The following review appeared 10 October 1994 on the Mark Twain Forum.
Copyright © Mark Twain Forum, 1994. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.
R. Kent Rasmussen <email@example.com>
This review lags two years behind publication of Collected Tales.
The delay has not been without certain advantages. I first became aware of
volumes soon after they were published in early 1992. In May that year, I
to attend the American Booksellers Association convention, where I spent
a day tramping the aisles, collecting brochures, buttons and balloons and
looking out for interesting
new books particularly those relating to Mark Twain. The booth of the
America (LOA) had an appealing display advertising its new Collected
set, but by the time I reached it, I found myself less interested in the
in LOA's handsome Mark Twain poster. I gave the books a quick once over,
that their chronology was much fuller than those of earlier Mark Twain
the LOA series, then turned my full attention to talking the person in
charge of the booth
into giving me a copy of the poster.
In retrospect it strikes me as odd that a person so intensely interested in Mark Twain books could have paid so little attention to those books. Fatigue was doubtless a factor in my lack of interest that day; however, there was something more my casual indifference to LOA volumes generally. I've always regarded them as handsome, durable, and authoritative, but utterly devoid of anything remarkable. This prejudice kept me from suspecting that there was any strong reason why these latest volumes should interest me. I already owned, after all, the "Author's National Edition of the Writings of Mark Twain," the "American Artists Edition of the Complete Works of Mark Twain," and the "Authorized Edition of the Complete Works of Mark Twain." I also possessed many of the presumably definitive volumes of the Mark Twain Project's "Mark Twain Papers" and "Works of Mark Twain," as well as a jumble of miscellaneous collections of Mark Twain's short works. If all this were not enough, I even owned the complete "Complete" collections edited by Charles Neider. Naturally, I asked myself what yet another two volumes of short works could possibly add to what I already had. As I learned only recently, the two Collected Tales volumes do add a great deal to my library. (Regrettably, I don't think that the same can be said of LOA's latest Mark Twain volume, Historical Romances. )
Now that I have finally taken the time to study Collected Tales closely, I can state, in no uncertain terms, that it constitutes the single finest collection of Mark Twain's short writings yet published. In addition to presenting a large and excellent selection of material from Mark Twain's entire writing career, the set has a valuable editorial apparatus that includes a detailed chronology, substantial textual annotations, and full bibliographical notes that go a long way toward clearing up the bibliographical muddle plaguing Mark Twain's literary heritage. Credit for this fine achievement certainly belongs to Louis J. Budd, whose contributions as the set's editor go far beyond those of the usual LOA guest editor.
Background to publication
The collecting of Mark Twain's short writings into books began in 1867 with
of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other
Anyone familiar with the multitudinous collections of Mark Twain's short
that followed knows that keeping track of the volumes in which individual
appear is a headache and not a small one. Mark Twain published many pieces
than one collection, occasionally under more than one title. Furthermore,
themselves were sometimes reissued with new titles and altered contents.
began issuing "uniform" editions of his works at the turn of the
century, the results
were anything but uniform. Who, for example, but dedicated bibliophiles
the Literary Essays
of the "Author's National Edition" is the same book as In
Defense of Harriet Shelley
in the "American Artists Edition"?
In 1957, Charles Neider brought some order to Mark Twain bibliography with his publication of 60 pieces in The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain. He soon followed this volume with 136 items in The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain (1961) and 77 items in The Complete Essays of Mark Twain (1963). Material in these volumes is arranged in approximate chronological order of original publication. Sketches and Essays contain alphabetical indexes to the titles they contain and Essays makes up for the lack of an index in Stories by supplying a comprehensive index to all three volumes. By consolidating 274 items that had been scattered among more than a dozen separate books, Neider's trilogy performed a valuable service. A central problem with his books, however, was that they were mistitled. They were not "complete"; in fact, incompleteness may be their most outstanding feature.
Neider's books appeared around the same moment that publication of Mark Twain material was entering a turning point. In 1961, Neider himself also issued yet another collection, Mark Twain: Life As I Find It a significant anthology of essays, sketches, and tales differing from Neider's other volumes in offering mostly pieces that had not previously appeared in book form. (One wonders, incidentally, if Neider recognized the strangeness of calling his Humorous Sketches anthology "complete" while simultaneously issuing another volume which contained sketches that the "Complete Sketches" lacked.) In 1962, Janet Smith published Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race, a collection of Mark Twain's angriest short writings. That same year, Bernard DeVoto's edition of Letters from the Earth appeared two decades after Clara Clemens suppressed its publication. The previously unpublished material in this volume attracted national attention after Life magazine published extracts from it and the book itself became a best-seller. By the time that Neider's Complete Essays anthology appeared in 1963, the illusion must have been growing that all of Mark Twain's short writings were finally in print in books. Not hardly.
