After writing his 5,000 page autobiography, Mark Twain made a solemn request for it not to be published until 100 years after his death. Those hundred years are up now, and the University of California, Berkeley will release the first of three volumes this November. Previously, only scholars, biographers and those willing to travel to the university had access to the complete manuscripts. Why did Twain want it concealed? Some, who have read the autobiography say the author feared that details about his politics and personal relationships would embroil his career in scandal.
- Let the Pent-Up Gossip-Fest Begin, writes Guy Adams in The Independent: "One thing's for sure: by delaying publication, the author, who was fond of his celebrity status, has ensured that he'll be gossiped about during the 21st century. A section of the memoir will detail his little-known but scandalous relationship with Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who became his secretary after the death of his wife Olivia in 1904. Twain was so close to Lyon that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy. But she was abruptly sacked in 1909, after the author claimed she had 'hypnotised' him into giving her power of attorney over his estate. Their ill-fated relationship will be recounted in full in a 400-page addendum, which Twain wrote during the last year of his life."
- '400 Pages of Bile is how Twain scholar Laura Trombley describes one section: "There is a perception that Twain spent his final years basking in the adoration of fans. The autobiography will perhaps show that it wasn't such a happy time. He spent six months of the last year of his life writing a manuscript full of vitriol, saying things that he'd never said about anyone in print before. It really is 400 pages of bile."
- This Is the Raw Mark Twain, emphasizes Robert Hirst, an editor of the autobiography: "There are so many biographies of Twain, and many of them have used bits and pieces of the autobiography. But biographers pick and choose what bits to quote. By publishing Twain's book in full, we hope that people will be able to come to their own complete conclusions about what sort of a man he was."
- No Wonder He Wanted This Hidden, writes Gene Bowker at The Examiner: "When you read some of the work which he compiled late in his life, that is pretty understandable. Twain's opinions on topics such as American Imperialism and religion to name two topics would possibly tarnished his reputation." Bowker quotes a Twain biographer as saying that the eminent author "apparently had doubts about God and questioned America's interventionist policies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He also spoke out against President Theodore Roosevelt and the idea of Christian missionaries going to Africa when so many problems (i.e. lynchings) were happening in the South."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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