MAPK TBEH. East and West Meet in Twain. Elmira Star-Gazette. “From the last home of Mark Twain comes an idea too good to get lost in the shuffle of politics...”. Opening/Background.
East and West Meet in Twain
“From the last home of Mark Twain comes an idea too good to get lost in the shuffle of politics...”
Short overview of what we will be speaking about. Background of our relationship/projects and why it is of interest that our efforts to promote Twain in 2008, 2009 & 2010 mimic the efforts of Brad Kelly’s in 1958, 1959 & 1960.
First, we would like to thank Alex and the Boston University Editorial Institute for the opportunity to be with you here this afternoon. It truly is an honor.
Heather and I have been working together since 2007 when I stopped over at MTL to have a look at their photo archives for a calendar project.
In 2008 we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Twain’s arrival in Redding, his final residence, as well as the 100th Anniversary of the Library’s founding.
I have been a Mark Twain Library patron since childhood, but 2007 was the first time I had seen the archives.
And as it turns out… one of the items that caught my eye was an article about Bradley Kelly’s quest to unite the USA & USSR via Mark Twain.
“I am hopeful, that the down to earth American humor and satire of this great writer will help pierce the Iron Curtain. At least, it’s worth a try.”-Bradley Kelly
Without this symposium, this information would likely remain unknown.
Heather and I were a tad “Twained out” after April 21st But seeing Alex’s post about the Twain/Tolstoy Symposium reminded me of Kelly’s project at the 50th Anniversary & the parallels between his efforts and ours were unbelievable.
This presentation…at this symposium…at this time…truly was meant to be.
That said, I’ll get started.
Kelly’s idea was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mark Twain’s passing by using him as an Ambassador of Good Will to the Soviet Union.
“Here is a unique chance to show that there is some common ground between two ostensible enemies.”
Kelly circulated Mark Twain themed issues of Redding’s local newspaper, the Redding Times, all over the World.
The first newspaper sent was the June 19, 1958 issue which celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Twain’s arrival in Redding, Connecticut (06/18/1908)
Yugoslavia was the first country to respond with a thank you note, but it was the letter that arrived from Russia that confirmed all he had previously believed about the Russians’ interest in Mark Twain- and added to his beliefs.
“I fully agree with you that cultural communications between people of different countries is one of the surest mediums of maintaining peace…Twain is immensely popular among Soviet people. His works have been published & republished here in large editions…”-A. KuznetsovVice Chairman, Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries
Correspondence between Kelly and Kuznetsov continued throughout 1959 & led to a special European trip for Kelly & his wife. They traveled to Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, & the Soviet Union. They were interviewed in every country they visited.“All over Europe, all over Scandinavia, I found a love for Mark Twain as promoter of the little man.” –Bradley Kelly
The Kelly’s found that Mark Twain was by far the Russian’s favorite author, easy topping Hemingway, Faulkner, and Jack London.
Russian scholars informed them that there was hardly a schoolboy that had not read: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Mark Twain’s story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was translated into the Russian language in 1872 and “The Gilded Age” was published immediately after its release in America. The first collection of Mark Twain’s productions was published in 1890 (11 volumes). The second edition was printed in 1910 and a complete collection was released in 1911 (28 volumes).
The highlight of the Kelly’s trip was an afternoon in Moscow’s Lenin Library where they found the catalog files on Mark Twain’s works to 8 inches thick…
At that time, books, pamphlets & articles on Twain covered hundreds of titles and over 11 million copies of his books had been translated into 25 Russian languages.
Kelly was amazed by the library’s size and the number of visitors:
“The library had close to 20 million books, is open 7 days a week from 9am to 11pm and on average sees 7,000 visitors a day.”
While they were there an exchange of English volumes and Russian volumes was made.
The findings of Kelly were a big surprise here in America. It was the first time an American writer had been printed completely in two languages.
Even more surprising was the fact that the number of Russian printings exceeded England and America’s totals combined!
“It isn’t merely government policy that makes Twain a favorite in Russia, more than any other American writer, Twain hits the chords of the Russian people. The response to him is remarkable…”
Russian’s consider Mark Twain “a voice of the little man.”
Twain’s works are filled with satire and social commentary which became increasingly more acidic in his later years and yet it is/was this side of the great American author that is/was most endearing to the Russian people. They believed that Twain’s jibes at the American society of his day apply to the United States of America in the 1960’s.
His social commentary still applies today…
“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
-Mark Twain, a Biography
“Now that Statesmanship and Brinkmanship seem to be failing, it is time to try Twainmanship to ease the tensions of the Cold War.”
The next two slides show Kelly was right…
The Book Exchange idea was well received, and was embraced by all the Mark Twain Memorials in the U.S. By December 1961 books had been exchanged between:
Initially the Kelly’s paid their own expenses as the “unofficial ambassadors” of Twain.
In 1961, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s organization “People to People” appointed them as members and made their expenses tax deductible.
Bradley Kelly died in 1968 but his project did not. In fact, here today Heather and I are completing the circle he began…and I can not put into words how rewarding that is.
Book exchanges continued between the U.S.A. and Russia into the 1980’s. All-in-all these book exchanges had an impact, morphing into a grassroots effort to peaceful understanding between the two countries.
8 titles in Russian and 2 in Ukrainian.Russian : The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & the Adventures of HuckleberryFinn (2 different copies); The Prince and the Pauper; A Connecticut Yankee;Mark Twain (Life of Famous People series - 2 copies, 1958, 1964); Lettersfrom the Earth; & Mark Twain (fictional literature).Ukrainian: Mark Twain (bio); & The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
What’s truly amazing with this project is that this year, the 100th anniversary of Twain’s passing, Heather and her staff have cataloged this very special Russian collection and made it available to the General Public.
