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Twain’s early days in Washington discussed at Library of Congress June 18

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Mark Twain, when an 18-year-old journalist, complained that Washington politics, like its weather, was "tricky, changeable, unreliable" -- and Congress failed to live up to the founders' aspirations.

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Little has changed in 160 years, from 1854, when Washington correspondent Samuel Clemens composed his first dispatch. He would return to the "raw and rugged" capital city in 1867 as Mark Twain, as we know.

Author and Washington journalist John Muller discussed and signed his new book, "Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent" (The History Press) June 18 at a free event at the Library of Congress.

For a preview of the book, click here.

As Twain wrote, "It cannot be well or safe to let present political conditions continue indefinitely. They can be improved, and American citizenship should arise from its disheartenment and see that this is done."

He aroused citizens with his dispatches, wired across the country through the informal, ill-fated Washington Syndicate that he established with other newspapermen.

Those Washington political conditions produced a "gold mine" of info for Twain's first novel, "The Gilded Age", a slightly veiled documentary of scandals in the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant. The 1873 novel's title came to define an era of American history, the Library of Congress noted.

His early days in Washington had been largely overlooked or underreported in the voluminous literature on his life, but it was a pivotal period in his life that deserves greater attention," wrote Donald A. Ritchie, head historian, Senate Historical Office, in his foreword to the book.

"This is the place to get a poor opinion of everybody," Twain wrote.

He also noted that his doctor admonished, "I must go to bed early, keep out of social excitements, and behave myself. You can't do that in Washington."

And speaking of social excitements in Washington and Twain, also on June 18, a documentary "Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey" opened the five-day AFI DOCS Festival. The fascinating documentary illuminates the brilliance of Twain and also Hal Holbrook, who has portrayed him for 60 years in a Tony®- and Emmy®-winning one-man show. It will be screened again on June 22.

For more info: Author John Muller discussed his new book "Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent" (The History Press) June 18 at noon, free, Library of Congress, www.loc.gov, James Madison Building, Montpelier Room, 6th floor, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. Muller is a Washington-based journalist and playwright whose first book was "Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia". Books & Beyond event sponsored by the Library's Center for the Book, www.Read.gov.

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