Mark Twain chose E.W. Kemble, an inexperienced young illustrator, to visualize Huckleberry Finn. Twain had been searching the comics for an illustrator before coming upon a comic Kemble illustration in Life, the "style and spirit" of which amused him, recounted Albert B. Paine in his Twain biography. (Mark Twain: A Biography, NY: Harpers 1912).
Twain paid Kemble $1,200 and pushed him hard; he disliked the first batch of drawings, complaining to publisher Charles L. Webster that Huck was "a trifle more Irishy than necessary" and that the style was sloppy. (These letters were published in Mark Twain, Business Man, Samuel Charles Webster, ed., Boston: Little Brown 1946).
"The pictures will do--they will just barely do--& that is the best I can say for them," Twain wrote. He urged Webster to "punch him up to improve more." Soon Twain was happier: Of a later batch, he wrote Webster, "I knew Kemble had it in him, if he would only modify his violences & come down to careful, pains-taking work. This batch of pictures is most rattling good. They please me exceedingly." He continued to ask for revisions, however, and told Webster to kill one of the drawings: "the lecherous old rascal kissing the girl at the campmeeting. It is powerful good, but it mustn't go in."
Twain got irritated when Kemble misunderstood the text.
The illustrator assumed that the wrecked steamboat in Chapter 13
was named "Texas," a word used in the text to describe a portion
of the boat. Webster's New World Dictionary defines "texas" as the
"name given to officers' quarters on Mississippi steamboats
because they were the largest cabins."
The corrected illustration, "The Wreck"
Kemble can also be thanked for the continued misunderstanding
about the book's title: He added the definite article "the" to the p. 1
Kemble described his experiences illustrating Huck in a
1930 article for a now-defunct book-collectors' periodical.
Colophon 1930: E.W. Kemble, "Illustrating
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