Mark Twain Letter

Source: Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #446

Letter from Samuel L. Clemens to Walter Williams.

Letter from Samuel L. Clemens to Walter Williams.

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin

The letter attached is by Samuel L. Clemens better known by his pen name of Mark Twain. He used other pen names “Josh” until 1863 and “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass” before deciding on Mark Twain. He had different jobs in his early years such as, a printers apprentice, a Mississippi riverboat pilot, and a newspaperman. He gradually started writing fiction. His best known books are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Huckleberry Finn (1885). Twain was not a racist, although a library in Concord, Massachusetts, banned his book in 1885. He wrote to his publisher, “They have expelled Huck from their library as trash suitable only for the slums’; that will sell 25,000 copies for sure.” Twain was very popular in his day and traveled widely giving talks all over the world. Walter Williams, the founder of the University of Missouri’s journalism school, wrote to Clemens asking him to give a talk at the University of Missouri. He was turned down by Clemens because he was already busy at the time. In his usual humor he said this, because of a recent visit to Edison’s laboratory: “While Watterson, by himself, is a useless carbon loop, & I, by myself, am a useless wire, we are an electric light when we combine.” Henry Watterson, was the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, who he mentions in the quote. Twain was born and died with Halley’s Comet passing by the earth 1835-1910. He was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835, and died of heart failure on April 21, 1910. He was and is one of America’s favorite authors. This letter is on loan to us by Ronald W. Hoag, an English Professor here at ECU, and George W. and Ruth N. Hoag. The letter is found in Collection #446 Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) Papers.

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