Samuel L. Clemens • New publication nearly a century after his death
December 01, 2008
Samuel L. Clemens honored Hartford by settling here, writing some of the best books in American literary history here, and enlivening the city with antics and letters to this newspaper. He died just short of a century ago, but his words live on.A collection of 22 previously unpublished short pieces will be released April 21, 2009, the 99th anniversary of his (greatly exaggerated) death. The publishing house HarperStudio isn't saying what's in the collection, titled "Who Is Mark Twain?" or how it came upon this new material, but chances are good that there's a Hartford connection.
Mr. Clemens, aka Mark Twain, lived in Hartford from 1874 to 1891, during which he wrote his masterpiece "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He churned out manuscripts and speeches and thousands of letters from his desk in the billiard room of the handsome Victorian house on Farmington Avenue. Nearly 2,900 of the letters in the Mark Twain Project ( www.marktwainproject.org/) were written from Hartford.
They still can make a reader smile. The earliest Hartford-datelined letter in the collection tells his mother and sister in 1868, when he was 33, that a New York newspaper editor had asked him to write twice a week and "said if I would, I might have full swing, & abuse anybody & everybody I wanted to."
His latest book will be the first produced by HarperStudio, a new publishing group that is defying tradition by offering to split profits with authors rather than give them big advances (and tiny royalties). HarperStudio's founder, Robert S. Miller, notes the nice symmetry: Twain was once a publisher himself who offered his friend Ulysses S. Grant a choice between a royalty and a share of profits for his memoirs. The former Union general and president took the profit share — and left his family well off. He died just after the memoirs were finished, and they became best sellers.
Mr. Clemens can no longer share in the profits of his labors, but his landmark Hartford house could sure use a handout. It is struggling to support a $19 million visitors' center that opened five years ago. The center hosts events that attract famous authors from around the nation.
It would be so fitting for HarperStudio — a descendant of the company that published "Huckleberry Finn" — to share some of the profits from his posthumous writings with his beloved home.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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