The following review appeared 23 March 1996 on the Mark Twain Forum.
Copyright © Mark Twain Forum, 1996. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.
Grayson County College
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(Note: uncited attributions to the ideas of Vic Doyno come from a personal interview with Vic and cannot be found in the text of this edition. If I have misquoted Vic or unintentionally misrepresented his views, on my head be the blame. --W.B.)
As Justin Kaplan notes in his introduction to what can be called the Comprehensive Huckleberry Finn, in October 1990, 665 handwritten pages were rediscovered of a novel that is "both a timeless universal adventure story and a brilliant comic novel that tests the tolerable limits of humor and irony" (viii). These pages have not been seen since Buffalo attorney James Fraser Gluck solicited the manuscript from Twain on behalf of the Buffalo library. In the summer of 1887, Twain sent Gluck the manuscript, Gluck apparently took the pages home to be bound, but upon his death this important draft of Huckleberry Finn was lost until a descendent of the attorney made the proverbial attic discovery, and now the fruits of this treasure have been made available in a useable form for all readers to explore anew.
The Random House edition of Huckleberry Finn
is indeed a book of revelations that will both change and add much to our
of the creative process of Mark Twain. As Kaplan notes, with this edition,
can look over Twain's shoulder as he creates his most significant work, and
we learn much about the man and his creation. Among the discoveries
awaiting new readers
are new and variant passages published for the first time, both integrated
main text and also as part of Vic Doyno's important Addendum. Reproduced
intriguing facsimile pages in Twain's hand that shed new light on Mark
habits. No small contribution is the scholarship of Vic Doyno in the
Addendum, which explains much of the historical context of the work in
provides fresh insights into new paths of interpreting Huckleberry
Perhaps of first interest to readers will be the four previously unpublished passages now inserted in the text, helpfully indicated by Scott's Rules (double gray lines indicating the new material). These new passages are more than deleted novelties; they will alter our perceptions of the book and Twain's intentions in writing it.
The first of these is Jim's experience thawing out a medical school cadaver, which Justin Kaplan describes as "a vivid set piece, ideal for performance" in the same spirit as "The Golden Arm" (xiv). Published earlier in the New Yorker (3 July 1995), this passage changes interpretations of the novel, editor Vic Doyno believes, because Jim is established as an authority figure early in the book, juxtaposed against the character of a naive white boy. Jim is given relatively high status as a slave and is seen as an experimenter. Further, Doyno claims, the passage reflects African-American religion of the period often associated with superstition. "Slaves revered the living, the dead, and the dead who are remembered," a belief Doyno finds "considerate and decent rather than mere superstition" (372).
The second new passage is the original text of the "Raftsman Passage," which Twain revised for Life On the Mississippi. The "new" version is much rawer in the earlier draft, as in one character's avoidance of being kicked in the family jewels (378). As in other changes in the manuscript, Doyno observes, Twain's original diction was often more physical, and the author self-censored his word choice to appeal to his audience.
Another example of manuscript alterations occurred in the changes to Pap's "Call this a government" speech, where it is apparent Twain made adjustments for both humorous effect and references to historical concerns of the time. For example, when Pap says, "When they said he could vote . . . well, that let me out," Twain first italicized "me" but later instead emphasized the word "vote." The emphasis was changed, Doyno asserts, because in 1876, many blacks had been attacked and killed attempting to vote in the presidential election that affected "the Compromise of 1877 that basically ended Reconstruction" (371).
Perhaps the most interesting "new" passage is the King and Duke's discussion of the four divisions of religious trickery (beginning on page 166). They talk about "gospel work" as coercion and theft, calling attention to the fact Christians are more interested in donating to missionaries abroad than charity at home (379). (This scene develops an idea nineteen-year-old Sam Clemens expressed in an "Eds. Note" squib regarding a poor woman ignored by Illinois Christians an example where the new passages cast new light on Twain's other writings.) According to Doyno, Twain must have known his attack on religion was too direct, and he chose instead to dramatize the camp meeting. This idea supports Doyno's earlier thesis in his Mark Twain: Selected Writings of An American Skeptic (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1983), which claimed Twain's religious skepticism was expressed "subversively" throughout his career. "Huckleberry Finn, " Doyno now re-states with continued conviction, "is a subversive book."
The changes in the camp meeting, Doyno says, are among the most interesting alterations to the text, and he points out that the original version is much closer to the model of Johnson Jones Hooper's Simon Suggs (379). Doyno finds one scene drawn from Hooper a touching moment when a large black "wench" (a term that then referred to a woman used for child-bearing) thinks the preacher's allusion to broken chains refers to slavery as well as religion, and offers genuine Christian forgiveness to a crowd of whites who want nothing to do with her (380). Again, Twain likely knew he was over the line of public acceptability, and deleted the scene. Of course, as Doyno notes, the reasons for Twain's decisions are open to speculation another avenue for new scholarly pursuits.
