In late summer 2010 it became evident that Volume III would have to be Volume III and IV. So much material is available that to take shortcuts would lessen the value of this historical reference work. Volume III has evolved from the first two volumes, and thus includes a few improvements forged along the way. Though I’d hoped to do it all in three volumes, like Huck Finn, I had no way of gauging what I’d find—and, like Huck, I often think if I’d known what a trouble it would be to write these volumes—well, any number of possibilities might be inserted here. Ignorance of the journey’s distance and obstacles often lead to success, and I was pitifully ignorant of the vast amount of material that survives from, to, and about, Mark Twain. The journey is akin to starting off with a mountain in view off in the far distance, a length unknown and surprisingly farther than suspected.
The scope of this work and my technique have understandably evolved since it began formally in 2005 (informally in 1971). I had no real pattern to follow, so had to create one and improve it as I went. In retrospect, I see now that the first volume should be brought up to the level of the last two volumes, and I hope yet to do so, incorporating all the improvements, changes, edits and additions since it was published in late 2008. As pertains to scope, the researcher should be advised that not all letters of the direct Clemens family are included. A few by Olivia, Clara, and Jean are included, however, but hardly any by other family members. For example, there are literally hundreds of letters between Pamela Moffett and her son Samuel Moffett in the MTP files, which are not included, for various reasons, timely publication being one important factor. Letters between other parties are few and far between. Also, not every notebook entry or person named is included, though most are. And, as Mark Twain became so well known and popular, so that every movement and rumor were published far and wide, common sense dictated that all reprints, anecdotes, mentions, etc. could not be included, much after Vol. I. The New York Times, because of it’s survival and accessibility is utilized more than any other newspaper, but it should be understood that the paper often made errors in its reporting, and as Louis Budd points out, was never the good friend of Mark Twain, nor his favorite newspaper. MTDBD is not, in any sense, a literary bibliography, does not pretend to cover ALL of his works, and is most certainly not an exercise in literary criticism—such works abound and will continue to be churned out. Reprints of works and articles are not often given. Anecdotes which cannot be documented are also passed by, as these would take several volumes just to include the “embroidery” surrounding them. Lastly, editorial opinion is limited to a few instances. I do enjoy “burying” a humorous line or two somewhere (my “oesophagus”!) in the million-plus words of this work—if you stumble upon one of them, my wish is that you should remember that to properly be a Twain scholar, one should have a sense of humor. Sadly, many do not, as I discovered early on. Imagination offers much that Clemens would say to such people.
I often wonder, looking at all the Mark Twain biographies and papers, if it is possible to write a biography of the man without all the psycho-interpretive, reading-between-the-lines sophistry, jumping to conclusions (unwarranted or suggested), forcing “themes,” or inserting assumptions, including “presentism” (the viewing of history through today’s lens and morals). Is it possible to simply put down the What-Where-When- Who without falling into the vanity trap of thinking the Why is one’s gift to the world? Can a work, essentially by one man, standing on the shoulders of giants, be one that bypasses much of the detritus of the subjective and yet lead many who follow to find a fuller understanding of Mark Twain? That’s been my goal and guide since I began. I’ve studied the myriad of secondary works along side the primary ones, perhaps mentioning the more glaring conclusions but focusing on the historical. I am a historian, after all, who also enjoys the literature and reading some criticism (as long as its not right after a meal). Seriously, literary devotees will never stop theorizing, nor should they: literature invites this, and Twain scholarship certainly has a dominant place for those types of studies. Still, the pure history of Mark Twain has sometimes been lost under the mountain of psychological analysis: one of the motivators for this project was the discovery of so many errors in dates, places and persons (one recent, popular bio has four date errors in the first half of the book!). Let’s face it—many such books are written with an aim to book sales—the wilder and more “undiscovered truth” so-called, about Mark Twain, the more sales may be had. Sensationalism in biographies is nothing new—recently we even have a well-documented book with the very misleading title of Mark Twain’s Other Woman, which suggests an extra-marital affair not claimed between its covers. We also have a work titled The Complete Interviews, which, if you consult several