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Dear Mark Twain

Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers

Edited by R. Kent Rasmussen
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  • Book Info
    Dear Mark Twain
    Book Description:

    A voracious pack-rat, Mark Twain hoarded his readers' letters as did few of his contemporaries.Dear Mark Twaincollects 200 of these letters written by a diverse cross-section of correspondents from around the world-children, farmers, schoolteachers, businessmen, preachers, railroad clerks, inmates of mental institutions, con artists, and even a former president. It is a unique and groundbreaking book-the first published collection of reader letters to any writer of Mark Twain's time. Its contents afford a rare and exhilarating glimpse into the sensibilities of nineteenth-century people while revealing the impact Samuel L. Clemens had on his readers. Clemens's own and often startling comments and replies are also included. R. Kent Rasmussen's extensive research provides fascinating profiles of the correspondents, whose personal stories are often as interesting as their letters. Ranging from gushing fan appreciations and requests for help and advice to suggestions for writing projects and stinging criticisms, the letters are filled with perceptive insights, pathos, and unintentional but often riotous humor. Many are deeply moving, more than a few are hilarious, some may be shocking, but none are dull.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95516-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Ron Powers

    Reading this book gave me the fantods. The good fantods, if Huck will permit me such a distinction, not the bad ones. In fact it made me feel transported.

    Transported back up the river of time, like some Connecticut Yankee, and deposited among a few of the ordinary Americans, along with a sprinkling of Europeans, who read the works of Mark Twain while he was still alive. Able to listen to them as they formed their thoughts about how his books affected them; their reckonings as to what sort of fellow he might be; their frequently nursed fantasies of him...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    More than one hundred years after his death, Mark Twain ranks as one of the most thoroughly documented and studied writers of his time. In addition to countless reprints of his books, the past century has seen publication of scores of editions of his previously unpublished works, plus collections of his journalism, speeches, letters, notebooks, autobiographical dictations, and interviews. Books about Mark Twain now number in the hundreds, articles in the thousands, with no letup in sight. Can anything truly fresh still be added to our understanding of him? One answer may be found in this volume.

    Dear Mark Twain...

  6. Note on Texts
    (pp. 15-16)

    The two hundred letters addressed to Samuel L. Clemens in this volume are arranged in chronological order, based on the dates their authors supplied or their postmarks, and are numbered sequentially. Dates of some letters have been estimated. All incoming letters and Clemens’s replies come from the collections of the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California’s Bancroft Library in Berkeley. The bulk of the collections’ letters are original, but a few used in this volume are copies. Searchable catalogs of the complete correspondence collections are accessible online at

    All letters are rendered in their entirety; the ellipses...


  8. Note on Sources
    (pp. 271-274)
    (pp. 275-278)
    (pp. 279-282)
    (pp. 283-286)
    (pp. 287-296)