If God is what people say there can be no one in the universe so unhappy as He; for He sees unceasingly myriads of His creatures suffering unspeakable miseries–and besides this foresees how they are going to suffer during the remainder of their lives. One might as well say, “As unhappy as God.”
Mark Twain – Notebook #24, April – Aug. 1885

Mark Twain on deck

For awhile now I’ve been trying to write a play about Mark Twain called THE TROUBLE BEGINS. Along the way I became rather obsessed with Mark Twain, his life and the many many books that have been written about him. How many? Well at the moment I have about 275 books about Twain evenly divided between the biographies, letters and journals and schools of literary criticism that have grown up around his body of work over the last 90 years or so. This does not count the 30 or so books that he actually wrote. That occupies a different bookcase. Madness.

Lately I’ve been using this blog as a way of archiving and organizing stray thoughts. What does Twain have to do with FRANKENSTEIN or Harlan Ellison or comics? Nothing really except that they’re my hobbies and obsessions. But by using the “categories” tab while placing these I should be able to create a space that can then be searched by topic. So that’s the plan. This will then appear to be a “random” Twain post, but as the archive builds itself these things will start to “hang together” like wagonloads of hay built while at work in the fields of my own headspace. And this pays about as well as farm work so the metaphor works on a couple of different levels.

A few months back I was reading the sometimes brilliant Hoffman biography INVENTING MARK TWAIN;


when I came across these two lifestyle conundrums…
Apparently Twain “sold” his family pew [it was the front left] in his good friend Reverend Twitchell’s church when he took his family to Europe for an extended visit. He was fleeing financial troubles on a couple of fronts at this time.

Anybody know how that works? I mean does everybody with religious tenure move up one? Is an ad placed in the local papers. Is there infighting? I would imagine this could all get incredibly mean and spiteful which would be funny and tragic given as it would be a dispute over church seating. Anybody?

Also, he arranged a letter of credit for his wife in Olivia’s family name to separate his finances from her ability to have a roof over her head while he traveled back and forth across the Atlantic and throughout Europe. So, ditto on letters of credit in terms of just how exactly would this work.

In all honesty I probably won’t use either of these factoids for my play but I’m still really
curious about what people did before tapping their local ATM machines. It seems it must have been a very interesting and convoluted process with its own etiquette but I can’t imagine what that would be.

And if Twain fascinates you even a little – here are some great Twain links;





At some point I intend to catalog my Twain collection using “Library Thing”


and then people will actually know what I have and will have no excuse like “well, I figured you must already have that Twain book” when my birthday rolls around. What’s that? Yes. I intend to keep having those. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
– Barney