Philip McFarland

Biography and Cultural History


Philip McFarland
The father of two grown sons, Philip McFarland was born in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended public schools before entering Phillips Exeter Academy. After graduating from Exeter, he majored in history at Oberlin College, served for 3 1/2 years in the U.S. Navy, then took a degree in English at Cambridge University. He now lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

McFarland has written two works of fiction and six of nonfiction. His most recent book, which Rowman and Littlefield Publishers brought out in July 2012, is MARK TWAIN AND THE COLONEL

For most of a decade Mark Twain lived in Europe, returning at last to America and a joyous welcome on an October night in 1900. Ten years later, in the spring of 1910, he returned once more, only days before his death, carried down the gangway as reporters on the New York piers waited, yet again, to welcome him home a final time.
In those two decades - last of the nineteenth and first of the twentieth - our modern nation was formed. Legendary names such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Edison, the Wright Brothers, and Henry Ford signified the great changes taking place in America at the time. But only one name back then rivaled Mark Twain's in the love of his countrymen. Theodore Roosevelt dominated the politics of the era the way the author of HUCKLEBERRY FINN dominated its culture. The celebrities were well acquainted, and in public neither spoke ill of the other. But Roosevelt once commented in private that he would like to skin Mark Twain alive, and the humorist recorded his own opinion (although not for public consumption just then) that Roosevelt was "far and away the worst President we have ever had."
Philip McFarland's MARK TWAIN AND THE COLONEL considers the prickly relationship between those beloved figures of our past by focusing on two clamorous decades of abiding relevance, decades to which no Americans were more responsive than were Colonel Roosevelt of San Juan Hill and Samuel L. Clemens, the humorist Mark Twain.

Some opinions of

Philip McFarland’s new book, the latest in his distinguished series of American biographies and histories, fuses two vivid stories set around the first decade of the twentieth century. One touches on the astonishing career of President Theodore Roosevelt, an eastern patrician sometimes derided as a “cowboy” and saber-rattler. He speeded the emergence of modern America from a frontier nation to a world power with far-flung interests. The second of McFarland’s stories follows the comparably astonishing career of the democrat and westerner Mark Twain, who came east from the closing western frontier and became famous as author, humorist, and universal sage. More than a century later, these two flamboyant personalities, each a distinctly native production and neither at a loss for words on every issue of their time, continue to occupy a formative place in the American style and imagination.

Justin Kaplan, author of MR. CLEMENS AND MARK TWAIN

A magnificent storyteller, Philip McFarland has told the story of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America through the intertwined lives of two of its most memorable and colorful figures: Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. Impeccably researched, beautifully written, MARK TWAIN AND THE COLONEL will delight anyone interested in American history, literature, or culture.


LIBRARY JOURNAL (12/​6/​12) chose MARK TWAIN AND THE COLONEL, with its "sweeping, engrossing narrative," as one of the Best Books of 2012.