Part 25 out of 29
address that certainly would have delighted Aldrich living, and must have
delighted him dead, if he could hear it. It was full of the most
charming humor, delicate, refreshing, and spontaneous. The audience,
that had been maintaining a proper gravity throughout, showed its
appreciation in ripples of merriment that grew presently into genuine
waves of laughter. He spoke out his regret for having worn black
clothes. It was a mistake, he said, to consider this a solemn time--
Aldrich would not have wished it to be so considered. He had been a man
who loved humor and brightness and wit, and had helped to make life merry
and delightful. Certainly, if he could know, he would not wish this
dedication of his own home to be a lugubrious, smileless occasion.
Outside, when the services were ended, the venerable juvenile writer,
J. T. Trowbridge, came up to Clemens with extended hand. Clemens said:
"Trowbridge, are you still alive? You must be a thousand years old.
Why, I listened to your stories while I was being rocked in the cradle."
"Mark, there's some mistake. My earliest infant smile was wakened with
one of your jokes."
They stood side by side against a fence in the blazing sun and were
photographed--an interesting picture.
We returned to Boston that evening. Clemens did not wish to hurry in the
summer heat, and we remained another day quietly sight-seeing, and
driving around and around Commonwealth Avenue in a victoria in the cool
of the evening. Once, remembering Aldrich, he said:
"I was just planning Tom Sawyer when he was beginning the 'Story of a Bad
Boy'. When I heard that he was writing that I thought of giving up mine,
but Aldrich insisted that it would be a foolish thing to do. He thought
my Missouri boy could not by any chance conflict with his boy of New
England, and of course he was right."
He spoke of how great literary minds usually came along in company. He
"Now and then, on the stream of time, small gobs of that thing which we
call genius drift down, and a few of these lodge at some particular
point, and others collect about them and make a sort of intellectual
island--a towhead, as they say on the river--such an accumulation of
intellect we call a group, or school, and name it.
"Thirty years ago there was the Cambridge group. Now there's been still
another, which included Aldrich and Howells and Stedman and Cable. It
will soon be gone. I suppose they will have to name it by and by."
He pointed out houses here and there of people he had known and visited
in other days. The driver was very anxious to go farther, to other and
more distinguished sights. Clemens mildly but firmly refused any
variation of the program, and so we kept on driving around and around the
shaded loop of Beacon Street until dusk fell and the lights began to
twinkle among the trees.
DEATH OF "SAM" MOFFETT
Clemens' next absence from Redding came on August 1, 1908, when the
sudden and shocking news was received of the drowning of his nephew,
Samuel E. Moffett, in the surf of the Jersey shore. Moffett was his
nearest male relative, and a man of fine intellect and talents. He was
superior in those qualities which men love--he was large-minded and
large-hearted, and of noble ideals. With much of the same sense of humor
which had made his uncle's fame, he had what was really an abnormal
faculty of acquiring and retaining encyclopedic data. Once as a child he
had visited Hartford when Clemens was laboring over his history game.
The boy was much interested, and asked permission to help. His uncle
willingly consented, and referred him to the library for his facts. But
he did not need to consult the books; he already had English history
stored away, and knew where to find every detail of it. At the time of
his death Moffett held an important editorial position on Collier's
Clemens was fond and proud of his nephew. Returning from the funeral, he
was much depressed, and a day or two later became really ill. He was in
bed for a few days, resting, he said, after the intense heat of the
journey. Then he was about again and proposed billiards as a diversion.
We were all alone one very still, warm August afternoon playing, when he
"I feel a little dizzy; I will sit down a moment."
I brought him a glass of water and he seemed to recover, but when he rose
and started to play I thought he had a dazed look. He said:
"I have lost my memory. I don't know which is my ball. I don't know
what game we are playing."
But immediately this condition passed, and we thought little of it,
considering it merely a phase of biliousness due to his recent journey.
I have been told since, by eminent practitioners, that it was the first
indication of a more serious malady.
He became apparently quite himself again and showed his usual vigor-light
of step and movement, able to skip up and down stairs as heretofore. In
a letter to Mrs. Crane, August 12th, he spoke of recent happenings:
DEAR AUNT SUE,--It was a most moving, a most heartbreaking sight,
the spectacle of that stunned & crushed & inconsolable family. I
came back here in bad shape, & had a bilious collapse, but I am all
right again, though the doctor from New York has given peremptory
orders that I am not to stir from here before frost. O fortunate
Sam Moffett! fortunate Livy Clemens! doubly fortunate Susy! Those
swords go through & through my heart, but there is never a moment
that I am not glad, for the sake of the dead, that they have
How Livy would love this place! How her very soul would steep
itself thankfully in this peace, this tranquillity, this deep
stillness, this dreamy expanse of woodsy hill & valley! You must
come, Aunt Sue, & stay with us a real good visit. Since June 26 we
have had 21 guests, & they have all liked it and said they would
To Howells, on the same day, he wrote:
Won't you & Mrs. Howells & Mildred come & give us as many days as
you can spare & examine John's triumph? It is the most satisfactory
house I am acquainted with, & the most satisfactorily situated . .
. . I have dismissed my stenographer, & have entered upon a
holiday whose other end is the cemetery.
Clemens had fully decided, by this time, to live the year round in the
retirement at Stormfield, and the house at 21 Fifth Avenue was being
dismantled. He had also, as he said, given up his dictations for the
time, at least, after continuing them, with more or less regularity, for
a period of two and a half years, during which he had piled up about half
a million words of comment and reminiscence. His general idea had been
to add portions of this matter to his earlier books as the copyrights
expired, to give them new life and interest, and he felt that he had
plenty now for any such purpose.
He gave his time mainly to his guests, his billiards, and his reading,
though of course he could not keep from writing on this subject and that
as the fancy moved him, and a drawer in one of his dressers began to
accumulate fresh though usually fragmentary manuscripts. . . He read the
daily paper, but he no longer took the keen, restless interest in public
affairs. New York politics did not concern him any more, and national
politics not much. When the Evening Post wrote him concerning the
advisability of renominating Governor Hughes he replied:
If you had asked me two months ago my answer would have been prompt
& loud & strong: yes, I want Governor Hughes renominated. But it is
too late, & my mouth is closed. I have become a citizen & taxpayer
of Connecticut, & could not now, without impertinence, meddle in
matters which are none of my business. I could not do it with
impertinence without trespassing on the monopoly of another.
Howells speaks of Mark Twain's "absolute content" with his new home, and
these are the proper words' to express it. He was like a storm-beaten
ship that had drifted at last into a serene South Sea haven.
The days began and ended in tranquillity. There were no special morning
regulations: One could have his breakfast at any time and at almost any
place. He could have it in bed if he liked, or in the loggia or
livingroom, or billiard-room. He might even have it in the diningroom,
or on the terrace, just outside. Guests--there were usually guests--
might suit their convenience in this matter--also as to the forenoons.
The afternoon brought games--that is, billiards, provided the guest knew
billiards, otherwise hearts. Those two games were his safety-valves, and
while there were no printed requirements relating to them the unwritten
code of Stormfield provided that guests, of whatever age or previous
faith, should engage in one or both of these diversions.
Clemens, who usually spent his forenoon in bed with his reading and his
letters, came to the green table of skill and chance eager for the onset;
if the fates were kindly, he approved of them openly. If not--well, the
fates were old enough to know better, and, as heretofore, had to take the
consequences. Sometimes, when the weather was fine and there were no
games (this was likely to be on Sunday afternoons), there were drives
among the hills and along the Saugatuck through the Bedding Glen.
