New from The Atlantic Books: The Mark Twain Collection

An exclusive collection of Twain's pieces for The Atlantic Monthly marks the debut release in a new series featuring classic voices from the magazine.
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Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens (center) with author George Alfred Townsend (left) and David Grey, editor of the Buffalo Courier (right) (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

One winter day in 1869, Mark Twain took the stairs to the second floor of a building near Boston Common and introduced himself to the editors of The Atlantic Monthly, including William Dean Howells. The meeting would change both Twain and the magazine, and begin a friendship between editor and author that would become one of America's most important literary collaborations.

The pieces collected in our new ebook are the fruits of that partnership. Twain wrote for The Atlantic from 1874 to 1880, publishing essays, recollections, short stories, and even the memoir Old Times on the Mississippi, which appeared in seven installments beginning in 1875 and was later released as the book Life on the Mississippi.

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Each of Twain's stories for the magazine was encouraged and improved by Howells, who became Twain's most useful public champion and his most trusted editor--a relationship that the Twain biographer Ben Tarnoff explores in his introduction to the collection. "[Howells] didn't simply make Twain a better writer; he also explained Twain's significance to the wider world," Tarnoff writes. "He elevated the author of The Innocents Abroad from a popular entertainer to a transformative literary figure--into the "Lincoln of our literature," as Howells called him."

Writing to Howells in 1874, while the two were editing Old Times on the Mississippi for the magazine, Twain described a burden he felt of being known merely as a humorist. He bemoaned the expectations of an audience that simply wanted him to "stand on his head every fifteen minutes." Writing for The Atlantic, he told his friend, offered him a new relationship with readers and a new way to feel about his work. "It is the only audience that I sit down before in perfect serenity," he wrote.

The Mark Twain Collection is the first ebook in an exciting new series that will spotlight some of the most-celebrated contributors since the magazine's founding in 1857. These exclusive collections will feature the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Muir, among others who've been delighting readers of The Atlantic for generations. For more on the Mark Twain Collection and other ebooks from The Atlantic Books, see this.

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Geoffrey Gagnon is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

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