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: I've reached the end of the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography, although I started at page 200 (this was recommended in the introduction). I had a pencil handy while I read the book, with which to mark up all the funniest and most interesting passages, and I thought I'd share a few with you.

Earlier I called this book "an advertisement for e-books", and although I was referring to its physical dimension I was more truthful than I knew, because more or less the second half of this book is scholarly notes. Even the notes are pretty interesting, but it would have been nice to have some kind of hyper-text mechanism to keep them at hand during the reading.

A few sample interesting notes:

The [Second Iowa] Regiment had been disgraced by general order for having failed to prevent vandals from stealing taxidermic specimens from McDowell College in St. Louis, which was being used as a prison.

In 1910 in "The Turning Point of My Life", Clemens recalled that Herndon told "an astonishing tale" about the "miraculous powers" of coca, instilling in him "a longing to ascend the Amazon" and "open up a trade in coca with all the world."

I'd like to buy the world some coke?

Ok, on with the fun. Quotes from the autobiography itself:

My parents removed to Missouri in the early thirties; I do not remember just when, for I was not born then, and cared nothing for such things. It was a long journey in those days, and must have been a rough and tiresome one. The home was made in the wee village of Florida, in Monroe County, and I was born there in 1835. The village contained a hundred people and I increased the population by 1 per cent. It is more than the best man in history ever did for any other town. It may not be modest in me to refer to this, but it is true. There is no record of a person doing as much—not even Shakspeare. But I did it for Florida, and it shows that I could have done it for any place—even London, I suppose.

On unconscious plagiarism: "all our phrasings are spiritualized shadows cast multitudinously from our readings."

"William Swinton was a brilliant creature, highly educated, accomplished. He was such a contrast to me that I did not know which of us most to admire, because both ends of a contrast are equally delightful to me."

"I conceived the idea of a magazine to be called The Back Number, and to contain nothing but ancient news; narratives culled from mouldy old newspapers and mouldy old books; narratives set down by eye-witnesses at the time that the episodes treated of happened."

The account of his duel in "About Dueling" is great. "I woke up Mr. Laird with some courtesies of the kind that were fashionable among newspaper editors in that region."

I also loved this section about James G. Blaine, the Continental liar from the state of Maine.

On election day we went to the polls and consummated our hellish design. At that time the voting was public. Any spectator could see how a man was voting—and straightaway this crime was known to the whole community.

I feel that this ties somehow into the "Horrid Tragedy In Private Life" saga:

Susy [Twain's daughter] and her nearest neighbor, Margaret Warner, often devised tragedies and played them in the schoolroom, with little Jean’s help—with closed doors—no admission to anybody. The chief characters were always a couple of queens, with a quarrel in stock—historical when possible, but a quarrel anyway, even if it had to be a work of the imagination. Jean always had one function—only one. She sat at a little table about a foot high and drafted death-warrants for these queens to sign. In the course of time, they completely wore out Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots—also all of Mrs. Clemens’s gowns that they could get hold of—for nothing charmed these monarchs like having four or five feet of gown dragging on the floor behind.

I think that's enough for now.

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