The cat was always "purring on the hearth" at Stormfield--several cats--
for Mark Twain's fondness for this clean, intelligent domestic animal
remained, to the end, one of his happiest characteristics. There were
never too many cats at Stormfield, and the "hearth" included the entire
house, even the billiard-table. When, as was likely to happen at any
time during the game, the kittens Sinbad, or Danbury, or Billiards would
decide to hop up and play with the balls, or sit in the pockets and grab
at them as they went by, the game simply added this element of chance,
and the uninvited player was not disturbed. The cats really owned
Stormfield; any one could tell that from their deportment. Mark Twain
held the title deeds; but it was Danbury and Sinbad and the others that
possessed the premises. They occupied any portion of the house or its
furnishings at will, and they never failed to attract attention. Mark
Twain might be preoccupied and indifferent to the comings and goings of
other members of the household; but no matter what he was doing, let
Danbury appear in the offing and he was observed and greeted with due
deference, and complimented and made comfortable. Clemens would arise
from the table and carry certain choice food out on the terrace to
Tammany, and be satisfied with almost no acknowledgment by way of
appreciation. One could not imagine any home of Mark Twain where the
cats were not supreme. In the evening, as at 21 Fifth Avenue, there was
music--the stately measures of the orchestrelle--while Mark Twain smoked
and mingled unusual speculation with long, long backward dreams.
It was three months from the day of arrival in Redding that some guests
came to Stormfield without invitation--two burglars, who were carrying
off some bundles of silver when they were discovered. Claude, the
butler, fired a pistol after them to hasten their departure, and Clemens,
wakened by the shots, thought the family was opening champagne and went
to sleep again.
It was far in the night; but neighbor H. A. Lounsbury and Deputy-Sheriff
Banks were notified, and by morning the thieves were captured, though
only after a pretty desperate encounter, during which the officer
received a bullet-wound. Lounsbury and a Stormfield guest had tracked
them in the dark with a lantern to Bethel, a distance of some seven
miles. The thieves, also their pursuers, had boarded the train there.
Sheriff Banks was waiting at the West Redding station when the train came
down, and there the capture was made. It was a remarkably prompt and
shrewd piece of work. Clemens gave credit for its success chiefly to
Lounsbury, whose talents in many fields always impressed him. The
thieves were taken to the Redding Town Hall for a preliminary healing.
Subsequently they received severe sentences.
Clemens tacked this notice on his front door:
TO THE NEXT BURGLAR
There is nothing but plated ware in this house now and henceforth.
You will find it in that brass thing in the dining-room over in the
corner by the basket of kittens.
If you want the basket put the kittens in the brass thing. Do not
make a noise--it disturbs the family.
You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing which has the
umbrellas in it, chiffonnier, I think they call it, or pergola, or
something like that.
Please close the door when you go away!
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
Now came the tranquil days of the Connecticut autumn. The change of the
landscape colors was a constant delight to Mark Twain. There were
several large windows in his room, and he called them his picture-
gallery. The window-panes were small, and each formed a separate picture
of its own that was changing almost hourly. The red tones that began to
run through the foliage; the red berry bushes; the fading grass, and the
little touches of sparkling frost that came every now and then at early
morning; the background of distant blue hills and changing skies-these
things gave his gallery a multitude of variation that no art-museums
could furnish. He loved it all, and he loved to walk out in it, pacing
up and down the terrace, or the long path that led to the pergola at the
foot of a natural garden. If a friend came, he was willing to walk much
farther; and we often descended the hill in one direction or another,
though usually going toward the "gorge," a romantic spot where a clear
brook found its way through a deep and rather dangerous-looking chasm.
Once he was persuaded to descend into this fairy-like place, for it was
well worth exploring; but his footing was no longer sure and he did not
He liked better to sit on the grass-grown, rocky arch above and look down
into it, and let his talk follow his mood. He liked to contemplate the
geology of his surroundings, the record of the ageless periods of
construction required to build the world. The marvels of science always
appealed to him. He reveled in the thought of the almost limitless
stretches of time, the millions upon millions of years that had been
required for this stratum and that--he liked to amaze himself with the
sounding figures. I remember him expressing a wish to see the Grand
Canon of Arizona, where, on perpendicular walls six thousand feet high,
the long story of geological creation is written. I had stopped there
during my Western trip of the previous year, and I told him something of
its wonders. I urged him to see them for himself, offering to go with
him. He said:
"I should enjoy that; but the railroad journey is so far and I should
have no peace. The papers would get hold of it, and I would have to make
speeches and be interviewed, and I never want to do any of those things
I suggested that the railroads would probably be glad to place a private
car at his service, so that he might travel in comfort; but he shook his
"That would only make me more conspicuous."
"How about a disguise?"
"Yes," he said, "I might put on a red wig and false whiskers and change
my name, but I couldn't disguise my drawling speech and they'd find me
It was amusing, but it was rather sad, too. His fame had deprived him of
He talked of many things during these little excursions. Once he told
how he had successively advised his nephew, Moffett, in the matter of
obtaining a desirable position. Moffett had wanted to become a reporter.
Clemens devised a characteristic scheme. He said:
"I will get you a place on any newspaper you may select if you promise
faithfully to follow out my instructions."
The applicant agreed, eagerly enough. Clemens said:
"Go to the newspaper of your choice. Say that you are idle and want
work, that you are pining for work--longing for it, and that you ask no
wages, and will support yourself. All that you ask is work. That you
will do anything, sweep, fill the inkstands, mucilage-bottles, run
errands, and be generally useful. You must never ask for wages. You
must wait until the offer of wages comes to you. You must work just as
faithfully and just as eagerly as if you were being paid for it. Then
see what happens."
The scheme had worked perfectly. Young Moffett had followed his
instructions to the letter. By and by he attracted attention. He was
employed in a variety of ways that earned him the gratitude and the
confidence of the office. In obedience to further instructions, he began
to make short, brief, unadorned notices of small news matters that came
under his eye and laid them on the city editor's desk. No pay was asked;
none was expected. Occasionally one of the items was used. Then, of
course, it happened, as it must sooner or later at a busy time, that he
was given a small news assignment. There was no trouble about his
progress after that. He had won the confidence of the management and
shown that he was not afraid to work.
The plan had been variously tried since, Clemens said, and he could not
remember any case in which it had failed. The idea may have grown out of
his own pilot apprenticeship on the river, when cub pilots not only
received no salary, but paid for the privilege of learning.
Clemens discussed public matters less often than formerly, but they were
not altogether out of his mind. He thought our republic was in a fair
way to become a monarchy--that the signs were already evident. He
referred to the letter which he had written so long ago in Boston, with
its amusing fancy of the Archbishop of Dublin and his Grace of Ponkapog,
and declared that, after all, it contained something of prophecy.--[See
chap. xcvii; also Appendix M.]--He would not live to see the actual
monarchy, he said, but it was coming.
"I'm not expecting it in my time nor in my children's time, though it may
be sooner than we think. There are two special reasons for it and one
condition. The first reason is, that it is in the nature of man to want
a definite something to love, honor, reverently look up to and obey; a
God and King, for example. The second reason is, that while little
republics have lasted long, protected by their poverty and
insignificance, great ones have not. And the condition is, vast power
and wealth, which breed commercial and political corruptions, and incite
public favorites to dangerous ambitions."
He repeated what I had heard him say before, that in one sense we already
had a monarchy; that is to say, a ruling public and political aristocracy
which could create a Presidential succession. He did not say these
things bitterly now, but reflectively and rather indifferently.
He was inclined to speak unhopefully of the international plans for
universal peace, which were being agitated rather persistently.
"The gospel of peace," he said, "is always making a deal of noise, always
rejoicing in its progress but always neglecting to furnish statistics.
