The following review appeared 12 July 1995 on the Mark Twain Forum.
Copyright © Mark Twain Forum, 1995. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.
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The new Mark Twain Project edition of Roughing It is a welcome upgrading of its 1972 edition edited by Franklin Rogers and Paul Baender. The new volume not only improves the book's textual accuracy, but adds a wealth of supplementary material now indispensable for studies of Twain's frontier humor. Further, the maps, appendices, and other scholarly apparatus not only aid in studies of Roughing It itself, but added with the Mark Twain Papers earlier editions of Clemens's Notebooks and Journals: Vol. 1 (1865-1877) (1975), Early Tales and Sketches volumes 1 (1979) and 2 (1981), and the first volume of Letters, 1853-1866 (1988) the new Roughing It provides much useful insight into Sam Clemens's western experience. Combined, these editions provide much of the backbone of both primary sources and scholarly apparatus fundamental to studies focusing on this formative literary period.
For Robert Hirst, General Editor of the Mark Twain Project, there were many
to issue a new edition of Roughing It.
According to Hirst, who in 1972 was a graduate student assisting Rogers
problems with the first edition were immediately obvious. He notes there
remain, much uncertainty about the reading texts chosen by the original
team. Baender, Hirst points out, did not say which copy-texts he adopted,
no notes or emendations to explain the 1972 textual choices. This forced
team to start from scratch, creating a fresh volume with detailed textual
sixty-one pages on "Emendations on the Copy-Text and Rejected
Substantives," going well
beyond Rogers and Baender's twenty- page supplements of four related Twain
in the 1972 edition. "Everything is there," says Hirst, "in
one place. It might
take some digging to find what you need, but it's all there."
Further, Hirst recalls the original editors deleting the illustrations by True Williams and others despite Clemens's emphasis on them in letters to his publisher, Elisha Bliss. Because of this, according to Hirst, Rogers and Baender also had to delete two of Clemens's textual references to specific illustrations. These passages, and all original illustrations, are now restored in the new edition. Other restored material includes three facsimile pages of the manuscript that Twain's literary executor, Albert B. Paine, knew about, but which Rogers and Baender deleted without explanation.
These problems with the 1972 edition, Hirst believes, resulted from rushing to print what was then the Project's first certified, sealed volume. During the early '70s, Hirst recalls, the University of Iowa co-publishers of the Mark Twain Papers quickly spent funds to get books on the shelf, not seeking to create long-term tools. As a result, some of the early volumes, such as Satires and Burlesques (1967), were not certified. Others, like Letters to His Publishers, 1867-1894 (1967), were produced so quickly that much material was missed because no one sought out overlooked letters.
Another source of confusion resulted from then-editors John Tuckey and John Gerber's division of projects into thematic categories rather than chronological collections. Clemens's early social and philosophic writings, for example, were not included in Early Tales and Sketches as different editors carved out separate and scattered turfs, dissecting and spreading amputated passages throughout various anthologies. What is Man? and Other Philosophical Writings (1973), for example, contains early Virginia City Territorial Enterprise sketches cut out of Twain's letters to that paper. Hirst notes Twain's piece "Villagers" was divided and published in two different volumes because no one at the Mark Twain Project noticed the two fragments went together. "It took an outsider," he notes, "to see one fragment picked up where one sentence left off."
The bottom line, Hirst says, was that "we were naive in those days, not asking questions." Roughing It, Hirst believes, was the worst result from the haste. He remembered Rogers claiming Twain had made "subtle changes" to quotes from The Book of Mormon in Roughing It. Hirst asked Rogers which edition Twain used. Rogers didn't know. After careful research, Hirst discovered the edition used by Clemens, and found that Clemens had made no changes at all. This incident epitomizes the difference in the two team's editorial policies; the new edition is a result of all the questions being asked, and when possible, answered in copious detail.
Much has changed at the Mark Twain Project since 1972, and the new, expanded Roughing It demonstrates the accumulated experience of the current editorial team. The editors, listed above, combine meticulous attention to the text with the rich notes now associated with the Project's standard-setting editions beginning with Notebooks and Journals. This group, and notably Edgar M. Branch, are the most knowledgeable scholars of Twain's early years ever assembled, giving the new edition an authority no earlier version can match.
Beyond getting the text and notes right this time (nearly fifty new pages of explanatory notes have been added to the revised, original 150 pages), a most important contribution is the 110- page authoritative history of Roughing It 's composition, as definitive as can be expected with extant materials. This section charts the composing, editing, and publishing history of Roughing It. The clear writing of this section sheds much light on the book's structure, showing how fragments of "seasoned" remembrances and humorous tales cohered into a readable final form. Further, the volume reconstructs the lost manuscripts of Roughing It, provides a generous ten- page section of maps (Rogers and Baender published only three two unlisted and tucked them in the back of their volume), and ends with nearly fifty pages of references.
Other important sections in the new supplements contain material provided by Orion Clemens to his brother. Sam Clemens who had lost or destroyed much of his own notes, letters, and published items from his western years relied on Orion for source material for Roughing It, and these contributions are added in a fourteen-page supplement.
Altogether, the publication of the new edition of Roughing It should satisfy the often exasperated National Endowment for the Humanities, who suggest the Project's pace is too slow. On many levels, the new Roughing It demonstrates why careful scholarship should not be pushed to premature conception. "Do it right the first time," Hirst notes, "or you have to redo it as we did with Roughing It. If you don't get it right the first time, it will stay wrong a long time."
Despite threats of severed funding, the Mark Twain Project intends to continue its high standards evident in Roughing It. Future volumes, Hirst says, will be released more logically organized than earlier collections. The third volume of Early Tales and Sketches (currently in production), for example, will backtrack to pick up items from 1865 not included in the earlier collections and will probably be retitled to indicate its new scope.
Also forthcoming, for the general reader, is a paperback edition of the new Roughing It with most of the apparatus deleted. Until then, most readers can confidently enjoy old copies of the 1972 edition for pleasurable reading. For literary scholars and historians, the new edition was worth the considerable upgrading as it will stand as the authoritative text for decades to come. This edition, along with all previous Mark Twain Project volumes, could be made more useful only by making it available as an electronic text especially since such a format makes it possible to add new references as new information is unearthed. Until then, no library should be without the new edition of Roughing It, and all serious Twain scholars will spend useful and happy hours with a classic of humor in its definitive form.