Mark Twain: Voice from the grave at Sotheby's
Apr 22, 2010, 11:29 GMT
New York - Too bad America's most famous humorist Mark Twain can't comment from the grave.
Some of his letters and unpublished memoirs are to be sold on June 17 at Sotheby's in New York, where they could fetch up to 1 million dollars, the auction house said Wednesday.
The announcement came on the 100th anniversary of Twain's death on April 21, 1910, after his storied lifetime as riverboat captain, journalist and author of rowdy, stinging portraits of life in the US and abroad.
The prospect that his writings could fetch so much money a century after his death would likely not only please the author, who took pride in his literary recognition, but also tickle his sense of the absurd. Once, when there were reports he had died, Twain was quoted as saying the rumors were 'exaggerated.'
Among the writings on sale is A Family Sketch, considered the missing chapter of his autobiography, with recollections of his most intimate descriptions of his family and boyhood days, the auction house said. That manuscript alone could fetch 160,000 dollars.
The papers are being sold by the James S Copley Library at the University of San Diego, and are part of a larger auction of documents collected by Copley, a reporter, editor and member of the Copley publishing family.
Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whose Family Sketch was written as a tribute to his daughter, Susy, who died at age 24 in 1896, sending him into a period of depression that deepened with the death of his wife, Olivia, in 1904. Another daughter died at age 29 in the year before Twain's own death.
The 200 documents being auctioned include letters to his future father-in-law and to his wife, begging her to join him in England, where he suffered loneliness without her.
Another letter, showing his famous wit, dated 1894, admonishes the recipient to 'endeavour to so live that when you come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.'