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The content and purpose of the textual commentaries, as well as the special symbols and terms used in them, are described in the last part of the Guide to Editorial Practice. In what follows here we summarize information about prior publication and provenance which would otherwise have to be frequently repeated in the commentaries for letters in this volume.

Add to My CitationsDescription of Texts

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Individual commentaries may designate as copy-text one or both of the following publications. When the information given here is pertinent for any reason, the reader is specifically referred to it.


Mark Twain: A Biography. The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Albert Bigelow Paine, with Letters, Comments and Incidental Writings Hitherto Unpublished; Also New Episodes, Anecdotes, etc. 3 vols. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1912. BAL, p. 251. Copy used: copy #1, CU-MARK. Where MTB has served as copy-text, copy #1 (publisher’s code H-M on the copyright page of volume 1, signifying the first impression, ordered in August 1912) has been collated against copy #2 (code K-K, signifying an impression ordered in October 1935, which is the latest impression located). In 1935 Paine made a few corrections in the plates, but no variants in the texts of the letters collected in the present volume have been found.

MTB was first issued in three volumes, then in four and later in two, all with the same pagination. Paine said that he had “obtained his data from direct and positive sources: letters, diaries, account-books, or other immediate memoranda” (MTB, 1:xv). His industry in this respect was such that several letters he published have not since been found in their original form and are therefore known only from his transcriptions (or occasional facsimiles) in MTB and MTL. Although the printer’s copy for MTB has not been found, it is known that Paine’s general method of acquiring letter texts was to borrow the original whenever possible, presumably transcribe it himself, probably on a typewriter, and then return the manuscript to its owner. He presumably had full access both to the documents (now in the Mark Twain Papers) that Clemens himself defined and set aside for his official biography, and to those now in the McKinney Family Papers. He also had access to at least some of the letters in the Moffett Collection, but it is not known whether these were ever fully in his hands or transcribed for him. Although he published many of the letters now in the McKinney Family Papers, he published relatively few of those in the Moffett Collection. MTB is copy-text for a few letters not republished in MTL. But letter texts in MTB are generally excerpts and, judging from collation with letters that are still extant in manuscript, they were more freely edited than the corresponding passages published in MTL. Excerpts from MTB appeared in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in thirteen installments, running from November 1911 through November 1912, hence, largely before MTB appeared in September 1912. Collation shows that when the book and the magazine both include text for a letter, they sometimes contain evidence of having each derived independently from a common source (very likely a typescript and its carbon copy), even though each has been separately copy-edited. Whenever persuasively authorial variants are found uniquely in both texts, the transcription is based on both. When such variants cannot be found, MTB is designated copy-text and the magazine, which was generally edited more heavily than the book, is treated as if it simply derived from MTB instead of their common source.


Mark Twain’s Letters, Arranged with Comment by Albert Bigelow Paine. 2 vols. New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1917. BAL 3525. Copy used: copy #1, CU-MARK. As indicated under MTB, the letters published in MTL are generally more complete as well as more reliable than those extracted or published in full in MTB. Because printer’s copy for MTL has likewise not been found, it is not always clear what relation it bore to the printer’s copy for MTB. Transcriptions are based on both MTL and MTB only when persuasively authorial variants occur uniquely in both, thus establishing their independent derivation from the lost manuscripts. Otherwise, if a letter appears both in MTL and MTB, MTL is chosen as copy-text and MTB treated as if it simply derived from MTL instead of their common source.

Most of the letters published in MTL survive as original manuscripts. Collation of these documents with their transcriptions in MTL shows, in addition to the expected errors and omissions, that the MTL transcription always spelled out ampersands, and always imposed a uniform style on the dateline, greeting, complimentary closing, and signature lines. The uniformity of this house styling is established by a very large body of letter manuscript, and Clemens’s consistency in using certain forms is likewise established by an even larger body of evidence. When the copy-text is MTL, this evidence is considered sufficient to permit the conjectural restoration of the likely forms in the original letter, at least in these uniformly styled elements. All emendations to remove this nonauthorial styling in MTL are, of course, published.

