:-) Twain quote about his father's ignorance and surprising maturation (update 1915 December)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Apr 2 17:33:12 UTC 2010

What this proves is that no one in America could add or subtract.


At 4/2/2010 01:33 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly
>stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I
>was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
>This is one version of a famous joke attributed to Mark Twain that is
>discussed in the ADS archives of January 2010. It is also discussed in
>"The Quote Verifier" and "The Yale Book of Quotations".
>This short update presents the earliest citation I could locate for a
>version of the story and evidence about the veracity of Twain's
>"autobiographical" stories. Twain is credited with the joke in a
>periodical dated December 1915 that is fully accessible at the Hathi
>Trust archive. The link posted previously was to a volume restricted
>to snippet view status in the Google Books archive. The date was
>uncertain, and the text was unverified.
>When Google restricts access to snippet view it makes sense to check
>www.archive.org and www.hathitrust.org because the same work is
>occasionally available in full view. This advice is particularly
>pertinent to public domain works. This is also old advice to all but
>neophytes (like me). Thanks to a librarian named Dan at the University
>of Michigan who directed me to the Hathi Trust archive, and thanks to
>Bill Mullins who mentioned Hathi Trust several months ago.
>Citation: 1915 December, The Square Deal edited by Joseph W. Bryce,
>Found in the Black Chest by Fred N. Rindge, Vol. 17, Page 160, Column
>2, Square Deal Press. (Hathi Trust full view)
>It reminds one of something Mark Twain said to the effect that when he
>was seventeen he couldn't bear to have his Father around while they
>were discussing important questions but when he was twenty-five it was
>wonderful how the old man had improved.
>Hathi Trust Permanent Link:
>The second earliest cite was found by Vic Steinbok during the earlier
>discussion on the ADS list.
>Citation: 1916 March, Missouri State Board of Agriculture: Monthly
>Bulletin, Country Life Questions and Answers, Page 56, Vol. XIV, No.
>3, State Dept. of Agriculture, Missouri.
>Somthing (sic) like Mark Twain. At the age of seventeen Mark says he
>thought his father the most ignorant man in all the world and just
>couldn't stand him about. At the age of twenty-three he found that his
>father knew a few things and he could put up with him occasionally; at
>the age of twenty-seven he knew that his father was the smartest man
>in all the world and he just doted on having him about. There is a bit
>of psychology in this that is worthy our study.
>Thanks to all the participants in the previous thread: Ron Butters,
>Joel Berson, Fred Shapiro, Victor Steinbok, Ken Hirsch, and Sam
>Clements. Part of the discussion concerned the fact that Twain's
>father died when he was eleven, and therefore if Twain recounted the
>tale he would be doing so as a constructed persona.
>I have found a speech by Twain that strongly implies that both of his
>parents were alive when he was fourteen. This is compatible with the
>hypothesis that he sometimes presented "autobiographical" tales that
>were fictionalized with respect to his father's death.
>Citation: [1872 February, date given for Speech] 2006, Mark Twain
>Speaking edited by Paul Fatout, University of Iowa Press.
>Dinner Speech - The Aldine Dinner, St. James Hotel, New York, Early
>February 1872
>When I was fourteen, as I remarked before, I was living with my
>parents, who were very poor and correspondingly honest. We had a youth
>living with us by the name of Jim Wolfe.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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