The Trouble Begins

The Mark Twain House & Museum began its The Trouble Begins lecture series in 2010. The title of the lecture series comes from a handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866, lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco which stated “Doors open at 7 o’clock. The Trouble to begin at 8 o’clock.”

The Trouble Begins lecture series is held each spring and fall with free presentations featuring distinguished scholars who discuss elements of the life, work, and era of Mark Twain and use them to explore wider themes in the humanities and both historical and current issues.

From 2010-19 the Mark Twain House welcomed 64 scholars to our Lincoln Financial Auditorium stage. In 2020, thanks to a CT Humanities grant, The Trouble Begins series pivoted to a virtual program. Today, The Trouble Begins uses in-person, virtual, and hybrid formats to keep these presentations accessible to all and allow Twainiacs from all over the world to come together – whether in-person or virtually – to discuss all things Twain, share their passions, and have a bit of fun.

Click Here to submit YOUR proposal to become a Trouble Begins Speaker!

Upcoming Lectures

  • Scholars R. Kent Rasmussen, Kevin Mac Donnell, Barbara Schmidt, and Patrick Ober to the Trouble Begins lecture series to discuss the recently published book “Critical Insights: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

    — September 28th @ 7:00pm ET on Zoom

  • Additional Fall 2022 speakers to be announced soon!

June 2022 Lecture

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Stephen Cushman on "The Generals' Civil War"

The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes Stephen Cushman to lecture on his book “The Generals’ Civil War.”

In this insightful book, Stephen Cushman considers Civil War generals’ memoirs as both historical and literary works, revealing how they remain vital to understanding the interaction of memory, imagination, and the writing |of American history.

Buy the Book!

May 2022 Lecture

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Kevin MacDonnell on Mark Twain in the Marketplace

The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes back Kevin MacDonnell to lecture on “Mark Twain in the Marketplace: The Use of Mark Twain’s Name and Image to Sell Everything.”

Using “piles of artifacts” from his personal collection Kevin will trace the use of Mark Twain’s name and image to sell vendible goods and services during his lifetime and after. Mark Twain’s “brand” can mean different things–a style of writing, a brand of humor, a celebrity endorsement, and most often the unauthorized use of his name or image for commercial gain.

May 2022 Lecture

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Dr. Ann Ryan and Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley on Mark Twain & CRT

The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley and Dr. Ann Ryan discuss Mark Twain & Critical Race Theory.

Using Twain’s writing as just one example, Trombley and Ryan demonstrate how thoroughly American it is to wrestle with “critical race theory,” a phrase that Twain would have found as unwieldy as it is imprecise. Nonetheless, it is a concept that inspired his major works.

April 2022 Lecture

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Bruce Michelson on The Printer's Devil

The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes author and scholar Bruce Michelson back to the Trouble Begins series as he talks about Printing, Pictures, and the Mark Twain Legend.

With scores of illustrations he hand-picked or created for his books, big investments in breakthrough tech for printing and circulating pictures, and countless images of himself, no major American writer can match Sam Clemens’s lifelong involvement with pictures on paper.

March 2022 Lecture

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Kate Moore on Elizabeth Packard

The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes best-selling author Kate Moore to the Trouble Begins series as she talks about her book The Woman They Could Not Silence, an unputdownable story of a brilliant and courageous woman who unexpectedly changed the world. This dark and dramatic but ultimately uplifting tale of a forgotten woman whose inspirational journey sparked lasting change for women’s rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.

Click on any name to watch the lecture on our YouTube channel

Fall 2020 Lectures

The Mark Twain House & Museum’s The Trouble Begins lecture series is sponsored by the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, NY. Since 1985, the Center for Mark Twain Studies has hosted its own The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. You can access their lecture archive here.

The Trouble Begins lecture series has also received support from Connecticut Humanities and Webster Bank.

Click here to add your support for The Trouble Begins series