, and editor of The Sagebrush Anthology: Literature from the Silver Age of the Old West and co-editor with Donnelyn Curtis of Before the Big Bonanza: Dan De Quille's Early Comstock Accounts .


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Jim's perspective? The Mark Twain Journal interviews John Peter Zavez, author of Black Lives Matter Too by Mark Time.