CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910. Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author,
Lot 199
CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910.
Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author,
Sold for US$ 37,500 inc. premium

Lot Details
CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910. Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author, CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910. Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author, CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910. Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author,
CLEMENS, SAMUEL LANGHORNE. 1835-1910.
Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens") to Bruce W. Munro, offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing to a young author, 5 pp, 246 x 143 mm, October 21, 1881, folds, small stain to verso of final leaf, but very clean overall; with original autograph transmittal envelope.
Provenance: Nick Karanovich, his sale, The Mark Twain Collection of Nick Karanovich, Sotheby's New York, June 19th, 2003, lot 48.

A MASTERFUL STATEMENT ON THE ART OF WRITING BY THE QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN AUTHOR. Corresponding with an aspiring young author, Twain details his philosophy of writing and conveys the hard-earned lessons Twain himself has learned in the course of years of polishing his craft:

"Experience of life (not of books) is the only capital usable in such a book as you have attempted ... I don't see how any but a colossal genius can write a readable prose book before he is 30 years old. Such books have been written, but never by any but gigantic geniuses—like those Bronte sisters, for instance. And yet even they ... had a capital of experience to draw from which was nearly as prodigious as their genius. Moderate talent can produce a readable book at 30 or 40, after a good, honest, diligent pains-taking apprenticeship of 15 or 20 years with the pen ... You will have to produce and burn as much manuscript as the rest of us have done before your mill will yield something that is really worth printing. Ours is a trade which has to be learned—there is no getting around that requirement...."

A substantial and forceful statement on his philosophy of writing, this 1881 letter is pure Twain in both voice and content. Writing with characteristic wit, humor, and frankness, Twain here categorically affirms that first-hand experience is the ground from which a writer works and emphasizes that the craft is learned and won by hard work and repeated application. And in a very revealing statement about his own work and writing, Twain continues:

"I would not wound you for the world; but if I have nevertheless done it, you have your revenge, since I have sacrificed my day to you: for he that desires to do the best work he can, doth not put a part of his day's steam in to a letter, first, and then work with a three-quarter head of it on a book afterward, you know."

The book Twain was pulled away from was Huckleberry Finn, Twain's supreme achievement as a writer. In 1881, when Twain wrote this letter, Twain had just published The Prince and the Pauper, and Twain was gathering steam to complete his masterwork The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Begun in 1876, and intended as a complement to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn was written in stages over the course of some 9 years. The inspiration which enabled Twain to finish Huck Finn only came to him after his active travels on the Mississippi River in 1882-1883 – perfectly illustrating the very advice Twain offered to the young writer Munro just a year earlier.

Mark Twain is widely regarded as "The Great American Author" and Huck Finn as the "Great American Novel." In the oft-quoted words of Ernest Hemingway, who might also lay a claim to the American mantle: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

Important letters by the world's great authors on the art of writing are very rare in commerce. Indeed, the general dearth of academic research into such letters suggests that these in-depth expositions on the writer's own art and craft are an absolute rarity altogether. The SUBSTANCE AND SUSTAINED FOCUS OF THE PRESENT LETTER IS WITHOUT EQUAL in the auction records of the last 40 years. This letter was a highlight of the renowned Nick Karanovich collection and its sale, and cited as a particular favorite by Joel Silver in his 1997 profile of the famed Twain collector. It remains one of the most exciting and important Twain letters, as well as one of the most profound articulations of the writer's art, ever offered at auction.
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