Mark Twain & Company by Leland Krauth Summary
In this comparison of Mark Twain with six of his literary contemporaries, Leland Krauth looks anew at the writer's multifaceted creativity. Twain, a highly lettered man immersed in the literary culture of his time, viewed himself as working within a community of writers. He likened himself to a guild member whose work was the crafted product of a common trade--and sometimes made with borrowed materials. Yet there have been few studies of Twain in relation to his fellow guild members. In Mark Twain & Company, Krauth examines some creative "sparks and smolderings" ignited by Twain's contact with certain writers, all of whom were published, read, and criticized on both sides of the Atlantic: the Americans Bret Harte, William Dean Howells, and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the British writers Matthew Arnold, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Rudyard Kipling. Each chapter explores the nature of Twain's personal relationship with a writer as well as the literary themes and modes they shared. Krauth looks at the sentimentality of Harte and Twain and its influence on their protest fiction; the humor and social criticism of Twain and Howells; the use of the Gothic by Twain and Stowe to explore racial issues; the role of Victorian Sage assumed by Arnold and Twain to critique civilization; the exploitation of adventure fiction by Twain and Stevenson to reveal conceptions of masculinity; and the use of the picaresque in Kipling and Twain to support or subvert imperialism. Mark Twain & Company casts new light on some of the most enduring writers in English. At the same time it refreshes the debate over the transatlantic nature of Victorianism with new insights about nineteenth-century morality, conventionality, race, corporeality, imperialism, manhood, and individual identity.