[I will recast this text into more wiki-proper form. /DDD ]
The project I am engaged upon may be briefly described as follows: I am exploring, in the mode of historical fiction, questions about the events and decisions which led to the original publication of one of Mark Twain's final literary efforts, the 1916 (posthumous) version of The Mysterious Stranger. In order to better understand this, I need to develop a working understanding of multiple dynamics concerning its composition and fate- Twain himself, Paine, Clara and Jean Clemens, and Ashcroft/Lyon. In shorthand, I need to understand "the King and his Court" (Miss Lyon's phrase of the time, a phrasing later banned by Paine and Clara). I also need to understand the timeline of Twain's writing in this period.
What I have come to realize is that to understand the late form of the Mysterious Stranger texts (three substantial narratives survive; see Walter Gibson's excellent critical edition in the UC series), I need to understand a gestalt of Twain/Clemens' late life.
As it turns out, this is version of a "project" (until recently, more of a noodling notion) that I have thinking about my whole adult life. My copy of the Mysterious Stranger manuscripts book was given to me by my prom date in 1974- for which wisdom I later married her. I read Hamlin Hill's biography (of Twain's later years) while I was in grad. school in 1981-82. I recently read Dangerous Intimacy , a recent book by Karen Lystra which focuses on the Ashcroft/Lyon matter (and a resultant Twain text of several hundred pages). Going further back, I have somehow managed to retain my original issue of Life magazine in which Twain's (incomplete) Huck and Tom Among the Indians was first published. Reading that (not long after December 20, 1968) was my introduction to Twain studies. I bought the issue from a newsstand, probably during Junior High School. Possibly I saw it while I was reaching for a comic book.