Mark Twain. Photo:

Last year, the centenary of Mark Twain’s death, the University of California at Berkeley published the first volume of Twain’s Autobiography. In 1899, he justified the hundred-year embargo thus: “A book that is not to be published for a century gives the writer a freedom which he could secure in no other way.” This did not, to the disappointment of our degraded age, mean the freedom to be salacious. It meant the freedom to talk without reservation or self-editing—Twain dictated these memoirs to a stenographer—and it did lead him into folly now and again. Take this bit of patent foolishness:


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