The NYTimes has an article on the upcoming first volume of the autobiography of Mark Twain. The papers have been locked away for the past 100 years (previously only being available to researchers) and were recorded in the last four years before his death in 1910 – instead of writing it himself, he paid someone to copy down his thoughts on a wide array of subjects thinking it would be more entertaining for readers.
Wry and cranky, droll and cantankerous — that’s the Mark Twain we think we know, thanks to reading “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” in high school. But in his unexpurgated autobiography, whose first volume is about to be published a century after his death, a very different Twain emerges, more pointedly political and willing to play the role of the angry prophet…
…About literary figures of his time, however, Twain has relatively little to say. He dislikes Bret Harte, whom he dismisses as “always bright but never brilliant”; offers a sad portrait of an aged and infirm Harriet Beecher Stowe; and lavishly praises his friend William Dean Howells. He reserved criticism of novelists whose work he disliked (Henry James, George Eliot) for his letters.
Critics, though, are another story. “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.”