"Mark Twain: A Skeptic's Progress"

  • Photograph: Graham Haber

    Mark Twain, 1906

  • Mark Twain, 1904

  • Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, J. R. Osgood

  • Mark Twain's memory-building game

Photograph: Graham Haber

Mark Twain, 1906

Literary and historical circles were abuzz earlier this year when it was revealed that the 5,000-page memoirs of Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835) would finally be published in November; when the author completed the massive autobiography, he requested that it not be published until 100 years after his death, which—hooray!—happens to be this year. The timing is fortuitous for the Morgan Library, which opens this exhibit in conjunction with the New York Public Library.

"We're actually spinning our exhibition as the 175th anniversary of his birth," explains curator Declan Kiely, who cocreated the exhibit along with the NYPL's Isaac Gewirtz, curator of the library's Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature. Bits and pieces of Twain's manuscripts and letters—including excerpts and illustrations from Following the Equator, his final series of travel essays—will be on view; the subtitle is a nod to Twain's tendency toward cynicism, which became more apparent in his work as he neared the end of his life. "The more he saw of life, the more skeptical he became that human beings could do something to better life on this planet on the whole," explains Gerwitz. It's a different side of the author, but for Kiely, that's part of the show's appeal. "We're presenting a truer, more accurate picture of where Twain was at in his thought than he was ready to reveal in the texts published in his lifetime," he explains. And it'll hold Twain geeks over till the memoir hits shelves. The Morgan Library, 225 Madison Ave at 36th St (212-685-0008, themorgan.org). Fri 17--Jan 2.