The first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography, published in 2010, was a surprise bestseller, no matter that it was as big and heavy as a concrete block. Now comes the second volume, nearly 800 pages of Twain’s distinctive, sometimes cranky, voice.
The book is not chronological, but covers end-of-life musings as well as glimpses into his family life, his newspaper days and his brush with royalty. (And, happily, all in a larger font than Volume 1.) Here’s how the entry dated Feb. 26, 1907, begins:
Last week I started a club. The membership is limited to four men; its name is The Human Race. It will lunch at my house twice a month, and its business will be to discuss the rest of the race. It is privileged to examine, criticise, and discuss any matter that concerns the race, and do it freely. In the matter of subjects and manner of treatment, there are no limitations. The reason that certain tender subjects are avoided and forbidden in all other clubs is because those clubs consist of more than four members. Whenever the human race assembles to a number exceeding four, it cannot stand free speech. It is the self-admiring boast of England and America that in those countries a man is free to talk out his opinions, let them be of what complexion they may, but this is one of the human race’s hypocrisies; there has never been any such thing as free speech in any country, and there is no such thing as free speech in England or America when more than four persons are present; and not then, except the four are all of one political and religious creed.
Excerpted from “Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition,” by Mark Twain, edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith and other editors of the Mark Twain Project, published by the University of California Press. © 2013 by the Mark Twain Foundation.