The Southington Genealogical Society is pleased to sponsor a genealogy program by Steve Courtney entitled “The Letters of Mark Twain and His Best Friend, Joe Twichell of Southington” on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 7:00 pm at The Orchards, 34 Hobart St in Southington, CT.
“I do not want others to write, but I do want you to do it,” Mark Twain wrote to his friend, the Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell, at a time of family tragedy. “…You have the touch that heals, not lacerates.” For 42 years the Hartford clergyman — born and raised in Plantsville — served as the author’s confidant, friend, fellow joker, sharer of long walks, partner in vigorous conversation and source of literary inspiration.
Steve Courtney, who has spoken at the Southington Genealogical Society about his 2008 biography of Twichell, will present tales from his most recent book, The Letters of Mark Twain and Joseph Hopkins Twichell (University of Georgia Press, 2017). This major work, co-edited by Peter Messent, Harold K. Bush, and Steve, includes the complete correspondence, brought together for the first time. Of the more than 300 letters the two men wrote to each other, more than half have never been published.
The idea that Twain’s best friend was a preacher is a surprising one, and the letters show that they battled on many fronts, both political and theological. “Oh, the human race!—what a ridiculous invention it is,” Twain wrote to Twichell. The minister wrote back: “Mark, the way you throw your rotten eggs at the human race doth greatly arride me.” But their friendship remained strong — after a lively argument, Twain would write, “Joe, our whole tribe shouts love to you and yours.”
Hal Holbrook, the actor and legendary performer of the one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!,describes the book as “two friends talking…”You get more of Mark Twain the unguarded person from these conversations between two friends than from the biographies. They traveled the footpaths of Europe together, their wives and children enriched their friendship, they could say what they wanted and know they’d get away with it.”
Steve Courtney has been a journalist and historian for 42 years, and won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend (University of Georgia Press). He is also the author of “The Loveliest Home That Ever Was”: The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford (Dover Publications); and ‘We Shall Have Them With Us Always’: The Ghosts of the Mark Twain House (Paige Compositor Press). He co-edited, with Peter Messent,The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain’s Story (University of Georgia Press). He served as publicist for The Mark Twain House & Museum for four years, and founded its Writing Program and Twainian lecture series,The Trouble Begins at 5:30. He now works as a consultant at the museum.
The meeting will be held at The Orchards at Southington in their second floor community room at 7:00 pm. There is no admission charge and no obligation to become a member. No reservations are necessary. The facility is handicapped accessible with an elevator.