I’m pleased to announce I’ll be working with The History Press for a second time. Following the recent publication of “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia” I’m now working on “Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.” (sub-title TBA), set for a release in the fall of 2013.
In truth, Douglass and Twain knew each other a degree more seriously than tangentially — Twain’s father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Elmira, New York and had assisted Douglass on his flight from Baltimore as a runaway slave in September 1838, Twain attended at least one of Douglass’s lectures, during the transition between the Presidential administrations of Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield Twain sent a letter to “General Garfield” adding his voice to those supporting the continuance of Douglass as U.S. Marshal for the District.
That said when thinking on an idea for a second book the idea of “Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.” came from a memory of looking through the vertical files years ago at the Historical Society of Washington’s Kiplinger Library and discovering that Mark Twain, or rather Samuel Clemens, had come to Washington as a teenager. Of course he wrote about his experiences, one of his earliest dispatches.
After the Civil War Twain returned to Washington for the winter of 1867-1868 as an emerging journeyman journalist, humorist, author, and secretary to a United States Senator. It was in the capital city that Twain formed, according to him, the first newspaper “syndicate” with another journalist as they sent correspondence from Washington, D.C. all over the country. Twain was on the make and in keeping with the character that has become his myth, he flashed on folks in his own way. At a dinner recognizing prominent Washington journalists Twain offered a toast to his mother. Twain kept it in the cut, bucking the city’s pretentious and effusive love for itself.
In 1873 he wrote, as a co-author, his first novel, “The Gilded Age,” set in Washington, D.C. In 1885 the immortal American story of the Mississippi river rat Huck Finn and the runaway slave Jim was published which today supports Twain’s place as “the Lincoln of American literature.”
Often in Washington to meet with Presidents or members of Congress Twain was a frequent presence at the Willard Hotel. In 1906 he testified before Congress in support of an extension of copyright protection for authors, asking that the law be more supportive of his daughters than he had been.
We take the untold history of the city seriously. Here we go again where it hasn’t been taken before. Enjoy the ride and only smoke one cigar at a time.
October 30, 2012