Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend
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Joseph Hopkins Twichell: the Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend
On the cover: Clemens' secretary, Isabel Lyon, made Clemens and Twichell take off their overcoats on a cold day at sea in January 1907 so she could take a photograph. The two men were on their way to Bermuda, where they revisited the scenes of their first trip thirty years before. (Photo courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers and Project)

Joseph Hopkins Twichell 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
6" x 9" | 296 pp. | 21 b&w photos
Cloth, $32.95

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Steve Courtney
Photo: Stephen Dunn

Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend, won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award in the Biography/Memoir category on September 20, in an awards ceremony at the Hartford Public Library. The awards are presented annually by the Connecticut Center for the Book.

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.

Now, in Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend, journalist Steve Courtney has brought this extraordinary man's extraordinary career back into the public view.

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.

Copies of the book can be ordered from the University of Georgia Press and a short excerpt is available online.