The Letters of Mark Twain and Joseph Hopkins Twichell

Edited by Harold K. Bush, Steve Courtney, and Peter Messent
Supplementary text by Peter Messent

Personal insights into Twain’s and Twichell’s literary, political, and cultural lives


"Two friends talking. You get more of Mark Twain the unguarded person from these conversations between two friends than from the biographies. They traveled the footpaths of Europe together, their wives and children enriched their friendship, they could say what they wanted and know they'd get away with it. This is special."
—Hal Holbrook

"Although Clemens corresponded intimately and at length with a number of individuals, nowhere does he stand more revealed than in his letters to Joe Twichell. The voice that emerges in these pages—by turns lyrical, ebullient, wrathful, and achingly melancholic—offers a glimpse into the writer’s truest, most candid self. As such, this collection is an invaluable addition to the field of Mark Twain studies."
—Kerry Driscoll, University of Saint Joseph

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This book contains the complete texts of all known correspondence between Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) and Joseph Hopkins Twichell. Theirs was a rich exchange. The long, deep friendship of Clemens and Twichell—a Congregationalist minister of Hartford, Connecticut—rarely fails to surprise, given the general reputation Twain has of being antireligious. Beyond this, an examination of the growth, development, and shared interests characterizing that friendship makes it evident that as in most things about him, Mark Twain defies such easy categorization or judgment.

From the moment of their first encounter in 1868, a rapport was established. When Twain went to dinner at the Twichell home, he wrote to his future wife that he had “got up to go at 9.30 PM, & never sat down again—but [Twichell] said he was bound to have his talk out—& I was willing—& so I only left at 11.” This conversation continued, in various forms, for forty-two years—in both men’s houses, on Hartford streets, on Bermuda roads, and on Alpine trails.

The dialogue between these two men—one an inimitable American literary figure, the other a man of deep perception who himself possessed both narrative skill and wit—has been much discussed by Twain biographers. But it has never been presented in this way before: as a record of their surviving correspondence; of the various turns of their decades-long exchanges; of what Twichell described in his journals as the “long full feast of talk” with his friend, whom he would always call “Mark.”

Page count: 512 pp.
14 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Harold K. Bush is a professor English at Saint Louis University and the author of three books, including Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age.

Peter Messent is the emeritus professor of modern American literature at the University of Nottingham and the author of several books, including Mark Twain and Male Friendship: The Twichell, Howells, and Rogers Friendships.

Steve Courtney is the publicist and publications editor of the Mark Twain House. He is the author of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend and the coeditor (with Peter Messent) of The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain’s Story (both Georgia).