lunedì 15 novembre 2010


The “association” between Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain lasted all their life and even after Robert Louis Stevenson’s death in 1894 Mark Twain continued to read and comment his books. But at the end of Twain’s life, he died in 1910, his attitude towards the Scottish novelist deeply changed as if something inside of him was been irremediably broken. He seemed exacerbating some sense of guilt which was been one of the bases of his mind. One effect of Twain’s feelings of guilt, according to Alexander E. Jones was to exclude sex from his writings. In accord with the conventional opinion of psychiatrists, Twain’s strong interest in obscene stories is to be considered a form of exhibitionism and to be related to phallic sexuality. Because pornography, unlike sex, may be interpreted as having its existence outside the limits of conventional society, its amoral; and under certain circumstances men, not women, are free to enjoy it. In this connection, Jones notes, Eden before the Fall was masculine to Twain: many passages in his works describe male nudity; except in early writings, his unclothed females are not women but little girls.. -He did expect to his wife Livy to exert a purifying influence on his speech, his writings, his manners and his habits. For Twain as to many others, home should be only a womblike place, a haven from the trials and temptations of the world of trade, politics, greed and corruption. Robert Louis Stevenson could be a temptation for him because of his talent and his audacity in living his life, challenging the Ocean and moving to Samoa. The Scottish novelist never forgot Twain and tried all his life to maintain a correspondence but the author of Tom Sawyer seemed not ready for standing over the time for a relationship so strong intellectually. Many problems devastated his soul. According to Van Wyck Brooks “his unconscious desire was to be an artist, but this implied an assertion of individuality that was a sin in the eyes of his mother and a shame in the eyes of society”. He had abdicated that spiritual independence without which the creative life is impossible. He was “to lose himself” now, to quote Whitman’s phrase, in “countless masses of adjustments”.
“We have no real morals” Twain wrote in one of his later letters “but only artificial ones, morals created and preserved by the forced suppression of natural and healthy instincts”. That is not true of the man who is master of himself. The morality of the free man is not based upon the suppression of his instincts, it is based upon the discreet employment of them: it is a real and not an artificial morality, therefore, because the whole man subscribes to it. (…) Mark Twain (…) the artist had been submerged in the bourgeois gentleman, the man of business, the respectable Presbyterian citizen.” The jovial, democratic humorist most readers identify as Mark Twain was just a clown mask for the real-life Clemens, who could be insecure, brooding, even reactionary and racist. “Inventing Mark Twain”, a biography of the master of American letters by Andrew Hoffman brings into full view the complex vulnerability of the novelist. Hoffmann claims he had several gay encounters when he was young a bombshell on the world of Mark Twain. It was in the 1860’s in the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. Twain's close relationship with Clement Rice, a rival reporter with whom he lived in Virginia City and dubbed "the Unreliable", created "barroom conversation" and "sparked the rumour mill", Hoffman reports. Later there was Artemus Ward, a "frankly homosexual" columnist, who also lived under a pseudonym and who penned a letter to Twain beginning with the words "My Dearest Love". And there was Dan DeQuille, a fellow Territorial Enterprise writer. As well as running the paper together, the two were room-mates. "We have the 'sweetest' little parlor and the snuggest little bedroom," DeQuille wrote. "Here we come every night and live - breathe, move and have our being, our bodies." Women were scarce in a frontier man's world. It was common for men to profess ardent love for each other, in what came to be labelled homo-erotic relationships. "Though most western men appear to have visited female prostitutes, they also typically lived in male pairs, sharing resources and beds; this was especially true among prospectors," Hoffman writes. How often they "physically expressed their affection escapes determination,"
But over the time Sam Clemens learned to be Mark Twain, got married with Livy and tried all his life to be a writer, only a good writer. The meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson could be an impressive moment of his life. A moment that the Scottish novelist tried to continue with the letters that he sent during the years asking for a friendship that Twain might not stand for.
Was Robert Louis Stevenson an homosexual too? Stevenson's homosexuality is probed in “Robert Louis Stevenson” by Claire Harman . A contemporary of the writer, Andrew Lang, once wrote that Stevenson "possessed, more than any man I ever met, the power of making other men fall in love with him". Many of Stevenson's closest male friends were homosexual, as the beloved friend Henley, and, as Harman suggests, he "could not have been unaware of the homoerotic forcefield he generated". She draws on some recent queer readings of Stevenson's work, too, such as Elaine Showalter's persuasive account of Jekyll and Hyde as a novella-without-women about "homosexual panic". No more can be told for both, Twain and Stevenson. They met, once or more in New York, something strong happened between them, they tried to continue a correspondence but they followed their destinies separately. Only the memories of this survived all their life.
November 15th the first volume of the Mark Twain autobiography will finally see the light of day.
Twain had left instructions that his autobiography could not be published in full until 100 years after his death. This 760-page first volume, published by University of California Press, has taken about six years to put together. Twain is very frank in the book, venting about people he didn’t like and telling about sexual details of his life. Maybe also about Robert Louis Stevenson?

(28)Alexander E. Jones “Mark Twain and Sexuality” PMLA 71 (Sept. 1956): 596-616
(29)Wyck Brooks-The ordeal of Mark Twain, E.P. Dutton & Co, 1970 p. 219-220
(30)Inventing Mark Twain,the Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens,by Andrew Hoffman, New York: William Morrow, 1997
(31)“Myself & the other fellow-A Life of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Claire Herman, Harper Collins publishers, 2005

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento