Mark Twain's Tabooed Talk: Mark Twain Directed His Heirs Not to Release for 100 Years Some of His Manuscripts That Contained His Unvarnished Opinion about Touchy Topics - the Time's Up

By Kenny, Jack | The New American, January 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

Mark Twain's Tabooed Talk: Mark Twain Directed His Heirs Not to Release for 100 Years Some of His Manuscripts That Contained His Unvarnished Opinion about Touchy Topics - the Time's Up


Kenny, Jack, The New American


It is sometimes said regretfully that many Americans today get their "slant" on the news from TV's late-night comedians. But today's "baby boomers" and Generation X-ers and Y-ers are not among the first Americans to find their politics strained through the filter of humor. More than a century before Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert began coming into people's living rooms via broadcast and cable television, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to readers around the world as Mark Twain, was infiltrating the same sanctuary via newspapers, magazines, and books. In a 2008 article for Time magazine, humorist Roy Blount, Jr. showed just how topical, yet timeless, Twain's humor was and is.

In King Leopold's Soliloquy, Twain's scathing 1905 satire on the Belgian occupation of the Congo, Blount found the kind of criticism that might have been aimed a few short years ago at a U.S. government embarrassed by the photographs of abuse at the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Twain imagined the frustration the Belgian King must have felt when photographers discovered natives of the Congo whose hands had been cut off by their Belgian captors. (In the days before the coming of the camera, the King could avail himself of what became known in our Watergate era as "plausible deniability.")

'Then all of a sudden came the crash!" Twain's Leopold laments. "That is to say, the incorruptible Kodak--and all the harmony went to hell! The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I couldn't bribe." At least King Leopold didn't have to worry about a WikiLeaks exposing his skullduggery on the Internet.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Whether Twain was talking about racism at home, the foreign misadventures of the Western powers or the excesses of the era of greed he initially flourished in after the Civil War," Blount wrote, "his target was always human folly and hypocrisy, which turn out to be perennial topics for further study."

On the centenary of the author's 1910 death, the University of California Press late last year released the first of three volumes of Twain's expanded biography, including material the author himself decreed should not be published until he had been dead for 100 years.

"From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out," Twain instructed his heirs and editors in 1906. "There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see."

Some of those opinions might still be regarded in some quarters as something other than "sound and sane." Twain referred to American soldiers in the Philippines as "our uniformed assassins," though his invective was more often and more appropriately aimed at the government that sent them there. Still, it is not hard to imagine the outrage that description would provoke were it uttered today about our troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. Bill O'Reilly would likely have Mark Twain hauled off his set at Fox News, perhaps in one piece, if Twain dared to enter the "No Spin Zone." And there would be a predictable and understandable uproar if Twain's version of the Thanksgiving holiday were taught in our public schools:

  Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or
  three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had
  something to be thankful for--annually, not oftener--if they had
  succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the
  previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their
  neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the
  reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was
  perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all
  on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side,
  consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it.

Skewering Imperialism

Killing, Twain wrote in his short story The Chronicle of Young Satan, is "the chiefest ambition of the human race and the earliest incident in its history. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mark Twain's Tabooed Talk: Mark Twain Directed His Heirs Not to Release for 100 Years Some of His Manuscripts That Contained His Unvarnished Opinion about Touchy Topics - the Time's Up
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.