Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century

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9781442212275: Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century
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Mark Twain and the Colonel tells the story of America between 1890 and 1910 through the fully engaged involvement of the era’s two most vital participants: Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. At this pivotal moment in our history, the previously frontier-driven expansion of America was being replaced by an America that had begun to legitimately think of itself as a world power, and a dominant presence and leader on the international stage. No longer merely a successful experiment in democracy and republicanism, America saw tensions arise between those focused on which areas of American life necessitated radical progress, and which required devout preservation. Tensions like these manifested nowhere more tellingly than between our greatest humorist and our youngest President, whose warring visions of what America could and ought to be were radically different, but nevertheless laid the bedrock for modern America – its arguments, achievements, and aspirations – as we came to see it through the twentieth century, and to the present day.

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Book Description:

Philip McFarland is the author of five works of nonfiction: Sojourners, Sea Dangers: The Affair of the Somers, The Brave Bostonians: Hutchinson, Quincy, Franklin, and the Coming of the American Revolution, Hawthorne in Concord, and Loves of Harriet Beecher Stowe. He has also published two works of fiction.

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For most of a decade Mark Twain lived in Europe, returning at last to America and a joyous welcome on an October night in 1900. Ten years later, in the spring of 1910, he returned once more, only days before his death, carried down the gangway as reporters on the New York piers waited, yet again, to welcome him home a final time.

In those two decades—last of the nineteenth and first of the twentieth—our modern nation was formed. Men whose names have become legendary—Rockefeller, Carnegie, Edison, Wright, Ford—exemplified the great changes taking place in America at the time. But only one name rivaled Mark Twain’s in the love of his countrymen. Theodore Roosevelt dominated the politics of the era just as the author of Huckleberry Finn dominated its culture. The celebrities were well acquainted, and in public neither spoke ill of the other. But Roosevelt once commented in private that he would like to skin Mark Twain alive, and the humorist recorded his own opinion (although not for public consumption until later) that Roosevelt was “far and away the worst President we have ever had.”

Philip McFarland’s Mark Twain and the Colonel describes the prickly relationship between these beloved figures by focusing on two tumultuous decades of abiding relevance, decades to which no Americans were more responsive than Colonel Roosevelt of San Juan Hill and the humorist Mark Twain.

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