Documentary Editing, Association for


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Documentary Editing: Journal of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 32: 2011 ISSN 0196-7134


© 2011 The Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


Contrary to the assertions of the marketing department of the Paris Review, the celebrity interview was not invented in 1953. In fact, the first interviews with prominent authors began to appear in American newspapers in the early 1870s. No interviews with Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, each of whom died before or during the Civil War, are known to exist. Charles Dickens sat for no interviews during any of his U.S. speaking tours, including the final one in 1867–1868. The first known interview with Mark Twain appeared in 1871, and the second was not published until November 1874, the same month Twain satirized his experiences with reporters in “An Encounter with an Interviewer”: “You know it is the custom now,” he wrote, “to interview any man who has become notorious.” During his “Twins of Genius” tour with George Washington Cable in 1884–1885, Twain was approached by reporters for comments some four or five times a month, but he was interviewed at virtually every stop on his round-the-world speaking tour a decade later. As Oscar Wilde insisted in January 1882, during the first days of his visit to the U.S., “interviewers are a product of American civilization, whose acquaintance I am making with tolerable speed.” Wilde later added that the genre was unique to the American press: “We have no interviewing in England.”