NEW YORK — Justin Kaplan, an author and cultural historian with a taste for troublemaking who wrote a definitive, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Mark Twain and spiced the popular canon as general editor of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, died Sunday night at age 88.
Kaplan had been suffering for years from Parkinson’s disease, his wife, author Anne Bernays, said Tuesday. He died at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.
A longtime professor at Harvard University, Kaplan wrote several acclaimed biographies, notably “Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain.” Released in 1966, it was immediately praised as a landmark in Twain scholarship, a stylish and acute account of the rowdy Missouri native and Western humorist who attempted, imperfectly, to fit in with the Eastern elite. Simply using Twain as a pen name, Kaplan observed, signified a life divided against itself.
“He was bound to be tormented by the distinction and the split, always invidious, between performing humorist and man of letters, and he had no way of reconciling the two,” Kaplan wrote. “S.L. Clemens of Hartford dreaded to meet the obligations of Mark Twain, the traveling lecturer.”...