Was Mark Twain a radical leftist?
The "Huckleberry Finn" author's private political views will finally be published this fall, says Larry Rohter in The New York Times — and the Right is not likely to be pleased
Mark Twain remains "the most American of American writers," says Larry Rohter in The New York Times. But the incendiary political views expressed in the imminent uncensored version of his autobiography "would probably lead the right wing to question [his] patriotism." In the 500,000-word Autobiography of Mark Twain — set to debut in November — he describes American troops as "uniformed assassins," and rails against Wall Street's culture of greed and selfishness. It's no wonder Twain's editors and heirs kept his personal views hidden from critics for so long. Twain counseled them to excise "all sound and sane expressions of opinion" from the book's initial publications: "There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see." An excerpt:
"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....
"Versions of the autobiography have been published before, in 1924, 1940 and 1959. But the original editor, Albert Bigelow Paine, was a stickler for propriety, cutting entire sections he thought offensive....“Paine was a Victorian editor,” said Robert Hirst, curator and general editor of the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, where Twain’s papers are housed. “He has an exaggerated sense of how dangerous some of Twain’s statements are going to be, which can extend to anything: politics, sexuality, the Bible, anything that’s just a little too radical. This goes on for a good long time, a protective attitude that is very harmful.”