On January 11 at noon, Alan Pell Crawford will deliver a Banner Lecture entitled “Mark Twain, FFV? America’s Most Beloved Author and the Old Dominion.”
Reports of Mark Twain’s death were “greatly exaggerated” more than once. The more famous report was from when he was living in London in 1897. But it happened again a decade later when he had come to Virginia on yacht that was enshrouded in fog off Hampton Roads. The New York Times reported that the yacht sank and Twain had drowned. Twain’s response was characteristically amused—and amusing. He told the Times he planned to conduct an “exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation to this report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.” Twain, who had come to Virginia for the Jamestown Exposition, had a special and—by historians, overlooked—relationship with the Old Dominion. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was proud of his Virginia roots. His father was John Marshall Clemens, “one of the F.F.V.’s of Virginie,” Twain’s daughter Susy wrote in her 1872 biography, Papa. This lecture will discuss Twain’s Virginia roots, which we should all take as much pride in as he did.
Alan Pell Crawford is a former U.S. Senate speechwriter, congressional press secretary, and magazine editor. He has published essays on politics and history in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Review, and The Weekly Standard. He has reviewed books on U.S. history, politics, and culture for The Wall Street Journal since 1993. He is the author of Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of 18th Century America; Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson; and How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain.