Part 18 out of 29
it--on the ground that the first part is not delicate & the last
part is indelicate. Now, there's a nice distinction for you--&
correctly stated, too, & perfectly true.
It may interest the reader to consider briefly the manner in which Mark
Twain's "editor" dealt with his manuscript, and a few pages of this
particular book remain as examples. That he was not always entirely
tractable, or at least submissive, but that he did yield, and graciously,
is clearly shown.
In one of her comments Mrs. Clemens wrote:
Page 597. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that you go too
minutely into particulars in describing the feats of the
aboriginals. I felt it in the boomerang-throwing.
And Clemens just below has written:
Boomerang has been furnished with a special train--that is, I've
turned it into "Appendix." Will that answer?
Page 1002. I don't like the "shady-principled cat that has a family
in every port."
Then I'll modify him just a little.
Page 1020. 9th line from the top. I think some other word would be
better than "stench." You have used that pretty often.
But can't I get it in anywhere? You've knocked it out every time.
Out it goes again. And yet "stench" is a noble, good word.
Page 1038. I hate to have your father pictured as lashing a slave
It's out, and my father is whitewashed.
Page 1050. 2d line from the bottom. Change breech-clout. It's a
word that you love and I abominate. I would take that and "offal"
out of the language.
You are steadily weakening the English tongue, Livy.
Page 1095. Perhaps you don't care, but whoever told you that the
Prince's green stones were rubies told an untruth. They were superb
emeralds. Those strings of pearls and emeralds were famous all over
All right, I'll make them emeralds, but it loses force. Green
rubies is a fresh thing. And besides it was one of the Prince's own
staff liars that told me.
That the book was not quite done, even after the triumphant entry of
April 13th, is shown by another note which followed something more than a
May 18, 1897. Finished the book again--addition of 30,000 words.
And to MacAlister he wrote:
I have finished the book at last--and finished it for good this
time. Now I am ready for dissipation with a good conscience. What
night will you come down & smoke?
His book finished, Clemens went out rather more freely, and one evening
allowed MacAlister to take him around to the Savage Club. There happened
to be a majority of the club committee present, and on motion Mark Twain
was elected an honorary life member. There were but three others on whom
this distinction had been conferred--Stanley, Nansen, and the Prince of
Wales. When they told Mark Twain this he said:
"Well, it must make the Prince feel mighty fine."--[In a volume of Savage
Club anecdotes the date of Mark Twain's election to honorary membership
is given as 1899. Clemens's notebook gives it in 1897.]
He did not intend to rest; in another entry we find:
May 23, 1897. Wrote first chapter of above story to-day.
The "above story" is a synopsis of a tale which he tried then and later
in various forms--a tale based on a scientific idea that one may dream an
episode covering a period of years in minute detail in what, by our
reckoning, may be no more than a few brief seconds. In this particular
form of the story a man sits down to write some memories and falls into a
doze. The smell of his cigarette smoke causes him to dream of the
burning of his home, the destruction of his family, and of a long period
of years following. Awakening a few seconds later, and confronted by his
wife and children, he refuses to believe in their reality, maintaining
that this condition, and not the other, is the dream. Clemens tried the
psychological literary experiment in as many as three different ways
during the next two or three years, and each at considerable length; but
he developed none of them to his satisfaction, or at least he brought
none of them to conclusion. Perhaps the most weird of these attempts,
and the most intensely interesting, so long as the verisimilitude is
maintained, is a dream adventure in a drop of water which, through an
incredible human reduction to microbic, even atomic, proportions, has
become a vast tempestuous sea. Mark Twain had the imagination for these
undertakings and the literary workmanship, lacking only a definite plan
for development of his tale--a lack which had brought so many of his
literary ventures to the rocks.
A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND
The Queen's Jubilee came along--June 22, 1897, being the day chosen to
celebrate the sixty-year reign. Clemens had been asked to write about it
for the American papers, and he did so after his own ideas, illustrating
some of his material with pictures of his own selection. The selections
were made from various fashion-plates, which gave him a chance to pick
the kind of a prince or princess or other royal figure that he thought
fitted his description without any handicap upon his imagination. Under
his portrait of Henry V. (a very correctly dressed person in top hat and
overcoat) he wrote:
In the original the King has a crown on. That is no kind of a thing
for the King to wear when he has come home on business. He ought to
wear something he can collect taxes in. You will find this
represenation of Henry V. active, full of feeling, full of
sublimity. I have pictured him looking out over the battle of
Agincourt and studying up where to begin.
Mark Twain's account of the Jubilee probably satisfied most readers; but
James Tufts, then managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner, had a
rather matter-of-fact Englishman on the staff, who, after reading the
"Well, Jim Tufts, I hope you are satisfied with that Mark Twain cable."
"Why, yes," said Tufts; "aren't you?"
"I should say not. Just look what he says about the number of soldiers.
He says, 'I never saw so many soldiers anywhere except on the stage of a
theater.' Why, Tufts, don't you know that the soldiers in the theater are
the same old soldiers marching around and around? There aren't more than
a hundred soldiers in the biggest army ever put on the stage."
It was decided to vacate the house in Tedworth Square and go to
Switzerland for the summer. Mrs. Crane and Charles Langdon's daughter,
Julia, joined them early in July, and they set out for Switzerland a few
days later. Just before leaving, Clemens received an offer from Pond of
fifty thousand dollars for one hundred and twenty-five nights on the
platform in America. It was too great a temptation to resist at once,
and they took it under advisement. Clemens was willing to accept, but
Mrs. Clemens opposed the plan. She thought his health no longer equal to
steady travel. She believed that with continued economy they would be
able to manage their problem without this sum. In the end the offer was
They journeyed to Switzerland by way of Holland and Germany, the general
destination being Lucerne. They did not remain there, however. They
found a pretty little village farther up the lake--Weggis, at the foot of
the Rigi--where, in the Villa Buhlegg, they arranged for the summer at
very moderate rates indeed. Weggis is a beautiful spot, looking across
the blue water to Mount Pilatus, the lake shore dotted with white
villages. Down by the water, but a few yards from the cottage--for it
was scarcely a villa except by courtesy--there was a little inclosure,
and a bench under a large tree, a quiet spot where Clemens often sat to
rest and smoke. The fact is remembered there to-day, and recorded. A
small tablet has engraved upon it "Mark Twain Ruhe." Farther along the
shore he discovered a neat, white cottage were some kindly working-people
agreed to rent him an upper room for a study. It was a sunny room with
windows looking out upon the lake, and he worked there steadily. To
Twichell he wrote:
This is the charmingest place we have ever lived in for repose and
restfulness, superb scenery whose beauty undergoes a perpetual change
from one miracle to another, yet never runs short of fresh surprises and
new inventions. We shall always come here for the summers if we can.
The others have climbed the Rigi, he says, and he expects to some day if
Twichell will come and climb it with him. They had climbed it together
during that summer vagabondage, nineteen years before.
He was full of enthusiasm over his work. To F. H. Skrine, in London, he
wrote that he had four or five books all going at once, and his note-book
contains two or three pages merely of titles of the stories he proposed
But of the books begun that summer at Weggis none appears to have been
completed. There still exists a bulky, half-finished manuscript about
Tom and Huck, most of which was doubtless written at this time, and there
is the tale already mentioned, the "dream" story; and another tale with a
plot of intricate psychology and crime; still another with the burning
title of "Hell-Fire Hotchkiss"--a, story of Hannibal life--and some short
stories. Clemens appeared to be at this time out of tune with fiction.
Perhaps his long book of travel had disqualified his invention. He
realized that these various literary projects were leading nowhere, and
one after another he dropped them. The fact that proofs of the big book
were coming steadily may also have interfered with his creative faculty.
As was his habit, Clemens formed the acquaintance of a number of the
native residents, and enjoyed talking to them about their business and
daily affairs. They were usually proud and glad of these attentions,
quick to see the humor of his remarks.
But there was an old watchmaker-an 'Uhrmacher' who remained indifferent.
He would answer only in somber monosyllables, and he never smiled.
Clemens at last brought the cheapest kind of a watch for repairs.
"Be very careful of this watch," he said. "It is a fine one."
The old man merely glared at him.
"It is not a valuable watch. It is a worthless watch."
"But I gave six francs for it in Paris."
"Still, it is a cheap watch," was the unsmiling answer. Defeat waits
somewhere for every conqueror.
Which recalls another instance, though of a different sort. On one of
his many voyages to America, he was sitting on deck in a steamer-chair
when two little girls stopped before him. One of them said,
"Are you Mr. Mark Twain?"
"Why, yes, dear, they call me that."
"Won't you please say something funny?"
And for the life of him he couldn't make the required remark.
In one of his letters to Twichell of that summer, Clemens wrote of the
arrival there of the colored jubilee singers, always favorites of his,
and of his great delight in them.
We went down to the village hotel & bought our tickets & entered the
beer-hall, where a crowd of German & Swiss men & women sat grouped
around tables with their beer-mugs in front of them--self-contained
& unimpressionable-looking people--an indifferent & unposted &
disheartening audience--& up at the far end of the room sat the
jubilees in a row. The singers got up & stood--the talking & glass-
jingling went on. Then rose & swelled out above those common
earthly sounds one of those rich chords, the secret of whose make
only the jubilees possess, & a spell fell upon that house. It was
fine to see the faces light up with the pleased wonder & surprise of
it. No one was indifferent any more; & when the singers finished
the camp was theirs. It was a triumph. It reminded me of Lancelot
riding in Sir Kay's armor, astonishing complacent knights who
thought they had struck a soft thing. The jubilees sang a lot of
pieces. Arduous & painstaking cultivation has not diminished or
artificialized their music, but on the contrary--to my surprise--has
mightily reinforced its eloquence and beauty. Away back in the
beginning--to my mind--their music made all other vocal music cheap;
& that early notion is emphasized now. It is entirely beautiful to
me; & it moves me infinitely more than any other music can. I think
that in the jubilees & their songs America has produced the
perfectest flower of the ages; & I wish it were a foreign product,
so that she would worship it & lavish money on it & go properly
crazy over it.
Now, these countries are different: they would do all that if it
were native. It is true they praise God, but that is merely a
formality, & nothing in it; they open out their whole hearts to no
As the first anniversary of Susy's death drew near the tension became
very great. A gloom settled on the household, a shadow of restraint. On
the morning of the 18th Clemens went early to his study. Somewhat later
Mrs. Clemens put on her hat and wrap, and taking a small bag left the
house. The others saw her go toward the steamer-landing, but made no
inquiries as to her destination. They guessed that she would take the
little boat that touched at the various points along the lake shore.
