Cover image for A murder, a mystery, and a marriage
A murder, a mystery, and a marriage
Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
Personal Author:
Advanced reading copy.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2001]

Physical Description:
114 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Local Note:
Rare Book Room copy: The volume is bound in plastic-coated paper, with the author, title, contributor, illustrator, and color illustration on the front cover, and the author, title, and publisher on the spine. The back cover is white, and contains the publisher's blurb and publication data in black ink.
Geographic Term:
Format :


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PS1322 .M8 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Rare Books-Appointment Needed

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Set in the quaint hollow of Deer Lick, a mythical town resembling Mark Twain's Hannibal, Missouri, this bizarre tale chronicles the fortunes of humble farmer John Gray, determined to marry off his daughter Mary to the scion of the town's wealthiest family.

Author Notes

Mark Twain was born Samuel L. Clemens in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. He worked as a printer, and then became a steamboat pilot. He traveled throughout the West, writing humorous sketches for newspapers. In 1865, he wrote the short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which was very well received. He then began a career as a humorous travel writer and lecturer, publishing The Innocents Abroad in 1869, Roughing It in 1872, and, Gilded Age in 1873, which was co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner. His best-known works are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mississippi Writing: Life on the Mississippi, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A never-before-published story and a fresh look at Twain's feisty female heroines add new dimension to our appreciation of an American master. As Blount explains in his energetic and enticing commentary, for all his fame and influence, Twain failed to get a pet scheme off the ground. In 1876 he suggested to his friend William Dean Howells, then editor of the Atlantic Monthly, that they invite "a good and godly gang" of writers, including such unlikely candidates as James Russell Lowell and Henry James, to each write a story based on a "skeleton plot" of Twain's devising. No matter how often Twain pestered Howells, nothing ever came of it, and Twain's inaugural version of the tale has been gathering dust ever since. Set in the small, anxious town of Deer Lick, and involving love, greed, murder, a mysterious stranger, and a family feud, it's a fun-to-read minor work of historical interest. Cooley's collection of Twain's stories featuring independent young women tracks the writer's conflicted acknowledgment of women's changing role in society. This facet of Twain's work has never been explored in depth before, and it's a pleasure to read these sly, entertaining stories of unconventional, bold, and resourceful heroines, which include unusual variations on Eve and Saint Joan of Arc. Cooley provides background for each tale and credits Twain's progressive wife and three daughters as the inspiration for his intrepid women characters. In discussing the title story, for instance, a good yarn with a lurid twist, he notes that Twain never published it (too controversial), and suggests that it was inspired by Twain's discomfort with his daughter Susy's involvement in a lesbian relationship. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Atlantic Monthly, to great hoopla, recently resurrected an 1876 Twain manuscript; in this slim volume, it is reproduced, along with insightful comments from Roy Blount Jr. The question is, do we have a forgotten masterpiece? Or is the Atlantic playing a game like the Duke and the Dauphin's Royal Nonesuch in Huckleberry Finn, inflating expectations and leading up merely to a diddly stag show? In Twain's story, a Frenchman is found in a field of snow outside a small Missouri town. He refuses to explain how he got there, but lets it be known he is a Count Fontainebleau. He courts Mary Gray, the town beauty. Mary was intended for her true love, Hugh Gregory, but her father, John Gray, scotched the marriage. David Gray, John's brother, has threatened to drop Mary from his will if she marries Hugh, whom he dislikes. Then David Gray is murdered, and Hugh Gregory is convicted of the crime. Count Fontainebleau is on the verge of marrying Mary when there is a sudden turnaround of events. Twain's original idea was to give a skeleton plot involving a mysterious stranger and a murder to other writers (including, bizarrely, Henry James) and have the Atlantic Monthly publish all their versions a scheme presumably engineered to show Twain's superiority. This never happened. Twain's story is, admittedly, a trifle. Roy Blount directs his comments to the reason Twain put aside Huckleberry Finn to write it, leading him to speculate interestingly, albeit somewhat irrelevantly, on Twain's life and politics, which were shifting in 1876. Altogether, this Twain curiosa is less interesting in itself than for what Blount makes of it. (Sept.) Forecast: Curiosity will spur sales of this bauble, as will the gift-book-size trim and six watercolor illustrations by Peter de Sive. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The core of this little book is a gimmicky mystery that Twain wrote for a proposed Atlantic Monthly magazine competition in 1876. The fanfare accompanying its publication made it seem as important as a lost chapter of Huckleberry Finn; however, it's a distinctly minor piece, good for a chuckle or two. The real meat of the book is humorist Roy Blount's contribution, which uses half the pages to tell the story behind the story and place it in the context of Twain's other writings. This will interest Twain buffs and scholars but may stretch the patience of listeners, especially since Blount writes better than he reads. Fellow humorist Garrison Keillor narrates Twain's story itself, but even it may not please everyone. His timing and inflections, while perfect for his own material, tend to bury Twain's voice. Not a necessary addition to libraries that own the print edition. R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. 7
Forewordp. 9
A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriagep. 19
Afterwordp. 67