The Complete Stories Mark Twain

written by Mark Twain

The Folio Society | ISBN 625194785231



Member’s price: $162.00

It was Ernest Hemingway who said, ‘all modern American literature comes from one book called Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain’. As well as being a great novelist, Mark Twain was a brilliant and prolific writer of short stories, using them to capture a dazzling variety of characters, landscapes and registers. This edition gathers together nearly 50 of his greatest tales, revealing his extraordinary versatility: humorous and satirical pieces, parodies, shaggy-dog stories and darker, more suspenseful tales. In three beautiful volumes, illustrated by Roger Fereday and with an introduction by Robert McCrum, this is a collection to savour.

An American original who travelled the world

Mark Twain first came to the attention of the reading public in 1865, with a short story entitled ‘The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’. With its easygoing, colloquial wit and its authentic rendering of the California setting, it was an overnight sensation. Twain had managed to capture the American humour and vernacular in literature as no other writer had done before. As his career progressed, his short stories roved further afield, from New York and Ohio to the Arctic Circle and the French Riviera. Though Twain is the quintessential American writer, his short fiction reveals him as a citizen of the world. Whether his topic is a frog-jumping contest in the Wild West or strange events in an Austrian village, Twain’s powers of storytelling are irresistible, and he sweeps the reader along with him from the arresting opening to the final audacious twist.

47 of Twain’s finest tales arranged in chronological order

The stories in this collection span Twain’s entire career, from the ‘Jumping Frog’ of 1865, to ‘The Mysterious Stranger’, published posthumously in 1916. Some are satirical: ‘The Story of the Bad Little Boy’ subverts the moralistic children’s tales of the day while ‘A Day at Niagara’ examines the dubious delights of Niagara Falls and lampoons the mythology of the ‘noble Red Man’. Some would appear to be partly autobiographical: ‘Playing Courier’ is a heartfelt account of the difficulty of travelling in Europe (or anywhere) with a large and unwieldy group, while ‘Hunting the Deceitful Turkey’ describes a distinctively American childhood memory with equal humour and vividness.

In many of these tales the author’s imagination simply takes wing, with beguiling results. ‘Legend of the Capitoline Venus’ tells of a struggling sculptor whose statue is mistaken for a Roman original. ‘The Belated Russian Passport’ is a shaggy-dog story which follows a hapless student’s misadventures in Europe in the company of a persuasive but unreliable companion. Twain was equally intrigued by and sceptical of religion: ‘The Diary of Adam and Eve’ manages to be both satirical and serious, while ‘Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven’ suggests that the hereafter might be disappointingly similar to life on Earth.