This she did, in fact, with no particular plan as to where she would
leave it. One of the landing-places seemed quiet and inviting, and there
she went ashore, and taking a quiet room at a small inn spent the day in
reading Susy's letters. It was evening when she returned, and her
husband, lonely and anxious, was waiting for her at the landing. He had
put in the day writing the beautiful poem, "In Memoriam," a strain lofty,
tender, and dirge-like-liquidly musical, though irregular in form.--[Now
included in the Uniform Edition.]
WINTER IN VIENNA
They remained two months in Weggis--until toward the end of September;
thence to Vienna, by way of Innsbruck, in the Tyrol, "where the mountains
seem more approachable than in Switzerland." Clara Clemens wished to
study the piano under Leschetizky, and this would take them to Austria
for the winter. Arriving at Vienna, they settled in the Hotel Metropole,
on the banks of the Danube. Their rooms, a corner suite, looked out on a
pretty green square, the Merzimplatz, and down on the Franz Josef quay.
A little bridge crosses the river there, over which all kinds of life are
continually passing. On pleasant days Clemens liked to stand on this
bridge and watch the interesting phases of the Austrian capital. The
Vienna humorist, Poetzl, quickly formed his acquaintance, and they
sometimes stood there together. Once while Clemens was making some
notes, Poetzl interested the various passers by asking each one--the
errand-boy, the boot-black, the chestnut-vender, cabmen, and others--to
guess who the stranger was and what he wanted. Most of them recognized
him when their attention was called, for the newspapers had proudly
heralded his arrival and his picture was widely circulated.
Clemens had scarcely arrived in Vienna, in fact, before he was pursued by
photographers, journalists, and autograph-hunters. The Viennese were his
fond admirers, and knowing how the world elsewhere had honored him they
were determined not to be outdone. The 'Neues Viener Tageblatt', a
fortnight after his arrival, said:
It is seldom that a foreign author has found such a hearty reception
in Vienna as that accorded to Mark Twain, who not only has the
reputation of being the foremost humorist in the whole civilized.
world, but one whose personality arouses everywhere a peculiar
interest on account of the genuine American character which sways
He was the guest of honor at the Concordia Club soon after his arrival,
and the great ones of Vienna assembled to do him honor. Charlemagne
Tower, then American minister, was also one of the guests. Writers,
diplomats, financiers, municipal officials, everybody in Vienna that was
worth while, was there. Clemens gave them a surprise, for when Ferdinand
Gross, Concordia president, introduced him first in English, then in
German, Mark Twain made his reply wholly in the latter language.
The paper just quoted gives us a hint of the frolic and wassail of that
old 'Festkneipe' when it says:
At 9 o'clock Mark Twain appeared in the salon, and amid a storm of
applause took his seat at the head of the table. His characteristic
shaggy and flowing mane of hair adorning a youthful countenance
attracted the attention at once of all present. After a few formal
convivial commonplaces the president of the Concordia, Mr. Ferdinand
Gross, delivered an excellent address in English, which he wound up
with a few German sentences. Then Mr. Tower was heard in praise of
his august countryman. In the course of his remarks he said he
could hardly find words enough to express his delight at the
presence of the popular American. Then followed the greatest
attraction of the evening, an impromptu speech by Mark Twain in the
German language, which it is true he has not fully mastered, but
which he nevertheless controls sufficiently well to make it
difficult to detect any harsh foreign accent. He had entitled his
speech, "Die Schrecken der Deutschen Sprache" (the terrors of the
German language). At times he would interrupt himself in English
and ask, with a stuttering smile, "How do you call this word in
German" or "I only know that in mother-tongue." The Festkneipe
lasted far into the morning hours.
It was not long after their arrival in Vienna that the friction among the
unamalgamated Austrian states flamed into a general outbreak in the
Austrian Reichsrath, or Imperial Parliament. We need not consider just
what the trouble was. Any one wishing to know can learn from Mark
Twain's article on the subject, for it is more clearly pictured there
than elsewhere. It is enough to say here that the difficulty lay mainly
between the Hungarian and German wings of the house; and in the midst of
it Dr. Otto Lecher made his famous speech, which lasted twelve hours
without a break, in order to hold the floor against the opposing forces.
Clemens was in the gallery most of the time while that speech, with its
riotous accompaniment, was in progress.--["When that house is
legislating you can't tell it from artillery practice." From Mark
Twain's report, "Stirring Times in Austria," in Literary Essays,]--He
was intensely interested. Nothing would appeal to him more than that,
unless it should be some great astronomic or geologic change. He was
also present somewhat later when a resolution was railroaded through
which gave the chair the right to invoke the aid of the military, and he
was there when the military arrived and took the insurgents in charge.
It was a very great occasion, a "tremendous episode," he says.
The memory of it will outlast all the others that exist to-day. In
the whole history of free parliament the like of it had been seen
but three times before. It takes imposing place among the world's
unforgetable things. I think that in my lifetime I have not twice
seen abiding history made before my eyes, but I know that I have
seen it once.
Wild reports were sent to the American press; among them one that Mark
Twain had been hustled out with the others, and that, having waved his
handkerchief and shouted "Hoch die Deutschen!" he had been struck by an
officer of the law. Of course nothing of the kind happened. The
sergeant-at-arms, who came to the gallery where he sat, said to a friend
who suggested that Clemens be allowed to remain:
"Oh, I know him very well. I recognize him by his pictures, and I should
be very glad to let him stay, but I haven't any choice because of the
strictness of the order."
Clemens, however, immediately ran across a London Times correspondent,
who showed him the way into the first gallery, which it seems was not
emptied, so he lost none of the exhibit.
Mark Twain's report of the Austrian troubles, published in Harper's
Magazine the following March and now included with the Literary Essays,
will keep that episode alive and important as literature when otherwise
it would have been merely embalmed, and dimly remembered, as history.
It was during these exciting political times in Vienna that a
representative of a New York paper wrote, asking for a Mark Twain
interview. Clemens replied, giving him permission to call. When the
reporter arrived Clemens was at work writing in bed, as was so much his
habit. At the doorway the reporter paused, waiting for a summons to
enter. The door was ajar and he heard Mrs. Clemens say:
"Youth, don't you think it will be a little embarrassing for him, your
being in bed?"
And he heard Mark Twain's easy, gentle, deliberate voice reply:
"Why, Livy, if you think so, we might have the other bed made up for
Clemens became a privileged character in Vienna. Official rules were
modified for his benefit. Everything was made easy for him. Once, on a
certain grand occasion, when nobody was permitted to pass beyond a
prescribed line, he was stopped by a guard, when the officer in charge
suddenly rode up:
"Let him pass," he commanded. "Lieber Gott! Don't you see it's Herr
The Clemens apartments at the Metropole were like a court, where with
those of social rank assembled the foremost authors, journalists,
diplomats, painters, philosophers, scientists, of Europe, and therefore
of the world. A sister of the Emperor of Germany lived at the Metropole
that winter and was especially cordial. Mark Twain's daily movements
were chronicled as if he had been some visiting potentate, and, as usual,
invitations and various special permissions poured in. A Vienna paper
He has been feted and dined from morn till eve. The homes of the
aristocracy are thrown open to him, counts and princes delight to do
him honor, and foreign audiences hang upon the words that fall from
his lips, ready to burst out any instant into roars of laughter.
Deaths never came singly in the Clemens family. It was on the 11th of
December, 1897, something more than a year after the death of Susy, that
Orion Clemens died, at the age of seventy-two. Orion had remained the
same to the end, sensitively concerned as to all his brother's doings,
his fortunes and misfortunes: soaring into the clouds when any good news
came; indignant, eager to lend help and advice in the hour of defeat;
loyal, upright, and generally beloved by those who knew and understood
his gentle nature. He had not been ill, and, in fact, only a few days
before he died had written a fine congratulatory letter on his brother's
success in accumulating means for the payment of his debts, entering
enthusiastically into some literary plans which Mark Twain then had in
prospect, offering himself for caricature if needed.
I would fit in as a fool character, believing, what the Tennessee
mountaineers predicted, that I would grow up to be a great man and go to
Congress. I did not think it worth the trouble to be a common great man
like Andy Johnson. I wouldn't give a pinch of snuff, little as I needed
it, to be anybody, less than Napoleon. So when a farmer took my father's
offer for some chickens under advisement till the next day I said to
myself, "Would Napoleon Bonaparte have taken under advisement till the
next day an offer to sell him some chickens?"
To his last day and hour Orion was the dreamer, always with a new plan.
It was one morning early that he died. He had seated himself at a table
with pencil and paper and was setting down the details of his latest
project when death came to him, kindly enough, in the moment of new hope.
There came also, just then, news of the death of their old Hartford
butler, George. It saddened them as if it had been a member of the
household. Jean, especially, wept bitterly.
MARK TWAIN PAYS HIS DEBTS
'Following the Equator'--[In England, More Tramps Abroad.]--had come from
the press in November and had been well received. It was a large,
elaborate subscription volume, more elaborate than artistic in
appearance. Clemens, wishing to make some acknowledgment to his
benefactor, tactfully dedicated it to young Harry Rogers:
"With recognition of what he is, and an apprehension of what he may
become unless he form himself a little more closely upon the model of the
Following the Equator was Mark Twain's last book of travel, and it did
not greatly resemble its predecessors. It was graver than the Innocents
Abroad; it was less inclined to cynicism and burlesque than the Tramp.
It was the thoughtful, contemplative observation and philosophizing of
the soul-weary, world-weary pilgrim who has by no means lost interest,
but only his eager, first enthusiasm. It is a gentler book than the
Tramp Abroad, and for the most part a pleasanter one. It is better
history and more informing. Its humor, too, is of a worthier sort, less
likely to be forced and overdone. The holy Hindoo pilgrim's "itinerary
of salvation" is one of the richest of all Mark Twain's fancies, and is
about the best thing in the book. The revised philosophies of Pudd'nhead
Wilson, that begin each chapter, have many of them passed into our daily
speech. That some of Mark Twain's admirers were disappointed with the
new book is very likely, but there were others who could not praise it
enough. James Whitcomb Riley wrote:
DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--For a solid week-night sessions--I have been glorying
in your last book-and if you've ever done anything better, stronger, or
of wholesomer uplift I can't recall it. So here's my heart and here's my
hand with all the augmented faith and applause of your proudest
countryman! It's just a hail I'm sending you across the spaces--not to
call you from your blessed work an instant, but simply to join my voice
in the universal cheer that is steadfastly going up for you.
