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.”

“Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain” won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. It has been praised by such authors and Twain fans as E.L. Doctorow and Tom Wolfe and remains the standard for Twain biographers. Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Thomas Lask wrote that “Not in years has there been a biography in which the complexities of human character have been exposed with such perceptiveness, with such a grasp of their contradictory nature, with such ability to keep each strand clear and yet make it contribute to the overall fabric.”

In the 1980s, he was hired as general editor of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and, with something of Twain’s spunk, set out to enliven what he believed a stuffy institution. He included quotes with four-letter words, noting that people wouldn’t be able to talk without them. He added women and minorities, worked in rock lyrics and celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and even found room for children’s television character Cookie Monster (“Me want cookie”).

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