Autobiography of Mark Twain
Volume 2
Mark Twain
Hardcover, 736 pages
ISBN: 9780520272781
October 2013
$45.00, £30.95

Mark Twain’s complete, uncensored Autobiography was an instant bestseller when the first volume was published in 2010, on the centennial of the author’s death, as he requested. Published to rave reviews, the Autobiography was hailed as the capstone of Twain’s career. It captures his authentic and unsuppressed voice, speaking clearly from the grave and brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions.

The eagerly-awaited Volume 2 delves deeper into Mark Twain’s life, uncovering the many roles he played in his private and public worlds. Filled with his characteristic blend of humor and ire, the narrative ranges effortlessly across the contemporary scene. He shares his views on writing and speaking, his preoccupation with money, and his contempt for the politics and politicians of his day. Affectionate and scathing by turns, his intractable curiosity and candor are everywhere on view.

Excerpt from the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2

The following excerpt from the second volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain was dictated on 20 June 1906. It is one of five June Autobiographical Dictations in which Clemens expresses his thoughts about the character of God, the Bible, and Christian doctrine. A few days earlier he had written to William Dean Howells that such irreligious ideas would “get my heirs & assigns burnt alive” if published before “2006 A.D.” He considered the 20 June dictation especially controversial, noting at the top of the typescript, “Not to be exposed to any eye until the edition of A.D. 2406. SLC.”

Wednesday, June 20, 1906

The defects about Bibles—Remarks about the Immaculate Conception.

There are one or two curious defects about Bibles. An almost pathetic poverty of invention characterizes them all. That is one striking defect. Another is that each pretends to originality, without possessing any. Each borrows from the others, and gives no credit, which is a distinctly immoral act. Each, in turn, confiscates decayed old stage-properties from the others, and with naïve confidence puts them forth as fresh new inspirations from on high. We borrow the Golden Rule from Confucius, after it has seen service for centuries, and copyright it without a blush. When we want a Deluge we go away back to hoary Babylon and borrow it, and are as proud of it and as satisfied with it as if it had been worth the trouble. We still revere it and admire it, to-day, and claim that it came to us direct from the mouth of the Deity; whereas we know that Noah’s flood never happened, and couldn’t have happened. The flood is a favorite with Bible-makers. If there is a Bible—or even a tribe of savages—that lacks a General Deluge it is only because the religious scheme that lacks it hadn’t any handy source to borrow it from.

Another prime favorite with the authors of sacred literature and founders of religions is the Immaculate Conception. It had been worn threadbare before we adopted it as a fresh new idea—and we admire it as much now as did the original conceiver of it when his mind was delivered of it a million years ago. The Hindoos prized it ages ago when they acquired Krishna by the Immaculate process. The Buddhists were happy when they acquired Gautama by the same process twenty-five hundred years ago. The Greeks of the same period had great joy in it when their Supreme Being and his cabinet used to come down and people Greece with mongrels half human and half divine. The Romans borrowed the idea from Greece, and found great happiness in Jupiter’s Immaculate Conception products. We got it direct from Heaven, by way of Rome. We are still charmed with it. And only a fortnight ago, when an Episcopal clergyman in Rochester was summoned before the governing body of his church to answer the charge of intimating that he did not believe that the Savior was miraculously conceived, the Rev. Dr. Briggs, who is perhaps the most daringly broad-minded religious person now occupying an American pulpit, took up the cudgels in favor of the Immaculate Conception, in an article in the North American Review, and from the tone of that article it seemed apparent that he believed he had settled that vexed question, once and for all. His idea was that there could be no doubt about it, for the reason that the Virgin Mary knew it was authentic because the Angel of the Annunciation told her so. Also, it must have been so, for the additional reason that Jude—a later son of Mary, the Virgin, and born in wedlock—was still living and associating with the adherents of the early Church many years after the event, and that he said quite decidedly that it was a case of Immaculate Conception; therefore it must be true, for Jude was right there in the family and in a position to know.

If there is anything more amusing than the Immaculate Conception doctrine, it is the quaint reasonings whereby ostensibly intelligent human beings persuade themselves that the impossible fact is proven.

Reviews for The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 link