As gratefully as delightedly,
Your abiding friend,
JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY.
Notwithstanding the belief that the sale of single subscription volumes
had about ended, Bliss did well with the new book. Thirty or forty
thousand copies were placed without much delay, and the accumulated
royalties paid into Mr. Rogers's hands. The burden of debt had become a
nightmare. Clemens wrote:
Let us begin on those debts. I cannot bear the weight any longer. It
totally unfits me for work.
This was November 10, 1897. December 29th he wrote:
Land, we are glad to see those debts diminishing. For the first time in
my life I am getting more pleasure from paying money out than pulling it
To Howells, January 3d, Clemens wrote that they had "turned the corner,"
and a month later:
We've lived close to the bone and saved every cent we could, & there's no
undisputed claim now that we can't cash. There are only two claims which
I dispute & which I mean to look into personally before I pay them. But
they are small. Both together they amount to only $12,500. I hope you
will never get the like of the load saddled onto you that was saddled
onto me 3 years ago. And yet there is such a solid pleasure in paying
the things that I reckon maybe it is worth while to get into that kind of
a hobble after all. Mrs. Clemens gets millions of delight out of it; &
the children have never uttered one complaint about the scrimping from
By the end of January, 1898, Mark Twain had accumulated enough money to
make the final payment to his creditors and stand clear of debt. At the
time of his failure he said he had given himself five years in which to
clear himself of the heavy obligation. He had achieved that result in
less than three. The world heralded it as a splendid triumph.
Miss Katharine I. Harrison, Henry Rogers's secretary, who had been in
charge of the details, wrote in her letter announcing his freedom:
"I wish I could shout it across the water to you so that you would get it
ten days ahead of this letter."
Miss Harrison's letter shows that something like thirteen thousand
dollars would remain to his credit after the last accounts were wiped
Clemens had kept his financial progress from the press, but the payment
of the final claims was distinctly a matter of news and the papers made
the most of it. Head-lines shouted it, there were long editorials in
which Mark Twain was heralded as a second Walter Scott, though it was
hardly necessary that he should be compared with anybody; he had been in
that--as in those peculiarities which had invited his disaster--just
One might suppose now that he had had enough of inventions and commercial
enterprises of every sort that is, one who did not know Mark Twain might
suppose this; but it would not be true. Within a month after the debts
were paid he had negotiated with the great Austrian inventor, Szczepanik,
and his business manager for the American rights of a wonderful carpet-
pattern machine, obtained an option for these rights at fifteen hundred
thousand dollars, and, Sellers-like, was planning to organize a company
with a capital of fifteen hundred million dollars to control carpet-
weaving industries of the world. He records in his note-book that a
certain Mr. Wood, representing the American carpet interests, called upon
him and, in the course of their conversation, asked him at what price he
would sell his option.
I declined, and got away from the subject. I was afraid he would
offer me $500,000 for it. I should have been obliged to take it,
but I was born with a speculative instinct & I did not want that
temptation put in my way.
He wrote to Mr. Rogers about the great scheme, inviting the Standard Oil
to furnish the capital for it--but it appears not to have borne the test
of Mr. Rogers's scrutiny, and is heard of no more.
Szczepanik had invented the 'Fernseher', or Telelectroscope, the machine
by which one sees at a distance. Clemens would have invested heavily in
this, too, for he had implicit faith in its future, but the 'Fernseher'
was already controlled for the Paris Exposition; so he could only employ
Szczepanik as literary material, which he did in two instances: "The
Austrian Edison Keeping School Again" and "From the London Times of
1904"--magazine articles published in the Century later in the year. He
was fond of Szczepanik and Szczepanik's backer, Mr. Kleinburg. In one of
his note-book entries he says:
Szczepanik is not a Paige. He is a gentleman; his backer, Mr. Kleinburg,
is a gentleman, too, yet is not a Clemens--that is to say, he is not an
Clemens did not always consult his financial adviser, Rogers, any more
than he always consulted his spiritual adviser, Twichell, or his literary
adviser, Howells, when he intended to commit heresies in their respective
provinces. Somewhat later an opportunity came along to buy an interest
in a preparation of skimmed milk, an invalid food by which the human race
was going to be healed of most of its ills. When Clemens heard that
Virchow had recommended this new restorative, the name of which was
plasmon, he promptly provided MacAlister with five thousand pounds to
invest in a company then organizing in London. It should be added that
this particular investment was not an entire loss, for it paid very good
dividends for several years. We shall hear of it again.
For the most part Clemens was content to let Henry Rogers do his
financiering, and as the market was low with an upward incline, Rogers
put the various accumulations into this thing and that, and presently had
some fifty thousand dollars to Mark Twain's credit, a very comfortable
balance for a man who had been twice that amount in debt only a few years
before. It has been asserted most strenuously, by those in a position to
know least about the matter, that Henry Rogers lent, and even gave, Mark
Twain large sums, and pointed out opportunities whereby he could make
heavily by speculation. No one of these statements is true. Mr. Rogers
neither lent nor gave Mark Twain money for investment, and he never
allowed him to speculate when he could prevent it. He invested for him
wisely, but he never bought for him a share of stock that he did not have
the money in hand to pay for in full-money belonging to and earned by
Clemens himself. What he did give to Mark Twain was his priceless
counsel and time--gifts more precious than any mere sum of money--boons
that Mark Twain could accept without humiliation. He did accept them and
was unceasingly grateful.--[Mark Twain never lost an opportunity for
showing his gratitude to Henry Rogers. The reader is referred to
Appendix T, at the end of the last volume, for a brief tribute which
Clemens prepared in 1902. Mr. Rogers would not consent to its
SOCIAL LIFE IN VIENNA
Clemens, no longer worried about finances and full of ideas and
prospects, was writing now at a great rate, mingling with all sorts of
social events, lecturing for charities, and always in the lime-light.
I have abundant peace of mind again--no sense of burden. Work is become
a pleasure--it is not labor any longer.
He was the lion of the Austrian capital, and it was natural that he
should revel in his new freedom and in the universal tribute. Mrs.
Clemens wrote that they were besieged with callers of every description:
Such funny combinations are here sometimes: one duke, several
counts, several writers, several barons, two princes, newspaper
women, etc. I find so far, without exception, that the high-up
aristocracy are simple and cordial and agreeable.
When Clemens appeared as a public entertainer all society turned out to
hear him and introductions were sought by persons of the most exclusive
rank. Once a royal introduction led to an adventure. He had been giving
a charity reading in Vienna, and at the end of it was introduced, with
Mrs. Clemens, to her Highness, Countess Bardi, a princess of the
Portuguese royal house by marriage and sister to the Austrian Archduchess
Maria Theresa. They realized that something was required after such an
introduction; that, in fact, they must go within a day or two and pay
their respects by writing their names in the visitors' book, kept in a
sort of anteroom of the royal establishment. A few days later, about
noon, they drove to the archducal palace, inquired their way to the royal
anteroom, and informed the grandly uniformed portier that they wished to
write their names in the visitors' book. The portier did not produce the
book, but summoned a man in livery and gold lace and directed him to take
them up-stairs, remarking that her Royal Highness was out, but would be
in presently. They protested that her Royal Highness was not looking for
them, that they were not calling, but had merely come to sign the
visitors' book, but he said:
"You are Americans, are you not?"
"Yes, we are Americans."
"Then you are expected. Please go up-stairs."
Mrs. Clemens said:
"Oh no, we are not expected; there is some mistake. Please let us sign
the book and we will go away."
But it was no use. He insisted that her Royal Highness would be back in
a very little while; that she had commanded him to say so and that they
must wait. They were shown up-stairs, Clemens going willingly enough,
for he scented an adventure; but Mrs. Clemens was far from happy. They
were taken to a splendid drawing-room, and at the doorway she made her
last stand, refusing to enter. She declared that there was certainly
some mistake, and begged them to let her sign her name in the book and
go, without parleying. It was no use. Their conductor insisted that
they remove their wraps and sit down, which they finally did--Mrs.
Clemens miserable, her husband in a delightful state of anticipation.
Writing of it to Twichell that night he said:
I was hoping and praying that the Princess would come and catch us
up there, & that those other Americans who were expected would
arrive and be taken as impostors by the portier & be shot by the
sentinels & then it would all go into the papers & be cabled all
over the world & make an immense stir and be perfectly lovely.
Livy was in a state of mind; she said it was too theatrically
ridiculous & that I would never be able to keep my mouth shut; that
I would be sure to let it out & it would get into the papers, & she
tried to make me promise.
"Promise what?" I said.
"To be quiet about this."
"Indeed I won't; it's the best thing ever happened. I'll tell it
and add to it & I wish Joe & Howells were here to make it perfect; I
can't make all the rightful blunders by myself--it takes all three
of us to do justice to an opportunity like this. I would just like
to see Howells get down to his work & explain & lie & work his
futile & inventionless subterfuges when that Princess comes raging
in here & wanting to know."
But Livy could not hear fun--it was not a time to be trying to be
funny. We were in a most miserable & shameful situation, & it----
Just then the door spread wide & our Princess & 4 more & 3 little
Princes flowed in! Our Princess & her sister, the Archduchess Maria
Theresa (mother to the imperial heir & to the a young girl
Archduchesses present, & aunt to the 3 little Princes), & we shook
hands all around & sat down & had a most sociable time for half an
hour, & by & by it turned out that we were the right ones & had been
sent for by a messenger who started too late to catch us at the
hotel. We were invited for a o'clock, but we beat that arrangement
by an hour & a half.
Wasn't it a rattling good comedy situation? Seems a kind of pity we
were the right ones. It would have been such nuts to see the right
ones come and get fired out, & we chatting along comfortably &
nobody suspecting us for impostors.
Mrs. Clemens to Mrs. Crane:
Of course I know that I should have courtesied to her Imperial
Majesty & not quite so deep to her Royal Highness, and that Mr.
Clemens should have kissed their hands; but it was all so unexpected
that I had no time to prepare, and if I had had I should not have
been there; I only went in to help Mr. C. with my bad German. When
our minister's wife is going to be presented to the Archduchess she
practises her courtesying beforehand.
They had met royalty in simple American fashion and no disaster had
We have already made mention of the distinguished visitors who gathered
in the Clemens apartments at the Hotel Metropole. They were of many
nations and ranks. It was the winter in London of twenty-five years
before over again. Only Mark Twain was not the same. Then he had been
unsophisticated, new, not always at his ease; now he was the polished
familiar of courts and embassies--at home equally with poets and princes,
authors and ambassadors and kings. Such famous ones were there as
Vereshchagin, Leschetizky, Mark Hambourg, Dvorak, Lenbach, and Jokai,
with diplomats of many nations. A list of foreign names may mean little
to the American reader, but among them were Neigra, of Italy; Paraty, of
Portugal; Lowenhaupt, of Sweden; and Ghiki, of Rumania. The Queen of
Rumania, Carmen Sylva, a poetess in her own right, was a friend and warm
admirer of Mark Twain. The Princess Metternich, and Madame de
Laschowska, of Poland, were among those who came, and there were Nansen
and his wife, and Campbell-Bannerman, who was afterward British Premier.
Also there was Spiridon, the painter, who made portraits of Clara Clemens
and her father, and other artists and potentates--the list is too long.
Those were brilliant, notable gatherings and are remembered in Vienna
today. They were not always entirely harmonious, for politics was in the
air and differences of opinion were likely to be pretty freely expressed.
Clemens and his family, as Americans, did not always have a happy time of
it. It was the eve of the Spanish American War and most of continental
Europe sided with Spain. Austria, in particular, was friendly to its
related nation; and from every side the Clemenses heard how America was
about to take a brutal and unfair advantage of a weaker nation for the
sole purpose of annexing Cuba.
Charles Langdon and his son Jervis happened to arrive in Vienna about
this time, bringing straight from America the comforting assurance that
the war was not one of conquest or annexation, but a righteous defense of
the weak. Mrs. Clemens gave a dinner for them, at which, besides some
American students, were Mark Hambourg, Gabrilowitsch, and the great
Leschetizky himself. Leschetizky, an impetuous and eloquent talker, took
this occasion to inform the American visitors that their country was only
shamming, that Cuba would soon be an American dependency. No one not
born to the language could argue with Leschetizky. Clemens once wrote of
He is a most capable and felicitous talker-was born for an orator, I
think. What life, energy, fire in a man past 70! & how he does play! He
is easily the greatest pianist in the world. He is just as great & just
as capable today as ever he was.
Last Sunday night, at dinner with us, he did all the talking for 3 hours,
and everybody was glad to let him. He told his experiences as a
revolutionist 50 years ago in '48, & his battle-pictures were
magnificently worded. Poetzl had never met him before. He is a talker
himself & a good one--but he merely sat silent & gazed across the table
at this inspired man, & drank in his words, & let his eyes fill & the
blood come & go in his face & never said a word.
Whatever may have been his doubts in the beginning concerning the Cuban
War, Mark Twain, by the end of May, had made up his mind as to its
justice. When Theodore Stanton invited him to the Decoration Day banquet
to be held in Paris, he replied:
I thank you very much for your invitation and I would accept if I were
foot-free. For I should value the privilege of helping you do honor to
the men who rewelded our broken Union and consecrated their great work
with their lives; and also I should like to be there to do, homage to our
soldiers and sailors of today who are enlisted for another most righteous
war, and utter the hope that they may make short and decisive work of it
and leave Cuba free and fed when they face for home again. And finally I
should like to be present and see you interweave those two flags which,
more than any others, stand for freedom and progress in the earth-flags
which represent two kindred nations, each great and strong by itself,
competent sureties for the peace of the world when they stand together.
That is to say, the flags of England and America. To an Austrian friend
he emphasized this thought:
The war has brought England and America close together--and to my mind
that is the biggest dividend that any war in this world has ever paid.
If this feeling is ever to grow cold again I do not wish to live to see
And to Twichell, whose son David had enlisted:
You are living your war-days over again in Dave & it must be strong
pleasure mixed with a sauce of apprehension . . . .
I have never enjoyed a war, even in history, as I am enjoying this one,
for this is the worthiest one that was ever fought, so far as my
knowledge goes. It is a worthy thing to fight for one's own country. It
is another sight finer to fight for another man's. And I think this is
the first time it has been done.
But it was a sad day for him when he found that the United States really
meant to annex the Philippines, and his indignation flamed up. He said:
"When the United States sent word to Spain that the Cuban atrocities must
end she occupied the highest moral position ever taken by a nation since
the Almighty made the earth. But when she snatched the Philippines she
stained the flag."
LITERARY WORK IN VIENNA
One must wonder, with all the social demands upon him, how Clemens could
find time to write as much as he did during those Vienna days. He piled
up a great heap of manuscript of every sort. He wrote Twichell:
There may be idle people in the world, but I am not one of them.
And to Howells:
I couldn't get along without work now. I bury myself in it up to
the ears. Long hours--8 & 9 on a stretch sometimes. It isn't all
for print, by any means, for much of it fails to suit me; 50,000
words of it in the past year. It was because of the deadness which
invaded me when Susy died.
He projected articles, stories, critiques, essays, novels, autobiography,
even plays; he covered the whole literary round. Among these activities
are some that represent Mark Twain's choicest work. "Concerning the
Jews," which followed the publication of his "Stirring Times in Austria"
(grew out of it, in fact), still remains the best presentation of the
Jewish character and racial situation. Mark Twain was always an ardent
admirer of the Jewish race, and its oppression naturally invited his
sympathy. Once he wrote to Twichell:
The difference between the brain of the average Christian and that of the
average Jew--certainly in Europe--is about the difference between a
tadpole's brain & an archbishop's. It is a marvelous race; by long odds
the most marvelous race the world has produced, I suppose.
Yet he did not fail to see its faults and to set them down in his summary
of Hebrew character. It was a reply to a letter written to him by a
lawyer, and he replied as a lawyer might, compactly, logically,
categorically, conclusively. The result pleased him. To Mr. Rogers he
The Jew article is my "gem of the ocean." I have taken a world of
pleasure in writing it & doctoring it & fussing at it. Neither Jew nor
Christian will approve of it, but people who are neither Jews nor
Christian will, for they are in a condition to know the truth when they
Clemens was not given to race distinctions. In his article he says:
I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudices, and I think I
have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices.
Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is
that a man is a human being, that is enough for me; he can't be any
We gather from something that follows that the one race which he bars is
the French, and this, just then, mainly because of the Dreyfus
He also states in this article:
I have no special regard for Satan, but I can at least claim that I have
no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way on
account of his not having a fair show.
Clemens indeed always had a friendly feeling toward Satan (at least, as
he conceived him), and just at this time addressed a number of letters to
him concerning affairs in general--cordial, sympathetic, informing
letters enough, though apparently not suited for publication. A good
deal of the work done at this period did not find its way into print. An
interview with Satan; a dream-story concerning a platonic sweetheart, and
some further comment on Austrian politics, are among the condemned
Mark Twain's interest in Satan would seem later to have extended to his
relatives, for there are at least three bulky manuscripts in which he has
attempted to set down some episodes in the life of one "Young Satan," a
nephew, who appears to have visited among the planets and promoted some
astonishing adventures in Austria several centuries ago. The idea of a
mysterious, young, and beautiful stranger who would visit the earth and
perform mighty wonders, was always one which Mark Twain loved to play
with, and a nephew of Satan's seemed to him properly qualified to carry
out his intention. His idea was that this celestial visitant was not
wicked, but only indifferent to good and evil and suffering, having no
personal knowledge of any of these things. Clemens tried the experiment
in various ways, and portions of the manuscript are absorbingly
interesting, lofty in conception, and rarely worked out--other portions
being merely grotesque, in which the illusion of reality vanishes.
Among the published work of the Vienna period is an article about a
morality play, the "Master of Palmyra,"--[About play-acting, Forum,
October, 1898.]--by Adolf Wilbrandt, an impressive play presenting
Death, the all-powerful, as the principal part.
The Cosmopolitan Magazine for August published "At the Appetite-Cure," in
which Mark Twain, in the guise of humor, set forth a very sound and
sensible idea concerning dietetics, and in October the same magazine
published his first article on "Christian Science and the Book of Mrs.
Eddy." As we have seen, Clemens had been always deeply interested in
mental healing, and in closing this humorous skit he made due
acknowledgments to the unseen forces which, properly employed, through
the imagination work physical benefits:
"Within the last quarter of a century," he says, "in America, several
sects of curers have appeared under various names and have done notable
things in the way of healing ailments without the use of medicines."
Clemens was willing to admit that Mrs. Eddy and her book had benefited
humanity, but he could not resist the fun-making which certain of her
formulas and her phrasing invited. The delightful humor of the
Cosmopolitan article awoke a general laugh, in which even devout
Christian Scientists were inclined to join.--[It was so popular that
John Brisben Walker voluntarily added a check for two hundred dollars to
the eight hundred dollars already paid.]--Nothing that he ever did
exhibits more happily that peculiar literary gift upon which his fame
But there is another story of this period that will live when most of
those others mentioned are but little remembered. It is the story of
"The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg." This is a tale that in its own way
takes its place with the half-dozen great English short stories of the
world-with such stories as "The Fall of the House of Usher," by Poe;
"The Luck of Roaring Camp," by Harte; "The Man Who Would be King," by
Kipling; and "The Man Without a Country," by Hale. As a study of the
human soul, its flimsy pretensions and its pitiful frailties, it outranks
all the rest. In it Mark Twain's pessimistic philosophy concerning the
"human animal" found a free and moral vent. Whatever his contempt for a
thing, he was always amused at it; and in this tale we can imagine him a
gigantic Pantagruel dangling a ridiculous manikin, throwing himself back
and roaring out his great bursting guffaws at its pitiful antics. The
temptation and the downfall of a whole town was a colossal idea, a
sardonic idea, and it is colossally and sardonically worked out.
Human weakness and rotten moral force were never stripped so bare or so
mercilessly jeered at in the marketplace. For once Mark Twain could hug
himself with glee in derision of self-righteousness, knowing that the
world would laugh with him, and that none would be so bold as to gainsay
his mockery. Probably no one but Mark Twain ever conceived the idea of
demoralizing a whole community--of making its "nineteen leading citizens"
ridiculous by leading them into a cheap, glittering temptation, and
having them yield and openly perjure themselves at the very moment when
their boasted incorruptibility was to amaze the world. And it is all
wonderfully done. The mechanism of the story is perfect, the drama of it
is complete. The exposure of the nineteen citizens in the very sanctity
of the church itself, and by the man they have discredited, completing
the carefully prepared revenge of the injured stranger, is supreme in its
artistic triumph. "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" is one of the
mightiest sermons against self-righteousness ever preached. Its
philosophy, that every man is strong until his price is named; the
futility of the prayer not to be led into temptation, when it is only by
resisting temptation that men grow strong--these things blaze out in a
way that makes us fairly blink with the truth of them.