There are no peaceful nations now. All Christendom is a soldier-camp.
The poor have been taxed in some nations to the starvation point to
support the giant armaments which Christian governments have built up,
each to protect itself from the rest of the Christian brotherhood, and
incidentally to snatch any scrap of real estate left exposed by a weaker
owner. King Leopold II. of Belgium, the most intensely Christian
monarch, except Alexander VI., that has escaped hell thus far, has stolen
an entire kingdom in Africa, and in fourteen years of Christian endeavor
there has reduced the population from thirty millions to fifteen by
murder and mutilation and overwork, confiscating the labor of the
helpless natives, and giving them nothing in return but salvation and a
home in heaven, furnished at the last moment by the Christian priest.
"Within the last generation each Christian power has turned the bulk of
its attention to finding out newer and still newer and more and more
effective ways of killing Christians, and, incidentally, a pagan now and
then; and the surest way to get rich quickly in Christ's earthly kingdom
is to invent a kind of gun that can kill more Christians at one shot than
any other existing kind. All the Christian nations are at it. The more
advanced they are, the bigger and more destructive engines of war they
Once, speaking of battles great and small, and how important even a small
battle must seem to a soldier who had fought in no other, he said:
"To him it is a mighty achievement, an achievement with a big A, when to
a wax-worn veteran it would be a mere incident. For instance, to the
soldier of one battle, San Juan Hill was an Achievement with an A as big
as the Pyramids of Cheops; whereas, if Napoleon had fought it, he would
have set it down on his cuff at the time to keep from forgetting it had
happened. But that is all natural and human enough. We are all like
The curiosities and absurdities of religious superstitions never failed
to furnish him with themes more or less amusing. I remember one Sunday,
when he walked down to have luncheon at my house, he sat under the shade
and fell to talking of Herod's slaughter of the innocents, which he said
could not have happened.
"Tacitus makes no mention of it," he said, "and he would hardly have
overlooked a sweeping order like that, issued by a petty ruler like
Herod. Just consider a little king of a corner of the Roman Empire
ordering the slaughter of the first-born of a lot of Roman subjects.
Why, the Emperor would have reached out that long arm of his and
dismissed Herod. That tradition is probably about as authentic as those
connected with a number of old bridges in Europe which are said to have
been built by Satan. The inhabitants used to go to Satan to build
bridges for them, promising him the soul of the first one that crossed
the bridge; then, when Satan had the bridge done, they would send over a
rooster or a jackass--a cheap jackass; that was for Satan, and of course
they could fool him that way every time. Satan must have been pretty
simple, even according to the New Testament, or he wouldn't have led
Christ up on a high mountain and offered him the world if he would fall
down and worship him. That was a manifestly absurd proposition, because
Christ, as the Son of God, already owned the world; and, besides, what
Satan showed him was only a few rocky acres of Palestine. It is just as
if some one should try to buy Rockefeller, the owner of all the Standard
Oil Company, with a gallon of kerosene."
He often spoke of the unseen forces of creation, the immutable laws that
hold the planet in exact course and bring the years and the seasons
always exactly on schedule time. "The Great Law" was a phrase often on
his lips. The exquisite foliage, the cloud shapes, the varieties of
color everywhere: these were for him outward manifestations of the Great
Law, whose principle I understood to be unity--exact relations throughout
all nature; and in this I failed to find any suggestion of pessimism, but
only of justice. Once he wrote on a card for preservation:
From everlasting to everlasting, this is the law: the sum of wrong &
misery shall always keep exact step with the sum of human
No "civilization," no "advance," has ever modified these proportions
by even the shadow of a shade, nor ever can, while our race endures.
CITIZEN AND FARMER
The procession of guests at Stormfield continued pretty steadily.
Clemens kept a book in which visitors set down their names and the dates
of arrival and departure, and when they failed to attend to these matters
he diligently did it himself after they were gone.
Members of the Harper Company came up with their wives; "angel-fish" swam
in and out of the aquarium; Bermuda friends came to see the new home;
Robert Collier, the publisher, and his wife--"Mrs. Sally," as Clemens
liked to call her--paid their visits; Lord Northcliffe, who was visiting
America, came with Colonel Harvey, and was so impressed with the
architecture of Stormfield that he adopted its plans for a country-place
he was about to build in Newfoundland. Helen Keller, with Mr. and Mrs.
Macy, came up for a week-end visit. Mrs. Crane came over from Elmira;
and, behold! one day came the long-ago sweetheart of his childhood,
little Laura Hawkins--Laura Frazer now, widowed and in the seventies,
with a granddaughter already a young lady quite grown up.
That Mark Twain was not wearying of the new conditions we may gather from
a letter written to Mrs. Rogers in October:
I've grown young in these months of dissipation here. And I have
left off drinking--it isn't necessary now. Society & theology are
sufficient for me.
To Helen Allen, a Bermuda "Angel-Fish," he wrote:
We have good times here in this soundless solitude on the hilltop.
The moment I saw the house I was glad I built it, & now I am gladder
& gladder all the time. I was not dreaming of living here except in
the summer-time--that was before I saw this region & the house, you
see--but that is all changed now; I shall stay here winter & summer
both & not go back to New York at all. My child, it's as tranquil &
contenting as Bermuda. You will be very welcome here, dear.
He interested himself in the affairs and in the people of Redding. Not
long after his arrival he had gathered in all the inhabitants of the
country-side, neighbors of every quality, for closer acquaintance, and
threw open to them for inspection every part of the new house. He
appointed Mrs. Lounsbury, whose acquaintance was very wide; a sort of
committee on reception, and stood at the entrance with her to welcome
each visitor in person.
It was a sort of gala day, and the rooms and the grounds were filled with
the visitors. In the dining-room there were generous refreshments.
Again, not long afterward, he issued a special invitation to all of
those-architects, builders, and workmen who had taken any part, however
great or small, in the building of his home. Mr. and Mrs. Littleton were
visiting Stormfield at this time, and both Clemens and Littleton spoke to
these assembled guests from the terrace, and made them feel that their
efforts had been worth while.
Presently the idea developed to establish something that would be of
benefit to his neighbors, especially to those who did not have access to
much reading-matter. He had been for years flooded with books by authors
and publishers, and there was a heavy surplus at his home in the city.
When these began to arrive he had a large number of volumes set aside as
the nucleus of a public library. An unused chapel not far away--it could
be seen from one of his windows--was obtained for the purpose; officers
were elected; a librarian was appointed, and so the Mark Twain Library of
Redding was duly established. Clemens himself was elected its first
president, with the resident physician, Dr. Ernest H. Smith, vice-
president, and another resident, William E. Grumman, librarian. On the
afternoon of its opening the president made a brief address. He said:
I am here to speak a few instructive words to my fellow-farmers.
I suppose you are all farmers: I am going to put in a crop next
year, when I have been here long enough and know how. I couldn't
make a turnip stay on a tree now after I had grown it. I like to
talk. It would take more than the Redding air to make me keep
still, and I like to instruct people. It's noble to be good, and
it's nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble. I am glad
to help this library. We get our morals from books. I didn't get
mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books--
theoretically at least. Mr. Beard or Mr. Adams will give some land,
and by and by we are going to have a building of our own.
