January 20, 1887

Mark Twain Lists His Favorite Books For Children - and Himself

Autograph Letter Signed
3 pages
SMC 1688
It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) once remarked, but still nobler to teach others - and less trouble. Accordingly, here Twain takes it easy on himself and suggests what other people ought to read - and names, in the process, a dozen of his favorite books.

Macaulay; Plutarch; Grant's Memoirs; Crusoe; Arabian Nights; Gulliver...for the girl..out Crusoe and substituting Tennyson. When one is going to choose twelve authors, for better for worse, forsaking fathers & mothers to cling unto them & unto them alone, until death shall them part, there is an awfulness about the responsibility that makes marriage with one mere individual & divorcible woman a sacrament sodden with levity by comparison. In my list I know I should put Shakspeare; & Browning; & Carlyle (French Revolution only); Sir Thomas Malory (King Arthur); Parkman's Histories (a hundred of them if there were so many); Arabian Nights; Johnson (Boswell's), because I like to see that complacent old gasometer listen to himself talk; Jowett's Plato; & "B.B." (a book which I wrote some years ago, not for publication but just for my own private reading...) 

Twain liked to say, truthfully, that his own schooling took place between the ages of 5 and 13, and consisted mostly of his “playing hookey & getting licked for it.” He also liked to say, untruthfully, that he wasn’t a bookish man. But the fact was that Twain was and had been, since boyhood, an avid reader. As much as he teased about education – God, for instance, only created idiots as practice for School Boards - he deeply valued learning. Supposing is good, he wrote in his autobiography, but finding out is better.
 Autograph Letter Signed (“S.L. Clemens”), 3 pages, octavo, Hartford, January 20, 1887. To the Rev. C. D. Crane. With autograph envelope.
 
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