This groundbreaking volume explores the importance of economics and prosperity throughout Samuel Clemens’s writing and personal life.
Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture focuses on an overlooked feature of the story of one of America’s most celebrated writers. Investigating Samuel Clemens’s often conflicting but insightful views on the roles of money in American culture and identity, this collection of essays shows how his fascination with the complexity of nineteenth-century economics informs much of Mark Twain’s writing.
While most readers are familiar with Mark Twain the worldly wise writer, fewer are acquainted with Samuel Clemens the avid businessman. Throughout his life, he sought to strike it rich, whether mining for silver in Nevada, founding his own publishing company, or staking out ownership in the Paige typesetting machine. He was ever on the lookout for investment schemes and was intrigued by inventions, his own and those of others, that he imagined would net a windfall. Conventional wisdom has held that Clemens’s obsession with business and material wealth hindered his ability to write more and better books. However, this perspective fails to recognize how his interest in economics served as a rich source of inspiration for his literary creativity and is inseparable from his achievements as a writer. In fact, without this preoccupation with monetary success, Henry B. Wonham and Lawrence Howe argue, Twain’s writing would lack an important connection to a cornerstone of American culture.
The contributors to this volume examine a variety of topics, such as a Clemens family myth of vast landholdings, Clemens’s strategies for protecting the Mark Twain brand, his insights into rapidly evolving nineteenth-century financial practices, the persistence of patronage in the literary marketplace, the association of manhood and monetary success, Clemens’s attitude and actions toward poverty, his response to the pains of bankruptcy through writing, and the intersection of racial identity and economics in American culture. These illuminating essays show how pecuniary matters invigorate a wide range of Twain’s writing from The Gilded Age, *Roughing It,*The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, to later stories like “The £1,000,000 Banknote” and the Autobiography.