This statement was news to both Mr. Beard and Mr. Adams and an
inspiration of the moment; but Mr. Theodore Adams, who owned a most
desirable site, did in fact promptly resolve to donate it for library
purposes. Clemens continued:
I am going to help build that library with contributions from my
visitors. Every male guest who comes to my house will have to
contribute a dollar or go away without his baggage.--
[A characteristic notice to guests requiring them to contribute a
dollar to the Library Building Fund was later placed on the
billiard-room mantel at Stormfield with good results.]--If those
burglars that broke into my house recently had done that they would
have been happier now, or if they'd have broken into this library
they would have read a few books and led a better life. Now they
are in jail, and if they keep on they will go to Congress. When a
person starts downhill you can never tell where he's going to stop.
I am sorry for those burglars. They got nothing that they wanted
and scared away most of my servants. Now we are putting in a
burglar-alarm instead of a dog. Some advised the dog, but it costs
even more to entertain a dog than a burglar. I am having the ground
electrified, so that for a mile around any one who puts his foot
across the line sets off an alarm that will be heard in Europe. Now
I will introduce the real president to you, a man whom you know
So a new and important benefit was conferred upon the community, and
there was a feeling that Redding, besides having a literary colony, was
to be literary in fact.
It might have been mentioned earlier that Redding already had literary
associations when Mark Twain arrived. As far back as Revolutionary days
Joel Barlow, a poet of distinction, and once Minister to France, had been
a resident of Redding, and there were still Barlow descendants in the
William Edgar Grumman, the librarian, had written the story of Redding's
share in the Revolutionary War--no small share, for Gen. Israel Putnam's
army had been quartered there during at least one long, trying winter.
Charles Burr Todd, of one of the oldest Redding families, himself--still
a resident, was also the author of a Redding history.
Of literary folk not native to Redding, Dora Reed Goodale and her sister
Elaine, the wife of Dr. Charles A. Eastman, had, long been residents of
Redding Center; Jeanette L. Gilder and Ida M. Tarbell had summer homes on
Redding Ridge; Dan Beard, as already mentioned, owned a place near the
banks of the Saugatuck, while Kate V. St. Maur, also two of Nathaniel
Hawthorne's granddaughters had recently located adjoining the Stormfield
lands. By which it will be seen that Redding was in no way unsuitable as
a home for Mark Twain.
A MANTEL AND A BABY ELEPHANT
Mark Twain was the receiver of two notable presents that year. The first
of these, a mantel from Hawaii, presented to him by the Hawaiian
Promotion Committee, was set in place in the billiard-room on the morning
of his seventy-third birthday. This committee had written, proposing to
build for his new home either a mantel or a chair, as he might prefer,
the same to be carved from the native woods. Clemens decided on a
billiard-room mantel, and John Howells forwarded the proper measurements.
So, in due time, the mantel arrived, a beautiful piece of work and in
fine condition, with the Hawaiian word, "Aloha," one of the sweetest
forms of greeting in any tongue, carved as its central ornament.
To the donors of the gift Clemens wrote:
The beautiful mantel was put in its place an hour ago, & its
friendly "Aloha" was the first uttered greeting received on my 73d
birthday. It is rich in color, rich in quality, & rich in
decoration; therefore it exactly harmonized with the taste for such
things which was born in me & which I have seldom been able to
indulge to my content. It will be a great pleasure to me, daily
renewed, to have under my eye this lovely reminder of the loveliest
fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean, & I beg to thank
the committee for providing me that pleasure.
To F. N. Otremba, who had carved the mantel, he sent this word:
I am grateful to you for the valued compliment to me in the labor of
heart and hand and brain which you have put upon it. It is worthy
of the choicest place in the house and it has it.
It was the second beautiful mantel in Stormfield--the Hartford library
mantel, removed when that house was sold, having been installed in the
Altogether the seventy-third birthday was a pleasant one. Clemens, in
the morning, drove down to see the library lot which Mr. Theodore Adams
had presented, and the rest of the day there were fine, close billiard
games, during which he was in the gentlest and happiest moods. He
recalled the games of two years before, and as we stopped playing I said:
"I hope a year from now we shall be here, still playing the great game."
And he answered, as then:
"Yes, it is a great game--the best game on earth." And he held out his
hand and thanked me for coming, as he never failed to do when we parted,
though it always hurt me a little, for the debt was so largely mine.
Mark Twain's second present came at Christmas-time. About ten days
earlier, a letter came from Robert J. Collier, saying that he had bought
a baby elephant which he intended to present to Mark Twain as a Christmas
gift. He added that it would be sent as soon as he could get a car for
it, and the loan of a keeper from Barnum & Bailey's headquarters at
The news created a disturbance in Stormfield. One could not refuse,
discourteously and abruptly, a costly present like that; but it seemed a
disaster to accept it. An elephant would require a roomy and warm place,
also a variety of attention which Stormfield was not prepared to supply.
The telephone was set going and certain timid excuses were offered by the
secretary. There was no good place to put an elephant in Stormfield, but
Mr. Collier said, quite confidently:
"Oh, put him in the garage."
"But there's no heat in the garage."
"Well, put him in the loggia, then. That's closed in, isn't it, for the
winter? Plenty of sunlight--just the place for a young elephant."
"But we play cards in the loggia. We use it for a sort of sun-parlor."
"But that wouldn't matter. He's a kindly, playful little thing. He'll
be just like a kitten. I'll send the man up to look over the place and
tell you just how to take care of him, and I'll send up several bales of
hay in advance. It isn't a large elephant, you know: just a little one--
a regular plaything."
There was nothing further to be done; only to wait and dread until the
Christmas present's arrival.
A few days before Christmas ten bales of hay arrived and several bushels
of carrots. This store of provender aroused no enthusiasm at Stormfield.
It would seem there was no escape now.
On Christmas morning Mr. Lounsbury telephoned up that there was a man at
the station who said he was an elephant-trainer from Barnum & Bailey's,
sent by Mr. Collier to look at the elephant's quarters and get him
settled when he should arrive. Orders were given to bring the man over.
The day of doom was at hand.
But Lounsbury's detective instinct came once more into play. He had seen
a good many elephant-trainers at Bridgeport, and he thought this one had
a doubtful look.
"Where is the elephant?" he asked, as they drove along.
"He will arrive at noon."
"Where are you going to put him?"
"In the loggia."
"How big is he?"
"About the size of a cow."
"How long have you been with Barnum and Bailey?"
"Then you must know some friends of mine" (naming two that had no
existence until that moment).
"Oh yes, indeed. I know them well."
Lounsbury didn't say any more just then, but he had a feeling that
perhaps the dread at Stormfield had grown unnecessarily large. Something
told him that this man seemed rather more like a butler, or a valet, than
an elephant-trainer. They drove to Stormfield, and the trainer looked
over the place. It would do perfectly, he said. He gave a few
instructions as to the care of this new household feature, and was driven
back to the station to bring it.
Lounsbury came back by and by, bringing the elephant but not the trainer.
It didn't need a trainer. It was a beautiful specimen, with soft, smooth
coat and handsome trappings, perfectly quiet, well-behaved and small--
suited to the loggia, as Collier had said--for it was only two feet long
and beautifully made of cloth and cotton--one of the forest toy elephants
ever seen anywhere.
It was a good joke, such as Mark Twain loved--a carefully prepared,
harmless bit of foolery. He wrote Robert Collier, threatening him with
all sorts of revenge, declaring that the elephant was devastating
"To send an elephant in a trance, under pretense that it was dead or
stuffed!" he said. "The animal came to life, as you knew it would, and
began to observe Christmas, and we now have no furniture left and no
servants and no visitors, no friends, no photographs, no burglars--
nothing but the elephant. Be kind, be merciful, be generous; take him
away and send us what is left of the earthquake."
Collier wrote that he thought it unkind of him to look a gift-elephant in
the trunk. And with such chaffing and gaiety the year came to an end.
