Mark Twain
Twain in his academic finery from Oxford, which granted him an honorary doctorate in literature in 1907.

The Rundown, the blog of The News Hour on PBS, has just published an exclusive: for “the first known time in print,” an essay by Mark Twain on the journalistic interview. In the course of Twain’s career, he was frequently interviewed by reporters, not often to his satisfaction. The ten-page handwritten essay (which he left unfinished) has been sitting quietly for more than 40 years in the archives of the Mark Twain Project, which is located in recently-refurbished quarters in the Bancroft Library.

The Rundown’s feature includes an introduction to the essay, the full essay as handwritten, in typeset text, and as read by the general editor of the Mark Twain Papers, Robert Hirst. Hirst, a New Yorker, came west in his youth, as did Twain, but Hirst stayed, going to graduate school at Cal (in English, earning his M.A. in 1965 and Ph.D. in 1976). After being a teaching assistant (the predecessor title to GSI) for two years, he worked in the Mark Twain Papers for the remainder of his time in grad school, and, except for a few years in UCLA’s English department, he’s essentially been there ever since. He became the Mark Twain Project’s general editor in 1980.

Twain Papers
A few lines from Twain’s essay, written in his own hand. Reassuringly for mortals, the document has plenty of cross-outs and insertions.

In November, another shoe will drop, and it’s a huge one. On the 30th of that month — the 175th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Clemens — the Mark Twain Project expects to publish the first installment of Twain’s autobiography, parts of which he explicitly ordered “suppressed, sealed up, and unprinted” for at least a century after his death. Time’s up! Volume one and its successors will capture the contents of more than 5,000 pages of memoirs — half a million words or so — and will definitely shed new light, not all of it flattering, on America’s most iconic novelist.


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