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Collaborating with Friends


One of the most sociable of literary men, Clemens involved himself in a number of collaborations over the years: some bore good fruit, some ended acrimoniously, and some were stillborn.

Among the happy collaborations were his work with Charles Dudley Warner on The Gilded Age (written 1872/73) and with William Dean Howells on the play Colonel Sellers as a Scientist (1883). Less happy was his joint lecture tour of 1884/85 with George Washington Cable, and even more troubled was his work with his quondam friend Bret Harte on the tiresome farce Ah Sin, The Heathen Chinee (1876/77).

In 1876 Clemens came up with an idea for what he called "blindfold" or "skeleton novelettes": he would supply a plot outline and various of his literary friends, including Warner, Howells, and Harte, would each write versions based on the outline. Clemens immediately produced his version, titled A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage, but no one else followed suit. Notes made in 1893 for the "skeleton novelette" idea indicate that Clemens was still trying to make the plan come good years later. Clemens's prototype story was not published in his lifetime, but it finally reached the public, with much fanfare, in 2001 when it was included in the Atlantic Monthly’s July/August issue and published in book form by W. W. Norton and Company.


A 'Skeleton Novelette' A "Skeleton Novelette"
[manuscript, 1893]
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