Breaking news: “Exactly a century after rumours of his death turned out to be entirely accurate, one of Mark Twain's dying wishes is at last coming true: an extensive, outspoken and revelatory autobiography which he devoted the last decade of his life to writing is finally going to be published.
“The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.”
The first book I ever read was TOM SAWYER, a gift for my 10th birthday from my Aunt Jane’s mother in law, Emma, a kindly old woman who was confined to her upstairs bedroom, and who apparently saw in me qualities or personality traits that no one else did.
I loved young Tom’s self-possession, his talent for sidestepping authority and bringing powerful adults to their knees when they thought he’d drowned in the Mississippi. I tingled with pleasure when Tom and Huck crept into the choir loft to witness their own funeral rites. I was entranced with his falling in love with Becky Thatcher, the prettiest girl in school.
Like me, Tom’s parents were absent, and he was being raised by his Aunt Polly. He was my ideal model of a boy who used his wits to triumph in difficult circumstances. In a sense, Tom gave me permission to sidestep the tyranny of my father and other adults. Defying or outfoxing them was an enjoyable sport, and besides, nobody should ever submit to illegitimate authority.
What Emma might have suspected, although I have no way of knowing, is that Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was not the conventional conservative everyone thought he was. He was instead a highly intelligent writer who kept his private political and religious disbeliefs wholly private, because he wanted to continue to sell his books.
Michael Shelden, author of the recent biography MAN IN WHITE, reports that some of Twain’s privately held views would have caused a shocked outcry.
"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."
I admired Tom, and later in life admired his creator even more.
UK Independent Article here.