Mark Twain in the West: An Exhibition
A 'Call' to Literature

Jackass Hill Days in Clemens’s Autobiography

In his 26 May 1907 Autobiographical Dictation, Clemens describes Jim Gillis telling tales in the Gillis cabin on Jackass Hill in the winter of 1864–65. Typescript made by Josephine Hobby; ink revisions and corrections by Clemens; pencil markings (ignored in the transcription below) by Bernard DeVoto, who published the passage in Mark Twain in Eruption (1940). The full text of the dictation will appear in the Mark Twain Project’s Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3.

In one of my books—‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I think—I have used one of Jim’s impromptu tales, which he called ‘The Tragedy of the Burning Shame.’ I had to modify it considerably to make it proper for print, and this was a great damage. How mild it is in the book, and how pale; how extravagant and how gorgeous in its unprintable form! I used another of Jim’s impromptus in one of my books called ‘The Tramp Abroad,’ a tale of how poor and ignorant woodpeckers tried to fill up a house with acorns. . . . I used another of Jim’s inventions in one of my books—the story of Jim Baker’s cat, the remarkable Tom Quartz. Jim Baker was Dick Stoker, of course; Tom Quartz had never existed; there was no such cat—at least outside of Jim Gillis’s imagination.

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