For more than forty years William Dean Howells counted Mark Twain among his closest friends. Howells knew all the great men of American literature during the last half of the nineteenth century. In his acquaintance were Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, Holmes, and a long list of other sages, poets, novelists, and critics.
“They were like on another and like other literary men,” Howells wrote, “but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature.”
Mark Twin’s death on April 21, 1910, moved Howells to record his memories of the man he felt “pervaded” the era “almost more than any other man of letters.” His reminiscences were published inHarper’s Monthly and subsequently put into book form along with twelve pieces of Howells’ criticism of Mark Twain’s work.
This is the first new edition of the book since the original printing in 1910. Both the sketch and the essays have been annotated to give the reader a full appreciation of Mark Twain’s growth as a writer and Howells’ increasing awareness of his friends’ greatness. The notes identify and explain the literary issues, the people, places, and events to which Howells alludes.
The long friendship between Howells and Mark Twain fostered innumerable visits, extensive correspondence, joint literary projects, and often humorous escapades. To a great degree Howells identified with Clemens. Both men were of midwestern origin and cam from similar backgrounds. They encountered literary Boston together. Both experienced domestic tragedy. The immediacy of My Mark Twain affords the reader a rare and intimate picture of Mark Twain and indirectly, of Howells.
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