In his person and in his pursuits, Mark Twain (1835-1910) was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve, when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing, but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia for the past helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called “the Lincoln of our literature.”
Michael Meyer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut, is a former president of the Thoreau Society and the coauthor of The New Thoreau Handbook, a standard reference. His first book, Several More Lives to Live: Thoreau’s Political Reputation in America, was awarded the Ralph henry Gabriel Prize by the American Studies Association. In addition to The Bedford Introduction to Literature, his edited volumes include Frederick Douglas: The Narrative and Selected Writings.
Leslie A. Fielder (1917-2003) was a longtime professor of English at Montana State University and then the Samuel Langhorne Clemens Professor of Literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was the author of four novels, as well as many influential works of criticism including Life and Death in the American Novel and What Was Literature? Class Culture and Mass Society. Among his many awards is the Modern Language Association’s Hubbell Medal for lifetime contribution to the study of American literature.