Smaller changes also indicate, as Doyno observes, the original drafts of Huckleberry Finn were "more troubling and darker" than the final texts and show "Bernard DeVoto's claim that Twain never censored himself is just wrong." For example, originally Huck ate "swill" at the Widow Douglas', but swill was changed to "odds and ends," Doyno believes, to soften the Widow's character, not having Huck competing with pigs for his meals (366). The "House of Death" passage has Jim, a "son of Ham," examining Pap's corpse (with obvious Biblical meaning), showing Pap had died in "extraordinarily degrading circumstances" in a room where the walls were filled with "vulgarest things," later changed to "ignorant things." The "vulgarities" indicated the room was a one-woman brothel where an amputee was killed and probably a child (376). Again, such dark images had to be toned down for Victorian tastes and an audience expecting a sequel to Tom Sawyer.
Doyno also claims many changes were made to have the diction fit contemporary usage of terms. For example, Twain originally used "rawhiding" four times to describe Pap's beating of Huck in order to reinforce the horror of Pap's actions, as rawhiding first meant adding rocksalt to the hide to increase the pain of the welts. But by the time of Huck 's publication, "rawhiding" had to be changed to "cowhide," as rawhiding had come to mean using a more expensive whip (369).
Many changes, of course, reflect the development of the book as Twain writes "discovery drafts," learning for the first time himself the direction his project was taking. In the Addendum to the edition, Doyno includes two wonderful descriptions of a sunrise and a storm Twain deleted probably because they might have slowed down the narrative pace (384, 385). Doyno believes Twain, like many other creative writers, overwrote the third or fourth drafts, then cut back to balance the pace with the descriptive passages.
Another passage in the Addendum includes Huck's thoughts after saving Jim from the slave traders by claiming smallpox was present on the raft (383). Here, Huck seems younger, and the scene was possibly revised to incorporate the "situation ethics" an older boy was likely to express. And, for the first time, readers learn of Huck's first kiss, with a young Grangerford girl (378).
Other characteristics of the manuscript, evident in the facsimile pages, include the "running script" of Twain's creative white heats. When the ideas are flowing, his words run together when the pen is moving fast across the page. For example, Doyno believes, when "Huck doesn't know who's at the fire on Jackson's Island, neither does Mark Twain." When Jim first speaks about being glad to see Huck, the words run together, a moment of discovery for both characters and novelist. "Twain probably didn't originally plan to have Jim run away," Doyno says, "as he was not originally the Widow Douglas' slave but rather the less compassionate Miss Watson" (discussed on page 367). As the drafts developed, Doyno points out, Jim's character strengthens (see pages 377, 382, facsimile pages 408-9), and Tom Sawyer becomes more foolish (377, 383).
Twain's word choice is also made interesting in the manuscript as, unlike other writers, he added alternate words above his first idea but rarely scratched out the first choice (366, illustrated in facsimile). Frequently, according to Doyno, Twain restored his first words to the final text, altering the rhythm of the sentence but retaining the original diction. In other cases, the changes indicate the shift in the authorial voice. In one instance, Twain's word "fellow" was altered to Huck's "nigger," a likely example where the author's own voice became that of his character's.
Of particular service to readers of this new edition are Vic Doyno's carefully researched notes, which discuss the historical contexts Twain reflected and also point to Twain's possible intentions in choosing his vocabulary and philosophical points. In 1875, for example, President U.S. Grant proposed a tax supporting American school systems as a Constitutional amendment. According to Doyno, the bill passed the House of Representatives, but a coalition opposed to possible education of blacks killed a law they feared "too hard to corrupt." For Doyno, the national issue of the impact of education played a part in Twain's satire and characterization of an uneducated boy (368). In another case, Twain originally had Huck refer to the incident of the Freedman's bank going broke in 1873, but Twain wisely deleted the reference as Huck would not know of this event.
For Doyno and for all new readers of this edition awareness of Twain's lost manuscript enriches the novel, giving readers "x-rays that illuminate the changes" in the text of a work Doyno believes "keeps changing" for readers in "times of crisis, times of uncrisis." Doyno's studies of Huckleberry Finn lead him to see the novel as a book that "frames the Civil War, showing slavery and the re-enslavement" of African-Americans. The importance of the book, Doyno says, includes our need "to know what we've come from," and the importance of issues including injustice, alcoholism, child abuse, poverty, and violence."
What Doyno has learned from his work on this important edition will be further developed in a work he currently calls Beginning to Write Huckleberry Finn, an extension of his earlier Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's Creative Process (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991). The richness of this new text is, of course, that all readers of Huckleberry Finn will find new avenues to explore and new revisions of their interpretations of the book, based on the text itself as well as on the scholarship of Doyno.
Doyno also notes in his Addendum that the Mark Twain Project ultimately will incorporate the new material in a revised version of its authoritative text, and hopes the manuscript itself will appear either in print or on CD ROM. Until then (around the year 2027, when the copyright runs out), the Comprehensive Huckleberry Finn belongs on every public and school library shelf in America. Further, teachers of the novel must become immediately and intimately familiar with the text and Addendum, and all educators should encourage students to read this edition for the new insights and new avenues of interpretation opened up by this important work in American studies. Mark Twain, as Doyno reminds us, set out to write an adventure book, and 111 years after the adventure began, we are all privileged to have literary adventures anew, and are fortunate to be among the first to share in the discovery, exploration, and expansion of the cultural milieu revealed in this significant story of a boy, his friend, a raft, and the country in which they still journey.