From Library Journal
The 309 comprehensively annotated letters in the fifth volume of Twain's correspondence help illuminate his 36th and 37th years, a largely happy and exuberant time when he was tasting the first fruits of domestic and foreign celebrity. With The Innocents Abroad still selling briskly, Roughing It just off the press, and The Gilded Age (co-written with his Nook Farm neighbor Charles Dudley Warner) in progress, Twain tries to swear off humorous lecturing, which exhausts him and separates him from his wife, Olivia. But, with an elaborate mansion under construction in Hartford and the lure of the heady applause of adoring audiences, he returns to England to lecture, savoring his fame and establishing his lifelong affection for England. In this volume, brief business letters abound?to his lecture agent and publisher, etc. But personal letters predominate?to his old San Francisco friends, to his mother and hapless brother Orion, to his beloved wife. There is not a boring letter herein. Essential for all libraries with Twain holdings.?Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
An astonishingly dull but comprehensively annotated collection of letters from an unexceptional period in Twain's life. Like the phone book, this is one of those hefty tomes you're terribly glad exists, even though there's little reason to go through it cover to cover. Its very thoroughness, its rounding up of every epistolary scrap, from bills, to perfunctory thank-yous, to itineraries of arrivals and departures, ensures vast stretches of tedium. But even when not quarreling over printing details with his publisher or setting up dates for speaking tours, Twain the correspondent bears little relationship to Twain the genius of 19th-century American literature. Even when he is corresponding with intimate friends or his beloved wife, Olivia (Livy), there is an unrevealing quality to almost every letter, as if he were deliberately resting his talent. Salamo and Smith (members of the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library, Univ. of California) are to be commended for the incredible depth, range, and detail of their work. Their scholarship is impeccable, their erudition extensive--one has the feeling that they could probably account for almost every hour of Twain's life--and learned footnotes abound, often dwarfing the brief letters. During this time span, Twain embarked on building a house, suffered the death of a child, and made regular visits to England, sometimes to lecture, sometimes to bask in the warm admiration of the British. He also published his only cowritten book (The Gilded Age, with Charles Dudley Warner). But Huckleberry Finn and the full flowering of Twain's talent are still several years away. A major scholarly resource, but slow-going and unrewarding, proof of how compartmentalized genius can sometimes be. (80 b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.