You have to hand it to the guy — after 100 years, Mark Twain still knows how to grab headlines:
Exactly a century after rumours of his death turned out to be entirely accurate, one of Mark Twain’s dying wishes is at last coming true: an extensive, outspoken and revelatory autobiography which he devoted the last decade of his life to writing is finally going to be published.
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.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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The autobiography will be published in November as a trilogy, clocking in at 500,000 words. As to why he wanted to wait 100 years before releasing it: “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.” Both explanations seem plausible, given the content:
“He had doubts about God, and in the autobiography, he questions the imperial mission of the US in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He’s also critical of [Theodore] Roosevelt, and takes the view that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Twain also disliked sending Christian missionaries to Africa. He said they had enough business to be getting on with at home: with lynching going on in the South, he thought they should try to convert the heathens down there.”
In other sections of the autobiography, Twain makes cruel observations about his supposed friends, acquaintances and one of his landladies.
Of course, the whole thing may just have been a way to guarantee that we’d still be talking about him 100 years later. Either way, I’d say it worked.