When the bad weather came there was not much company at Stormfield, and
I went up regularly each afternoon, for it was lonely on that bleak hill,
and after his forenoon of reading or writing he craved diversion. My own
home was a little more than a half mile away, and I enjoyed the walk,
whatever the weather. I usually managed to arrive about three o'clock.
He would watch from his high windows until he saw me raise the hilltop,
and he would be at the door when I arrived, so that there might be no
delay in getting at the games. Or, if it happened that he wished to show
me something in his room, I would hear his rich voice sounding down the
stair. Once, when I arrived, I heard him calling, and going up I found
him highly pleased with the arrangement of two pictures on a chair,
placed so that the glasses of them reflected the sunlight on the ceiling.
"They seem to catch the reflection of the sky and the winter colors.
Sometimes the hues are wonderfully iridescent."
He pointed to a bunch of wild red berries on the mantel with the sun on
"How beautifully they light up!" he said; "some of them in the sunlight,
some still in the shadow."
He walked to the window and stood looking out on the somber fields.
"The lights and colors are always changing there," he said. "I never
tire of it."
To see him then so full of the interest and delight of the moment, one
might easily believe he had never known tragedy and shipwreck. More than
any one I ever knew, he lived in the present. Most of us are either
dreaming of the past or anticipating the future--forever beating the
dirge of yesterday or the tattoo of to-morrow. Mark Twain's step was
timed to the march of the moment. There were days when he recalled the
past and grieved over it, and when he speculated concerning the future;
but his greater interest was always of the now, and of the particular
locality where he found it. The thing which caught his fancy, however
slight or however important, possessed him fully for the time, even if
He was especially interested that winter in the Shakespeare-Bacon
problem. He had long been unable to believe that the actor-manager from
Stratford had written those great plays, and now a book just published,
'The Shakespeare Problem Restated', by George Greenwood, and another one
in press, 'Some Characteristic Signatures of Francis Bacon', by William
Stone Booth, had added the last touch of conviction that Francis Bacon,
and Bacon only, had written the Shakespeare dramas. I was ardently
opposed to this idea. The romance of the boy, Will Shakespeare, who had
come up to London and began, by holding horses outside of the theater,
and ended by winning the proudest place in the world of letters, was
something I did not wish to let perish. I produced all the stock
testimony--Ben Jonson's sonnet, the internal evidence of the plays
themselves, the actors who had published them--but he refused to accept
any of it. He declared that there was not a single proof to show that
Shakespeare had written one of them.
"Is there any evidence that he didn't?" I asked.
"There's evidence that he couldn't," he said. "It required a man with
the fullest legal equipment to have written them. When you have read
Greenwood's book you will see how untenable is any argument for
I was willing to concede something, and offered a compromise.
"Perhaps," I said, "Shakespeare was the Belasoo of that day--the
managerial genius, unable to write plays himself, but with the supreme
gift of making effective drama from the plays of others. In that case it
is not unlikely that the plays would be known as Shakespeare's. Even in
this day John Luther Long's "Madam Butterfly" is sometimes called
Belasco's play; though it is doubtful if Belasco ever wrote a line of
He considered this view, but not very favorably. The Booth book was at
this time a secret, and he had not told me anything concerning it; but he
had it in his mind when he said, with an air of the greatest conviction:
"I know that Shakespeare did not write those plays, and I have reason to
believe he did not touch the text in any way."
"How can you be so positive?" I asked.
"I have private knowledge from a source that cannot be questioned."
I now suspected that he was joking, and asked if he had been consulting a
spiritual medium; but he was clearly in earnest.
"It is the great discovery of the age," he said, quite seriously. "The
world will soon ring with it. I wish I could tell you about it, but I
have passed my word. You will not have long to wait."
I was going to sail for the Mediterranean in February, and I asked if it
would be likely that I would know this great secret before I sailed. He
thought not; but he said that more than likely the startling news would
be given to the world while I was on the water, and it might come to me
on the ship by wireless. I confess I was amazed and intensely curious by
this time. I conjectured the discovery of some document--some Bacon or
Shakespeare private paper which dispelled all the mystery of the
authorship. I hinted that he might write me a letter which I could open
on the ship; but he was firm in his refusal. He had passed his word, he
repeated, and the news might not be given out as soon as that; but he
assured me more than once that wherever I might be, in whatever remote
locality, it would come by cable, and the world would quake with it.
I was tempted to give up my trip, to be with him at Stormfield at the
time of the upheaval.
Naturally the Shakespeare theme was uppermost during the remaining days
that we were together. He had engaged another stenographer, and was now
dictating, forenoons, his own views on the subject--views coordinated
with those of Mr. Greenwood, whom he liberally quoted, but embellished
and decorated in his own gay manner. These were chapters for his
autobiography, he said, and I think he had then no intention of making a
book of them. I could not quite see why he should take all this
argumentary trouble if he had, as he said, positive evidence that Bacon,
and not Shakespeare, had written the plays. I thought the whole matter
The Shakespeare interest had diverging by-paths. One evening, when we
were alone at dinner, he said:
"There is only one other illustrious man in history about whom there is
so little known," and he added, "Jesus Christ."
He reviewed the statements of the Gospels concerning Christ, though he
declared them to be mainly traditional and of no value. I agreed that
they contained confusing statements, and inflicted more or less with
justice and reason; but I said I thought there was truth in them, too.
"Why do you think so?" he asked.
"Because they contain matters that are self-evident--things eternally and
"Then you make your own Bible?"
"Yes, from those materials combined with human reason."
"Then it does not matter where the truth, as you call it, comes from?"
I admitted that the source did not matter; that truth from Shakespeare,
Epictetus, or Aristotle was quite as valuable as from the Scriptures. We
were on common ground now. He mentioned Marcus Aurelius, the Stoics, and
their blameless lives. I, still pursuing the thought of Jesus, asked:
"Do you not think it strange that in that day when Christ came, admitting
that there was a Christ, such a character could have come at all--in the
time of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, when all was ceremony and
"I remember," he said, "the Sadducees didn't believe in hell. He brought
"Nor the resurrection. He brought them that, also."
He did not admit that there had been a Christ with the character and
mission related by the Gospels.
"It is all a myth," he said. "There have been Saviours in every age of
the world. It is all just a fairy tale, like the idea of Santa Claus."
"But," I argued, "even the spirit of Christmas is real when it is
genuine. Suppose that we admit there was no physical Saviour--that it is
only an idea--a spiritual embodiment which humanity has made for itself
and is willing to improve upon as its own spirituality improves, wouldn't
that make it worthy?"
"But then the fairy story of the atonement dissolves, and with it
crumbles the very foundations of any established church. You can create
your own Testament, your own Scripture, and your own Christ, but you've
got to give up your atonement."
"As related to the crucifixion, yes, and good riddance to it; but the
death of the old order and the growth of spirituality comes to a sort of
atonement, doesn't it?"
"A conclusion like that has about as much to do with the Gospels and
Christianity as Shakespeare had to do with Bacon's plays. You are
preaching a doctrine that would have sent a man to the stake a few
centuries ago. I have preached that in my own Gospel."
I remembered then, and realized that, by my own clumsy ladder, I had
merely mounted from dogma, and superstition to his platform of training
the ideals to a higher contentment of soul.
"IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD?"
I set out on my long journey with much reluctance. However, a series of
guests with various diversions had been planned, and it seemed a good
time to go. Clemens gave me letters of introduction, and bade me
Godspeed. It would be near the end of April before I should see him
Now and then on the ship, and in the course of my travels, I remembered
the great news I was to hear concerning Shakespeare. In Cairo, at
Shepheard's, I looked eagerly through English newspapers, expecting any
moment to come upon great head-lines; but I was always disappointed.
