19. Guest Editorial by Mark Twain (2)

Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_croppedfrom Those Extraordinary Twins (post 2)

Mark Twain’s words, begun in the last post, tell how The Prince and the Pauper began as a small story and escaped his control to become a novel .  . .

“Much the same thing happened with “Pudd’nhead Wilson.” I had a sufficiently hard time with that tale, because it changed itself from a farce to a tragedy while I was going along with it – a most embarrassing circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was, that it was not one story, but two stories tangled together; and they obstructed and interrupted each other at every turn and created no end of confusion and annoyance. I could not offer the book for publication, for I was afraid it would unseat the reader’s reason. I did not know what was the matter with it, for I had not noticed, as yet, that it was two stories in one. It took me months to make that discovery. I carried the manuscript back and forth across the Atlantic two or three times, and read it and studied over it on shipboard; and at last I saw where the difficulty lay. I had no further trouble. I pulled one of the stories out by the roots, and left the other one? a kind of literary Caesarean operation . . .”

Don’t misunderstand me – I have no pretensions to rank with Mark Twain, but I do understand what it means to have a story stand up on its hind legs and fight back. I have boxes full of unpublishable manuscript created when I tried to go east while my story demanded to go west. Some good writing ended up on the cutting room floor, and I will share a bit of it in later posts.

Meanwhile, the rest of Mark Twain’s story of Pudd’nhead and the Twins is too funny to leave hanging, and too long to share here. Come back next post and I’ll tell you where to find the full version. For free.

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