When Eve’s Diary, a humorous story about Adam and Eve, came out in 1906, it was banned by the library in Charlton, Mass, because of its allegedly lewd illustrations, portraying our primal ancestors naked.
Mark Twain commented in a letter: “The truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.”
The story of Eve’s submission underpins the status quo even today, arguably. Mark Twain’s open and humorous exploration of the story, which offers Eve individuality, remains even today provocative– beneficially and enjoyably so.
In my book, Mark Twain was a feminist. He pokes fun at romantic love — which diminishes autonomy – and depicts Eve as the behind-the-scenes intellectual, who makes excuses for her dumb husband.
Here are some excerpts from the story, — the full text of which, with its controversial illustrations, is available here through Project Gutenberg: Eve’s Diary
Mark Twain’s Eve exhibits her first self-awareness. As the first woman, she is an experiment. [Note how she is the first scientist, who understands God’s intentions intuitively].
SATURDAY.—I am almost a whole day old, now. I arrived yesterday. That is as it seems to me. And it must be so, for if there was a day-before-yesterday I was not there when it happened, or I should remember it. It could be, of course, that it did happen, and that I was not noticing. Very well; I will be very watchful now, and if any day-before-yesterdays happen I will make a note of it. It will be best to start right and not let the record get confused, for some instinct tells me that these details are going to be important to the historian some day. For I feel like an experiment, I feel exactly like an experiment; it would be impossible for a person to feel more like an experiment than I do, and so I am coming to feel convinced that that is what I AM—an experiment; just an experiment, and nothing more.
Like an artist and aesthetician, she reflects, philosophically, on the beauty of nature, although nature is as yet imperfect, since the moon gets loose and the stars are sprinkled unevenly through the skies:
This majestic new world is indeed a most noble and beautiful work. And certainly marvelously near to being perfect, notwithstanding the shortness of the time. There are too many stars in some places and not enough in others, but that can be remedied presently, no doubt. The moon got loose last night, and slid down and fell out of the scheme, a very great loss; it breaks my heart to think of it. There isn’t another thing among the ornaments and decorations that is comparable to it for beauty and finish. It should have been fastened better. If we can only get it back again
She and Adam, the other “experiment,” get to know each other and she takes on the job of naming the animals, since Adam is rather incompetent to do so. [Here’s the prototype for wives who write books for their husbands without getting the credit? Or is Eve’s intellectual superiority spotlighted?].
During the last day or two I have taken all the work of naming things off his hands, and this has been a great relief to him, for he has no gift in that line, and is evidently very grateful. He can’t think of a rational name to save him, but I do not let him see that I am aware of his defect. Whenever a new creature comes along I name it before he has time to expose himself by an awkward silence.
Eve’s first romantic sorrow: [She is overly sensitive to rejection or approval by the opposite sex]
THURSDAY.—my first sorrow. Yesterday he avoided me and seemed to wish I would not talk to him. I could not believe it, and thought there was some mistake, for I loved to be with him, and loved to hear him talk, and so how could it be that he could feel unkind toward me when I had not done anything? But at last it seemed true, so I went away and sat lonely in the place where I first saw him the morning that we were made and I did not know what he was and was indifferent about him; but now it was a mournful place, and every little thing spoke of him, and my heart was very sore. I did not know why very clearly, for it was a new feeling; I had not experienced it before, and it was all a mystery, and I could not make it out.
And happiness returns: [Will her moods remain dependent on a male’s attention?]
SUNDAY.—It is pleasant again, now, and I am happy; but those were heavy days; I do not think of them when I can help it.
Then, after the Fall (the eating of the Apple) and being banished from the garden, Eve reflects on her love for Adam, which is all about attraction (masculinity, sex), for he is so MASCULINE:
It is not on account of his industry that I love him—no, it is not that. I think he has it in him, and I do not know why he conceals it from me. It is my only pain. Otherwise he is frank and open with me, now. I am sure he keeps nothing from me but this. It grieves me that he should have a secret from me, and sometimes it spoils my sleep, thinking of it, but I will put it out of my mind; it shall not trouble my happiness, which is otherwise full to overflowing.
It is not on account of his education that I love him—no, it is not that. He is self-educated, and does really know a multitude of things, but they are not so. It is not on account of his chivalry that I love him—no, it is not that. He told on me, but I do not blame him; it is a peculiarity of sex, I think, and he did not make his sex. Of course I would not have told on him, I would have perished first; but that is a peculiarity of sex, too, and I do not take credit for it, for I did not make my sex.Then why is it that I love him? MERELY BECAUSE HE IS MASCULINE, I think.
Yes, I think I love him merely because he is MINE and is MASCULINE. There is no other reason, I suppose. And so I think it is as I first said: that this kind of love is not a product of reasonings and statistics. It just COMES—none knows whence—and cannot explain itself. And doesn’t need to. It is what I think. But I am only a girl, the first that has examined this matter, and it may turn out that in my ignorance and inexperience I have not got it right.
Summary: Eve’s Diary (1906): (Source: Mark Twain A-Z by R. Kent Rasmussen) “Short story written in 1905 and later slightly expanded and published as an illustrated book. Written in the form of actual diary entries, it chronicles the entire relationship of Adam and Eve. Mark Twain wrote this 6,000 word story for the 1905 Christmas issue of Harper’s Magazine. W.D. Howells and henry Alden reprinted it in a Harper collection, Their Husbands’ Wives, in March 1906. It was then illustrated by Lester Ralph and stretched to fit a 106-page book by itself in June 1906, with some additional material that Mark Twain had written for Extracts from Adam’s Diary. Mark Twain’s interest in Adam and Eve continued after he published Eve’s Diary. Several fragments later published in Letters from the Earth as ‘Papers of the Adam Family’ elaborate on Eve’s story. In two extracts from ‘Eve’s Autobiography,’ Eve looks back to the idyllic days in Eden, when she and Adam regarded themselves as scientists. Their proudest discovery was Adam’s finding that water runs downhill; however, when someone else later got credit for this discovery, Adam’s heart was broken. Eve discovered how milk got into cows, viz., through their hair. This fragment also includes ‘Interpolated Extracts from Eve’s Diary,’ which discuss Eve’s discovery that the teeth in lions suggest that they are intended to be carnivores. She and Adam make further discoveries and invent new words. Most of Mark Twain’ s ‘Adamic Diaries’ were written at least partly as burlesques of the Bible, but he seemed to have a special reverence for Eve’s Diary. The conclusion that he intended it as an homage to his recently deceased wife, Livy, is make inescapable by Adam’s comment on Even’s death: ‘Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.’ Scholars have suggested that the story’s depiction of Adam and Eve’s relationship has autobiographical undertones similar to those in the McWilliams stories. Mark Twain wanted the illustrations to be serious instead of comic, and he was delighted with Ralph’s elegant line drawings. At least one provincial library banned Eve’s Diary, however, because the illustrations depicted Adam and Eve undressed. In 1988 David Birney adopted Adam and Eve’s diaries into a single stage play in which the characters alternate their remarks. The production was broadcast on Public Television’s ‘American Playhouse’ series as The Diaries of Adam and Eve.”