At the Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell's fiftieth birthday party in 1888, Samuel L. Clemens—Mark Twain—commented on a previous speaker's fulsome praise, a newspaper account tells us. The speaker had made Clemens understand that "Mr. Twichell was largely accountable for the progress the world has made during the past 50 years. . . . [Twain] had never realized that the telegraph and the telephone and all those things were due to the influence of this one man — the handsomest man that ever lived."(Photo courtesy of Asylum Hill Congregational Church)
Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend
By Steve Courtney
University of Georgia Press, May 2008
Steve appeared on the Faith Middleton Show on Connecticut Public Radio on June 6, 2008. An audio file of the program, in which Steve is interviewed at the very beginning, is available on the CPBN website.
It comes as a surprise to learn that Mark Twain's closest friend was a Congregationalist minister from Hartford, Connecticut. The Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell was for more than forty years the confidant, traveling companion and conversational foil for the great writer and humorist.
Twichell's own life apart from Mark Twain is an intriguing reflection of the growth of America during the tumultuous nineteenth century. He was born in a small Connecticut town that still remembered the Revolution. He attended Yale in the era of anti-slavery turmoil, and served as a Civil War chaplain in the grim and sanguinary struggle that was the centerpiece of that era. He took on the pastorate of a large and influential Hartford church during a time of unbridled wealth and energy, and directed the church's efforts toward the immigrants who made the city's factories run.
This was a life emblematic of a broad and eventful period of American change. Readers will gain a clear appreciation of why the witty, profane, and skeptical Twain cherished Twichell's companionship.
|Questions and comments are welcome: email firstname.lastname@example.org. || website ©2008-9 by Steve Courtney|