This book contains the complete texts of all known correspondence between Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) and Joseph Hopkins Twichell. Theirs was a rich exchange. The long, deep friendship of Clemens and Twichell-a Congregationalist minister of Hartford, Connecticut-rarely fails to surprise, given the general reputation Twain has of being antireligious. Beyond this, an examination of the growth, development, and shared interests characterizing that friendship makes it evident that as in most things about him, Mark Twain defies such easy categorization or judgment.
From the moment of their first encounter in 1868, a rapport was established. When Twain went to dinner at the Twichell home, he wrote to his future wife that he had "got up to go at 9.30 PM, & never sat down again-but [Twichell] said he was bound to have his talk out-& I was willing-& so I only left at 11." This conversation continued, in various forms, for forty-two years-in both men's houses, on Hartford streets, on Bermuda roads, and on Alpine trails.
The dialogue between these two men-one an inimitable American literary figure, the other a man of deep perception who himself possessed both narrative skill and wit-has been much discussed by Twain biographers. But it has never been presented in this way before: as a record of their surviving correspondence; of the various turns of their decades-long exchanges; of what Twichell described in his journals as the "long full feast of talk" with his friend, whom he would always call "Mark."
Two friends talking. You get more of Mark Twain the unguarded person from these conversations between two friends than from the biographies. They traveled the footpaths of Europe together, their wives and children enriched their friendship, they could say what they wanted and know they'd get away with it. This is special.
Although Clemens corresponded intimately and at length with a number of individuals, nowhere does he stand more revealed than in his letters to Joe Twichell. The voice that emerges in these pages-by turns lyrical, ebullient, wrathful, and achingly melancholic-offers a glimpse into the writer's truest, most candid self. As such, this collection is an invaluable addition to the field of Mark Twain studies.
—Kerry Driscoll, University of Saint Joseph
In this age of vanishing correspondence-emails, texts, instant messages-there is a real risk for posterity. Consider those unguarded moments of frankness, celebrations of joy, and confidential speculations shared only with the closest of friends. The demise of the handwritten letter is lamentable. In this exceptional book, readers eavesdrop on Sam Clemens and his closest friend Joe Twichell ('. . . you splendid old muggins!') in real-time communications. The inside jokes, intimate confidences, hopes, fears, and tragedies are shared unvarnished between two young men who became fast friends and grew old together across four decades. The editors have done a superb job of presenting important context without overpowering the real content: the letters of love, respect, and affection for each other and each other's families in the setting of a rapidly changing world. A must read for anyone who has ever had a best friend.
—Cindy Lovell, Executive Director, The Mark Twain House & Museum
Whatever special research interest in Mark Twain any reader holds, there will likely be something fresh and new to be found in this volume. . . . This collection of letters perfectly aligns with Twichell's description of Mark Twain's talent as a correspondent but also exhibits his own. This book is a 'must' for all Mark Twain scholars and researchers.
—Barbara Schmidt, Mark Twain Forum
For this book, three Twain experts came together to edit and create brief, graceful introductions and spare footnotes for a set of letters between Twain and his pastor, the Reverend Joe Twichell-letters that illuminate Victorian male friendship as few other books have. The men's moral strength and open affection for each other is evident, and their letters enfold local, national, and international events, weaving a colorful tapestry of the times and the writers' expectations and ambitions. Every reader, Twainian or not, will find revelations about the creative chemistry between perfectly attuned spirits, both religious in their own way.
—D. E. Sloane, CHOICE connect