Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1852–1890
"The sketches and stories are a national treasure. The Library of America ought to be commended for issuing them in an attractive edition."
—The Dallas Morning News
This Library of America book, with its companion volume, is the most comprehensive collection ever published of Mark Twain's short writings — the incomparable stories, sketches, burlesques, hoaxes, tall tales, speeches, satires, and maxims of America's greatest humorist. Arranged chronologically and containing many pieces restored to the form in which Twain intended them to appear, the volumes show with unprecedented clarity the literary evolution of Mark Twain over six decades of his career.
The nearly two hundred separate items in this volume cover the years from 1852 to 1890. As a riverboat pilot, Confederate irregular, silver miner, frontier journalist, and publisher, Twain witnessed the tragicomic beginning of the Civil War in Missouri, the frenzied opening of the West, and the feverish corruption, avarice, and ambition of the Reconstruction era. He wrote about political bosses, jumping frogs, robber barons, cats, women's suffrage, temperance, petrified men, the bicycle, the Franco-Prussian War, the telephone, the income tax, the insanity defense, injudicious swearing, and the advisability of political candidates preemptively telling the worst about themselves before others get around to it.
Among the stories included here are "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog," which won him instant fame when published in 1865, "Cannibalism in the Cars," "The Invalid's Story," and the charming "A Cat's Tale," written for his daughters' private amusement. This volume also presents several of his famous and successful speeches and toasts, such as "Woman — God Bless Her," "The Babies," and "Advice to Youth." Such writings brought Twain immense success on the public lecture and banquet circuit, as did his controversial "Whittier Birthday Speech," which portrayed Boston's most revered men of letters as a band of desperadoes.
"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand," he once wrote. A master of deadpan hilarity, a storyteller who fashioned an exuberant style rooted in the idiom of his western origins, and an enemy of injustice who used scathing invective and subtle satire to expose the "humbug" of his time, Twain, like Franklin, Whitman, and Lincoln, helped shape the American language into a unique democratic idiom that was to be heard around the world.
The publishing history of every story, sketch, and speech in this volume has been thoroughly researched, and in each instance the most authoritative text has been reproduced. This collection also includes an extensive chronology of Twain's life, helpful notes on the people and events referred to in his works, and a guide to the texts.
Louis J. Budd, volume editor, is emeritus professor of English at Duke University and the author of Our Mark Twain: The Making of His Public Personality.
Other volumes in the Library of America's edition of Mark Twain's collected works:
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