Add to My CitationsDescription of Provenance

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Brownell Collection

The George H. Brownell Collection is housed in the Rare Book Department of the Memorial Library of the University of Wisconsin (WU). George H. Brownell (1875–1950) was a midwestern newspaperman who eventually became a full-time Mark Twain scholar, devoted especially to the task of obtaining photocopies (or originals) of Clemens’s uncollected journalism and letters. In 1935 he helped found the Mark Twain Society of Chicago and, in 1941, the Mark Twain Association of America. In January 1939 he became the first editor of the Twainian, a position he held until his death. In October 1936, Brownell acquired an unusual collection of Clemens material from a Mark Twain collector, Irving S. Underhill (who died in 1937, in Buffalo). According to Brownell,

the aged, bed-ridden Irving S. Underhill had begun his preparations for death by shipping the more valuable items in his Twain collection to a New York auction concern. To me, at that time, he shipped two large cartons of miscellaneous Twainiana of no sale value, but having for me an almost inestimable bibliographical value.

Contained in one of those cartons was a box of Mark Twain letters—not the originals, but copies of the originals made by typewriter, pen and pencil. I never learned from Mr. Underhill how he acquired this strange collection of fully 200 Twain letters. My guess is that the copies were made by some dealer, long ago, at a time when the originals were passing through his hands to the purchaser. Mr. Underhill might then have bought or traded something to the dealer for the copies. (Brownell 1943, 2)

Brownell’s conjecture was correct. The copies had been made by Dana S. Ayer of Worcester, Massachusetts, a book and manuscript dealer who had been a salesman (as of the late 1890s) for the American Publishing Company (BAL 3521; Second Life Books, lot 764; Samuel R. Morrill to Clifton W. Barrett, 24 Apr 1957, ViU). Brownell compiled a list of Underhill’s documents, which included 158 Ayer transcriptions of Clemens letters (Brownell 1941). None of these letters was written earlier than 1867, when Clemens first corresponded with Elisha Bliss of the American Publishing Company. More than half of them were addressed to Bliss or to his son, Francis E. Bliss, who were both officers of the American Publishing Company. Most of the remaining letter transcriptions were addressed to Frank Fuller, Clemens’s business agent from the spring of 1867 until sometime in 1868, when Clemens presumably placed Bliss in charge of past as well as his then current business correspondence (Brownell 1941). In the fall of 1942, Brownell loaned the Ayer transcriptions to Bernard DeVoto, who in turn had the majority of them retranscribed, depositing these retranscriptions in the Mark Twain Papers (described below). Brownell ultimately bequeathed the documents to the University of Wisconsin, where they now reside.

The original manuscripts for most of the letter transcriptions in the Brownell Collection have been found and are accessible to the editors, but a few letters are known only by the copy Ayer made of the original. By assessing the overall accuracy of Ayer’s transcriptions and identifying the kinds of errors he introduced into them, it is possible to emend the texts of those few letters or parts of letters for which no manuscript survives, in order to restore the likely reading of the lost original. Two letters in the present volume derive in part from Ayer transcriptions: 10? April 1869 and 15 August 1869, both to Elisha Bliss.

Huntington Library

Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927), financier, railway executive, and heir to Collis Potter Huntington’s railroad fortune, bequeathed his San Marino, California, estate as an endowed public museum and art gallery for his enormous collection of rare books, manuscripts, and paintings. The Clemens material at the Huntington Library includes literary manuscripts and nearly two hundred autograph letters. Over half of these letters are addressed to Mary Mason Fairbanks, and were bought by Henry Huntington from the Fairbanks family in 1918 (Thomas Nast Fairbanks to Dixon Wecter, 4 Dec 1947, and Wecter to Fairbanks, 6 Dec 1947, CU-MARK). Nineteen letters in this volume belong to the Huntington Library: seventeen to Mary Mason Fairbanks, part of a letter to her and the other managers of the Cleveland Protestant Orphan Asylum, and one letter to her and Abel W. Fairbanks.

