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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume One, University of California Press, £24.95

Having fretted for years about how to write his autobiography, Mark Twain came up with his characteristically inventive—and immodest—solution in 1906. In the presence of a stenographer, he would “freely” describe his life, wandering about chronologically as the fancy took him. The result, when published a century after his death, would be not only “read and admired” but would “become a model for all future autobiographies.”

The first of these predictions was wholly accurate: this first volume (of three) is…

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