Read Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years by Michael Shelden Online


One day in late 1906, seventy-one-year-old Mark Twain attended a meeting on copyright law at the Library of Congress. The arrival of the famous author caused the usual stir—but then Twain took off his overcoat to reveal a "snow-white" tailored suit and scandalized the room. His shocking outfit appalled and delighted his contemporaries, but far more than that, as Pulitzer POne day in late 1906, seventy-one-year-old Mark Twain attended a meeting on copyright law at the Library of Congress. The arrival of the famous author caused the usual stir—but then Twain took off his overcoat to reveal a "snow-white" tailored suit and scandalized the room. His shocking outfit appalled and delighted his contemporaries, but far more than that, as Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Shelden shows in this wonderful new biography, Twain had brilliantly staged this act of showmanship to cement his image, and his personal legend, in the public's imagination. That afternoon in Washington, less than four years before his death, marked the beginning of a vibrant, tumultuous period in Twain's life that would shape much of the now-famous image by which he has come to be known—America's indomitable icon, the Man in White.Although Mark Twain has long been one of our most beloved literary figures—Time magazine has declared him "our original superstar"—his final years have been largely misunderstood. Despite family tragedies, Twain's last half- decade was among the most dynamic periods in the author's life. With the spirit and vigor of a man fifty years younger, he continued to stir up trouble, perfecting his skill for living large. Writing ceaselessly and always ready with one of his legendary quips, Twain would risk his fortune, become the willing victim of a lost-at-sea hoax, and pick fights with King Leopold of Belgium and Mary Baker Eddy.Drawing on a number of unpublished sources, including Twain's own journals, letters, and a revealing four-hundred-page personal account kept under wraps for decades (and still yet to be published), Mark Twain: Man in White brings the legendary author's twilight years vividly to life, offering surprising insights, including an intimate, tender look at his family life. Filled with first-rate scholarship, rare and never-published Twain photos, delightful anecdotes, and memorable quotes, including numerous recovered Twainisms, this definitive biography of Twain's last years provides a remarkable portrait of the man himself and of the unforgettable era in American letters that, in many ways, he helped to create....

Title : Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years
Author :
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ISBN : 9780679448006
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years Reviews

  • Rick Skwiot
    2019-05-02 16:10

    In Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years, Michael Shelden chronicles the energetic end of a life marked by vitality, wit and creation of a mountain of unequalled homegrown literature—including what many (including myself) believe to be the greatest American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Up until the end Twain continued to travel, write, snipe, and make mischief at the expense of the anointed.Released in early 2010, the book follows three other Shelden literary biographies: on Cyril Connolly and Graham Greene and the Pulitzer Prize finalist Orwell: The Authorized Biography, and which I enjoyed immensely some years ago.In this biography we see Twain, now in his seventies, still rearranging his domestic affairs, building a new country home for himself and his daughters; we glimpse him donning his iconic white suit for the first time to lobby convincingly in Washington for new copyright laws; and we spend time with him in New York, London, Bermuda and other destinations, his curiosity, intellectuality and sharp sense of humor always engaged.When his closest friend, Standard Oil magnate Henry H. (Hell Hound) Rogers, learned that, after protracted litigation, his company was fined a record $29 million for an illegal rebate scheme, Twain noted that it reminded him of the June bride’s comment after her wedding night: “I expected it but didn’t suppose it would be so big.”Now a widower, Twain was free of his beloved wife Livy’s tempering influence on his work and his conduct—about which his two surviving daughters were worried and cautioning. But he was no fool and plotted to set off literary explosions from the grave, pouring his most iconoclastic and heretical thoughts into his autobiography and other works to be published only after his death.While Shelden’s meticulously researched and footnoted book deals necessarily with Twain’s domestic travails (and they were ample, including a plot by trusted aides to rob him of his wealth and an attempt by actual burglars to do so while he slept), part of its interest lies in its portrait of American life a century ago. Twain interacted with Woodrow Wilson (then a mere academic), literary icon William Dean Howells, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy (albeit contentiously, at a distance), and other political, literary and public players of the time. One is struck by how much the country—and the world—has changed over the past century, for better and worse.More important for me, however, was the book’s bringing me closer to my fellow Missourian, and sending me off to dig deeper into unread veins of Twain’s vast literary treasure.