Even on the return voyage there was no one I could find who had heard any
particular Shakespeare news.
Arriving in New York, I found that Clemens himself had published his
Shakespeare dictations in a little volume of his own, entitled, 'Is
Shakespeare Dead?' The title certainly suggested spiritistic matters,
and I got a volume at Harpers', and read it going up on the train, hoping
to find somewhere in it a solution of the great mystery. But it was only
matter I had already known; the secret was still unrevealed.
At Redding I lost not much time in getting up to Stormfield. There had
been changes in my absence. Clara Clemens had returned from her travels,
and Jean, whose health seemed improved, was coming home to be her
father's secretary. He was greatly pleased with these things, and
declared he was going to have a home once more with his children about
He was quite alone that day, and we walked up and down the great living-
room for an hour, perhaps, while he discussed his new plans. For one
thing, he had incorporated his pen-name, Mark Twain, in order that the
protection of his copyrights and the conduct of his literary business in
general should not require his personal attention. He seemed to find a
relief in this, as he always did in dismissing any kind of
responsibility. When we went in for billiards I spoke of his book, which
I had read on the way up, and of the great Shakespearian secret which was
to astonish the world. Then he told me that the matter had been delayed,
but that he was no longer required to suppress it; that the revelation
was in the form of a book--a book which revealed conclusively to any one
who would take the trouble to follow the directions that the acrostic
name of Francis Bacon in a great variety of forms ran through many--
probably through all of the so-called Shakespeare plays. He said it was
far and away beyond anything of the kind ever published; that Ignatius
Donnelly and others had merely glimpsed the truth, but that the author of
this book, William Stone Booth, had demonstrated, beyond any doubt or
question, that the Bacon signatures were there. The book would be issued
in a few days, he said. He had seen a set of proofs of it, and while it
had not been published in the best way to clearly demonstrate its great
revelation, it must settle the matter with every reasoning mind. He
confessed that his faculties had been more or less defeated in,
attempting to follow the ciphers, and he complained bitterly that the
evidence had not been set forth so that he who merely skims a book might
He had failed on the acrostics at first; but more recently he had
understood the rule, and had been able to work out several Bacon
signatures. He complimented me by saying that he felt sure that when the
book came I would have no trouble with it.
Without going further with this matter, I may say here that the book
arrived presently, and between us we did work out a considerable number
of the claimed acrostics by following the rules laid down. It was
certainly an interesting if not wholly convincing occupation, and it
would be a difficult task for any one to prove that the ciphers are not
there. Just why this pretentious volume created so little agitation it
would be hard to say. Certainly it did not cause any great upheaval in
the literary world, and the name of William Shakespeare still continues
to be printed on the title-page of those marvelous dramas so long
associated with his name.
Mark Twain's own book on the subject--'Is Shakespeare Dead?'--found a
wide acceptance, and probably convinced as many readers. It contained no
new arguments; but it gave a convincing touch to the old ones, and it was
certainly readable.--[Mark Twain had the fullest conviction as to the
Bacon authorship of the Shakespeare plays. One evening, with Mr. Edward
Loomis, we attended a fine performance of "Romeo and Juliet" given by
Sothern and Marlowe. At the close of one splendid scene he said, quite
earnestly, "That is about the best play that Lord Bacon ever wrote."]
Among the visitors who had come to Stormfield was Howells. Clemens had
called a meeting of the Human Race Club, but only Howells was able to
attend. We will let him tell of his visit:
We got on very well without the absentees, after finding them in the
wrong, as usual, and the visit was like those I used to have with
him so many years before in Hartford, but there was not the old
ferment of subjects. Many things had been discussed and put away
for good, but we had our old fondness for nature and for each other,
who were so differently parts of it. He showed his absolute content
with his house, and that was the greater pleasure for me because it
was my son who designed it. The architect had been so fortunate as
to be able to plan it where a natural avenue of savins, the close-
knit, slender, cypress-like cedars of New England, led away from the
rear of the villa to the little level of a pergola, meant some day
to be wreathed and roofed with vines. But in the early spring days
all the landscape was in the beautiful nakedness of the Northern
winter. It opened in the surpassing loveliness of wooded and
meadowed uplands, under skies that were the first days blue, and the
last gray over a rainy and then a snowy floor. We walked up and
down, up and down, between the villa terrace and the pergola, and
talked with the melancholy amusement, the sad tolerance of age for
the sort of men and things that used to excite us or enrage us; now
we were far past turbulence or anger. Once we took a walk together
across the yellow pastures to a chasmal creek on his grounds, where
the ice still knit the clayey banks together like crystal mosses;
and the stream far down clashed through and over the stones and the
shards of ice. Clemens pointed out the scenery he had bought to
give himself elbowroom, and showed me the lot he was going to have
me build on. The next day we came again with the geologist he had
asked up to Stormfield to analyze its rocks. Truly he loved the
place . . . .
My visit at Stormfield came to an end with tender relucting on his
part and on mine. Every morning before I dressed I heard him
sounding my name through the house for the fun of it and I know for
the fondness, and if I looked out of my door there he was in his
long nightgown swaying up and down the corridor, and wagging his
great white head like a boy that leaves his bed and comes out in the
hope of frolic with some one. The last morning a soft sugar-snow
had fallen and was falling, and I drove through it down to the
station in the carriage which had been given him by his wife's
father when they were first married, and had been kept all those
intervening years in honorable retirement for this final use.--[This
carriage--a finely built coup--had been presented to Mrs. Crane when
the Hartford house was closed. When Stormfield was built she
returned it to its original owner.]--Its springs had not grown
yielding with time, it had rather the stiffness and severity of age;
but for him it must have swung low like the sweet chariot of the
negro "spiritual" which I heard him sing with such fervor when those
wonderful hymns of the slaves began to make their way northward.
Howells's visit resulted in a new inspiration. Clemens started to write
him one night when he could not sleep, and had been reading the volume of
letters of James Russell Lowell. Then, next morning, he was seized with
the notion of writing a series of letters to such friends as Howells,
Twichell, and Rogers--letters not to be mailed, but to be laid away for
some future public. He wrote two of these immediately--to Howells and to
Twichell. The Howells letter (or letters, for it was really double) is
both pathetic and amusing. The first part ran:
3 in the morning, April 17, 1909.
My pen has gone dry and the ink is out of reach. Howells, did you
write me day-before-day-before yesterday or did I dream it? In my
mind's eye I most vividly see your hand-write on a square blue
envelope in the mail-pile. I have hunted the house over, but there
is no such letter. Was it an illusion?
I am reading Lowell's letters & smoking. I woke an hour ago & am
reading to keep from wasting the time. On page 305, Vol. I, I have
just margined a note:
"Young friend! I like that! You ought to see him now."
It seemed startlingly strange to hear a person call you young. It
was a brick out of a blue sky, & knocked me groggy for a moment. Ah
me, the pathos of it is that we were young then. And he--why, so
was he, but he didn't know it. He didn't even know it 9 years
later, when we saw him approaching and you warned me, saying:
"Don't say anything about age--he has just turned 50 & thinks he is
old, & broods over it."
Well, Clara did sing! And you wrote her a dear letter.
Time to go to sleep.
The second letter, begun at 10 A.M., outlines the plan by which he is to
write on the subject uppermost in his mind without restraint, knowing
that the letter is not to be mailed.
. . .The scheme furnishes a definite target for each letter, & you
can choose the target that's going to be the most sympathetic for
what you are hungering & thirsting to say at that particular moment.
