Cover image for Mark Twain in the margins : the Quarry Farm marginalia and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court
Mark Twain in the margins : the Quarry Farm marginalia and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court
Fulton, Joe B., 1962-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 205 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Reading Level:
1420 Lexile.
Format :


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The common characterization of Mark Twain as an uneducated and improvisational writer took hold largely because of the novelist's own frequent claims about his writing practices. But using recently discovered evidence--Twain's marginal notes in books he consulted as he worked on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court --Joe Fulton argues for a reconsideration of scholarly views about Twain's writing process, showing that this great American author crafted his novels with careful research and calculated design.

Fulton analyzes Twain's voluminous marginalia in the copies of Macaulay's History of England, Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, and Lecky's History of the Rise of Rationalism and England in the Eighteenth Century available to Twain in the library of Quarry Farm, the New York farm where the novelist and his family routinely spent their summers. Comparing these marginal notes to entries in Twain's writing journal, the manuscript of Connecticut Yankee, and the book as published in 1889, Fulton establishes that Twain's research decisively influenced the novel. Fulton reveals Twain to be both the writer from experience he claimed to be and the careful craftsman that he attempted to downplay. By redefining Twain's aesthetic, Fulton reinvigorates current debates about what constitutes literary realism.

Fulton's transcriptions of the marginalia appear in an appendix; together with his analysis, they provide a valuable new resource for Twain scholars.

Author Notes

Joe B. Fulton is Assistant Professor of English at Dalton State College in Georgia.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

With the skill of Sherlock Holmes at his best, Fulton (Dalton State College) deduces from seemingly trivial scribblings in a handful of books Twain's practice as a writer and his use of sources to form both incidents and his hero's social vision. Scholars have known that Twain read Lecky, Taine, Macaulay, and Carlyle, but Fulton documents thoroughly and insightfully how these thinkers influenced statements on mental slavery and the ambiguous nature of historical progress in A Connecticut Yankee. The author follows 104 pages of text with three appendixes that identify every marking in the key books Twain read as he wrote the novel while at his Elmira (NY) home, Quarry Farm--demonstrating the important finding that books were part of Twain's "realistic" environment and colored his sense of the "facts" leading to violence and social terror. Leaning on G.W. Cable et al. and reversing common assumptions (and Twain's pretense), Fulton shows Twain as a conscious writer, not a "jackleg." Fulton writes in clear prose and ably uses close documentation to make a case for Twain as a realist/satirist. An important accomplishment in Twain studies, this narrowly focused volume captures the depth of Twain and of this major novel and its implications for Twain's canon. All collections supporting Twain studies. D. E. Sloane; University of New Haven

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. x
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Method of Transcriptionp. xv
List of Abbreviationsp. xvii
1. Following the "Compass of Fact": Rethinking Mark Twain's Composing Processp. 1
2. Twain's "Cloud of Witnesses": The 1885 and 1887 Marginalia in Lecky's Spirit of Rationalismp. 29
3. Macaulay's "Stately Sentences": Twain's 1885 and 1887 Marginalia in The History of Englandp. 47
4. "The Men of Old Ideas Must Die Off": Mark Twain and Lecky's England in the Eighteenth Centuryp. 63
5. Thomas Carlyle's "Bucket of Blood": Twain's Rereading of The French Revolutionp. 82
Conclusionp. 101
Appendixesp. 105
Notesp. 181
Bibliographyp. 189
Indexp. 201