Monday, November 19, 2012

Featured Manuscript: Edited Mark Twain Article

LWS 2005-2, p 1. "The Case of Rev. Dr. Ament, Missionary" later published as "To My Missionary Critics," 1901.
Edited Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) manuscript.
First page of "To My Missionary Critics" as published in The North American Review, Vol. 172. No. 533 (April 1901), pp 520.

 Curator's Note:

Mark Twain’s To My Missionary Critics
Housed in the Morristown NHP Archives

The Boxer Rebellion (or uprising) that ravaged China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the result of decades, if not centuries, of attempts by European powers, including the United States, to open the secretive and exotic empire to western influence. By 1900, the Boxer’s (Yihequan—Righteous and Harmonious Fists in the Chinese dialect but christened “Boxer” by the western forces because their training regime resembled the pugilistic sport so many of the foreign soldiers were familiar with) had grown incensed with the behavior and attitudes of the western powers. The Chinese had seen their insular, ancient culture subverted to the petty and irresponsible policies of the European powers which were themselves hurtling their continent head-long towards World War I.

The Chinese who took up arms against the foreigners did so out of exasperation fueled by the efforts of the western powers to obtain all of the fabled riches of the Orient they could accumulate. In other words, the western powers, including the United States, had none-to-discrete imperialist designs on the emerging Chinese empire. Along with the material riches to be obtained by the exploitation of the vast natural resources of China, the large population presented another sort of natural resource for a select group of westerners. China’s large population, according to Christian missionaries, was just as ready for exploitation as any other aspect of China.

Enter Mark Twain

Mark Twain is one American writer about whom it can truly be said “his is a household name.” Twain is remembered primarily for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. These books endeared Twain to generations of American’s and readers the world over through their evocative use of language, description, and locale. Readers were lured into the imaginary world of Twain’s semi-alter egos in the way few if any writers could replicate. 

Any personality or celebrity is always more complex and multi-layered than they appear. Such is the case with Mark Twain. By 1900, Twain was more a cynical observer of the society he saw around him than the avuncular or grandfatherly image depicted today. In fact, Twain, along with fellow writer Charles Dudley Warner coined the phrase “Gilded Age.” They used the term with writhing sarcasm to represent the shallowness of the opulent, feel-good lifestyle of many American’s while so much misery and heartache was occurring all around. Twain particularly aimed his ire at organized religion and the unbelievable hypocrisy he felt was so flagrantly displayed by the followers of a humble Christ. Twain’s limit was reached when the horrific scale of the atrocities meted out by both sides of the Boxer uprising became known and in particular the demands of the western powers to reparations by the Chinese government. The reparations in many instances included not just financial remuneration, it included organized, retributive killing sanctioned by many missionaries. 

In February 1901, Twain published an essay in the ‘North American Review’ titled “To the Person Sitting in the Darkness.” This essay was profoundly allegorical in the composition of the juxtaposed news accounts presented in a stream of evidence gathered by Twain and garnered from numerous sources. After he presented verbatim the story, Twain engaged his allegorical interlocutor (the person sitting in the darkness) offering point by point overviews of the hypocrisy and atrocities he detected in the imperialistic undertakings of the western powers under the guise of spreading the Gospel.  

Clearly, this attack did not sit well with the western powers and it particularly did not sit well with the missionary community. The backlash against Twain was swift and predictable. Predictable still, Twain responded with a further piece in the April 1901 ‘North American Review’ called “To my Missionary Critics.” This second piece is entirely in keeping with Twain’s line of arguing but its story is not the purpose of this blog post. 

LWS 2005-2, p 2. Twain's note on page 2 says "OVER."

LWS 2005-2, p 2 verso.  Twain's insertion note.

For Morristown NHP, “To my Missionary Critics” is uniquely well known. The edited copy of the article is housed in the park’s archival collection. Twain’s corrections—in his hand—can be followed alongside the published version. Another fascinating part of the manuscript is Twain’s jottings on the back of the type article. Particularly of interest is Twain accepting a dinner invitation which he acknowledges with a simple “Mark.”

This manuscript is one of the fascinating artifacts contained within the Lloyd W. Smith collection. The Smith collection came to the park as a bequest from Lloyd Smith, one of the “founding fathers” of Morristown National Historical Park, and a local antiquarian and collector. His collection of nearly 300,000 manuscripts forms the core of the Morristown NHP archival collection. 

LWS 2005-2, note. Note to Mr. Munro (likely Review editor David A. Munro) signed by Twain.

The note reads:
Dear Mr. Munro:
     Many thanks for
the mags.
     Of course I’ll
come to the
dinner. Please
tell Daniella (?) so
for me.


LWS 2005-2, note, verso. The back of the note to Mr. Munro. Here we find some of Twain's commentary crossed out. It appears he reused a scrap of paper, with discarded notes, to send Munro a greeting.

The back of the note reads:

       But while I seem tel**  so busy
with other people’s morals, I am
not neglecting my own. I am
overhauling my stock, & giving
to the poor such parts of it as
I have picked up in the course
of my pleasant correspondence
with the Secretary of the Boors
--upon whom be please, & with
it prosperity, if he will allow
me to say that friendly word.

Other Sources Referenced:

Cohen, Paul A. "The Contested Past: The Boxers as History and Myth." The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 82-113. Accessed digitally 11/10/2012 from JSTOR

Twain, Mark. "To My Missionary Critics." The North American Review, Vol. 172, No. 533 (April, 1901), pp. 520-534. Accessed digitally 11/10/2012 from JSTOR

Blog entry by Jude M. Pfister, Curator.

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