And you can talk with a quite unallowable frankness & freedom
because you are not going to send the letter. When you are on fire
with theology you'll not write it to Rogers, who wouldn't be an
inspiration; you'll write it to Twichell, because it will make him
writhe and squirm & break the furniture. When you are on fire with
a good thing that's indecent you won't waste it on Twichell; you'll
save it for Howells, who will love it. As he will never see it you
can make it really indecenter than he could stand; & so no harm is
done, yet a vast advantage is gained.
The letter was not finished, and the scheme perished there. The Twichell
letter concerned missionaries, and added nothing to what he had already
said on the subject.
He wrote no letter to Mr. Rogers--perhaps never wrote to him again.
THE DEATH OF HENRY ROGERS
Clemens, a little before my return, had been on a trip to Norfolk,
Virginia, to attend the opening ceremonies of the Virginia Railway. He
had made a speech on that occasion, in which he had paid a public tribute
to Henry Rogers, and told something of his personal obligation to the
He began by telling what Mr. Rogers had done for Helen Keller, whom he
called "the most marvelous person of her sex that has existed on this
earth since Joan of Arc." Then he said:
That is not all Mr. Rogers has done, but you never see that side of
his character because it is never protruding; but he lends a helping
hand daily out of that generous heart of his. You never hear of it.
He is supposed to be a moon which has one side dark and the other
bright. But the other side, though you don't see it, is not dark;
it is bright, and its rays penetrate, and others do see it who are
I would take this opportunity to tell something that I have never
been allowed to tell by Mr. Rogers, either by my mouth or in print,
and if I don't look at him I can tell it now.
In 1894, when the publishing company of Charles L. Webster, of which
I was financial agent, failed, it left me heavily in debt. If you
will remember what commerce was at that time you will recall that
you could not sell anything, and could not buy anything, and I was
on my back; my books were not worth anything at all, and I could not
give away my copyrights. Mr. Rogers had long-enough vision ahead to
say, "Your books have supported you before, and after the panic is
over they will support you again," and that was a correct
proposition. He saved my copyrights, and saved me from financial
ruin. He it was who arranged with my creditors to allow me to roam
the face of the earth and persecute the nations thereof with
lectures, promising at the end of four years I would pay dollar for
dollar. That arrangement was made, otherwise I would now be living
out-of-doors under an umbrella, and a borrowed one at that.
You see his white mustache and his hair trying to get white (he is
always trying to look like me--I don't blame him for that). These
are only emblematic of his character, and that is all. I say,
without exception, hair and all, he is the whitest man I have ever
This had been early in April. Something more than a month later Clemens
was making a business trip to New York to see Mr. Rogers. I was
telephoned early to go up and look over some matters with him before he
started. I do not remember why I was not to go along that day, for I
usually made such trips with him. I think it was planned that Miss
Clemens, who was in the city, was to meet him at the Grand Central
Station. At all events, she did meet him there, with the news that
during the night Mr. Rogers had suddenly died. This was May 20, 1909.
The news had already come to the house, and I had lost no time in
preparations to follow by the next train. I joined him at the Grosvenor
Hotel, on Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street. He was upset and deeply
troubled by the loss of his stanch adviser and friend. He had a helpless
look, and he said his friends were dying away from him and leaving him
"And how I hate to do anything," he added, "that requires the least
modicum of intelligence!"
We remained at the Grosvenor for Mr. Rogers's funeral. Clemens served as
one of the pall-bearers, but he did not feel equal to the trip to
Fairhaven. He wanted to be very quiet, he said. He could not undertake
to travel that distance among those whom he knew so well, and with whom
he must of necessity join in conversation; so we remained in the hotel
apartment, reading and saying very little until bedtime. Once he asked
me to write a letter to Jean: "Say, 'Your father says every little while,
"How glad I am that Jean is at home again!"' for that is true and I think
of it all the time."
But by and by, after a long period of silence, he said:
"Mr. Rogers is under the ground now."
And so passed out of earthly affairs the man who had contributed so
largely to the comfort of Mark Twain's old age. He was a man of fine
sensibilities and generous impulses; withal a keen sense of humor.
One Christmas, when he presented Mark Twain with a watch and a match-
case, he wrote:
MY DEAR CLEMENS,--For many years your friends have been complaining
of your use of tobacco, both as to quantity and quality. Complaints
are now coming in of your use of time. Most of your friends think
that you are using your supply somewhat lavishly, but the chief
complaint is in regard to the quality.
I have been appealed to in the mean time, and have concluded that it
is impossible to get the right kind of time from a blacking-box.
Therefore, I take the liberty of sending you herewith a machine that
will furnish only the best. Please use it with the kind wishes of
H. H. ROGERS.
P. S.--Complaint has also been made in regard to the furrows you
make in your trousers in scratching matches. You will find a furrow
on the bottom of the article inclosed. Please use it. Compliments
of the season to the family.
He was a man too busy to write many letters, but when he did write (to
Clemens at least) they were always playful and unhurried. One reading
them would not find it easy to believe that the writer was a man on whose
shoulders lay the burdens of stupendous finance-burdens so heavy that at
last he was crushed beneath their weight.
AN EXTENSION OF COPYRIGHT
One of the pleasant things that came to Mark Twain that year was the
passage of a copyright bill, which added to the royalty period an
extension of fourteen years. Champ Clark had been largely instrumental
in the success of this measure, and had been fighting for it steadily
since Mark Twain's visit to Washington in 1906. Following that visit,
. . . It [the original bill] would never pass because the bill
had literature and music all mixed together. Being a Missourian of
course it would give me great pleasure to be of service to you.
What I want to say is this: you have prepared a simple bill relating
only to the copyright of books; send it to me and I will try to have
Clemens replied that he might have something more to say on the copyright
question by and by--that he had in hand a dialogue--[Similar to the "Open
Letter to the Register of Copyrights," North American Review, January,
1905.]--which would instruct Congress, but this he did not complete.
Meantime a simple bill was proposed and early in 1909 it became a law.
In June Clark wrote:
DR. SAMUEL L. CLEMENS,
Stormfield, Redding, Conn.
MY DEAR DOCTOR,--I am gradually becoming myself again, after a
period of exhaustion that almost approximated prostration. After a
long lecture tour last summer I went immediately into a hard
campaign; as soon as the election was over, and I had recovered my
disposition, I came here and went into those tariff hearings, which
began shortly after breakfast each day, and sometimes lasted until
midnight. Listening patiently and meekly, withal, to the lying of
tariff barons for many days and nights was followed by the work of
the long session; that was followed by a hot campaign to take Uncle
Joe's rules away from him; on the heels of that "Campaign that
Failed" came the tariff fight in the House. I am now getting time
to breathe regularly and I am writing to ask you if the copyright
law is acceptable to you. If it is not acceptable to you I want to
ask you to write and tell me how it should be changed and I will
give my best endeavors to the work. I believe that your ideas and
wishes in the matter constitute the best guide we have as to what
should be done in the case.
To this Clemens replied:
STORMFIELD, REDDING, CONN, June 5, 1909.
DEAR CHAMP CLARK,--Is the new copyright law acceptable to me?
Emphatically yes! Clark, it is the only sane & clearly defined &
just & righteous copyright law that has ever existed in the United
States. Whosoever will compare it with its predecessors will have
no trouble in arriving at that decision.
The bill which was before the committee two years ago when I was
down there was the most stupefying jumble of conflicting &
apparently irreconcilable interests that was ever seen; and we all
said "the case is hopeless, absolutely hopeless--out of this chaos
nothing can be built." But we were in error; out of that chaotic
mass this excellent bill has been constructed, the warring interests
have been reconciled, and the result is as comely and substantial a
legislative edifice as lifts its domes and towers and protective
lightning-rods out of the statute book I think. When I think of
that other bill, which even the Deity couldn't understand, and of
this one, which even I can understand, I take off my hat to the man
or men who devised this one. Was it R. U. Johnson? Was it the
Authors' League? Was it both together? I don't know, but I take
off my hat, anyway. Johnson has written a valuable article about
the new law--I inclose it.