  • Lauren Albert
    2019-05-18 20:24

    I learned some interesting things about Twain--think I probably should have read the big biography of him before I read this but then none of it would have been a surprise I guess. Twain actually (apparently) had nothing against Christian Science just hated Mary Baker Eddy. He hated hypocrisy more than anything else. I learned he wrote a book about how Shakespeare did not write his plays. He forced Harper's to publish it against their will since his contract said they would publish anything he read. Most of all I learned how he lived through immense sadness--the death and illness of children, the death of his wife and finally the betrayal of his trust by people he considered friends and colleagues. Yet he kept his spirit and his humor and that was inspiring.

  • Margaret
    2019-05-12 16:21

    I really enjoyed this book. It focuses on Twain's last four years of his life and begins with Twain sporting a white suit for an appearance before Congress on copyright law. His new look made quite a splash and thus began his penchant for wearing his white garb at every opportunity.By focusing on such a short period, Sheldon could paint a very detailed (but never boring) picture of Twain's day to day life and his relationships. It explores his friendships with the very wealthy Henry Rogers (a Standard Oil Exec) as well as the bevy of young girls (his Angelfish) with whom he behaved as a surrogate grandfather. His interactions with his daughters Clara and Jean reveal a lot about the man and both his regrets about Jean living in a sanatorium as well as his somewhat mischievous competitiveness with Clara as she launched her singing career. His wit and sense of fun at every turn made this book a joy to read. And as sadness surrounded him in the last year of his life, I couldn't help but feel equally sad.This is a beautifully written book and well worth your time to read it.

  • David Monroe
    2019-05-21 18:00

    Twain's last half-decade was among his most dynamic. With the spirit and vigor of a man years younger, he continued to stir up trouble, perfecting his skill for living large. It's also when he began wearing his now iconic white suit, the first step in a canny PR blitz, designed to manipulate and carve the version of 'Mark Twain' he wanted to be remembered as. In his final five years, Twain would risk his entire fortune, become the willing victim of a lost-at-sea hoax, and pick fights with King Leopold of Belgium and Mary Baker Eddy.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-12 18:02

    Although some of my fellow historians were not as impressed as I was, they did agree that this is a book worth reading. It is a fascinating study of the USA's quirkiest of characters--the venerable Mark Twain. What sets this apart from other works is that it explores his life in his declining years. Up to the very end, Twain was a bit of a character--unpredictable, moody, and incredibly talented.

  • Teresa
    2019-05-13 19:16

    I admit that, early on in reading this book, I was somewhat put-off at finishing it after understandingsome of Mr. Clemens' views . I guess I thought his life would read like his books and essays; i.e. humorously. In this case, life did not always imitate art. But wondering about the man and his life is what drew me to this book which,interestingly enough, discusses the last 4 years of his long life. It was only in those last years that he began wearing his white suits (read and find out why) that epitomizes him today . He traveled abroad frequently (Bermuda and Shakespeare?), LOVED his full social life (Andrew Carnegie, Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller) and enjoyed being the center of attention . His Angelfish Club was a little creepy by today's standards, despite Mr. Sheldon's explanations to the contrary. And the end of his life reads like a soap opera (love, death, birth and deception)!You don't have to be a fan of his writings(I'm not) to appreciate Mark Twain and the events of his life, like ours, that make all of us who we are.

  • Cory
    2019-04-24 15:14

    I had feared that this would be dry and too narrowly-focused to hold my attention, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were even villains! I think I read it at just the right time, too, when I could really appreciate Twain's decision to have as much fun and make as big of an impact as possible in his remaining years. I mean, I'm not in my 70s, but I needed a reminder to do what makes me happy instead of getting all caught up in the everyday trauma of life. Also, I was highly amused by the account of the first time Twain wore his white suit in public. Apparently it scandalized everyone in the room, embarrassed his family, and was reported on the front page of every major paper in the country. Because he wore white in the winter! Can you imagine anything like that happening today?

