Mark Twain prowled the rough-and-tumble streets of 1860s San Francisco with a hard-drinking, larger-than-life fireman...
I've always been a Mark Twain fan AND a staunch defender without apology of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Twain's intentional (in my opinion) use of the abrasive "N" word; believing that it was Huck's adventure with Jim that led him to abandon the racist attitudes taken as gospel and unquestioned in the world he grew up within. Huck's conclusion that he "couldn't go back" but rather headed west was a sure sign that he had come to not only learn that Jim representing the oppressed slaves was a good man but also that he had "unlearned" the ignorance of those who led him to believe that the "N" word was perfectly acceptable.
I taught a Mark Twain course for years. I've been to Hannibal. I've held the handwritten pages of the portion of the original Huckleberry Finn manuscript held in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. And, I've even received a call at school from Hal Holbrook who, in response to an inquiry about when he might again be in the San Francisco Bay Area doing his "Mark Twain Tonight" performance. The pending performance was sold out, but he called to tell me he had arranged for four tickets to be available at will call for me and that he was inviting me to meet him in the green room after the performance. Yes, I've been pretty passionate about Mark Twain for quite awhile.
I thought I'd read and learned quite a bit about him over the years, and here I am many decades later discovering this bit of Twainiana that for some reason or another had never come to my attention even though it's about a part of Clemen's life that took place within 40 miles of where I've lived for six decades!
By the way, yes I did switch from referring to him as Mark Twain to referring to him as Clemens in that last paragraph. In days gone by, the sign of a true Mark Twain scholar was that he was never referred to as "Twain."
(from the Bancroft Library website: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/MTP/mississippi.htm)
"'Mark Twain' (meaning "Mark number two") was a Mississippi River term: the second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet—safe depth for the steamboat."
It wasn't a first name last name sort of moniker. So if one wanted to refer to the man by his last name as is the case in journalistic writing, it was "Clemens" never "Twain."
Anyway, an interesting article.
Just call me a lifelong learner!