Mark Twain’s unexpurgated story…

July 22, 2010

I saw an article about potential Christmas best-sellers over the weekend (hard to think of this in July: no one in my family is allowed to mention the December word until 1 November at the earliest). One poet was a contender, of course, because a new collection from Seamus Heaney is always an event. Among the autobiographies they didn’t mention Mark Twain’s, although the first volume of his unexpurgated story is appearing this winter, and sounds as entertaining as anything produced this century.  “I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value,” Twain writes. “However, let it go,” he adds. “It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.”

Incidentally, when he was invited to an official White House dinner during Grover Cleveland’s presidency, he went, but was warned by his wife not to wear his winter galoshes. At the White House, he asked the first lady, Frances Cleveland, to sign a card on which was written “He didn’t.”

I wonder what he talked to Cleveland about – I know that they were deeply opposed on one issue at least: Cleveland said: ‘  Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote’, while Mark Twain said (in 1901): ‘I should like to see the time come when women shall help to make the laws. I should like to see that whiplash, the ballot, in the hands of women.’ Rather more pithily put than William McGonagall managed: his heart was in the right place but his pen…

But the time is not far distant, I most earnestly trust,
When women will have a parliamentary vote,
And many of them, I hope, will wear a better petticoat.

And I hope that God will aid them in this enterprise,
And enable them to obtain the parliamentary Franchise;
And rally together, and make a bold stand,
And demand the parliamentary Franchise throughout Scotland.

~ Robyn

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