McKinney Family Papers

The Jean Webster McKinney Family Papers, housed in the Francis Fitz Randolph Rare Book Room, Helen D. Lockwood Library, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (NPV). This collection was given to Vassar in 1977 by Jean and Ralph Connor, of Tymor Farm, LaGrangeville, New York. Jean Connor inherited the papers from her mother, Jean Webster McKinney, who had in turn inherited them from her mother, Annie Moffett Webster, Clemens’s niece and the wife of Charles L. Webster, his business partner from 1884 to 1888. The letters and other Clemens materials in the collection represent one of the three principal caches of family letters, which passed from Clemens to his mother, Jane Lampton Clemens (d. 1890), his brother Orion (d. 1897) and sister-in-law Mollie Clemens (d. January 1904), and ultimately to his sister, Pamela A. Moffett (d. August 1904). Some of these documents went eventually to Pamela’s son, Samuel E. Moffett (see Moffett Collection, below), and some to her daughter, Annie Moffett Webster. Not surprisingly, therefore, several manuscript letters are now found partly in the McKinney Family Papers and partly in the Moffett Collection.

Mollie Clemens wrote her nephew Samuel Moffett on 31 July 1899, “We never destroyed Sams letters—excepting by his request, or a few no one should see” (CU-MARK). At least one partly destroyed (censored) letter survives in this collection (see L1, 347–49), but by far the larger toll was probably taken by accidental physical damage or loss, and by the deliberate destruction, following Mollie Clemens’s death, of most of Clemens’s letters to his mother. As early as 1881, Orion Clemens had assembled a number of his brother’s letters written between about 1853 and 1865 as part of a sprawling manuscript for his own never-published autobiography, finding even then that not all the letters had been preserved intact. On 6 October 1899, Pamela Moffett sent an unknown number of original letters to her son, Samuel Moffett, then a journalist in California, saying in part that she “was sorry to see that parts of some of the letters were missing” (CU-MARK). He tried to publish at least a few of these letters in biographical sketches of Clemens, but was eventually told to preserve them for publication after Clemens’s death. Some, if not all, of these letters must eventually have become part of the Moffett Collection.

But in 1904, according to a 1935 Associated Press story in an unidentified newspaper clipping, Mollie Clemens’s executor, John R. Carpenter, burned “almost four trunks” of Clemens’s letters to his mother, “as requested by the famous humorist.” Carpenter confided his story, according to this report, to Dr. G. Walter Barr of Keokuk, who gave this account:

When Mrs. Clemens died [in 1890], ... her carefully preserved personal and family treasures went into the possession of her son, Orion. When Orion died, his wife had the succession and kept it inviolate until her own death in 1904.

John R. Carpenter was administrator of Orion’s wife’s estate and the treasured archives of Mother Clemens were delivered to him. One item was a collection of letters from Mark Twain to his mother, running through many decades, from youth to worldwide fame.

But with those three or four trunks of letters was an admonition. Mark Twain had enjoined his mother that she always burn his letters to her. She had not done so, but had passed on the mandamus to Orion and to the wife of the latter, and Carpenter was familiar with it.

He had a treasure of incalculable value and an imperative order to destroy it.

Carpenter realized fully the value of the material he was about to burn in his library grate. When I exclaimed that to destroy all those letters was a monstrous crime against biography, history and the record of a man who belonged to the whole world, he answered that he agreed with me—but what could be done under the circumstances?

Mark Twain had written those letters to his mother in perfect candor—and about the whole sum of his candid writing was in them—intending and believing that nobody else would ever see them, and had ordered them burned.

And so Carpenter burned every one. It took him several long evenings to complete the job thoroughly. (“Mark Twain Letters to Mother Burned at Direction of Author,” unidentified clipping, datelined 14 Dec [1935], PH in CU-MARK; the New York Times also published an abbreviated version of this story on 15 Dec 1935, 2)

That this story was not a fiction is suggested by the postscript of Clemens’s 14 February 1904 letter to Carpenter, the original draft of which survives in the Mark Twain Papers: “If there are any letters of mine, I beg that you will destroy them.”

