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Old 02-21-2013, 01:00 AM   #1
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Twain, Mark: Chapters from My Autobiography.v1. 21 Feb 2013

CHAPTERS FROM MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835 – 1910)

First published 1906 – 1907

Mark Twain is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel." Among dozens of titles, some of his works include The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and many more.

Twain originally intended that his autobiography not be published until after his death, when he could “speak freely from the grave.” But after he turned 70, he decided to publish portions of his memoirs, and beginning in September 1906, the North American Review magazine presented 25 semi-monthly installments.

Lightly framed with passages from his daughter Susy’s delightful biography of her father (written when she was a very young teenager), these Chapters provide a marvelous opportunity to eavesdrop while the author rummages around in his memory, calls up a hearty helping of nostalgia, spins yarns, and tells us at the end: "Now, then, that is the tale. Some of it is true.”

------

An excerpt:
Spoiler:
Susy’s next date is November 29th, 1885, the eve of my fiftieth birthday. It seems a good while ago. I must have been rather young for my age then, for I was trying to tame an old-fashioned bicycle nine feet high. It is to me almost unbelievable, at my present stage of life, that there have really been people willing to trust themselves upon a dizzy and unstable altitude like that, and that I was one of them. Twichell and I took lessons every day. He succeeded, and became a master of the art of riding that wild vehicle, but I had no gift in that direction and was never able to stay on mine long enough to get any satisfactory view of the planet. Every time I tried to steal a look at a pretty girl, or any other kind of scenery, that single moment of inattention gave the bicycle the chance it had been waiting for, and I went over the front of it and struck the ground on my head or my back before I had time to realize that something was happening. I didn’t always go over the front way; I had other ways, and practiced them all; but no matter which way was chosen for me there was always one monotonous result — the bicycle skinned my leg and leaped up into the air and came down on top of me. Sometimes its wires were so sprung by this violent performance that it had the collapsed look of an umbrella that had had a misunderstanding with a cyclone. After each day’s practice I arrived at home with my skin hanging in ribbons, from my knees down. I plastered the ribbons on where they belonged, and bound them there with handkerchiefs steeped in Pond’s Extract, and was ready for more adventures next day. It was always a surprise to me that I had so much skin, and that it held out so well. There was always plenty, and I soon came to understand that the supply was going to remain sufficient for all my needs. It turned out that I had nine skins, in layers, one on top of the other like the leaves of a book, and some of the doctors said it was quite remarkable.

I was full of enthusiasm over this insane amusement. My teacher was a young German from the bicycle factory, a gentle, kindly, patient creature, with a pathetically grave face. He never smiled; he never made a remark; he always gathered me tenderly up when I plunged off, and helped me on again without a word. When he had been teaching me twice a day for three weeks I introduced a new gymnastic — one that he had never seen before — and so at last a compliment was wrung from him, a thing which I had been risking my life for days to achieve. He gathered me up and said mournfully: “Mr. Clemens, you can fall off a bicycle in more different ways than any person I ever saw before.”

------

Editorial Notes -- Formatted curly quotes, emdashes, diacritics, italics. Americanized spelling. Cross-linked end notes. Chapter heads cross-linked to html table of contents. Embedded fonts for titling, initial caps, and small-caps.

I hope you enjoy this.
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