Tom and Becky, lost in the cave, encounter Injun Joe: Clemens's manuscript notes for a projected stage version of "Tom Sawyer"

Mark Twain (i.e., Clemens, Samuel Langhorne), American writer (1835-1910). [Tom Sawyer: A Play]. Autograph working notes.

No place, [probably late 1883 or early 1884].

8vo (140 x 224 mm). 3 ff., written in pencil on one side only, on cream-coloured Keystone Linen pad paper. Stored in a brown full morocco presentation portfolio with a reproduction portrait photograph of Mark Twain facing the MS leaves, individually inserted in cellophane sleeves bound at the left edge.


Three leaves from Clemens’s manuscript notes for a never-performed stage version of "Tom Sawyer" completed in early 1884, featuring sketches for the dramatic scene in which Tom, Huck and Becky encounter Injun Joe in the cave. The notes read, in part: "Enter Tom & Huck. Find bag. 'No use now - got to starve.' Tom says 'No.' Examine - money all there. Discover girls asleep. Wake them. Talk. We'll save you. Gives them his crust & some bats [...] Devilish face of Joe peeks out - will hive those boys - steals behind boys. Girls see him & scream. Boys jump up & stand paralyzed. Then they jump for the rock & the dodging begins for life & death, the girls looking over. (Maybe Tom trips him.) 'Now, Huck.' They fly - Joe pursues, the girls scream [...]".

As early as 1875, Clemens had asked his friend William Dean Howells to dramatize the then still-unpublished "Adventures of Tom Sawyer". Howells refused, but Clemens pressed ahead, composed a synopsis of his own to secure copyright and subsequently wrote at least some of the play. While these plans ultimately fell through, in 1883 the author once more attempted to translate his book into a stage success. This time, he managed to complete a dramatic version, and the play was duly copyrighted on 1 February 1884. Although Clemens "was so pleased with this piece of work that even before he had finished it he was pondering on the cast which might properly perform it and trying to dictate terms", the great theatre manager Augustin Daly did not take long to reject the chance to stage "Tom Sawyer", and after this "one hears no more about the author's attempting to dramatize his novel": clearly, Clemens reluctantly came to the conclusion that "his novel just could not be dramatized" (Blair, pp. 250-252).

These are three out of a total of 26 pages of working notes for the play, constituting the last three of a ten-page group termed "C" by their editor, Walter Blair. At the time of Blair's editorial work, the notes were dispersed among several libraries: all but one of this ten-page group (C1-3 and C5-10) were then among the Mark Twain Papers at Bancroft Library, UCA, Berkeley (while C4 rests in Yale University Library). The three pages at hand form a sub-unit that provides a later plan for Act IV, in which Tom and Becky, lost in the cave, encounter Injun Joe.

First page slightly browned along the edges and horizontal fold; folds and paper very lightly frayed. A fine survival of American literature in the author's own hand.


Published in: Mark Twain / Walter Blair (ed.), Hannibal, Huck, and Tom (Berkeley, UCA Press, 1969), pp. 393-395 (fols. C8-C10).