|| This autobiography of mine is a mirror,
and I am looking at myself in it all the time. Incidentally I notice the
people that pass along at my back -- I get glimpses of them in the mirror
-- and whenever they say or do anything that can help advertise me and flatter
me and raise me in my own estimation, I set these things down in my autobiography.
I rejoice when a king or a duke comes my way and makes himself useful to
this autobiography, but they are rare customers, with wide intervals between.
I can use them with good effect as lighthouses and monuments along my way,
but for real business I depend upon the common herd.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography
An autobiography that leaves out the little things and enumerates only
the big ones is no proper picture of the man's life at all; his life consists
of his feelings and his interests, with here and there an incident apparently
big or little to hang the feelings on.
|An autobiography is the truest of all books;
for while it inevitably consists mainly of extinctions of the truth, shirkings
of the truth, partial revealments of the truth, with hardly an instance
of plain straight truth, the remorseless truth is there, between the lines,
where the author-cat is raking dust upon it which hides from the disinterested
spectator neither it nor its smell (though I didn't use that figure)--the
result being that the reader knows the author in spite of his wily diligences.
- Letter to William D. Howells, 14 March 1904
I don't care for my other books, now, but I dote on this one as Adam used to dote on a fresh new deformed child after he was 900 years old & wasn't expecting any more surprises.
- Letter to William D. Howells, 17 June 17 1906
Clemens dictating his autobiography with
Isabel Lyon and Albert Bigelow Paine.
Illustration from St. Nicholas, Oct. 1916
In response to a legal interrogatory regarding the truth of statements in published
portions of his autobiography Clemens stated:
Yes, literally, they are true, that is to say they are a product of my impressions -- recollections. As sworn testimony they are not worth anything; they are merely literature.
- Sworn deposition taken June 7, 1909 in case Fentress Land Company, et. al. vs. Bruno Gernt, et. al. Case # 976. U. S Circuit Court for the Southern Division of the Eastern District of Tennessee. Files from National Archives, Southeast Region Archives, Morrow, Georgia.
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