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Mark Twain's "Which Was the Dream?" and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years

Mark Twain's "Which Was the Dream?" and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years

Edited with an Introduction by John S. Tuckey
Copyright Date: 1966
Pages: 600
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  • Book Info
    Mark Twain's "Which Was the Dream?" and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years
    Book Description:

    All of these selections in this volume were comosed between 1896 and 1905. Mark Twain wrote them after the disasters of the early and middle nineties that had included the decline into bankruptcy of his publishing business, the failure of the typsetting machine in which he invested heavily, and the death of his daughter Susy. Their principal fable is that of a man who has been long favored by luck while pursuing a dream of success that has seemed about to turn into reality. Sudden reverses occur and he experiences a nightmarish time of failure. He clutches at what may be a saving thought: perhaps he is indeed living in a nightmare from which he will awaken to his former felicity. But there is also the possibility that what seems a dream of disaster may be the actuality of his life. The question is the one asked by the titles that he gave to two of his manuscripts: "Which Was the Dream?" and "Which Was It?" He posed a similar question in 1893: "I dreamed I was born, and grew up, and was a pilot on the Mississippi, and a miner and journalist...and had a wife and children...and this dream goes on and on andon, and sometimes seems so real that I almost believe it is real. I wonder if it is?" Behind this naïve query was his strong interest in conscious and unconscious levels of mental experience, which were then being explored by the new psychology.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90505-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    These selected later writings of Samuel L. Clemens—Mark Twain—are here published for the first time, with but two exceptions: “The Great Dark” appeared inLetters from the Earth, as edited by Bernard DeVoto;¹ and a 5,000-word excerpt from “Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes” was published by Albert Bigelow Paine in his biography.²

    All of the selections in this volume were composed between 1896 and 1905. Mark Twain wrote them after the disasters of the early and middle nineties that had included the decline into bankruptcy of his publishing business, the failure of a typesetting machine in which...

  4. The Texts

    • Which Was the Dream? FROM MRS. ALISON X.’S DIARY.
      (pp. 33-73)

      March 1, 1854,morning.—It will be a busy day. Tom and the servants and a carpenter or two have already begun to set up the stage and scenery in the north end of the picture gallery *

      *We call it the picture gallery because it isn’t. It is the ball room.

      for Bessie’s play—first dress rehearsal to-night. There will be two more before the great occasion—Bessie’s eighth birthday—the 19th. The scenery and costumes have cost a great sum, and are very beautiful. It will be a fine show to see that company of pretty children clothed...

    • The Enchanted Sea-Wilderness
      (pp. 76-86)

      Scattered about the world’s oceans at enormous distances apart are spots and patches where no compass has any value. When the compass enters one of these bewitched domains it goes insane and whirls this way and that and settles nowhere, and is scared and distressed, and cannot be comforted. The sailor must steer by sun, moon and stars when they show, and by guess when they don’t, till he gets past that enchanted region. The worst of these spots and the largest one is in the midst of the vast ocean solitudes that lie between the Cape of Good Hope...

    • An Adventure in Remote Seas.
      (pp. 89-98)

      I was born and reared in Ohio, and I have a common-school education. My father was the village blacksmith. I was his only child. He was killed in the war when I was a baby. My mother died when I was fifteen years old—worn out and starved out by hard work and poverty. There were no relatives. I was an apprentice blacksmith, and got my keep and clothes for pay. When I was seventeen I was free, and wanted to see the world. I put my belongings in a gunny sack and made my way west to San Francisco...

    • The Great Dark BEFORE IT HAPPENED.
      (pp. 102-150)

      We were in no way prepared for this dreadful thing. We were a happy family, we had been happy from the beginning; we did not know what trouble was, we were not thinking of it nor expecting it.

      My husband was thirty-five years old, and seemed ten years younger, for he was one of those fortunate people who by nature are overcharged with breezy spirits and vigorous health, and from whom cares and troubles slide off without making any impression. He was my ideal, and indeed my idol. In my eyes he was everything that a man ought to be,...

    • Indiantown
      (pp. 153-176)

      It was about seventy years ago; the region, the cotton belt on the west bank of the Mississippi river; the scene, the town of Indiantown and its immediate country surroundings. Indiantown was a very important place, and was well satisfied with itself, for it could prove a population of fifteen hundred. Whites, of course; slaves did not count. You would travel far, up and down the river, before you would find another town as large as that.

      It stood upon a perfectly flat and narrow strip of rich black soil; its front was upon the river, whose banks—at low...

      (pp. 179-429)

      I must begin, in order to make him do the like, according to his promise. His name is George Louisiana Purchase Harrison;* I am Alison, his wife. I was married at 18, and am 26 now; he is 33. We are to write our small history, so that the children may have it when they grow up; a thing which has long been my dearest desire, and now it is really going to be fulfilled at last. I want it written for the children’s sake, but I have one other reason for wishing it: I think he is literary in...

    • 3,000 Years Among the Microbes
      (pp. 433-554)

      Although this work is a History, I believe it to be true. There is internal evidence in every page of it that its Author was conscientiously trying to state bare facts, unembellished by fancy. While this insures irksome reading, it also insures useful reading; and I feel satisfied that this will be regarded as full compensation by an intelligent public which has long been suffering from a surfeit of pure History unrefreshed by fact. Among the thousands of statements put forth in this Work there are but two that have a doubtful look, and I think these divergences—if they...

  5. Appendix