In 1962 Clara Clemens died, willing her father's papers to the Mark Twain Project (then the "Mark Twain Papers") at Berkeley. The same year, the Project signed a publishing agreement with the University of California Press that would launch the first truly "complete" edition of Mark Twain's works. The Project's gradually evolving publishing scheme now calls for issuing all of Mark Twain's previously published short fiction and sketches in several series, beginning with 365 items in five volumes of Early Tales and Sketches. His later short stories and sketches are scheduled to be issued in "Middle Tales and Sketches" and "Late Tales." So far, however, the Project has issued only the first two volumes of "Early Tales" (1979 and 1981). The Project is also publishing Mark Twain's essays and polemical works in a series of topical volumes, the first of which, What Is Man? and Other Philosophical Writings, appeared in 1973. Meanwhile, the Project is issuing previously unpublished material in thematically oriented "Papers" volumes, such as Satires and Burlesques. The Project has no plan, however, to publish Mark Twain's speeches which, after all, are technically not part of Mark Twain's writings.
While the quality and authority of the Mark Twain Project's publications are beyond reproach, the pace at which they are being issued means that it will be decades before all the volumes are available. This fact makes publication of Collected Tales all the more valuable now, as it casts its net more widely and draws its texts from more authoritative sources than those used by any editions other than those of the Mark Twain Project.
Description of the volumes
Budd's two Collected Tales
volumes contain 272 Mark Twain pieces that are arranged chronologically,
to original publication dates, or, in cases of posthumously published
dates of composition. Bibliographically, the volumes should be considered
books; each has its own title, ISBN, pagination, table of contents,
notes, chronology, and index of titles. There is no index to both volumes.
of the two volumes is Mark Twain's own words, which fill 1,886 pages. Since
these text pages average roughly 360 to 380 words each (the amount of white
varies among pieces), the volumes contain a total of about 650,000 words of
Mark Twain material. This figure is roughly equivalent to about 2,500
pages, or six
or seven typical volumes, in Harper's uniform editions. Despite the fact
that each Collected Tales
volume has well over 1,000 pages, each book is only about an inch and a
and weighs only a pound and a half making it compact and light enough to be
comfortably in one hand a feature that Mark Twain himself would have
as he enjoyed reading and writing while lying in bed. In addition to Mark
the volumes contain a total of about 45 pages of bibliographical notes and
80 pages of substantive annotations, as well as a detailed chronology which
below. A valuable feature of their design is a system of running heads
which gives titles
of pieces on recto pages and the years and places where Mark Twain was
the pieces were originally published (or written, in the case of
material) on the facing pages.
What I most appreciate about these volumes is that they are the first compact collection to pull together material from every phase of Mark Twain's complex publishing history: pieces that he published in magazines and books during his lifetime; pieces that Albert Bigelow Paine and others first collected in books after Mark Twain died; and previously unpublished material that Paine, DeVoto, and their successors have gradually assembled in books. Until now, writings from each of these categories could generally only be found within its own idiosyncratic group of publications. It is refreshing, finally, to see generous samples from all these categories brought together in one coherent set, arranged in the order in which Mark Twain wrote them. Collected Tales sweeps away the largely artificial distinctions that previously kept Mark Twain's short writings apart. The mix is a happy one in which the juice kind of swaps around, and things go better.