The McKinney Family Papers consist of Clemens documents typically left by him, at various times, with his sister. They include his eariest surviving notebook (probably written in 1855; see N&J1, 11–39); half a dozen literary manuscripts, incomplete and unpublished, written principally between 1859 and 1868 (see ET&S 1–3); more than six hundred letters and telegrams from Clemens to various members of his family, and to business associates like Webster, as well as family photographs and mementoes, and letters and documents by other family members and close associates (Simpson, 6–14). Six letters in this volume belong to the McKinney Family Papers: 14 January 1869, and part of 20 and 21 August 1869, both to Pamela A. Moffett; 27 February 1869, 4 June 1869, and 15 December 1869, all to Jane Lampton Clemens and family; and 23 June 1869 to Olivia Lewis (Mrs. Jervis) Langdon.

Mark Twain Papers

The Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK). The core of this collection consists of the original documents that Clemens made available to Albert Bigelow Paine for the official biography Paine was to produce, and from which (in part) Paine eventually published his selected editions of letters, notebooks, and the autobiography. Since Clemens’s death in 1910, these papers were successively in the care of Paine (1910–37); Bernard DeVoto at Harvard (1938–46); Dixon Wecter at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and later at the University of California in Berkeley (1946–50); Henry Nash Smith (1953–63); and Frederick Anderson (1963–79), both of the latter at the University of California in Berkeley, and both successors to Paine, DeVoto, and Wecter as the official literary executor of the Clemens estate. Upon the death of Clara Clemens Samossoud in 1962, the papers were bequeathed to the University of California, and in 1971 they became part of The Bancroft Library, where they now reside.

The original collection segregated by Clemens for Paine included forty-five of the approximately fifty extant notebooks kept between 1855 and 1910; approximately seventeen thousand letters received by Clemens or his family; an estimated six hundred literary manuscripts, most of them unpublished, including the autobiographical dictations; as well as photographs, clippings, contracts, and a variety of other documents originally owned by Clemens. Four letters in this volume are definitely from this original collection: 12 January 1869 to Charles J. Langdon, 5–10 March 1869 to George W. Elliott, 17 September 1869 to Ausburn Towner, and 20–28 November 1869 to George H. Selkirk. One letter may belong either to it or to the Moffett Collection (see below): 23 June 1869 to Pamela A. Moffett. Since Paine’s tenure, primary and secondary documents have been added in various ways to the Papers—ranging from gifts of both photocopied and original manuscripts and documents, to large purchases and bequests comprising many hundreds of documents, to the systematic compilation of a secondary archive of photocopies, collected from institutions and private owners of original documents around the world, for the specific purpose of publishing a comprehensive scholarly edition of Mark Twain’s Works and Papers.

Samossoud Collection (1952), The Mark Twain Papers. Among the documents in Clemens’s possession at the time of his death, but not included in the Mark Twain Papers or made wholly available to Paine, were the letters written to his fiancée and wife, Olivia L. Langdon, and later to their daughters, Susie, Clara, and Jean. Dixon Wecter was permitted to transcribe most of these letters, as well as some others that were still owned and separately housed by Clara. He used these transcriptions as the basis for his selected edition, The Love Letters of Mark Twain (LLMT), published in 1949, and ultimately deposited all of them in the Mark Twain Papers. On 21 March 1952, however, the University of California purchased from Clara’s husband Jacques Samossoud (d. 1966) approximately five hundred original letters written to Olivia between September 1868 and her death in 1904. Other parts of the large cache of family letters still held by Clara and her husband were sold or given at various times between 1949 and 1962 to other persons and institutions, not all of which have yet been identified. (See, for example, Doheny Collection, above. Clara likewise gave Chester L. Davis, Sr., and the Mark Twain Research Foundation of Perry, Missouri, a number of Clemens’s letters, as well as some of Olivia’s.) This volume contains seventy-four letters in the Samossoud Collection, all to Olivia (a few of them with notes to her brother or parents as well).

