Before Twain Was Twain

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Newspaper journalist Samuel Clemens would eventually go on to become novelist Mark Twain. But, Samuel Clemens was something of a story writer too. At the Guardian, Nicky Woolf reports that a scholar at the University of California has discovered and authenticated letters stories written by Twain while he still worked at the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle. Researcher Bob Hirst believes the stories represent a moment of personal crisis for Clemens:

Twain had been resisting becoming a humorist, according to Hirst, because at the time humor was considered a lower order of writing. He was in debt and drinking heavily, and even wrote to his brother that he was contemplating suicide, saying: “If I do not get out of debt in three months – pistols or poison for one – exit me.”


Ian MacAllen is the Rumpus Deputy Editor and founder of English Kills Review an online literary magazine focused on books, authors, and New York City. His writing has appeared in Joyland Magazine, The Billfold, Fiction Advocate, Electric Cereal, Thought Catalog, and io9. He holds a Master’s Degree in English from Rutgers University and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →