cover image Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3

Mark Twain, edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith. Univ. of California, $45 (792p) ISBN 978-0-520-27994-0

This third and final volume of Twain's half-million-word autobiography begins with an amusing reminiscence about a rascally jewelry salesman, dictated in 1907, and ends with a wail of anguish over the tragic death of his daughter, Jean, in 1909. In between, there occur all manner of engrossing events and experiences, including Twain's receipt of an honorary degree from Oxford University, employment of a man masquerading as a housemaid, luncheon with George Bernard Shaw, travels abroad to England and Bermuda, and audiences with Andrew Carnegie and other famous personalities of the day. Twain recalls his twilight years' main events in roughly chronological order, but each serves as a touchstone for digressions and reveries on experiences described in his autobiography's two earlier volumes. Twain's expansiveness occasionally deflates into numbing levels of detail, but he is usually as sharp and witty here as he in his fiction, particularly when gleefully goring his favorite b%C3%AAte noir, President Theodore Roosevelt. Life, in Twain's opinion, is a "procession of episodes and experiences which seem large when they happen, but which diminish to trivialities as soon as we get perspective upon them." This fascinating volume gives lie to that assertion, and closes the book on the remarkable life of one of America's most outstanding literary talents. With extensive scholarly annotations. B+w photos. (Oct.)