Book Club: The Complete Autobiography of Mark Twain


A friend of mine just sent me a link to a story in the UK’s Independent about Mark Twain’s autobiography which is finally being released in its entirety one hundred years after the author’s death, in accordance with his wishes. The article broaches many questions about what scholars and the public will learn and reconsider about Twain and to that end why he desired a hundred year period before publication. I thought this quote was pretty badass, they don’t make them like they used to. Then again, he didn’t come out and say this publicly in his time either. What truths of our era will finally be said only after our deaths?

Another potential motivation for leaving the book to be posthumously published concerns Twain’s legacy as a Great American. Michael Shelden, who this year published Man in White, an account of Twain’s final years, says that some of his privately held views could have hurt his public image.

“He had doubts about God, and in the autobiography, he questions the imperial mission of the US in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He’s also critical of [Theodore] Roosevelt, and takes the view that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Twain also disliked sending Christian missionaries to Africa. He said they had enough business to be getting on with at home: with lynching going on in the South, he thought they should try to convert the heathens down there.”

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