The Chappaqua Library, in collaboration with many local institutions, is holding a month-long celebration of Mark Twain. Here is the latest on one of the events, “Mark Twain and the Minister”:
CHAPPAQUA INTERFAITH COUNCIL
Sponsor: Chappaqua Interfaith Council and the Chappaqua Library
Location: Chappaqua Library, 195 South Greeley Ave., Chappaqua, N.Y. 10514
Date: Sunday, October 30, 2011 Time: 4:00 PM
CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. The Chappaqua Interfaith Council* and the Chappaqua Library are pleased to cosponsor “Mark Twain and the Minister,” as part of the library’s month-long celebration of Mark Twain this fall. The event will be at the Chappaqua Library on Sunday, October 30 at 4 pm and is free. It will feature a lively talk by Steve Courtney, author of the award-winning book, Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend, and on the staff at the Mark Twain House, in Hartford, Ct.
“It comes as a surprise to many that Mark Twain’s closest friend was a New England Congregationalist minister, the Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell,” says Courtney. “The two met when Samuel Clemens was in Hartford in 1868 on a business trip, and instantly hit it off … when the Wild Humorist came to dinner with the Twichells, he rose to leave at 9 and stood talking at the door until 11, holding a small pile of books borrowed from his new friend.
“The conversation continued for more than 40 years,” Courtney says, “often on pedestrian tramps in locales as varied as the autumnal hills near Hartford, the glaring white roads of Bermuda, the depths of the Black Forest, and the high, windy passes of the Alps. They swapped yarns and aired what grew into considerable disagreements on matters of politics and conscience—and, of course, religion:
‘Joe, I wish I had the human race in the Ark again — with an augur,’ Clemens wrote his friend.
‘Mark, the way you throw your rotten eggs at the human race doth greatly arride me,’ replied the minister in mock Shakespearean tones.
Steve Courtney’s talk will explore Mark Twain’s own peculiar challenges to religion.
Their interaction over the decades tells us a lot about the evolution of Mark Twain’s faith, and his loss of it (if he really ever did lose it) over his long life.
Reverend Tom Lenhart, Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church and chair of the Chappaqua Interfaith Council, will introduce the speaker. As he notes, “Mark Twain was a thoroughly ‘modern man’—lively, thoughtful and, at times, irreverent—as such his relationship with religion ought to be of real interest to those of us who visit and revisit matters of faith in this age.” This is the second event in the Council’s new series, “Challenges to Faith in Our World.”
The talk is open to the public. Questions are encouraged! Light refreshments will also be served. For more information, please contact Joan Kuhn at the Chappaqua Library (914-238-4779) or Candace Downing (914-419-7216).
About Steve Courtney: A journalist for more than 30 years, Courtney worked at The Hartford Courant, where he was a bureau chief, copy editor, book reviewer, Sunday magazine editor and science writer. His biography Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend (University of Georgia Press, 2008) won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for biography/memoir. He is also co-editor, with Peter Messent, of The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell, and author of The Loveliest Home That Ever Was: The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, just published by Dover. Since 2009 Courtney has been publicist and publications editor at Hartford’s The Mark Twain House & Museum. He grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., and lives in Terryville, Ct., with his wife, Lisa, and five children.
About the Chappaqua Interfaith Council: In existence for more than 20 years, the Council includes members, both lay and clergy, from the Baha’is of New Castle, Chappaqua Friends Meeting, The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Episcopal, First Congregational Church, Lutheran Church of our Redeemer, Church of Saint John and St. Mary RC, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester and The Upper Westchester Muslim Society.