Semi-OT: Passage from "Huck Finn"
(too old to reply)
2019-09-23 19:12:14 UTC
I was rereading a chapter or two and I noticed this, in the description of the wealthy Grangerfords' house (keep in mind that the novel takes place before 1845):

"...There was some books too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a big family Bible, full of pictures. One was 'Pilgrim's Progress,' about a man that left his family it didn't say why. I read considerable in it now and then. The statements was interesting, but tough. Another was 'Friendship's Offering,' full of beautiful stuff and poetry; but I didn't read the poetry. Another was Henry Clay's Speeches, and another was Dr. Gunn's Family Medicine, which told you all about what to do if a body was sick or dead. There was a Hymn Book, and a lot of other books..."

It suddenly hit me; what if the name "Dr. Gunn" was Mark Twain's humor in action, given his contempt for medical "experts" in "Tom Sawyer"?

But...no! Dr. John C. Gunn was real, even if no one bothers to read his work today, except maybe for historical reasons. Born in 1795 or 1800, he died in 1863.

BUT...I can't find a book with that title; the only book I did find was:

"Gunn's domestic medicine, or, Poor man's friend, in the hours of affliction, pain, and sickness" (circa 1832)

It was reprinted as:

"Gunn's new domestic physician, or, Home book of health: a complete guide for families" (1857) - clearly, that could not have existed in Huck's day.

(the start of a biographical article, from 1986)

A bit more on the various editions of the book, if you like:


(amusing blog piece, with ten comments)

Quote: "I wonder if Dr. Gunn ever tried any of his treatments himself or if he was in annoyingly good health until the end of his days?"

And, here's an Amazon review of "Gunn's new family physician, or, Home book of health: Forming a complete household guide" (1865):

"I highly recommend this book for any Civil War reenactor who is interested in the medical side of the war. It has a wealth of information that will round out your impression and persona as you reenact your nursing or doctoring role.
It covers everything from obstetrics to causes of disease and their treatments. It includes detailed prescriptions and how to make them."

So, anyway, can anyone guess why Twain gave the wrong title? By accident or on purpose? I can't.

That Derek
2019-09-23 21:37:35 UTC
My profoundest empathies, Ms. Leonona ... looks like "Ne'er the Twain shall meet."
2019-09-23 22:11:57 UTC
Maybe so it would sound more like what a simple kid that age might say. Or maybe at the time, it was a commonly used short-hand term for that book. Or both. There were no quotes around that or the ‘Speeches of Henry Clay’ book that was also not precise.