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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Letters of Note: Mark Twain

Letters of Note is a very cool website edited by Shaun Usher. It "is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos."


Because my most recent manuscript features Mark Twain, one of my writing friends sent me a link to correspondence between Twain and a children's librarian at Brooklyn Public Library.


The man wrote to Twain and explained that he'd been fighting to keep The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the bookshelves. The book had been banned from the children's department and transferred to the adult section (due to Huck's coarse behavior and language), and the librarian wanted Twain to offer a word or two that would demonstrate Huck's good character.


The following is Mark Twain's reply:

DEAR SIR:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'S. L. Clemens')

Click HERE to read the entire post (including the librarian's letter), or to browse other letters in the collection.



30 comments:

  1. Did you know Twain was buds with Tesla?

    Did you finish Charter Shorts, yet? I'm still waiting to hear your final word!

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    1. No, I didn't get a chance to finish yet. My stepson stole it and took it to his mom's house :)

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    2. Oh! Well, cool! Well, sort of cool. Not for you, I guess. Let me know how he likes it, too. How old is he?

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  2. What a COOL website! Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. The website is full of neat letters :)

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  3. Ha! Yup, even if this didn't give away any information of names or titles, I'd be able to pick that out as Mark Twain.

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  4. This really surprised me...because it was always my belief that the story was targeted to teenagers. Thanks for opening my eyes! :)

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    1. He was being sarcastic I think :)

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    2. I just realized that maybe you were being sarcastic, too :)

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  5. Very amusing! (But I wouldn't expect any less from Mark Twain.)
    The website sounds great and I'll be sure to check it out.

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    1. It's got tons of cool stuff~ I could spend all day over there!

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  6. Replies
    1. I thought so, too. I would love to know what the librarian thought of the response :)

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  7. Oh, my heck! I love that man and his wonderful sense of humor!

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  9. Made me smile. Yup. He's still my hero. What a guy. Little gems like this are priceless, no?

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  10. He cracks me up. Love it. :)

    (also, I love your garden pictures in your previous post!)

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  11. Just brilliant! I love old letters and correspondence too. It does depress me, though, to see how much the formality and expression has been stripped from our daily language. I'm a fan of reading Civil War letters, they're all written so elaborately--so beautifully.

    Probably amazes me so much because I could never write like that in a million years and it seems even the average person could back then. :)

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