It’s one of the most memorable lines from the last chapter of Mark Twain’s classic 1885 novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (The young boy and a runaway slave named Jim had drifted down the Mississippi river, catching random glimpses of the people on shore — and Huck decides he didn’t like what he saw.) But as soon as Mark Twain published the book, he’d also started writing a sequel about dangerous new adventures in the great American wilderness. It was never published during Twain’s lifetime, but its first nine chapters were finally released just 10 years ago in a scholarly print edition from the University of California.
So what happened to Huckleberry after he finally left sivilization behind? The book opens with Huck and Jim having “Plenty to eat and nothing to do,” and feeling contented just staying at home. (“[A]s for me, betwixt lazying around and pie, I hadn’t no choice, and wouldn’t know which to take…”) But inevitably, Huck receives a visit from his know-it-all pal, Tom Sawyer, with another of one his wild schemes: they should head out west. The boys tag along with a party of covered wagons, meeting friendly “Injuns” – and then a more hostile tribe, in a violent encounter which strands the boys in the middle of the unexplored wilderness in 1848.
They meet up with a lone frontier scout named Brace — and that’s where Twain’s story ends. But recently author Lee Nelson heard about the unfinished book, and finally wrote an ending for it in 2002! “By this time I had published a dozen historical novels with settings on the American frontier, and realized I was probably as qualified as any other living author to finish the work begun by Twain. A little research on the web led me to those who controlled the copyright – The Mark Twain Foundation and the University of California Press. Contact was made, approval was granted, a contract was drawn up, and the following story is the result.”
“I have no idea how Twain intended to finish the story, and I reason that he didn’t know either, or he would have done it. I just hope that wherever he is, he enjoys my conclusion as much as I enjoyed his beginning.”
Unfortunately, you can’t read his sequel to Huckleberry Finn on the Kindle — yet — but you can always read Mark Twain’s original Huckleberry Finn novel.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote that “All modern American literature comes from” Twain’s original novel, and Hemingway hailed it as “the best book we’ve had.”