Selection of texts
It should be immediately clear that even with 272 items (a figure
by the way, to the total number of items in Neider's "Complete"
trilogy), Collected Tales
contains only a fraction of Mark Twain's short works. His various stories,
essays and speeches must add up to something in the neighborhood of 1,000
pieces. Since Collected Tales
makes no pretense of being a "complete" collection of Mark
Twain's short works, we
can fairly ask what, if anything, its selection of material represents. Is
"best" of Mark Twain's short works? The most popular? The most
important? The most
readily available? Its editor's personal favorites? Remarkably, nothing in
even hints at how the contents were assembled. A notice following the
of each volume states simply, "Louis J. Budd selected the contents and
notes for this volume." This stark statement is the closest thing to
an introduction in either
book. This skimpy information typifies LOA's editorial practices. However,
it may do in volumes containing a few novels, it does not suffice in
in which so many editorial choices have been made. Even a one-page preface
forth criteria of text selection would have enhanced the value of the set
What, then, can readers assume about the contents of Collected Tales ? I'm not sure. Overall, these volumes are a broad cross-section of pieces that Mark Twain wrote from the early 1850s until his death. The mix of material is very broad from the familiar jumping frog story to the obscure "Overspeeding." Most titles that one might reasonably expect to find in so large a collection are here, but not all of them. For example, there is nothing relating to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Although I initially thought it natural for Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective not to be in the volumes, it later dawned on me that I did not know why. The stories are, after all, moderately important in the Mark Twain canon and are reasonably popular as well. Length alone cannot be the whole reason for their exclusion; at 23,400 words, Tom Sawyer, Detective is shorter than "The Great Dark" (24,000 words), which is here. Perhaps Budd simply regards their quality as insufficiently high, or he thinks that the stories are too readily available in other editions to justify taking up space here. On the other hand, ready availability in other editions cannot be the reason that Collected Tales does not include such Tom and Huck stories as "Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy" and "Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians." As a nearly complete novella, the former surely merits consideration. Here it should be noted that while Collected Tales draws material from many Mark Twain Project volumes including several volumes of posthumously published material the set does not use anything from Hannibal, Huck and Tom. (1969)
Consideration of what is not in the set may illuminate Budd's criteria for what is in it. His omission of "The Californian's Tale," "The Death Disk" and "A Horse's Tale," for example, suggests that he wished to exclude Mark Twain's worst sentimental excesses; however, he does include "A Dog's Tale." There are several strong reasons why the maudlin "Horse's Tale" might be excluded: it is revoltingly sentimental; it is badly structured and tedious to read; and it is comparatively long at 19,000 words. Another excluded piece which is equally long and almost as bad is "The Double-Barrelled Detective Story." Pieces whose omission is more difficult to explain include the whimsical and mercifully brief "Aurelia's Unfortunate Young Man," the peculiarly self-revelatory "Burlesque Biography," the badly flawed but innovative "The Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton" and the problem-story "The Belated Russian Passport."
One of the last major pieces that Mark Twain published during his life was "Is Shakespeare Dead?" Its 21,000-word length seemingly makes it eligible for inclusion in Collected Tales, but it is not here. I suspect that the reason may be that Budd has chosen not to include any of Mark Twain's purely autobiographical works (and Mark Twain considered his Shakespeare essay part of his "autobiography"). Likewise, Budd does not include the essay "The Death of Jean," which Mark Twain called the "last chapter" of his autobiography. However, if Budd is consciously excluding autobiographical pieces, why does he include the fragment titled "MacFarlane," which is also part of Mark Twain's autobiographical writings?
Budd does not follow Neider in extracting stories and sketches from Mark Twain's travel books. Though I normally hate reading anything that has been condensed, abridged, or extracted from a larger work, I would have been more than happy to make an exception of the bluejay yarn which is scarcely an organic part of A Tramp Abroad anyway. Another component of that travel book that I would like to see in Collected Tales is "The Awful German Language." That hysterical essay is a virtually autonomous appendix that exports nicely by itself.
Sources of texts
One of the most valuable features of the LOA set is Budd's extensive
notes at the end of each volume. These sections carefully lay out Budd's
for choosing authoritative texts. He takes about 104 items directly from
Project books, including still unpublished volumes of the "Early Tales
and Sketches" series.
Nearly the entire first half of the first volume of Collected Tales
comes directly from texts corrected by the Mark Twain Project. Budd also
piece from Mark Twain's Satires and Burlesques,
three pieces from Mark Twain's Fables of Man,
and ten pieces from What Is Man? and Other Philosophical Writings.
Most of the rest of his texts come directly from a wide range of magazines
as well as occasional books, such as The Stolen White Elephant,
in which the pieces first appeared. Of the 31 speeches in Collected
all but two are taken from Paul Fatout's magnificent Mark Twain
(1976). The others come from an earlier collection edited by Paine. In
Budd's bibliographical notes identify his sources, mention other
which the pieces were published, give dates of composition, and remark
on special textual problems. Each note is thus a valuable mini-essay in its
Budd's chronology is much longer than those of LOA's earlier Mark Twain
is the fullest that I have ever seen published. In the absence of a
to the set, the chronology doubles as a condensed biography of Mark Twain.
