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100 yrs after death, Mark Twain's autobiography out

Tom Sawyer author Mark Twain's autobiography has been released a century after his death. The book, which will go on sale tomorrow, reopens old wounds about his love for...

books Updated: Nov 15, 2010 18:53 IST

Mark Twain’s autobiography, released a century after his death, has reopened old wounds.

As one of the great masters of American literature, Mark was renowned for his ability to cast a spell over readers with his words, wit and wisdoms, reports the Telegraph.

But in the his final life work, a 429-page manuscript that has gone unpublished for 100 years, Twain claims it was he who was "hypnotised" by Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, his once trusted secretary, personal assistant and confidante.

The diatribe against Miss Lyonwill be made public for the first time in the autobiography that he ordered could not be published in full until 100 years after his death.

The three-tome work is one of the literary events of the decade and the first volume - already riding high in the US best-seller lists - will go on sale in Britain on Monday.

What will be revealed in its full ferocity is his loathing for Miss Lyon and her then-husband Ralph Ashcroft, a Briton who was the writer''s erstwhile business advisor.

MarkThe greatest bile of Twain - the pen name of Samuel Clemens, born in Missouri in 1835 - was reserved for Miss Lyon, a woman in whom he had so much confidence in 1907 that he granted her power of attorney.

Just two years later, driven on by his daughter Clara, he accused her of putting him under a hypnotic trance for "two or three years", hence denying responsibility for the arrangement.

In a remarkable rant in a private letter, he also called her "a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded & salacious slut pining for seduction".

But he saved the full force of his venom for his lengthy and accusatory Aschroft-Lyon Manuscript to which he devoted much of1909. That attack will see the light of day for the first time in the third volume of his autobiography.

What remains unclear is quite how intimate was his relationship with Ms Lyon, who joined the Clemens family as secretary to his wife Olivia in 1902 and, after her death two years later, became Twain's right-hand woman.

Twain goes on to claim that Miss Lyon, who was nearly three decades his junior, was trying to seduce him. But at his insistence, she was largely marginalised from accounts of his life by early biographers.

For Miss Lyon's closest living descendant, the onslaught in Twain's autobiography will open old wounds.

"She was a wonderful woman who called Twain 'the king' and never had a bad word for him, so it was very shocking when we learned what he said about her in the manuscript," her great-nephew David Moore said.

"Isabel was a real character, a lovely lady, who did a great job looking after Twain. She never mentioned any grudge and really respected him. I think by the end, the old guy was just off his rocker," he said.

First Published: Nov 14, 2010 14:09 IST