In this "shirtless" photo from 1893, Mark Twain appears to have been fairly fit. Did his friend, Nicola Tesla, really invent the Bowflex?
(And I know what you're all thinking: there are no doubt scads of other writers who you Faithful Readers here would prefer to see me feature shirtless. Well, if you're reading this, you already have online access; so go use the Internet for the purpose for which it was invented, and hunt up some literary porn on your own, eh?)
Twain's photo --as noted, taken in 1883 (for what one presumes was an test-audition for the original Abercrombie & Fitch teen catalogue)-- is but one among others (including Papa Hemingway and William Faulkner) in a photo-feature slideshow designed to make lady English Lit teachers swoon.
-- Earl Merkel
From Faithful Reader Julia: "I am a lady English teacher! I'm not swooning, but I have always thought that Twain was attractive underneath his prodigious mustache. This photo makes him look surprisingly narrow in the shoulders, not to mention more hirsute than I might have guessed."
EM Response: Manscaping was not invented until 1899 --also, I believe, by Tesla-- so it is probably unfair to fault the chest-rug, Faithful Reader Julia.
But you really oughta swoon, Jules: it's Saturday night, after all. (Moreover, I'd wager Mr. Twain's shoulders are indeed at least regulation-width-- but the head that was needed to house all that genius was no doubt oversized.)
FR Julia's Riposté: "I fear my Saturday nights have gotten rather geriatric. Maybe I should make it a habit to study shirtless Twain photos."
EM Parry-'N-Thrust: (chuckle) Personally, I'm searching--currently, in vain-- for the rumored nude photos of the Algonquin Round Table group. Dorothy Parker was quite a dish, y'know... so much so that I'm willing to endure a glimpse of an in-the-buff Alexander Woollcott in the process.
Sadly, so far, only the pre-doffing sketch seems available online. I guess it will have to do, for now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Algrt.jpg