Twain-Twichell Letters Reveal the Personal Side of Twain

October 10 2016
Category: Twain

Mark Twain and Twichell

The second lecture in the fall portion of The Trouble Begins at Eight Lecture Series will be presented by Peter Messent, at 8:00 p.m., on Wednesday, October 12 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and attendees are invited to enjoy light refreshments preceding the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

“‘You know the secret places of our hearts’: The Mark Twain – Joe Twichell Letters” will use selected highlights from The Mark Twain-Joseph Twichell Letters (edited by Hal Bush, Steve Courtney, and Peter Messent, published by the University of Georgia Press in early 2017) in order to trace the development of the 44-year friendship between Mark Twain and Joseph Twichell, the Hartford Congregation minister. There will also be an emphasis on what the letters reveal, both about Twain as a family man, author, and celebrity, and about Twichell’s life as a minister, his key role as Twain’s “pastor” and the closest of personal and family friends, and his general position as minor satellite to Twain’s shining star. The talk will also focus on the later years of both men’s lives, and the way that, as Twain’s misanthropy became more and more pronounced, Twichell acted in the role of optimist to his pessimist, serving as “equilibrium restorer” as Twain funneled some of his most damning opinions about religion, politics and the human race at-large in his friend’s direction. The lecture will show how the two men’s exchanges are marked nonetheless by a (mostly!) good-humored tolerance for each other’s positions.

Peter Messent is Emeritus Professor of Modern American Literature at the University of Nottingham, U.K. He has written on a wide variety of American authors and texts but his main work is on Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Crime Fiction. His books on Twain include Mark Twain (Macmillan Modern Novelists), The Cambridge Introduction to Mark TwainThe Short Works of Mark Twain, and, most recently, the award-winning Mark Twain and Male Friendship: The Twichell, Howells and Rogers Friendships. He also edited the Blackwell Companion to Mark Twain with Lou Budd. He is, at present, completing The Mark Twain - Joseph H. Twichell Letters, co-sharing the editorial mantle with Hal Bush and Steve Courtney.