It is Mark Twain's greatest short story. It is fine that it should be
that, as well as much more than that; for he was no longer essentially a
story-teller. He had become more than ever a moralist and a sage.
Having seen all of the world, and richly enjoyed and deeply suffered at
its hands, he sat now as in a seat of judgment, regarding the passing
show and recording his philosophies.
AN IMPERIAL TRAGEDY
For the summer they went to Kaltenleutgeben, just out of Vienna, where
they had the Villa Paulhof, and it was while they were there, September
10, 1898, that the Empress Elizabeth of Austria was assassinated at
Geneva by an Italian vagabond, whose motive seemed to have been to gain
notoriety. The news was brought to them one evening, just at supper-
time, by Countess Wydenbouck-Esterhazy.
Clemens wrote to Twichell:
That good & unoffending lady, the Empress, is killed by a madman, &
I am living in the midst of world-history again. The Queen's
Jubilee last year, the invasion of the Reichsrath by the police, &
now this murder, which will still be talked of & described & painted
a thousand years from now. To have a personal friend of the wearer
of two crowns burst in at the gate in the deep dusk of the evening &
say, in a voice broken with tears, "My God! the Empress is
murdered," & fly toward her home before we can utter a question--
why, it brings the giant event home to you, makes you a part of it &
personally interested; it is as if your neighbor Antony should come
flying & say, "Caesar is butchered--the head of the world is
Of course there is no talk but of this. The mourning is universal and
genuine, the consternation is stupefying. The Austrian Empire is being
draped with black. Vienna will be a spectacle to see by next Saturday,
when the funeral cortege marches.
Clemens and the others went into Vienna for the funeral ceremonies and
witnessed them from the windows of the new Krantz Hotel, which faces the
Capuchin church where the royal dead lie buried. It was a grandly
impressive occasion, a pageant of uniforms of the allied nations that
made up the Empire of Austria. Clemens wrote of it at considerable
length, and sent the article to Mr. Rogers to offer to the magazines.
Later, however, he recalled it just why is not clear. In one place he
Twice the Empress entered Vienna in state; the first time was in
1854, when she was a bride of seventeen, & when she rode in measureless
pomp through a world of gay flags & decorations down the streets, walled
on both hands with the press of shouting & welcoming subjects; & the
second time was last Wednesday, when she entered the city in her coffin,
& moved down the same streets in the dead of night under waving black
flags, between human walls again, but everywhere was a deep stillness now
& a stillness emphasized rather than broken by the muffled hoofbeats of
the long cavalcade over pavements cushioned with sand, & the low sobbing
of gray-headed women who had witnessed the first entrance, forty-four
years before, when she & they were young & unaware.... She was so
blameless--the Empress; & so beautiful in mind & heart, in person &
spirit; & whether with the crown upon her head, or without it & nameless,
a grace to the human race, almost a justification of its creation; would
be, indeed, but that the animal that struck her down re-establishes the
They passed a quiet summer at Kaltenleutgeben. Clemens wrote some
articles, did some translating of German plays, and worked on his
"Gospel," an elaboration of his old essay on contenting one's soul
through selfishness, later to be published as 'What is Man?' A. C.
Dunham and Rev. Dr. Parker, of Hartford, came to Vienna, and Clemens
found them and brought them out to Kaltenleutgeben and read them chapters
of his doctrines, which, he said, Mrs. Clemens would not let him print.
Dr. Parker and Dunham returned to Hartford and reported Mark Twain more
than ever a philosopher; also that he was the "center of notability and
his house a court."
THE SECOND WINTER IN VIENNA
The Clemens family did not return to the Metropole for the winter, but
went to the new Krantz, already mentioned, where they had a handsome and
commodious suite looking down on the Neuer Markt and on the beautiful
facade of the Capuchin church, with the great cathedral only a step away.
There they passed another brilliant and busy winter. Never in Europe had
they been more comfortably situated; attention had been never more
lavishly paid to them. Their drawing-room was a salon which acquired the
name of the "Second Embassy." Clemens in his note-book wrote:
During 8 years now I have filled the position--with some credit, I trust,
of self-appointed ambassador-at-large of the United States of America--
Which was a joke; but there was a large grain of truth in it, for Mark
Twain, more than any other American in Europe, was regarded as typically
representing his nation and received more lavish honors.
It had become the fashion to consult him on every question of public
interest, for he was certain to say something worth printing, whether
seriously or otherwise. When the Tsar of Russia proposed the disarmament
of the nations William T. Stead, editor of the Review of Reviews, wrote
for Mark Twain's opinion. He replied:
DEAR MR. STEADY,--The Tsar is ready to disarm. I am ready to disarm.
Collect the others; it should not be much of a task now.
He was on a tide of prosperity once more, one that was to continue now
until the end. He no longer had any serious financial qualms. He could
afford to be independent. He refused ten thousand dollars for a tobacco
indorsement, though he liked the tobacco well enough; and he was aware
that even royalty was willing to put a value on its opinions. He
declined ten thousand dollars a year for five years to lend his name as
editor of a humorous periodical, though there was no reason to suppose
that the paper would be otherwise than creditably conducted. He declined
lecture propositions from Pond at the rate of about one a month. He
could get along without these things, he said, and still preserve some
remnants of self-respect. In a letter to Rogers he said:
Pond offers me $10,000 for 10 nights, but I do not feel strongly tempted.
Mrs. Clemens ditto.
Early in 1899 he wrote to Howells that Mrs. Clemens had proved to him
that they owned a house and furniture in Hartford, that his English and
American copyrights paid an income on the equivalent of two hundred
thousand dollars, and that they had one hundred and seven thousand
dollars' accumulation in the bank.
"I have been out and bought a box of 6c. cigars," he says; "I was smoking
4 1/2c. before."
The things that men are most likely to desire had come to Mark Twain, and
no man was better qualified to rejoice in them. That supreme, elusive
thing which we call happiness might have been his now but for the tragedy
of human bereavement and the torture of human ills. That he did rejoice
--reveled indeed like a boy in his new fortunes, the honors paid him, and
in all that gay Viennese life-there is no doubt. He could wave aside
care and grief and remorse, forget their very existence, it seemed; but
in the end he had only driven them ahead a little way and they waited by
his path. Once, after reciting his occupations and successes, he wrote:
All these things might move and interest one. But how, desperately
more I have been moved to-night by the thought of a little old copy
in the nursery of 'At the Back of the North Wind'. Oh, what happy
days they were when that book was read, and how Susy loved it!...
Death is so kind, benignant, to whom he loves, but he goes by us
others & will not look our way.
And to Twichell a few days later:
A Hartford with no Susy in it--& no Ned Bunce!--It is not the city
of Hartford, it is the city of Heartbreak.... It seems only a few
weeks since I saw Susy last--yet that was 1895 & this is 1899....
My work does not go well to-day. It failed yesterday--& the day
before & the day before that. And so I have concluded to put the
MS. in the waste-basket & meddle with some other subject. I was
trying to write an article advocating the quadrupling of the
salaries of our ministers & ambassadors, & the devising of an
official dress for them to wear. It seems an easy theme, yet I
couldn't do the thing to my satisfaction. All I got out of it was
an article on Monaco & Monte Carlo--matters not connected with the
subject at all. Still, that was something--it's better than a total
He finished the article--"Diplomatic Pay and Clothes"--in which he shows
how absurd it is for America to expect proper representation on the
trifling salaries paid to her foreign ministers, as compared with those
allowed by other nations.
He prepared also a reminiscent article--the old tale of the shipwrecked
Hornet and the magazine article intended as his literary debut a
generation ago. Now and again he worked on some one of the several
unfinished longer tales, but brought none of them to completion. The
German drama interested him. Once he wrote to Mr. Rogers that he had
translated "In Purgatory" and sent it to Charles Frohman, who pronounced
it "all jabber and no play."
Curious, too, for it tears these Austrians to pieces with laughter. When
I read it, now, it seems entirely silly; but when I see it on the stage
it is exceedingly funny.
He undertook a play for the Burg Theater, a collaboration with a Vienna
journalist, Siegmund Schlesinger. Schlesinger had been successful with
several dramas, and agreed with Clemens to do some plays dealing with
American themes. One of them was to be called "Die Goldgraeberin," that
is, "The Woman Gold-Miner." Another, "The Rival Candidates," was to
present the humors of female suffrage. Schlesinger spoke very little
English, and Clemens always had difficulty in comprehending rapid-fire
German. So the work did not progress very well. By the time they had
completed a few scenes of mining-drama the interest died, and they good-
naturedly agreed that it would be necessary to wait until they understood
each other's language more perfectly before they could go on with the
project. Frau Kati Schratt, later morganatic wife of Emperor Franz
Josef, but then leading comedienne of the Burg Theater, is said to have
been cast for the leading part in the mining-play; and Director-General
Herr Schlenther, head of the Burg Theater management, was deeply
disappointed. He had never doubted that a play built by Schlesinger and
Mark Twain, with Frau Schratt in the leading role, would have been a
Clemens continued the subject of Christian Science that winter. He wrote
a number of articles, mainly criticizing Mrs. Eddy and her financial
methods, and for the first time conceived the notion of a book on the
subject. The new hierarchy not only amused but impressed him. He
realized that it was no ephemeral propaganda, that its appeal to human
need was strong, and that its system of organization was masterful and
complete. To Twichell he wrote:
Somehow I continue to feel sure of that cult's colossal future.... I am
selling my Lourdes stock already & buying Christian Science trust. I
regard it as the Standard Oil of the future.
He laid the article away for the time and, as was his custom, put the
play quite out of his mind and invented a postal-check which would be far
more simple than post-office orders, because one could buy them in any
quantity and denomination and keep them on hand for immediate use, making
them individually payable merely by writing in the name of the payee. It
seems a fine, simple scheme, one that might have been adopted by the
government long ago; but the idea has been advanced in one form or
another several times since then, and still remains at this writing
unadopted. He wrote John Hay about it, remarking at the close that the
government officials would probably not care to buy it as soon as they
found they couldn't kill Christians with it.
He prepared a lengthy article on the subject, in dialogue form, making it
all very clear and convincing, but for some reason none of the magazines
would take it. Perhaps it seemed too easy, too simple, too obvious.
Great ideas, once developed, are often like that.
