Hatching Ruin, Or, Mark Twain's Road to Bankruptcy

Synopsis

In "Hatching Ruin, " Charles H. Gold provides a complete description of Samuel Clemens's business relationships with Charles L. Webster and James W. Paige during the 1880s. Gold analyzes how these relationships affected Clemens and the development of his Mark Twain persona, most notably in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The 1880s were a time when Samuel Clemens was more businessman than author. Clemens wanted to be rich. From an early age, he had been brought up on get-rich-quick dreams. To this end, he started a publishing company and placed Charles L. Webster, who was married to his niece, at the head of it. He also invested large sums of money with James Paige, who was developing a typesetting machine for him. These were to be Clemens's instruments of success--his way to bring technology to the world and become so rich that he would never need to earn money again. Unfortunately for him, Paige was a perfectionist who was constantly tinkering with his typesetting machine. When the publishing company began to fail, Clemens was unable to continue his investments in the typesetter. He blamed both Webster and Paige for his failure to "get rich quick" and for his eventual bankruptcy in 1894. Gold argues that these financial changes in his life and their impact on his views can be seen in his writings. At the beginning of the 1880s, while life was still good, Clemens wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a nostalgic look at youth and innocence in preindustrial America. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, written after the author's financial failures, is a savage condemnation of the Gilded Age, especially technology's role in it. Gold's "Hatching Ruin" tells for thefirst time the full story of Clemens's experiences as an investor, employer, and entrepreneur during the Gilded Age. Gold uses previously unpublished material from family correspondence and Clemens's autobiographical dictations

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