  • Hank Pharis
    2019-05-15 20:03

    This book focuses on Twain's life after the death of his wife. There are a lot of intersting stories here including the almost embezzeling of everything he had by his secretary and financial manager.There's an excellent review of this book at: I'm stingy with stars. For me 2 stars means a good book. 3 = Very good; 4 = Outstanding {only about 5% of the books I read merit this}; 5 = All time favorites {one of these may come along every 400-500 books})

  • Lou Fillari
    2019-05-10 17:02

    Mark Twain did lots of stuff and was involved in some serious shit in the final five years of his life. Good for him.

  • Todd Martin
    2019-05-10 21:01

    Mark Twain: Man in White covers the last 3.5 years of his life from his speech advocating copyright reform on December 8, 1906 (when he was 71) to his death at age 74 on April 21, 1910.Twain was probably the most famous literary figure of his day. But one thing I didn’t know before reading this book was how much effort he put into ensuring that this was the case. He was not only a tireless self-promoter, but put considerable thought and effort into creating his public image. The famous white suit was certainly one example of a conscious effort to brand himself in the public eye. He also created works to be published after his death to keep his name alive (including an autobiography whose first installment was published in 2010, 100 years after his demise).In Mark Twain: Man in White we see Twain in his later years, enjoying the rewards, fame and attention earned through his earlier publishing endeavors. Shelden portrays Twain as child-like … though more in the style of ‘able to achieve child-like wonder’ as opposed to the pervy Michael Jackson fashion (although his fascination with young girls who he dubbed his ‘angelfish’ certainly flirts with the inappropriate). He also has an impish streak of a willful child, always ready to chide or taunt those who take themselves too seriously.At the same time, Twain also appears to be extremely vain and self-centered, expecting to be the constant center of attention with an audience to hang on his every word. His poorly received book Is Shakespeare Dead???? provides compelling evidence that Twain was rather full of himself despite the fact that his literary prowess had largely deserted him in his later years and that he expected people to take him seriously enough to spend money on any piece of crap he published.As for the book itself, it’s clear that Shelden did quite a bit of research into Twain himself as well as his family and close circle of acquaintances. He does a good job giving the reader a sense of Twain the person and the events that took place in the last few years of his life.By way of criticism:- I felt that the book was entirely too long with too many unnecessary diversions. In addition to a history of Twain, Shelden also delves into a comprehensive history of every individual with whom Twain had contact in his later years (many of whom didn’t hold much interest for me).- Everyone loves Twain and I feel like he’s endlessly romanticized. Though Shelden provides occasional glimpses of Twains faults (his gullibleness and self-infatuation for example), he’s clearly worshipful of Twain and I don’t think the biography provided an unbiased history.

  • Garry Wright
    2019-05-13 16:08

    Fans of Mark Twain – celebrated as America's Humorist Laureate, but less recognized as the country's first standup comedy star (they called it "lecturing" in the 19th century) – were mostly disappointed with his intentionally posthumous "Autobiography," a 700-page mess of outtakes, obscure grudges, and dictated false starts that never gelled in his lifetime, and doesn't offer much now but frustrated editors.Fortunately, Twain had already told most of his own story. As with all compelling writers, his best works were autobiographical; memoirs or novels, they drew on the life he'd lived and people he'd known.Readers who love those masterpieces – only wishing he'd left more – get a satisfying endgame in Michael Shelden's "Mark Twain: Man in White – The Grand Adventure of His Final Years." The title is accurate: a famous man enjoying his fame, playing himself for all it was worth.Like the young Twain, the older one struggled with writing ("Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven"), uncanny bad luck managing wealth (he was at ground zero for the Panic of 1907) and, as always, with acquiring it. "I never write 'metropolis' for seven cents," he explained, "because I can get the same money for 'city.'"Plenty of that unmistakable wit drives Shelden's book, along with people and events that, were they written in first person, might read like "Life on the Mississippi" or "The Innocents Abroad." I think Mr. Clemens would even like this volume better than the incoherent autobiography he got stuck with, and might have let things go at that.But he was a troublemaker to the end, satirizing the countless, hapless folks who put the touch on his contemporary Andrew Carnegie: "Dear Sir and Friend. You seem to be in prosperity. Could you lend an admirer a dollar & a half to buy a hymn-book with? God will bless you. P.S. Don't send the hymn-book, send the money; I want to make the selection myself."###

