After writing his 5,000 page autobiography, Mark Twain made a
solemn request for it not to be published until 100 years after his death. Those hundred years are up now, and the University of California, Berkeley will release
the first of three volumes this November.
Previously, only scholars, biographers and those willing to travel to
the university had access to the complete manuscripts. Why did Twain
want it concealed? Some, who have read the autobiography say the
author feared that details about his politics and personal relationships would embroil his career in scandal.
- Let the Pent-Up Gossip-Fest Begin, writes Guy Adams in The Independent: "One thing's for
sure: by delaying publication, the author, who was fond of his celebrity
status, has ensured that he'll be gossiped about during the 21st
century. A section of the memoir will detail his little-known but
scandalous relationship with Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who became his
secretary after the death of his wife Olivia in 1904. Twain was so close
to Lyon that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy. But she
was abruptly sacked in 1909, after the author claimed she had
'hypnotised' him into giving her power of attorney over his estate.
Their ill-fated relationship will be recounted in full in a 400-page
addendum, which Twain wrote during the last year of his life."
Pages of Bile is how Twain scholar Laura Trombley describes one section: "There is a perception that
Twain spent his final years basking in the adoration of fans. The
autobiography will perhaps show that it wasn't such a happy time. He
spent six months of the last year of his life writing a manuscript full
of vitriol, saying things that he'd never said about anyone in print
before. It really is 400 pages of bile."
- This Is the Raw Mark
Twain, emphasizes Robert Hirst, an editor of the autobiography:
"There are so many biographies of Twain, and many of them have used bits
and pieces of the autobiography. But biographers pick and choose what
bits to quote. By publishing Twain's book in full, we hope that people
will be able to come to their own complete conclusions about what sort
of a man he was."
- No Wonder He Wanted This Hidden, writes Gene Bowker at The Examiner: "When
you read some of the work which he compiled late in his life, that is
pretty understandable. Twain's opinions on topics such as American
Imperialism and religion to name two topics would possibly tarnished his
reputation." Bowker quotes a Twain biographer as saying that the eminent author "apparently had doubts about God and questioned
America's interventionist policies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the
Philippines. He also spoke out against President Theodore Roosevelt and
the idea of Christian missionaries going to Africa when so many problems
(i.e. lynchings) were happening in the South."
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