Mark Twain's Autobiography
Autobiography of Mark Twain or Mark Twain’s Autobiography refers to a lengthy set of reminiscences, dictated, for the most part, in the last few years of American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

's life and left in typescript and manuscript at his death. The Autobiography comprises a rambling collection of anecdotes and ruminations rather than a conventional autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...


Volume 1

The first volume of a three-volume edition of the complete text was published in November 2010, the 100th anniversary year of Twain’s death, edited by the The Mark Twain Project of The Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 and published by University of California Press
University of California Press
University of California Press, also known as UC Press, is a publishing house associated with the University of California that engages in academic publishing. It was founded in 1893 to publish books and papers for the faculty of the University of California, established 25 years earlier in 1868...


Twain-scripted Contents

  • The Tennessee Land (1870)
  • Chapter 1--Early Years in Florida. Missouri (1877)
  • Grant
    Ulysses S. Grant
    Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

  • Vienna Sketches (1898)
  • Scraps from my Autobiography (1900)
    • Chapter IX
    • Jeanne d'ARC
      Joan of Arc
      Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

      • Notes
  • Introductions for previous attempts at autobiography
  • Preface. As from the grave (for Florence attempt)
  • Florence Dictations (1904)
  • New York Dictations (1906; January--March)

Vol.1 also contains an introduction and copious Explanatory Notes

Previous publication

Twain himself had published 'Chapters from My Autobiography' in twenty-five installments in the North American Review
North American Review
The North American Review was the first literary magazine in the United States. Founded in Boston in 1815 by journalist Nathan Hale and others, it was published continuously until 1940, when publication was suspended due to J. H. Smyth, who had purchased the magazine, being unmasked as a Japanese...

in 1906-7.Since Twain's death in 1910, a number of different editors have made attempts to impose some order on the whole of the material by selection and reorganization, producing several decidedly different published versions of The Autobiography. The first of these was published in 1924 by Harper & Brothers
Harper & Brothers
Harper is an American publishing house, the flagship imprint of global publisher HarperCollins.-History:James Harper and his brother John, printers by training, started their book publishing business J. & J. Harper in 1817. Their two brothers, Joseph Wesley Harper and Fletcher Harper, joined them...


Twain's own attempt

Twain first started to compose an autobiography in 1870, but proceeded fitfully, abandoning the work and returning to it as the mood took him. In a 1904 letter to William Dean Howells, he wrote: “I’ve struck it! And I will give it away—to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.” By 1904 Twain had embarked on what he called his “Final (and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. However, after 1907 he again seems to have let the book languish; in 1908-9 he hardly added to it at all, and he declared the project concluded in 1909, after the death of his youngest daughter Jean. His innovative notion — to “talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment” — meant that his thoughts could range freely. Twain thought his autobiography would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-sequential order.

Twain outlined a plan in 1899 for an autobiographical work which was to be published (according to different accounts of the episode) either "100 years from now" or "100 years after his death." A manuscript note in the Mark Twain Papers (UC Berkeley) indicates a 100-year ban was what he was contemplating. Twain did produce a preface 'From the Grave' claiming that the book would not be published until after his death, which allowed him to speak with his "whole frank mind."

The manuscript and typescript materials of the Autobiography are in the Mark Twain Papers at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Early editions

The first edition of the Autobiography was published by Twain's personal friend and literary executor Albert Bigelow Paine
Albert Bigelow Paine
Albert Bigelow Paine was an American author and biographer best known for his work with Mark Twain. Paine was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Committee and wrote in several genres, including fiction, humour, and verse....

, and consisted of twenty-two fragments presented in the order Twain composed them, including the first four months (January-April 1906) of the Autobiographical Dictations. The edition received rather poor reviews. In 1940, editor and historian Bernard DeVoto
Bernard DeVoto
Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.- Life and work :He was born in Ogden, Utah...

 published another selection in Mark Twain in Eruption, arranged by topic and heavily edited. Charles Neider rejected both Paine's and DeVoto's approaches and rearranged the material to match the chronology of a standard autobiography. In spite of these previous efforts, around half of the Mark Twain Project text will be seeing publication for the first time.

External links

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