SPEECHES THAT WERE NOT MADE
In a volume of Mark Twain's collected speeches there is one entitled
"German for the Hungarians--Address at the jubilee Celebration of the
Emancipation of the Hungarian Press, March 26, 1899." An introductory
paragraph states that the ministers and members of Parliament were
present, and that the subject was the "Ausgleich"--i.e., the arrangement
for the apportionment of the taxes between Hungary and Austria. The
speech as there set down begins:
Now that we are all here together I think that it will be a good
idea to arrange the Ausgleich. If you will act for Hungary I shall
be quite willing to act for Austria, and this is the very time for
It is an excellent speech, full of good-feeling and good-humor, but it
was never delivered. It is only a speech that Mark Twain intended to
deliver, and permitted to be copied by a representative of the press
before he started for Budapest.
It was a grand dinner, brilliant and inspiring, and when, Mark Twain was
presented to that distinguished company he took a text from something the
introducer had said and became so interested in it that his prepared
speech wholly disappeared from his memory.
I think I will never embarrass myself with a set speech again [he wrote
Twichell]. My memory is old and rickety and cannot stand the strain.
But I had this luck. What I did was to furnish a text for a part of the
splendid speech which was made by the greatest living orator of the
European world--a speech which it was a great delight to listen to,
although I did not understand any word of it, it being in Hungarian.
I was glad I came, it was a great night, & I heard all the great men in
the German tongue.
The family accompanied Clemens to Budapest, and while there met Franz,
son of Louis Kossuth, and dined with him.
I assure you [wrote Mrs. Clemens] that I felt stirred, and I kept saying
to myself "This is Louis Kossuth's son." He came to our room one day,
and we had quite a long and a very pleasant talk together. He is a man
one likes immensely. He has a quiet dignity about him that is very
winning. He seems to be a man highly esteemed in Hungary. If I am not
mistaken, the last time I saw the old picture of his father it was
hanging in a room that we turned into a music-room for Susy at the farm.
They were most handsomely treated in Budapest. A large delegation
greeted them on arrival, and a carriage and attendants were placed
continually at their disposal. They remained several days, and Clemens
showed his appreciation by giving a reading for charity.
It was hinted to Mark Twain that spring, that before leaving Vienna, it
would be proper for him to pay his respects to Emperor Franz Josef, who
had expressed a wish to meet him. Clemens promptly complied with the
formalities and the meeting was arranged. He had a warm admiration for
the Austrian Emperor, and naturally prepared himself a little for what he
wanted to say to him. He claimed afterward that he had compacted a sort
of speech into a single German sentence of eighteen words. He did not
make use of it, however. When he arrived at the royal palace and was
presented, the Emperor himself began in such an entirely informal way
that it did no occur to his visitor to deliver his prepared German
sentence. When he returned from the audience he said:
"We got along very well. I proposed to him a plan to exterminate the
human race by withdrawing the oxygen from the air for a period of two
minutes. I said Szczepanik would invent it for him. I think it
impressed him. After a while, in the course of our talk I remembered and
told the Emperor I had prepared and memorized a very good speech but had
forgotten it. He was very agreeable about it. He said a speech wasn't
necessary. He seemed to be a most kind-hearted emperor, with a great
deal of plain, good, attractive human nature about him. Necessarily he
must have or he couldn't have unbent to me as he did. I couldn't unbend
if I were an emperor. I should feel the stiffness of the position.
Franz Josef doesn't feel it. He is just a natural man, although an
emperor. I was greatly impressed by him, and I liked him exceedingly.
His face is always the face of a pleasant man and he has a fine sense of
humor. It is the Emperor's personality and the confidence all ranks have
in him that preserve the real political serenity in what has an outside
appearance of being the opposite. He is a man as well as an emperor--an
emperor and a man."
Clemens and Howells were corresponding with something of the old-time
frequency. The work that Mark Twain was doing--thoughtful work with
serious intent--appealed strongly to Howells. He wrote:
You are the greatest man of your sort that ever lived, and there is
no use saying anything else . . . . You have pervaded your
century almost more than any other man of letters, if not more; and
it is astonishing how you keep spreading . . . . You are my
"shadow of a great rock in a weary land" more than any other writer.
Clemens, who was reading Howells's serial, "Their Silver-Wedding
journey," then running in Harper's Magazine, responded:
You are old enough to be a weary man with paling interests, but you
do not show it; you do your work in the same old, delicate &
delicious & forceful & searching & perfect way. I don't know how
you can--but I suspect. I suspect that to you there is still
dignity in human life, & that man is not a joke--a poor joke--the
poorest that was ever contrived. Since I wrote my Bible--[The
"Gospel," What is Man?]--(last year), which Mrs. Clemens loathes &
shudders over & will not listen to the last half nor allow me to
print any part of it, man is not to me the respect-worthy person he
was before, & so I have lost my pride in him & can't write gaily nor
praisefully about him any more . . . .
Next morning. I have been reading the morning paper. I do it every
morning--well knowing that I shall find in it the usual depravities
& basenesses & hypocrisies and cruelties that make up civilization &
cause me to put in the rest of the day pleading for the damnation of
the human race. I cannot seem to get my prayers answered, yet I do
He was not greatly changed. Perhaps he had fewer illusions and less
iridescent ones, and certainly he had more sorrow; but the letters to
Howells do not vary greatly from those written twenty-five years before.
There is even in them a touch of the old pretense as to Mrs. Clemens's
I mustn't stop to play now or I shall never get those helfiard letters
answered. (That is not my spelling. It is Mrs. Clemens's, I have told
her the right way a thousand times, but it does no good, she never
All through this Vienna period (as during several years before and after)
Henry Rogers was in full charge of Mark Twain's American affairs.
Clemens wrote him almost daily, and upon every matter, small or large,
that developed, or seemed likely to develop, in his undertakings. The
complications growing out of the type machine and Webster failures were
endless.--["I hope to goodness I sha'n't get you into any more jobs such
as the type-setter and Webster business and the Bliss-Harper campaigns
have been. Oh, they were sickeners." (Clemens to Rogers,
November 15, 1898.)]--The disposal of the manuscripts alone was work for
a literary agent. The consideration of proposed literary, dramatic, and
financial schemes must have required not only thought, but time. Yet Mr.
Rogers comfortably and genially took care of all these things and his own
tremendous affairs besides, and apologized sometimes when he felt,
perhaps, that he had wavered a little in his attention. Clemens once
Oh, dear me, you don't have to excuse yourself for neglecting me;
you are entitled to the highest praise for being so limitlessly
patient and good in bothering with my confused affairs, and pulling
me out of a hole every little while.
It makes me lazy, the way that Steel stock is rising. If I were
lazier--like Rice--nothing could keep me from retiring. But I work
right along, like a poor person. I shall figure up the rise, as the
figures come in, and push up my literary prices accordingly, till I
get my literature up to where nobody can afford it but the family.
(N. B.--Look here, are you charging storage? I am not going to
stand that, you know.) Meantime, I note those encouraging illogical
words of yours about my not worrying because I am to be rich when I
am 68; why didn't you have Cheiro make it 90, so that I could have
plenty of room?
It would be jolly good if some one should succeed in making a play
out of "Is He Dead?"--[Clemens himself had attempted to make a play
out of his story "Is He Dead?" and had forwarded the MS. to Rogers.
Later he wrote: "Put 'Is He Dead?' in the fire. God will bless you.
I too. I started to convince myself that I could write a play, or
couldn't. I'm convinced. Nothing can disturb that conviction."]--
From what I gather from dramatists, he will have his hands something
more than full--but let him struggle, let him struggle.
Is there some way, honest or otherwise, by which you can get a copy
of Mayo's play, "Pudd'nhead Wilson," for me? There is a capable
young Austrian here who saw it in New York and wants to translate it
and see if he can stage it here. I don't think these people here
would understand it or take to it, but he thinks it will pay us to
A couple of London dramatists want to bargain with me for the right
to make a high comedy out of the "Million-Pound Note." Barkis is
This is but one of the briefer letters. Most of them were much longer
and of more elaborate requirements. Also they overflowed with the gaiety
of good-fortune and with gratitude. From Vienna in 1899 Clemens wrote:
Why, it is just splendid! I have nothing to do but sit around and
watch you set the hen and hatch out those big broods and make my
living for me. Don't you wish you had somebody to do the same for
you?--a magician who can turn steel add copper and Brooklyn gas into
gold. I mean to raise your wages again--I begin to feel that I can
I think the hen ought to have a name; she must be called Unberufen.
That is a German word which is equivalent to it "sh! hush' don't let
the spirits hear you!" The superstition is that if you happen to
let fall any grateful jubilation over good luck that you've had or
are hoping to have you must shut square off and say "Unberufen!" and
knock wood. The word drives the evil spirits away; otherwise they
would divine your joy or your hopes and go to work and spoil your
game. Set her again--do!
Oh, look here! You are just like everybody; merely because I am
literary you think I'm a commercial somnambulist, and am not
watching you with all that money in your hands. Bless you, I've got
a description of you and a photograph in every police-office in
Christendom, with the remark appended: "Look out for a handsome,
tall, slender young man with a gray mustache and courtly manners and
an address well calculated to deceive, calling himself by the name
of Smith." Don't you try to get away--it won't work.
From the note-book:
Midnight. At Miss Bailie's home for English governesses. Two
comedies & some songs and ballads. Was asked to speak & did it.
(And rung in the "Mexican Plug.")
A Voice. "The Princess Hohenlohe wishes you to write on her fan."
"With pleasure--where is she?"
"At your elbow."
I turned & took the fan & said, "Your Highness's place is in a fairy
tale; & by & by I mean to write that tale," whereat she laughed a
happy girlish laugh, & we moved through the crowd to get to a
writing-table--& to get in a strong light so that I could see her
better. Beautiful little creature, with the dearest friendly ways &
sincerities & simplicities & sweetnesses--the ideal princess of the
fairy tales. She is 16 or 17, I judge.
Mental Telegraphy. Mrs. Clemens was pouring out the coffee this
morning; I unfolded the Neue Freie Presse, began to read a paragraph
"They've found a new way to tell genuine gems from false----"
"By the Roentgen ray!" she exclaimed.
That is what I was going to say. She had not seen the paper, &
there had been no talk about the ray or gems by herself or by me.
It was a plain case of telegraphy.
No man that ever lived has ever done a thing to please God--
primarily. It was done to please himself, then God next.