Kelly had hoped that the book exchange would continue and grow and here today at this symposium we are attempting to make more people aware of their existence.
To follow up on my story and give you some background on the Mark Twain Library, the Russian Book Collection, Twain’s Time in Redding and the interesting Russian connection Twain’s daughter Clara had… I exit the spotlight and yield to my fellow “Twainiac” Heather Morgan.
When I became Director of the Mark Twain Library in 2002, it had only recently re-opened after an extensive renovation. The old Cape-style building, paid for through the generosity of Mark Twain, his daughter Jean Clemens, his friend Andrew Carnegie, and the townsfolk of Redding, remains an integral part of the building today, and is now used for programs, and to store our Mark Twain collection – the books he gave to set up the first town library in Redding; the books that contain his penciled marginalia that still delights us today.
When prowling around my new library building, I discovered many boxes still waiting to be unpacked – most of them stored in the musty basement of the original old building. I realized some had been there for many years, and one of my discoveries was a small collection of books, by and about Mark Twain, that had been translated into Russian. I looked them over, intrigued, but with much else to do, I placed them in a cupboard, and almost forgot them.
About a year later, I came across a file of yellowing press cuttings that told the delightful story of local resident, Bradley Kelly, and his travels that had led to a gift of books, in Russian, to the Mark Twain Library. On one of his visits to Moscow Mr. Kelly took a message from the Mark Twain Library in Redding to the Director of the Leningrad library. It was simply, “Let’s exchange translations of Mark Twain’s works.”
He believed that he could use Mark Twain as an “ambassador” of good will to the Soviet Union, “Let American and Russian libraries trade Mark Twain material" he said, “No matter how much we may differ in other areas, at least we can show the Russians we agree with them on one subject – Mark Twain”. It was appropriate that the proposal should come from a resident of the small Connecticut town where Mark Twain spent his last years.
Now I had the answer to the mystery of the hidden books. I brought them out of hiding, dusted them down, catalogued them, and finally they were returned to the library shelves. The cataloging was a challenge as I know nothing of the Russian language, but with the help of a Russian friend, and some excellent work by a cataloger at our system headquarters, we managed very well. The online catalogue of the Mark Twain Library may be viewed by anyone and everyone who visits our website, at www.marktwainlibrary.org
It is little known that Mark Twain lived his last years, from 1908 to 1910, in the little sleepy town of Redding, Connecticut. He built a splendid, Italian-style house on a hilltop overlooking the Saugatuck River, wanting, and needing, the peace of a country life, declaring, “How beautiful it all is” upon his arrival.
But he felt a little lonely; he missed his friends, and the gaiety of life in New York City. He was still grieving the loss of his dear wife, Livy, who had died in 1904, he still missed his favorite daughter, Susy, and he greatly missed the happy days of being a father to three adoring daughters when they lived together in Hartford.
But he loved his new home, which he named “Stormfield”, and he set about making friends among the farmers in Redding, and became a regular sight walking the footpaths around his country estate, or trotting along the roads in his carriage, greeting friends and neighbors.
He invited many guests to his new home, from his old life and from his new. He was the perfect host, and described himself as the “perfect man … a border ruffian from the state of Missouri, and a Connecticut Yankee by adoption. In me, you have Missouri morals, Connecticut culture; this, gentlemen, is the perfect combination which makes the perfect man”.
He took a keen interest in the community into which he had moved, and decided it needed a library. He wanted it to be a library for the people, with no town government interference, a place organized and administered by people in the town. It remains as such to this day. He convinced residents to help him fundraise for a building, which they whole-heartedly did.
Mark Twain’s biggest, and most successful fundraiser, was a concert held at his house, where he played the part of master of ceremonies, with singer, David Bispham, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch playing the piano. Clara, Mark Twain’s daughter, also sang that evening, and later Ossip, who had know Clara almost ten years, proposed marriage, and was accepted. They were married at Stormfield on October 6th 1909.
Gabrilowitsch was born in St. Petersburg in February 1878. He was a piano prodigy as a child, and studied under Rimsky-Korsakoff at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. It was when he was studying in Vienna in 1898 that he first met Clara and the Clemens family.
Mark Twain admired his son-in-law, and was happy to welcome him into his family.
In 1918 Gabrilowitsch became Director of the new Symphony Orchestra in Detroit, where he and Clara remained for the rest of his life. He died in September 1936, and is buried at the foot of Mark Twain in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York.
In May of 1944, Clara married again, to another Russian musician, Jacques Samassoud, who, unfortunately, spent her inheritance from her father freely, which finally resulted in the sale of many of Mark Twain’s manuscripts to pay off debts.
In 1962, Clara wrote to Mr. Bradley Kelly in Redding that she thought “it a superb idea to harmonize the Russians and Americans through their authors or any other possible means”, and offered her “heartfelt sympathy” with his great plan.
It is interesting that 50 years after Mark Twain’s death, because a Redding resident had a dream to help build a cultural exchange between the United States and Russia, that Mark Twain’s library was able to play a major role. And that now, 100 years after his death, we are gathered together to once again celebrate the life of this great American author, and that of a great Russian author, Leo Tolstoy.
This presentation is over for now, I thank you all for watching!! Someone please have a whiskey & a smoke for me.