Moffett Collection (1954), The Mark Twain Papers. This collection represents the portion of Pamela Moffett’s papers which passed to her son, Samuel, instead of her daughter, Annie (see McKinney Family Papers, above). The collection became the property of Samuel Moffett’s daughter Anita Moffett (d. 1952), either upon his death in 1908, or upon the death of Anita’s younger brother, Francis Clemens Moffett, in 1927. The papers were discovered in 1953 by Paul P. Appel, a Mamaroneck, New York, book dealer (not in 1954 by Jacob Zeitlin, as reported in L2, 516), in a warehouse sale that included some of Anita Moffett’s effects: sixteen hundred letters by Clemens, his family, and associates (including Pamela’s letters to her son and daughter); ten scrapbooks of newspaper clippings for the period 1858–98, evidently compiled by Orion and Mollie Clemens, and containing original printings of Clemens’s (and Orion’s) western journalism, which had been largely unknown to Paine and all subsequent scholars (see MTEnt); deeds to 1860s Nevada mining claims owned by Clemens or his brother; family photographs; and a family Bible. The collection was purchased for the University of California in 1954 by a group of anonymous donors. The inventory of Clemens letters made at the time is not always specific enough to enable the editors to be certain whether some letters were part of the Moffett acquisition or were already part of the Mark Twain Papers in 1954. Four letters in this volume definitely belong to the Moffett Collection: 11 May 1869 to Jane Lampton Clemens, 26 June 1869 to Jane Lampton Clemens and Pamela A. Moffett, 3? July 1869 to Orion Clemens, and 17 December 1869 to Pamela A. Moffett. One letter may belong either to it or to the Mark Twain Papers Collection (see above): 23 June 1869 to Pamela A. Moffett.

Mendoza Collection (1957), The Mark Twain Papers. In January 1957 the University of California purchased a collection of one hundred sixteen Clemens letters written between 1867 and 1905 (all but one of them to Elisha Bliss or Henry H. Rogers), as well as eleven other miscellaneous items. This collection was offered for sale to the University by Aaron Mendoza of the Isaac Mendoza Book Company, New York City. The letters came from the collection of C. Warren Force (1880–1959), who had bought the letters to the Blisses in 1938 at the sale of the collection of George C. Smith, Jr. (Parke-Bernet 1938, lot 126). In 1939 Force had given Bernard DeVoto transcripts of the letters to the Blisses. The Mark Twain Papers now contain about eighty-five letters to Rogers (or members of his family) and forty-nine original letters to Elisha Bliss or Francis E. Bliss. Of the total, all but roughly twenty letters were part of the Mendoza Collection, which contributes eight letters to this volume, all to Elisha Bliss: 30 March 1869, 12 April 1869, 20 April 1869, 29 April 1869, 12 August 1869, 3 September 1869, 7 September 1869 (2nd of 2), and 27 September 1869. See also Brownell Collection, above.

Tufts Collection (1971), The Mark Twain Papers. The James and John M. Tufts Collection was assembled chiefly by James Tufts, an acquaintance of Clemens’s and, for more than forty years (1892–1935), a prominent San Francisco journalist who at various times was an editor for the Call, the Chronicle, and the Examiner. The collection was purchased in 1971 from Tufts’s son, Dr. John M. Tufts of Kentfield, California. It includes twenty-three original letters by Clemens to various correspondents, literary manuscripts, first printings of his sketches, first editions of his books, and photographs. Two letters in this volume belong to the Tufts Collection: 17 February 1869 to Joseph T. Goodman and 2 September 1869 to Elisha Bliss.

Appert Collection (1973 and 1977), The Mark Twain Papers. The gift of Mr. and Mrs. Kurt E. Appert of Pebble Beach, California, this collection includes more than fifty letters by Clemens to various correspondents, literary manuscripts, photographs, letters from various hands to Clemens, first editions of his works, and books from his library. One letter in this volume belongs to the Appert Collection: 7 October 1869 to Unidentified.