To our knowledge, no author in history has managed to write and publish new, best sellers that span a career of nearly a century and a half. But Mark Twain has. His first short-story (1865), The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, is still read in schools today. And in 2010, the UC Berkeley Mark Twain Papers & Project published the first of three volumes of Twain’s critical edition autobiography – a monumental work that Twain embargoed from publishing for 100 years after his death. Granted, there have been several autobiographies published before this, but the materials those were drawn from were abridged and censored.
No one anticipated what would happen with this first volume. Initial plans were made for a print run of 2,000. Before a year was up over half-million copies were sold, and world demand was still going strong.
And for good reason. Critics and scholars may argue over who is the most important American of letters, but the world knows who is the most endearing and original. Years ago, when we were in Mumbai, India we were constantly reminded by excited residents that Mark Twain had spoken there long before our arrival.
We are so very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Robert H. Hirst, General Editor of the Mark Twain Papers & Project. For nearly half a century Hirst has devoted his professional life to the phenomenon of Twain, a history that continues to grow with the discovery each week of yet new letters and papers.
We know you’ll enjoy and learn from this remarkable interview.
George & Salli