Mark Twain, the writer who brought the world Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and The Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, died 100 years ago. You might be questioning the significance of this fact. Twain was a prolific memoir writer, but none of his diaries have seen the light of publication. Because he didn’t want them to. For 100 years. There’s something a little arrogant about assuming that people will still care about you in 100 years, but this is still pretty cool. Clearly he wanted everybody he wrote about to be dead.
The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.
That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.
Scholars are divided as to why Twain wanted the first-hand account of his life kept under wraps for so long. Some believe it was because he wanted to talk freely about issues such as religion and politics. Others argue that the time lag prevented him from having to worry about offending friends.
One thing’s for sure: by delaying publication, the author, who was fond of his celebrity status, has ensured that he’ll be gossiped about during the 21st century.