NEARLY 100 years after his death, a "lost" story by one of America's most important writers has been published by the magazine that first commissioned it.
Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clem-ens), author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, wrote the 8,000-word novella A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage in 1876, when he was 40. His idea was to publish the story with other versions based on the same outline plot but written by other authors.
The project failed when Twain was unable to persuade other leading writers, including Henry James, to take part. Over the next 100 years the manuscript of Twain's version changed hands several times until it found its way into the archives of the library at the University of Texas.
This week, Atlantic Monthly, the long-running US literary magazine for which Twain wrote and A Murder ... was originally intended, has published the novella in full. "It is a very exciting thing and what is nice is to see the reaction of people," Michael Kelly, the magazine's editor, said yesterday. "It is great to see so many people excited about a new Mark Twain story."
When Twain (1835-1910) failed to organise the "competition", he is thought to have decided not to publish. The manuscript of his version, set in a fictional village in south-western Missouri called Deer Lick, went missing until the 1930s. It then passed through several hands before ending up in the library of the University of Texas. It was "found" by the Buffalo and Erie county public library, which owns the manuscript to Huckleberry Finn. The library, in conjunction with the magazine and the Twain estate, decided to try to organise the project as Twain envisaged. …