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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mark Twain House and Museum's Free Lecture Series

Imagine, if you will, how educated you could be in Connecticut, if you only had time to attend all the free stuff offered around the state. In New Haven, you could stay busy with just the events Yale offers for free every day.
But if you went further? A world of free education awaits...
Take, for instance, the Mark Twain House and Museum, in Hartford, a winner any time you visit. but check this out too: "The Trouble Begins at 5:30." 
It's the Twain House "free series that has offered good food and drink, good conversation and intriguing, Twainian after-work lectures since 2010," according to a release, and it's expanding to a monthly schedule.
The popular series, traditionally preceded by hors d'oeuvres and wine at 5 p.m., will generally run the second Wednesday of each month, the release said. "The series takes its name from Twain's own lecture posters, which were headed 'The Trouble Begins at Eight.'"

Also in the release: "The Trouble Begins at 5:30" receives generous funding from First Niagara Bank Foundation, Inc. It is also supported by Connecticut Explored magazine,Hot Tomato's restaurant and The Friends of the Mark Twain House & Museum
On Jan. 16 ("not, in this sole case, a second Wednesday") Chris Stedman, "Humanist chaplain at Harvard University author of the new book "Faithiest: How an Atheist Found Common Ground With the Religious," in conversation with writer Susan Campbell, the release said.
"Mark Twain struggled all his life with issues of belief and skepticism; Stedman's book describes his own journey from fundamentalist, to atheist, to a person seeking understanding with the traditionally faithful. Campbell is the award-winning author of the memoir "Dating Jesus," journalist, author of the blog "Hot Dogma" and a member of the Writing at the Mark Twain House faculty. The event starts with a reception at 5 p.m., with the lecture commencing at 5:30, the release said.

Here is the rest of the release:

Future Troubles:
Wednesday, February 13. "Mark Twain, the Maori, and the Mystery of Livy's Jade Pendant" -- Using Twain's letters and unpublished notebooks, noted Twain scholar Kerry Driscoll of the University of St. Joseph will reconstruct the hidden story of the five weeks the Clemens family spent touring New Zealand in November-December 1895, an experience would radically re-shape Twain's racial attitudes for the remainder of his life. Included is Dr. Driscoll's description of an extraordinary discovery within the Mark Twain House & Museum's own collections.
Wednesday, March 13. "Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa." Author Steve Kemper on the German explorer and contemporary of Twain Heinrich Barth. In 1849 Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration. It was age when both Europeans and Americans like Mark Twain were deeply attracted to the exoticism of the Muslim world. Kemper is the author of Labyrinth of Kingdoms, an account of Barth's ordeal. (A booksigning follows the event.)
Wednesday, April 10. "Artemus Ward: The Gentle Humorist and His Lecture Influence on Mark Twain." Scholar John Pascal on another Twain contemporary and friend, and a favorite of Lincoln's, humorist Artemus Ward. Ward was America's preeminent literary comedian prior to Mark Twain's emergence as a serious humorist during the 1870s and 1880s. As the unofficial jester of the Civil War Period, Ward was "The Man Who Made Lincoln Laugh." He awakened in Twain the possibilities of being a comic writer and directly influenced Twain's lecture style, which Twain acknowledged.
Wednesday, May 8. "Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers". Noted Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen speaks on his new book of contemporary fan letters to the author: Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers. A voracious pack-rat, Twain hoarded his readers' letters; the book collects 200 of them written by children, farmers, schoolteachers, businessmen, preachers, railroad clerks, inmates of mental institutions, con artists, and even a former president. Clemens's own and often startling comments and replies are also included. (A booksigning follows the event.)
Wednesday June 12. "Mark Twain's Homes and Literary Tourism." Scholar Hilary Iris Lowe on her book of the same name, which untangles the complicated ways that Clemens's houses, now museums, have come to tell the stories that they do about Twain, reminding us that the sites themselves are the products of multiple agendas and, in some cases, unpleasant histories. Lowe leads us through four Twain homes, from his birthplace in Florida, Missouri, through Hannibal, Missouri, his childhood home, to Elmira, his summer home during the Hartford years, and -- of course -- our own Mark Twain House in Hartford. (A booksigning follows the event.)
The Mark Twain House &Museum ( has restored the author's Hartford, Connecticut, home, where Samuel L. Clemens and his family lived from 1874 to 1891.
Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
In addition to providing tours of Twain's restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain's literary legacy and provide information about his life and times.
The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesdays during January, February and March. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit
Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. 

Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed.




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