Library of Eve

Eve’s Diary, Mark Twain (1905)

In Art, Books, Sexuality on March 14, 2013 at 3:02 am
So ominous!

So ominous!

So in 1905 Mark Twain’s book ‘Eve’s Diary‘ was banned.  What did it say?

Stars are good … I wish I could get some to put in my hair. But I suppose I never can. You would be surprised to find how far off they are, for they do not look it. When they first showed, last night, I tried to knock some down with a pole, but it didn’t reach, which astonished me; then I tried clods till I was all tired out, but I never got one. It was because I am left-handed and cannot throw good. Even when I aimed at the one I wasn’t after I couldn’t hit the other one, though I did make some close shots, for I saw the black blot of the clod sail right into the midst of the golden clusters forty or fifty times, just barely missing them, and if I could have held out a little longer maybe I could have got one.

Well that sounds harmless enough.  What’s the book about? Eve’s life in the Garden of Eden and life following her and Adam’s expulsion.  The book is written in diary form, consisting of excerpts taken from both Eve and Adam‘s diaries.  It reflects their growth in understanding the world about them and their relationship with each other.

That sounds lovely. It is.  Some say that Twain wrote the book as a posthumous love letter to his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens who died a year before the book was published of congestive heart failure. The final line reads:

Wherever she was, there was Eden.

Oh that’s a real tear jerker [sniff].  Why didn’t she change her name to Twain? No. Why did Samuel Langhorne Clemens change his to Mark Twain, is the question.

Who banished it?  Mrs H.L. Carpenter head librarian at Charlton Public Library raised her concerns after flipping through the book one day said to Mr Frank Wakefield, trustee of the library that “She had her doubts” (New York Times, 23 Nov 1096). And Mr Wakefield acted appropriately in the circumstances.

For what it said? Nope.

For what it insinuated? Kind of.

For … Eve wearing a summer costume:

On every left-hand page is a picture, fifty of which represent Eve … Her dresses are all cut Garden of Eden style. In one of them Eve is seen skipping through the bushes unrestrained and not at all afraid. The bushes do not seriously cut off the view of Eve. (New York Times, 23 Nov 1906)

Eve in a bikini! Bit far fetched! Not a bikini.  This is the Garden of Eden before Eve realises she is naked.

So she is wearing a leaf? No.  She is naked!

(Illustration by Lester Ralph, courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

(Illustration by Lester Ralph, courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

So it has nothing to do with Twain then? No, except for his choice in illustrators, Lester Ralph and the fact that he published a naked woman in his book before the world had a chance to grow comfortable with it.

What’d he say about it? He was bemused.  He said that the irony of libraries leaving a Bible around for youth to devour was not lost on him. Perhaps also, a similar thing that Adam said of Eve:

Was she satisfied now? No. Nothing ever satisfies her …

Taken out of context, I concede.

So how about now? An entirely free copy of the book including offending illustrations can be obtained from Project Gutenberg.

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