Its entries, which tend not to limit themselves to narrow dates, are often
so prolix that
they can be difficult to use. The entry on the year 1885, for example, is
paragraph extending over nearly a page and a half of about 8-point type,
the reader to pick through a great deal of small print to find the salient
aside whether so much prose even belongs in something called a "chronology," a more
serious criticism that can be leveled at the chronology is its occasional
and unnecessary lack of specificity. For example, the long entry on 1899
states that Mark Twain
took his family "to Budapest for a week" but it does not say
I see no good reason why the exact dates or simply "late March"
could not be inserted
In reading the chronology carefully and comparing its entries against my own extensive chronology notes, I found a trifling number of errors (such as the date for Pamela Clemens Moffett's death); however, I used Budd's chronology to correct a larger number of errors in my own notes. Despite my quibbles, Budd's chronology is probably the best yet published on Mark Twain's life. Perhaps it is because the chronology is so good that LOA chose to print it in its entirety in both Collected Tales volumes. By design or chance, it is paginated identically in the two books (pages 949-997) a happy congruence that should minimize confusion in citations. On the other hand, I suspect that people in the habit of writing marginal notes in their books may occasionally think that they're being gaslighted when they find their own notes mysteriously appearing and disappearing as they go back and forth between volumes. Since most purchasers of these volumes probably buy both of them, the decision to print the entire chronology twice must be questioned since it duplicates 50 pages that could have been eliminated to reduce costs and bulk or used for other material such as an integrated index to both volumes. Some of the salvaged pages could have been used to make the chronology easier to read by spreading it out with larger type and more paragraph breaks.
Budd as editor
LOA volumes traditionally downplay their editors, whose roles are typically
perfunctory. Budd's contributions to Collected Tales
are, however, of such an exceptional nature that it is a shame that his
neither on the books' covers nor on their title pages. The dust jacket
the LOA catalog call him the set's "editor"; however, nothing
inside the books themselves calls him that. While LOA is not treating Budd
differently than its other editors,
there are few on its list whose contributions are remotely comparable.
for instance, the volume of William Dean Howells novels "edited"
by Edwin H. Cady.
The effort going into that volume entailed selecting four novels and
writing 16 pages of
chronology and notes. By contrast, Collected Tales
required Budd to select and find authoritative texts for 272 separate
write a total of about 175 pages of chronology and notes virtually a book
If this effort doesn't merit title-page credit, what does? Is the issue
I think not. When Clive James wrote a long essay on Collected Tales
for the New Yorker
(14 June 1993), he neglected to mention Budd's name.
LOA volumes straddle a line between scholarly and popular editions, with a
toward the latter. One cannot object, however, to the minor editorial
that this policy leads to, so long as the result is a wider dissemination
Twain's works. The fact that LOA has issued a fourth volume of Mark Twain
writings this year
indicates the policy's success. Also, one must surmise that in licensing
the Mark Twain Papers, LOA is contributing materially to the survival of
that project, while helping to call attention to its work.
LOA has achieved an admirable publishing record since it was launched in 1982. In just over a dozen years, it has issued more than five dozen volumes. Some day it will be interesting to look over the complete list of LOA titles and consider the extent to which they reflect changing tastes and priorities. As one would expect, the series' earliest volumes tend to emphasize mainstream classics: Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Almost from its start, however, LOA has shown a remarkable openness. As early as its sixth and seventh volumes, for example, it began publishing the works of Jack London both his popular novels and his left-leaning socialist writings. Actually, it is difficult to see any clear trends in the LOA's short publishing history. When LOA published Richard Wright's works in 1991, for example, it also issued new editions of works by Washington Irving, Francis Parkman and James Fenimore Cooper. Through all these years, however, Mark Twain has remained a constant. His Mississippi Writings appeared during the LOA's first year and Innocents Abroad and Roughing It appeared two years later. Collected Tales followed after an eight-year gap and Historical Romances (The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee and Joan of Arc ) appeared this year. Of Mark Twain's original books, this leaves only The Gilded Age, A Tramp Abroad, The American Claimant, Following the Equator, Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective unpublished by LOA.
None of the quibbles that I have raised can detract from the valuable service that Louis J. Budd and LOA have performed in publishing Collected Tales. The volumes are likely to remain centerpieces in the private libraries of Mark Twain aficionados for a long time to come. Perhaps publication of the set will inspire someone to create a table or series of tables that displays the relation of its contents to other anthologies. At the least, I would like to see simple lists of the contents of such volumes as Sketches, New and Old, Literary Essays, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories, and so on, with indications of which titles are in Collected Tales and which are not. It would do me a world of good to know which of my stacks of red, green, blue, buff, and gray Harper's volumes I can retire once and for all to the garage.
I would like to thank Kevin Bochynski for his assistance in my preparation of this review.
About the reviewer: R. Kent Rasmussen lives in Thousand Oaks, California. He is an editor at Salem Press, a former associate editor of the Marcus Garvey Papers at UCLA, and the author of Mark Twain A to Z (to be published in spring 1995 by Facts On File).