  • Jim Gallen
    2019-05-08 18:20

    “Mark Twain: Man In White” is the chronicle of the last years of the great author and humorist. Many of us think of Mark Twain in his white suit but, as this book points out, he first wore this in 1906 at the age of 71. This book is biographical, not literary. By the time of the period covered by this book, the last six years of his life, Twain’s great literary works had already made him famous. This is a period of flamboyance, triumph and tragedy. Flamboyance in the white suit that became his trademark and the humorous talks with which he entertained his audiences. Triumph was found in the acclaim with which he was honored by all and tragedy in his personal and family circumstances. Twain’s wife, Olivia, had died in 1894. His daughter, Jean, battled illness in and out of institutions until her death in 1909. His daughter, Clara, provided both tragedy and triumph in her long but ultimately successful quest to make a career as an entertainer and not just as Mark Twain’s daughter. This book portrays a Twain occupied by the mundane concerns of a patriarch of a troubled family. As it starts we find him testifying in support of an extension of copyright protection so that his family could continue to benefit from his works long into the future. As it progresses we find Twain obsessed with Clara’s care and treatment, concerns about financial investments and feuds with advisors. A showman, Twain, as predicted, came in with Halley’s Comet and went out with it 76 years later.This book is entertaining and held my interest throughout. It portrays Twain as a person, not an icon, a person with faults, happiness and problems. We see Twain as a person to whom we can relate and with whom we can sympathize. For that it is a worthwhile read.

  • Laura
    2019-05-04 20:08

    This is about the last few years of Twain's life (the author consistently uses "Mark Twain", even when others might have called him "Samuel Clemmens" - for example, the New York Times). He's coming out of his grieving for his daughter Susy and making his presence known as "The Man in White", setting up the persona we'll remember after he's gone. Wit intact, finances restored, Twain is thinking about posterity and leaving his estate intact for his remaining daughters.His concerns about copyright are interesting (he believed in perpetual copyright, which would have prevented The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead from being written), but his family wouldn't have benefited for very long, as none of his heirs lived past the mid-1960s. As a business man he was a failure, allowing himself to be manipulated by his employees and investing in flawed companies and ideas. This isn't the image of the Twain we think we know, is it?As biographies go, this one is well written, allowing the personality of the biographee to come through while pointing out the flaws (Twain could be a bit petty). If you want to know about Twain, however, this might not be the book for you as it only covers 1906-1910.

  • Tina
    2019-05-13 20:19

    This was my first glimpse into Mark Twain and his life. I have only read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but these characters are so much a part of our American History, that they feel real. Mark Twain is responsible for that. I enjoyed reading about his life as a Father, Friend and Writer. This book makes me want to read more about him. The only information I ever knew about Mr. Twain other than his famous writings, was that he lived in the area of the US I live in now. I love his humor and learning that just like all of us, he was human. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the personal friends. Most people only know Rogers as a big time Robber baron and through Mark Twain you see what a kind man he was in private. I recommend this book for all Mark Twain fans. I am anxiously looking forward to the release of Twain's huge biography due out soon. After all, it's 100 years after his death.

  • Joseph McNellage
    2019-05-09 20:25

    Michael Sheldon gives an excellent account of Mark Twain's final years. When the book begins, Twain has recently lost his beloved wife, Olivia. Two of his four children have died. A third child dies during the time period covered by this book. A terrible businessman, he had endured numerous financial problems and at one point came close to losing the copyrights to his books. Although devastated by these events, Twain refused to surrender to depression and continued to enjoy life, including frequent vacations in the Bahamas and a delightful trip to Oxford to receive an honorary degree. He happily created an uproar by appearing before a congressional committee wearing a white suit during the dead of winter (a major violation of fashion in that time). This biography of a truly great American is highly recommended.

