Mark Twain in Elmira. Second Edition. Edited by Robert D. Jerome, Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr., and Barbara E. Snedecor. Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies, 2013, pp. 378, illustrations, index. Paper 5-1/2" x 8-1/2". $20. ISBN 978-0-578-12626-5.

The following review appeared 2 September 2013 on the Mark Twain Forum.

Copyright © 2013 Mark Twain Forum
This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.

Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
M. L. Christmas

In 1977 the Mark Twain Society of Elmira, New York, published Mark Twain in Elmira, edited by Robert D. Jerome and Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr. The volume was a hardcover compendium of "All Things Mark Twain in the Queen City." The 1977 edition enjoyed a fourth printing in 1985, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Mark Twain's birth. How appropriate that the book was recently updated, in softcover, by the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies--just in time for this year's conference in August with its theme of "Observing the Sesquicentennial of the Pen-name, Mark Twain."

Copies of the 2013 second edition were distributed in the welcome packets for Elmira conference attendees. The introduction notes the intentionality of the timing and the efforts made in attaining that goal. The editor of this second edition, Barbara E. Snedecor, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, also touches on the similarities and differences between this edition and its predecessor:

This edition includes all content from the previous edition. It also offers a collection of new pieces selected by Dr. Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr., and Robert D. Jerome for inclusion in a future edition. These additional essays are contained in [the new] Chapters Ten Through Twelve; most of them were published previously in the Mark Twain Society Bulletin. (xii)

For those on the Forum not familiar with the Elmira historians known fondly and collectively as "Jerome & Wisbey," here are a few bibliographic and biographical details. Apart from Mark Twain in Elmira (1977), Robert Jerome and Herbert Wisbey were also contributors to Mark Twain's Elmira, 1870-1910 (Chemung County Historical Society, Inc., 1985), and for at least 20 years were co-editors of the Mark Twain Society Bulletin. Local Elmira businessman Robert Jerome was a graduate of the Elmira Free Academy and of Cornell University. Herbert Wisbey was Professor of History at Elmira College, Elmira College Archivist, and in 1983 he became the founding director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Both men were tireless supporters of Mark Twain scholarship and promoters of Elmira community pride.

The 1977 edition of Mark Twain in Elmira was a compilation of essays about Samuel L. Clemens and his circle of family, friends, and associates in Elmira, tied together with narrative paragraphs from the editors and rounded out with a number of illustrations. The 2013 edition adds new material that contains a few overlaps with the original first edition, as conceded by the editors themselves (ix); but "we hope that the value of preserving the integrity of the original material will outweigh the sacrifice in readability" (x). It does indeed.

The new Table of Contents is essentially identical to Jerome and Wisbey's original, with the exception of the new chapters. At the other end of the book, the Index has been expanded. Previous entries for persons with multiple pages such as the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, Susan Crane, and Katy Leary now have textual descriptors to accompany many of those page numbers. The Index could yet be expanded further in future editions. For instance, the new edition contains no index entries for John A. Quarles or for the three mentions of Elmira College founder Simeon Benjamin. However, the effort in making the new index more reader-friendly proves to be a successful endeavor.

The one thing that disappoints this reviewer about the 2013 edition--in an otherwise information-packed and valuable reference work--is its lack of a List of Illustrations. The original edition contained such a list. The new edition, by quick count, has 107 photos and illustrations; the original had 63; for a net difference, ironically enough, of a Twainy 44. Not all of the first edition's photos and illustrations appear in the updated book, despite the previously cited statement that the current edition "includes all content from the previous edition." Content? Yes. Illustrations? Not necessarily. Missing from the 2013 edition is the sobering and strategically placed 1967 black-and-white photo of Langdon Plaza. Also missing is an interior photo of Park Street Church and a portrait of Julia Beecher. However, the photos in the new edition are choice selections in their own right. These include a set of attractive black-and-white photos of Quarry Farm--not only the traditional, interior, downstairs views, but also some unexpected glimpses of rooms upstairs. The vintage illustrations used to correlate Quarry Farm's architecture and landscaping with the 19th-century Aesthetic Movement, and the concept of the "ferme ornée," are particularly meaningful to anyone who has ever attended an Elmira conference or been a recipient of a Quarry Farm Research Fellowship.

New material from the Mark Twain Society Bulletin for this 2013 edition are essays about Theodore Crane, Katie Leary, Auntie Cord, John T. Lewis, Ernest Koppe, and the Quarry Farm cats. "The Wedding of Mark Twain," originally written by Mary Mason Fairbanks for the Cleveland Daily Herald, and "The Tragic Story of Emma Nye" are further selections drawn from the Mark Twain Society's newsletter. One is even treated to the full text of "Love to All the Jolly Household": A Study of the Cranes of Quarry Farm, Their Lives, and Their Relationships with Mark Twain, the 1991 Master's thesis of Gretchen Sharlow, Director Emerita of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. It was described by the late Darryl Baskin, former Center Director, as an outstanding thesis of great interest to scholars.

The new essay selections drawn from other sources are: "How Mark Twain Traveled Between Hartford and Elmira," by railroad executive Jervis Landon, Jr., the great-grandson of Mark Twain's father-in-law; "Renovations at Quarry Farm," from the unpublished diary of Jervis Langdon, Sr., transcribed in 2004; "A Study of the 'Picturesque,'" about the aesthetics of Quarry Farm's landscaping and architecture; and the concluding piece: "'He Was So Rarely Beautiful': Langdon Clemens," by Barbara E. Snedecor, that originally appeared in American Literary Realism, Fall 2012, Vol. 45, No. 1.

There are some typographical glitches in the new edition which will be corrected in future printings. Those who were given the volume at the 2013 conference will be receiving from the Center, by e-mail, a selective errata-list, and the full list of known errata will be made available on the Center's website in the near future.

At the present time, the 2013 edition of Mark Twain in Elmira is only available through the Elmira Center for Mark Twain Studies.

To order:

By phone: Credit card orders can be placed by calling the Center, during regular business hours, at (607) 735-1941.

Mail check for $20 per book (plus shipping) to: The Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, One Park Place, Elmira, NY 14905. Checks should be made payable to the Center for Mark Twain Studies.

Shipping (1 book):
Media mail (U.S.): $2.98, approx. delivery time of approx. one week.
First-class mail (U.S.): $6.98, approx. 3-5 business days.

(For international shipping rates or to order multiple copies--please inquire.)


ABOUT THE REVIEWER: M. L. Christmas, M.S.M., is a freelance writer/editor. This is her twelfth review for the Mark Twain Forum.