The Being who to me is the real God is the one who created this
majestic universe & rules it. He is the only originator, the only
originator of thoughts; thoughts suggested from within, not from
without; the originator of colors & of all their possible
combinations; of forces & the laws that govern them; of forms &
shapes of all forms-man has never invented a new one. He is the
only originator. He made the materials of all things; He made the
laws by which, & by which only, man may combine them into the
machines & other things which outside influences suggest to him. He
made character--man can portray it but not "create" it, for He is
the only creator.
He, is the perfect artisan, the perfect artist.
A SUMMER IN SWEDEN
A part of the tragedy of their trip around the world had been the
development in Jean Clemens of a malady which time had identified as
epilepsy. The loss of one daughter and the invalidism of another was the
burden which this household had now to bear. Of course they did not for
a moment despair of a cure for the beautiful girl who had been so cruelly
stricken, and they employed any agent that promised relief.
They decided now to go to London, in the hope of obtaining beneficial
treatment. They left Vienna at the end of May, followed to the station
by a great crowd, who loaded their compartment with flowers and lingered
on the platform waving and cheering, some of them in tears, while the
train pulled away. Leschetizky himself was among them, and Wilbrandt,
the author of the Master of Palmyra, and many artists and other notables,
"most of whom," writes Mrs. Clemens, "we shall probably never see again
in this world."
Their Vienna sojourn had been one of the most brilliant periods of their
life, as well as one of the saddest. The memory of Susy had been never
absent, and the failing health of Jean was a gathering cloud.
They stopped a day or two at Prague, where they were invited by the
Prince of Thurn and Taxis to visit his castle. It gave them a glimpse of
the country life of the Bohemian nobility which was most interesting.
The Prince's children were entirely familiar with Tom Sawyer and
Huckleberry Finn, which they had read both in English and in the
They journeyed to London by way of Cologne, arriving by the end of May.
Poultney Bigelow was there, and had recently been treated with great
benefit by osteopathy (then known as the Swedish movements), as practised
by Heinrick Kellgren at Sanna, Sweden. Clemens was all interest
concerning Kellgren's method and eager to try it for his daughter's
malady. He believed she could be benefited, and they made preparation to
spend some months at least in Sanna. They remained several weeks in
London, where they were welcomed with hospitality extraordinary. They
had hardly arrived when they were invited by Lord Salisbury to Hatfield
House, and by James Bryce to Portland Place, and by Canon Wilberforce to
Dean's Yard. A rather amusing incident happened at one of the luncheon-
parties. Canon Wilberforce was there and left rather early. When
Clemens was ready to go there was just one hat remaining. It was not
his, and he suspected, by the initials on the inside, that it belonged to
Canon Wilberforce. However, it fitted him exactly and he wore it away.
That evening he wrote:
PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL, DE VERE GARDENS,
DEAR CANON WILBERFORCE,--It is 8 P.M. During the past four hours I have
not been able to take anything that did not belong to me; during all that
time I have not been able to stretch a fact beyond the frontiers of truth
try as I might, & meantime, not only my morals have moved the
astonishment of all who have come in contact with me, but my manners have
gained more compliments than they have been accustomed to. This mystery
is causing my family much alarm. It is difficult to account for it.
I find I haven't my own hat. Have you developed any novelties of conduct
since you left Mr. Murray's, & have they been of a character to move the
concern of your friends? I think it must be this that has put me under
this happy charm; but, oh dear! I tremble for the other man!
S. L. CLEMENS.
Scarcely was this note on its way to Wilberforce when the following one
arrived, having crossed it in transit:
July 3, 1899.
DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--I have been conscious of a vivacity and facility of
expression this afternoon beyond the normal and I have just discovered
the reason!! I have seen the historic signature "Mark Twain" in my hat!!
Doubtless you have been suffering from a corresponding dullness & have
wondered why. I departed precipitately, the hat stood on my umbrella and
was a new Lincoln & Bennett--it fitted me exactly and I did not discover
the mistake till I got in this afternoon. Please forgive me. If you
should be passing this way to-morrow will you look in and change hats?
or shall I send it to the hotel?
I am, very sincerely yrs.,
20 Dean's Yard. BASIL WILBERFORCE.
Clemens was demanded by all the bohemian clubs, the White Friars, the
Vagabonds, the Savage, the Beefsteak, and the Authors. He spoke to them,
and those "Mark Twain Evenings" have become historic occasions in each of
the several institutions that gave him welcome. At the Vagabonds he told
them the watermelon story, and at the White Friars he reviewed the old
days when he had been elected to that society; "days," he said, "when all
Londoners were talking about nothing else than that they had discovered
Livingstone, and that the lost Sir Roger Tichborne had been found and
they were trying him for it."
At the Savage Club, too, he recalled old times and old friends, and
particularly that first London visit, his days in the club twenty-seven
"I was 6 feet 4 in those days," he said. "Now I am 5 feet 8 1/2 and
daily diminishing in altitude, and the shrinkage of my principles goes on
. . . . Irving was here then, is here now. Stanley is here, and Joe
Hatton, but Charles Reade is gone and Tom Hood and Harry Lee and Canon
Kingsley. In those days you could have carried Kipling around in a
lunch-basket; now he fills the world. I was young and foolish then; now
I am old and foolisher."
At the Authors Club he paid a special tribute to Rudyard Kipling, whose
dangerous illness in New York City and whose daughter's death had aroused
the anxiety and sympathy of the entire American nation. It had done much
to bring England and America closer together, Clemens said. Then he
added that he had been engaged the past eight days compiling a pun and
had brought it there to lay at their feet, not to ask for their
indulgence, but for their applause. It was this:
"Since England and America have been joined in Kipling, may they not be
severed in Twain."
Hundreds of puns had been made on his pen-name, but this was probably his
first and only attempt, and it still remains the best.
They arrived in Sweden early in July and remained until October. Jean
was certainly benefited by the Kellgren treatment, and they had for a
time the greatest hopes of her complete recovery. Clemens became
enthusiastic over osteopathy, and wrote eloquently to every one, urging
each to try the great new curative which was certain to restore universal
health. He wrote long articles on Kellgren and his science, largely
justified, no doubt, for certainly miraculous benefits were recorded;
though Clemens was not likely to underestimate a thing which appealed to
both his imagination and his reason. Writing to Twichell he concluded,
with his customary optimism over any new benefit:
Ten years hence no sane man will call a doctor except when the knife
must be used--& such cases will be rare. The educated physician
will himself be an osteopath. Dave will become one after he has
finished his medical training. Young Harmony ought to become one
now. I do not believe there is any difference between Kellgren's
science and osteopathy; but I am sending to America to find out. I
want osteopathy to prosper; it is common sense & scientific, & cures
a wider range of ailments than the doctor's methods can reach.
Twichell was traveling in Europe that summer, and wrote from Switzerland:
I seemed ever and anon to see you and me swinging along those
glorious Alpine woods, staring at the new unfoldings of splendor
that every turn brought into view-talking, talking, endlessly
talking the days through-days forever memorable to me. That was
twenty-one years ago; think of it! We were youngsters then, Mark,
and how keen our relish of everything was! Well, I can enjoy myself
now; but not with that zest and rapture. Oh, a lot of items of our
tramp travel in 1878 that I had long forgotten came back to me as we
sped through that enchanted region, and if I wasn't on duty with
Venice I'd stop and set down some of them, but Venice must be
attended to. For one thing, there is Howells's book to be read at
such intervals as can be snatched from the quick-time march on which
our rustling leader keeps us. However, in Venice so far we want to
be gazing pretty steadily from morning till night, and by the grace
of the gondola we can do it without exhaustion. Really I am drunk
But Clemens was full of Sweden. The skies there and the sunsets be
thought surpassed any he had ever known. On an evening in September he
DEAR JOE,--I've no business in here-I ought to be outside. I shall
never see another sunset to begin with it this side of heaven.
Venice? land, what a poor interest that is! This is the place to
be. I have seen about 60 sunsets here; & a good 40 of them were
away & beyond anything I had ever imagined before for dainty &
exquisite & marvelous beauty & infinite change & variety. America?
Italy? the tropics? They have no notion of what a sunset ought to
be. And this one--this unspeakable wonder! It discounts all the
rest. It brings the tears, it is so unutterably beautiful.
Clemens read a book during his stay in Sweden which interested him
deeply. It was the Open Question, by Elizabeth Robbins--a fine study of
life's sterner aspects. When he had finished he was moved to write the
author this encouraging word:
DEAR MISS ROBBINS,--A relative of Matthew Arnold lent us your 'Open
Question' the other day, and Mrs. Clemens and I are in your debt. I
am not able to put in words my feeling about the book--my admiration
of its depth and truth and wisdom and courage, and the fine and
great literary art and grace of the setting. At your age you cannot
have lived the half of the things that are in the book, nor
personally penetrated to the deeps it deals in, nor covered its wide
horizons with your very own vision--and so, what is your secret?
how have you written this miracle? Perhaps one must concede that
genius has no youth, but starts with the ripeness of age and old
Well, in any case, I am grateful to you. I have not been so
enriched by a book for many years, nor so enchanted by one. I seem
to be using strong language; still, I have weighed it.
S. L. CLEMENS.
30, WELLINGTON COURT
Clemens himself took the Kellgren treatment and received a good deal of
"I have come back in sound condition and braced for work," he wrote
MacAlister, upon his return to London. "A long, steady, faithful siege
of it, and I begin now in five minutes."
They had settled in a small apartment at 30, Wellington Court, Albert
Gate, where they could be near the London branch of the Kellgren
institution, and he had a workroom with Chatto & Windus, his publishers.
His work, however, was mainly writing speeches, for he was entertained
constantly, and it seemed impossible for him to escape. His note-book
became a mere jumble of engagements. He did write an article or a story
now and then, one of which, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It," was
made the important Christmas feature of the 'New York Sunday World.'
--[Now included in the Hadleyburg volume; "Complete Works."]
Another article of this time was the "St. Joan of Arc," which several
years later appeared in Harper's Magazine. This article was originally
written as the Introduction of the English translation of the official
record of the trials and rehabilitation of Joan, then about to be
elaborately issued. Clemens was greatly pleased at being invited to
prepare the Introduction of this important volume, but a smug person with
pedagogic proclivities was in charge of the copy and proceeded to edit
Mark Twain's manuscript; to alter its phrasing to conform to his own
ideas of the Queen's English. Then he had it all nicely typewritten, and
returned it to show how much he had improved it, and to receive thanks
and compliments. He did not receive any thanks. Clemens recorded a few
of the remarks that he made when he saw his edited manuscript:
I will not deny that my feelings rose to 104 in the shade. "The
idea! That this long-eared animal this literary kangaroo this
illiterate hostler with his skull full of axle-grease--this....."