  • LeeAnn Heringer
    2019-05-12 19:16

    The book focuses on the last 4 years in the life of Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens where he recovers from the death of his wife, puts on the white suit that we know him by, enters a second (or maybe third) childhood, and puts some serious thought into his legacy. Despite tragedy, scandal, and the usual complains of old age (ill health, death of old friends), he is a completely unrepentant irrepressible irascible old man writing things he fully intended to be published after his death and beyond the opinions of polite society.It was a fabulously interesting book. I hope to have that kind of fun when I'm 70-something. I gained new appreciation for how funny and smart he was. How I would have liked to sit down with him for an hour or two and argued about copyright and literature! And apparently I could have sold him a bridge or two for a tidy profit.

  • John Harder
    2019-05-10 21:15

    Mark Twain: Man in White takes us through the final years of Twain's life. Twain by the time he was in his 70's was a superstar, beloved by millions -- and he loved it. He reveled in his acclaim, enjoyed the company of one of the world's wealthiest men, vacationed in Bermuda and beamed like a child with a new toy when Oxford conferred an honorary degree. Unfortunately it was no all frivolity and glory. His daughters were never far from his thoughts and concerns and he narrowly dodged huge financial losses a couple times. But given all the ups and downs Mark managed to suck the marrow out of life until his date with worms. This is a heartwarming biography of one of our greatest Americans and Mr. Sheldon tells and compelling and touching tribute. I have firmly decided: I want to be Mark Twain -- except for the whole being dead part.

  • Hava
    2019-05-08 18:17

    Just finished this today (I listened to it on a Playaway, which is basically an MP3 with just one book on it). I loved it. I of course knew who Mark Twain was and a little about his life, but never studied his life in depth. If you're wanting a full picture of his life, you won't get it here - this is just about the last years of his life. Having learned about that part of his life makes me want to learn more about his earlier years, and re-read some of his great classics. But this book does a marvelous job of bringing Twain to life, even if it's an older, feebler life that is being portrayed. If you're a history buff or just a fan of Mark Twain's, you have to read this book.I also have to say that the reader did a wonderful job. A narrator can make or break a book, and this narrator certainly "made it." Kudos all around.

  • Bill Gray
    2019-05-07 14:01

    Mark Twain: Man in White is an excellent, touching account of the last four years of Twain's life. The book gives a fairly detailed accounting of his falling out with personal secretary/factotum Isabel Lyon, in which author Michael Shelden pretty clearly sides with Twain. It also recounts the sadness and loneliness that dogged Twain at the end. Interestingly, the whole idea of Twain as a man in white owes its origin to the last four years of his life, in which he eschewed the wearing of the more acceptable and formal black suits favored by more conventional men in his time, as he had worn black to more than enough funerals than he cared to remember. The book also details Twain's penchant for the company of young girls, his "Angelfish." Very sweet and sad story, this.

  • Jess
    2019-05-02 14:21

    How I wish this book had been published a year and a half before so that I may have used it for my graduate thesis!Michael Shelden manages to bring together letters and fiction to compile a fascinating account of Mark Twain's last years. Where most biographies tend to displace their subject's sense of humor, Shelden captures it in a way that makes Twain feel as though he is still alive. I can't recall another biography I've read on Mark Twain that was so thoroughly engaging, straight to the point, and subjected the reader to so much laughter and humor. I could go on about how terrific "Man in White" was, but really - just read it. The details, the relationships, and the excerpts give you more insight into Mark Twain's nature than the many books I've read previously.

  • Marie
    2019-05-06 22:12

    I alternated between frustration and delight in reading this book. At times I felt the book was so tedious and filled with too many details of Twain's daily life. Then there were sections where I couldn't put the book down. I was particularly intrigued by Twain's utter gullibility and wrongfully placed trust when it came to his financial matters. I couldn't wait to see how he was going to best these deceitful employees in whom he placed so much trust. I'm glad I read the book because I have always loved Mark Twain but it was a slow read.

