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The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
"Why, you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire."
Written on hotel stationary while in Europe on the run from American creditors, soon after the death of a daughter, The Man That Corrupted Handleyburg is often cited as a work of bitter cynicism—a statement on America, to some, on the Dreyfus Case, to others—created by a weary author at the end of his career.
Another appreciation, however, is that it is, simply, Mark Twain at his best. The story of a mysterious stranger who orchestrates a fraud embarrassing the hypocritical citizens of "incorruptible" Hadleyburg. The novella is an exceptionally crafted work intertwining a devious and suspenseful plot with some of the wittiest dialogue Twain ever wrote. And like the most masterful literature, it subverts any notion of easy conclusion: is Hadleyburg ruined, or liberated? Is the mysterious stranger Satan, or a hero? Is this a book of revenge, or redemption? One thing is clear: This brilliant novella is a complex and compassionate consideration of the human character by a master at the height of his form.
The Art of The Novella Series
Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.
About the Author
Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Florida, Missouri, and raised in nearby Hannibal. After apprenticing as a printer, he left home at 18 to travel the world. He returned to captain a Mississippi riverboat for four years, then headed west on a stage coach, filing absurdist travel stories for newspapers along the way—using a river boater's warning for shallow waters as his pen-name. Chased out of San Francisco after reporting on the police chief, he hid in a mining town and overheard a yarn he turned into a successful story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". But true fame came with his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It's sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is considered one of the world's great masterpieces.
In demand, Twain wrote prolifically and lectured far and wide. He also founded a publishing house, publishing the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. But when an investment in an early typewriter failed, he fled the U.S. for Europe—a trip that saw the death of his daughter. His wife died soon thereafter. Twain overcame his financial troubles, but not the loss of his loved ones, and his last writings were dark works stretching beyond his homespun narrative to fantasy, science fiction, and scathing political commentary. He died in 1910.
Praise for The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg…
"I wanted them all, even those I'd already read."
—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer
—Time Out London
"[F]irst-rate…astutely selected and attractively packaged…indisputably great works."
—Adam Begley, The New York Observer
"I’ve always been haunted by Bartleby, the proto-slacker. But it’s the handsomely minimalist cover of the Melville House edition that gets me here, one of many in the small publisher’s fine 'Art of the Novella' series."
—The New Yorker
"The Art of the Novella series is sort of an anti-Kindle. What these singular, distinctive titles celebrate is book-ness. They're slim enough to be portable but showy enough to be conspicuously consumed—tiny little objects that demand to be loved for the commodities they are."
—KQED (NPR San Francisco)
"Some like it short, and if you're one of them, Melville House, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, has a line of books for you... elegant-looking paperback editions ...a good read in a small package."
—The Wall Street Journal