But I stopped there, for this was not the Christian spirit.
His would-be editor received a prompt order to return the manuscript,
after which Clemens wrote a letter, some of which will go very well here.
DEAR MR. X.,--I have examined the first page of my amended
Introduction,--& will begin now & jot down some notes upon your
corrections. If I find any changes which shall not seem to me to be
improvements I will point out my reasons for thinking so. In this
way I may chance to be helpful to you, & thus profit you perhaps as
much as you have desired to profit me.
First Paragraph. "Jeanne d'Arc." This is rather cheaply pedantic,
& is not in very good taste. Joan is not known by that name among
plain people of our race & tongue. I notice that the name of the
Deity occurs several times in the brief instalment of the Trials
which you have favored me with. To be consistent, it will be
necessary that you strike out "God" & put in "Dieu." Do not neglect
Second Paragraph. Now you have begun on my punctuation. Don't you
realize that you ought not to intrude your help in a delicate art
like that with your limitations? And do you think that you have
added just the right smear of polish to the closing clause of the
Third Paragraph. Ditto.
Fourth Paragraph. Your word "directly" is misleading; it could be
construed to mean "at once." Plain clarity is better than ornate
obscurity. I note your sensitive marginal remark: "Rather unkind to
French feelings--referring to Moscow." Indeed I have not been
concerning myself about French feelings, but only about stating the
facts. I have said several uncourteous things about the French--
calling them a "nation of ingrates" in one place--but you have been
so busy editing commas & semicolons that you overlooked them &
failed to get scared at them. The next paragraph ends with a slur
at the French, but I have reasons for thinking you mistook it for a
compliment. It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like
yours. You ought to get it out & dance on it.
That would take some of the rigidity out of it. And you ought to
use it sometimes; that would help. If you had done this every now &
then along through life it would not have petrified.
Fifth Paragraph. Thus far I regard this as your masterpiece! You
are really perfect in the great art of reducing simple & dignified
speech to clumsy & vapid commonplace.
Sixth Paragraph. You have a singularly fine & aristocratic
disrespect for homely & unpretending English. Every time I use "go
back" you get out your polisher & slick it up to "return." "Return"
is suited only to the drawing-room--it is ducal, & says itself with
a simper & a smirk.
Seventh Paragraph. "Permission" is ducal. Ducal and affected.
"Her" great days were not "over," they were only half over. Didn't
you know that? Haven't you read anything at all about Joan of Arc?
The truth is you do not pay any attention; I told you on my very
first page that the public part of her career lasted two years, &
you have forgotten it already. You really must get your mind out
and have it repaired; you see yourself that it is all caked
Eighth Paragraph. She "rode away to assault & capture a
stronghold." Very well; but you do not tell us whether she
succeeded or not. You should not worry the reader with
uncertainties like that. I will remind you once more that clarity
is a good thing in literature. An apprentice cannot do better than
keep this useful rule in mind.
Ninth Paragraph. "Known" history. That word has a polish which is
too indelicate for me; there doesn't seem to be any sense in it.
This would have surprised me last week.
. . . "Breaking a lance" is a knightly & sumptuous phrase, & I
honor it for its hoary age & for the faithful service it has done in
the prize-composition of the school-girl, but I have ceased from
employing it since I got my puberty, & must solemnly object to
fathering it here. And, besides, it makes me hint that I have
broken one of those things before in honor of the Maid, an
intimation not justified by the facts. I did not break any lances
or other furniture; I only wrote a book about her.
It cost me something to restrain myself and say these smooth & half-
flattering things of this immeasurable idiot, but I did it, & have
never regretted it. For it is higher & nobler to be kind to even a
shad like him than just . . . . I could have said hundreds of
unpleasant things about this tadpole, but I did not even feel them.
Yet, in the end, he seems not to have sent the letter. Writing it had
served every purpose.
An important publishing event of 1899 was the issue by the American
Publishing Company of Mark Twain's "Complete Works in Uniform Edition."
Clemens had looked forward to the day when this should be done, perhaps
feeling that an assembling of his literary family in symmetrical dress
constituted a sort of official recognition of his authorship. Brander
Matthews was selected to write the Introduction and prepared a fine
"Biographical Criticism," which pleased Clemens, though perhaps he did
not entirely agree with its views. Himself of a different cast of mind,
he nevertheless admired Matthews.
Writing to Twichell he said:
When you say, "I like Brander Matthews, he impresses me as a man of
parts & power," I back you, right up to the hub--I feel the same
way. And when you say he has earned your gratitude for cuffing me
for my crimes against the Leather-stockings & the Vicar I ain't
making any objection. Dern your gratitude!
His article is as sound as a nut. Brander knows literature & loves
it; he can talk about it & keep his temper; he can state his case so
lucidly & so fairly & so forcibly that you have to agree with him
even when you don't agree with him; & he can discover & praise such
merits as a book has even when they are merely half a dozen diamonds
scattered through an acre of mud. And so he has a right to be a
To detail just the opposite of the above invoice is to describe me.
I haven't any right to criticize books, & I don't do it except when
I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books
madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; &
therefore I have to stop every time I begin.'--[Once at a dinner
given to Matthews, Mark Twain made a speech which consisted almost
entirely of intonations of the name "Brander Matthews" to express
various shades of human emotion. It would be hopeless, of course,
to attempt to convey in print any idea of this effort, which, by
those who heard it, is said to have been a masterpiece of
Clemens also introduced the "Uniform Edition" with an Author's Preface,
the jurisdiction of which, he said, was "restricted to furnishing reasons
for the publication of the collection as a whole."
This is not easy to do. Aside from the ordinary commercial reasons
I find none that I can offer with dignity: I cannot say without
immodesty that the books have merit; I cannot say without immodesty
that the public want a "Uniform Edition"; I cannot say without
immodesty that a "Uniform Edition" will turn the nation toward high
ideals & elevated thought; I cannot say without immodesty that a
"Uniform Edition" will eradicate crime, though I think it will. I
find no reason that I can offer without immodesty except the rather
poor one that I should like to see a "Uniform Edition" myself. It
is nothing; a cat could say it about her kittens. Still, I believe
I will stand upon that. I have to have a Preface & a reason, by law
of custom, & the reason which I am putting forward is at least
MARK TWAIN AND THE WARS
English troubles in South Africa came to a head that autumn. On the day
when England's ultimatum to the Boers expired Clemens wrote:
LONDON, 3.07 P.m., Wednesday, October 11, 1899. The time is up!
Without a doubt the first shot in the war is being fired to-day in
South Africa at this moment. Some man had to be the first to fall;
he has fallen. Whose heart is broken by this murder? For, be he
Boer or be he Briton, it is murder, & England committed it by the
hand of Chamberlain & the Cabinet, the lackeys of Cecil Rhodes & his
Forty Thieves, the South Africa Company.
Mark Twain would naturally sympathize with the Boer--the weaker side, the
man defending his home. He knew that for the sake of human progress
England must conquer and must be upheld, but his heart was all the other
way. In January, 1900, he wrote a characteristic letter to Twichell,
which conveys pretty conclusively his sentiments concerning the two wars
then in progress.
DEAR JOE,--Apparently we are not proposing to set the Filipinos free
& give their islands to them; & apparently we are not proposing to
hang the priests & confiscate their property. If these things are
so the war out there has no interest for me.
I have just been examining Chapter LXX of Following the Equator to
see if the Boer's old military effectiveness is holding out. It
reads curiously as if it had been written about the present war.
I believe that in the next chapter my notion of the Boer was rightly
conceived. He is popularly called uncivilized; I do not know why.
Happiness, food, shelter, clothing, wholesome labor, modest &
rational ambitions, honesty, kindliness, hospitality, love of
freedom & limitless courage to fight for it, composure & fortitude
in time of disaster, patience in time of hardship & privation,
absence of noise & brag in time of victory, contentment with humble
& peaceful life void of insane excitements--if there is a higher &
better form of civilization than this I am not aware of it & do not
know where to look for it. I suppose that we have the habit of
imagining that a lot of artistic & intellectual & other
artificialities must be added or it isn't complete. We & the
English have these latter; but as we lack the great bulk of those
others I think the Boer civilization is the best of the two. My
idea of our civilization is that it is a shoddy, poor thing & full
of cruelties, vanities, arrogancies, meannesses, & hypocrisies.
Provided we could get something better in the place of it. But that
is not possible perhaps. Poor as it is, it is better than real
savagery, therefore we must stand by it, extend it, & (in public)
praise it. And so we must not utter any hurtful word about England
in these days, nor fail to hope that she will win in this war, for
her defeat & fall would be an irremediable disaster for the mangy
human race. Naturally, then, I am for England; but she is
profoundly in the wrong, Joe, & no (instructed) Englishman doubts
it. At least that is my belief.
Writing to Howells somewhat later, he calls the conflict in South Africa,
a "sordid and criminal war," and says that every day he is writing (in
his head) bitter magazine articles against it.
But I have to stop with that. Even if wrong--& she is wrong England
must be upheld. He is an enemy of the human race who shall speak
against her now. Why was the human race created? Or at least why
wasn't something creditable created in place of it? . . . I talk
the war with both sides--always waiting until the other man
introduces the topic. Then I say, "My head is with the Briton, but
my heart & such rags of morals as I have are with the Boer--now we
will talk, unembarrassed and without prejudice." And so we discuss
& have no trouble.
I notice that God is on both sides in this war; thus history repeats
itself. But I am the only person who has noticed this; everybody
here thinks He is playing the game for this side, & for this side
Clemens wrote one article for anonymous publication in the Times. But
when the manuscript was ready to mail in an envelope stamped and
addressed to Moberly Bell--he reconsidered and withheld it. It still
lies in the envelope with the accompanying letter, which says:
Don't give me away, whether you print it or not. But I think you ought
to print it and get up a squabble, for the weather is just suitable.
PLASMON, AND A NEW MAGAZINE
Clemens was not wholly wedded to osteopathy. The financial interest
which he had taken in the new milk albumen, "a food for invalids," tended
to divide his faith and make him uncertain as to which was to be the
chief panacea for all ills--osteopathy or plasmon.
MacAlister, who was deeply interested in the plasmon fortunes, was
anxious to get the product adopted by the army. He believed, if he could
get an interview with the Medical Director-General, he could convince him
of its merits. Discussing the matter with Clemens, the latter said:
"MacAlister, you are going at it from the wrong end. You can't go direct
to that man, a perfect stranger, and convince him of anything. Who is
his nearest friend?"