I’ve ordered, but have not yet read, the new, unexpurgated edition of Mark Twain’s memoirs. Much material was held back until 100 years after his death. As we’ve been observing for some time, the U.S. is beginning the 21st century in a similar state in which it began the 20th. Samuel Clemens is a voice from a century ago that we could really use today. A long, interesting review can be found at:
Update August 2011:
Been slowly reading the early notes he made for the autobiography. Some excerpts:
Twain describing his speech to a gathering of Civil War veterans in 1879, with General Grant on the stage:
I had been picturing the America of fifty years hence, with a population of two hundred million souls, and saying that the future President, Admirals and so forth of that great coming time were now lying in their various cradles, scattered abroad over the vast expanse of this country, and then said “And now in his cradle somewhere under the
flag the future illustrious Commander-in-Chief of the American armies is so little burdened with his approaching grandeur and responsibilities as to be giving his whole strategic mind at this moment to trying to find some way to get his big toe into his
mouth — something, meaning no disrespect to the illustrious guest of this evening, which he turned his entire attention to some fifty-six years ago” –
Then turning to the General I added:
“And if the child is the father of the man there are mighty few who will doubt that he succeeded.”
Twain recounting a conversation with General Grant:
He remembered “Squibob” Derby at West Point very well. He said that Derby was forever drawing caricatures of the professors and playing jokes of all kinds…. At West Point, the professor was instructing and questioning a class concerning certain particulars of a possible siege and he said this, as nearly as I can remember: I cannot
quote General Grant’s words:
Given: That a thousand men are besieging a fortress whose equipment of men, provisions, etc., are so and so — it is a military axiom that at the end of forty-five days
the fort will surrender. Now young men, if any of you were in command of such a fortress, how would you proceed?
Derby held up his hand in token that he had an answer for that question. He said: “I would march out, let the enemy in, and at the end of forty-five days I would change places with him.”
On the Rev. Dr. Newman:
Newman had lately got a ten-thousand-dollar job to preach a funeral sermon over the son of ex-Governor Stanford, the millionaire, and a most remarkable sermon it was — and worth the money. If Newman got the facts right, neither he nor anybody else — any ordinary human being — was worthy to preach that youth’s funeral sermon and it was manifest that one of the disciples ought to have been imported into California for the occasion.
On good grammar:
His grammar is foolishly correct, offensively precise. It flaunts itself in the reader’s face all along, and struts and smirks and shows off, and is in a dozen ways irritating and disagreeable……
This reviewer even seems to know (or seems even to know, or seems to know even) how to put the word “even” in the right place; and the word “only” too. I do not like that kind of persons. I never knew one of them that came to any good. A person who is as self-righteous as that, will do other things. I know this, because I have noticed it many a time. I would never hesitate to injure that kind of a man if I could. When a man works up his grammar to that altitude, it is a sign. It shows what he will do, if he gets a chance; it shows the kind of disposition he has; I have noticed it often. I knew one once that did a lot of things. They stop at nothing.