In 2010, 100 years after the death of its author, the University of California Press issued the first of a projected three volumes of Mark Twain’s autobiography, with the second volume following in 2013. It was only in Twain’s last years that he hit upon ‘The Final (and Right) Plan’ for the account of his life: the book was to be dictated to a faithful stenographer who would record Twain’s passing autobiographical reflections as and when they occurred to him.
The resulting text was not to be published in its entirety until a century after his death. Frank, funny and digressive, the Autobiography ebbs and flows like memory itself, or like Twain’s beloved Mississippi. ‘The merit of the autobiography,’ wrote Rupert Cornwell in the Independent, ‘is its revelation of every facet of Samuel Clemens – how modern a figure he is, and how topical his concerns.’