The first volume of Autobiography of Mark Twain has just arrived, all 736 pages of it. And a wonderful production it is.
The chapters which immediately follow constitute a fragment of one of my many attempts (after I was in my forties) to put my life on paper.
It starts out with good confidence, but suffers the fate of its brethren — is presently abandoned for some other and newer interest. This is not to be wondered at, for its plan is the old, old, old inflexible and difficult one — the plan that starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side-excursions permitted on the way. Whereas the side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also of its history (203)
Autobiography of Mark Twain is a critical text. The first 200 pages of the book document Twain’s thirty or forty false starts and the various manuscript sources the editors used to build his autobiography. The book contains many photographs, some I think published for the first time, of these manuscripts and of Twain and the folk who peopled his life. It’s hard to believe that such a wonderful, scholarly, beautifully illustrated, long (and large) book can sell for less than $20.00. The work of Harriet Elinor Smith and her editorial team as well as the University of California Press is truly magnificent.
As part of the publication, Mark Twain Project Online will have the whole of the work and detailed documentation of all textual decisions.
Now all I have to do is read the thing and wonder.