  • Tom
    2019-04-28 17:10

    An excellent account of the final years of the great American author. Most revealing were the triumphs of a long, struggling yet ultimately prosperous career, the tragedies of his personal life, and the assorted characters who endeavored to fleece Twain and his heirs from his legacy, both financially and with regard to copyrights for his writings. I highly recommend this. Though it took me two months to complete - reading a few pages here and there - there were moments when I couldn't wait to finish the duties of a day so that I could spend some more time reading. I highly recommend this.

  • Paul
    2019-05-08 20:20

    Although the Autobiography is a best seller now, this book about the most famous American author of the period should also be read. It covers the last 3-1/2 years of Twain's life, from 1907 until his death in 1910. His relationship with his two daughters, close friendship with multimillionaire H. H. Rogers, moving from NYC to Connecticut and a new house, and travels to the Bahamas are all well told. There is an appreciation of this 70 year old and his enthusiastic way of living his final years, despite some major setbacks, that comes through the telling of the tale and that is contagious.

  • Shawn Thrasher
    2019-05-19 14:25

    A surprising pageturner and incredibly sad. I knew some bare bone facts about Mark Twain and enough of his emotional life to know that his humor hid a dark side. But the last years of his life were heart breaking. A man full of such joy and lust for life, struck by tragedy after tragedy. He definitely knew the highest highs and the lowest lows. Still, when it's all said done, I hope I can be a "man in white" at the end of my life. Mark Twain was a one-man red hat society, long before it's existence.

  • Marilyn Chandler
    2019-05-01 16:21

    An engaging, readable account of Twain's last three years, filled with anecdotes and memorable Twain quotes. Challenges the common view that he became embittered and cynical and lost his sense of humor. Bitterness and cynicism were a part of his response to tremendous personal losses, but those years also seem to have been a remarkable time of resiliency, hospitality, and insight. Well worth reading for anyone with interest in Twain, or in the period.

  • David A-S
    2019-05-20 22:18

    This piece chronicles the last 4 years of Twain's life that have often left him characterized as dark and morose. Shelden presents a contrary vision to that as he depicts a man who lived fully and colorfully. More than anything I just couldn't help but marvel at a unique mind, sharp tongue, and character strength. The book is delightful but integrally because the subject is Twain: one of the US' real gifts to the world, whose person was almost more interesting than his books.

  • Neil
    2019-05-13 18:18

    Shelden accomplishes his goal of bringing a new perspective to Twain's final years, challenging the established view that cast the author as a passive victim of one misfortune after another. Instead, the Twain of Man in White is a man taking vigorous action in the face of his personal and professional anxieties and playing a central role in the shaping of his own legend. This book strikes a perfect balance of research and readability.

  • Cynthia Karl
    2019-05-04 17:22

    This is a toss up between 3 and 4 stars - it is an enjoyable read and one gets a good picture of Twain the public man and Twain the private man. His incredible popularity with the public both in the US and England is offset by the family difficulties and tragedies that he had to deal with in his final years. He is someone that I would have loved to meet - emotional, incorrigible, kind, irascible and altogether interesting.

  • Roland
    2019-04-27 15:10

    Terrific book! A well-balanced view of Mark Twain's later years.Everyone knows that Twain suffered much turmoil and pain in his personal and financial lives. Nevertheless, this book demonstrates that he still managed to enjoy himself thoroughly, for as long as he could, as one of America's first great men of letters, the last of the Gilded Age and the first of the 20th century.

  • Anne
    2019-04-28 22:21

    I'm listening to the audio book. Shelden begins with the first time Mark Twain made an appearance in what would be his signature white suit. Twain was 71 at the time. The prologue is slow going but the rest of the book is deftly written, thoroughly researched and so far, objective, if a tad on the naive side when it comes to Twain's assistant Isabel Lyons.