At last--at last and for the first time in copyright history--we are
ahead of England! Ahead of her in two ways: by length of time and
by fairness to all interests concerned. Does this sound like
shouting? Then I must modify it: all we possessed of copyright
justice before the 4th of last March we owed to England's
S. L. CLEMENS.
Clemens had prepared what was the final word an the subject of copyright
just before this bill was passed--a petition for a law which he believed
would regulate the whole matter. It was a generous, even if a somewhat
Utopian, plan, eminently characteristic of its author. The new fourteen-
year extension, with the prospect of more, made this or any other
compromise seem inadvisable.--[The reader may consider this last
copyright document by Mark Twain under Appendix N, at the end of this
Clemens had promised to go to Baltimore for the graduation of "Francesca"
of his London visit in 1907--and to make a short address to her class.
It was the eighth of June when we set out on this journey,--[The reader
may remember that it was the 8th of June, 1867, that Mark Twain sailed
for the Holy Land. It was the 8th of June, 1907, that he sailed for
England to take his Oxford degree. This 8th of June, 1909, was at least
slightly connected with both events, for he was keeping an engagement
made with Francesca in London, and my notes show that he discussed, on
the way to the station, some incidents of his Holy Land trip and his
attitude at that time toward Christian traditions. As he rarely
mentioned the Quaker City trip, the coincidence seems rather curious.
It is most unlikely that Clemens himself in any way associated the two
dates.]--but the day was rather bleak and there was a chilly rain.
Clemens had a number of errands to do in New York, and we drove from one
place to another, attending to them. Finally, in the afternoon, the rain
ceased, and while I was arranging some matters for him he concluded to
take a ride on the top of a Fifth Avenue stage. It was fine and pleasant
when he started, but the weather thickened again and when he returned he
complained that he had felt a little chilly. He seemed in fine
condition, however, next morning and was in good spirits all the way to
Baltimore. Chauncey Depew was on the train and they met in the dining-
car--the last time, I think, they ever saw each other. He was tired when
we reached the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore and did not wish to see the
newspaper men. It happened that the reporters had a special purpose in
coming just at this time, for it had suddenly developed that in his
Shakespeare book, through an oversight, due to haste in publication, full
credit had not been given to Mr. Greenwood for the long extracts quoted
from his work. The sensational head-lines in a morning paper, "Is Mark
Twain a Plagiarist?" had naturally prompted the newspaper men to see what
he would have to say on the subject. It was a simple matter, easily
explained, and Clemens himself was less disturbed about it than anybody.
He felt no sense of guilt, he said; and the fact that he had been
stealing and caught at it would give Mr. Greenwood's book far more
advertising than if he had given him the full credit which he had
intended. He found a good deal of amusement in the situation, his only
worry being that Clara and Jean would see the paper and be troubled.
He had taken off his clothes and was lying down, reading. After a little
he got up and began walking up and down the room. Presently he stopped
and, facing me, placed his hand upon his breast. He said:
"I think I must have caught a little cold yesterday on that Fifth Avenue
stage. I have a curious pain in my breast."
I suggested that he lie down again and I would fill his hot-water bag.
The pain passed away presently, and he seemed to be dozing. I stepped
into the next room and busied myself with some writing. By and by I
heard him stirring again and went in where he was. He was walking up and
down and began talking of some recent ethnological discoveries--
something relating to prehistoric man.
"What a fine boy that prehistoric man must have been," he said--" the
very first one! Think of the gaudy style of him, how he must have lorded
it over those other creatures, walking on his hind legs, waving his arms,
practising and getting ready for the pulpit."
The fancy amused him, but presently he paused in his walk and again put
his hand on his breast, saying:
"That pain has come back. It's a curious, sickening, deadly kind of
pain. I never had anything just like it."
It seemed to me that his face had become rather gray. I said:
"Where is it, exactly, Mr. Clemens?"
He laid his hand in the center of his breast and said:
"It is here, and it is very peculiar indeed."
Remotely in my mind occurred the thought that he had located his heart,
and the "peculiar deadly pain" he had mentioned seemed ominous. I
suggested, however, that it was probably some rheumatic touch, and this
opinion seemed warranted when, a few moments later, the hot water had
again relieved it. This time the pain had apparently gone to stay, for
it did not return while we were in Baltimore. It was the first positive
manifestation of the angina which eventually would take him from us.
The weather was pleasant in Baltimore, and his visit to St. Timothy's
School and his address there were the kind of diversions that meant most
to him. The flock of girls, all in their pretty commencement dresses,
assembled and rejoicing at his playfully given advice: not to smoke--to
excess; not to drink--to excess; not to marry--to excess; he standing
there in a garb as white as their own--it made a rare picture--a sweet
memory--and it was the last time he ever gave advice from the platform to
Edward S. Martin also spoke to the school, and then there was a great
feasting in the big assembly-hall.
It was on the lawn that a reporter approached him with the news of the
death of Edward Everett Hale--another of the old group. Clemens said
thoughtfully, after a moment:
"I had the greatest respect and esteem for Edward Everett Hale, the
greatest admiration for his work. I am as grieved to hear of his death
as I can ever be to hear of the death of any friend, though my grief is
always tempered with the satisfaction of knowing that for the one that
goes, the hard, bitter struggle of life is ended."
We were leaving the Belvedere next morning, and when the subject of
breakfast came up for discussion he said:
"That was the most delicious Baltimore fried chicken we had yesterday
morning. I think we'll just repeat that order. It reminds me of John
We had been having our meals served in the rooms, but we had breakfast
that morning down in the diningroom, and "Francesca" and her mother were
As he stood on the railway platform waiting for the train, he told me how
once, fifty-five years before, as a boy of eighteen, he had changed cars
there for Washington and had barely caught his train--the crowd yelling
at him as he ran.
We remained overnight in New York, and that evening, at the Grosvenor, he
read aloud a poem of his own which I had not seen before. He had brought
it along with some intention of reading it at St. Timothy's, he said,
but had not found the occasion suitable.
"I wrote it a long time ago in Paris. I'd been reading aloud to Mrs.
Clemens and Susy--in'93, I think--about Lord Clive and Warren Hastings,
from Macaulay--how great they were and how far they fell. Then I took an
imaginary case--that of some old demented man mumbling of his former
state. I described him, and repeated some of his mumblings. Susy and
Mrs. Clemens said, 'Write it'--so I did, by and by, and this is it. I
call it 'The Derelict.'"
He read in his effective manner that fine poem, the opening stanza of
You sneer, you ships that pass me by,
Your snow-pure canvas towering proud!
You traders base!--why, once such fry
Paid reverence, when like a cloud
Storm-swept I drove along,
My Admiral at post, his pennon blue
Faint in the wilderness of sky, my long
Yards bristling with my gallant crew,
My ports flung wide, my guns displayed,
My tall spars hid in bellying sail!
--You struck your topsails then, and made
Obeisance--now your manners fail.
He had employed rhyme with more facility than was usual for him, and the
figure and phrasing were full of vigor.
"It is strong and fine," I said, when he had finished.
"Yes," he assented. "It seems so as I read it now. It is so long since
I have seen it that it is like reading another man's work. I should call
it good, I believe."
He put the manuscript in his bag and walked up and down the floor
"There is no figure for the human being like the ship," he said; "no such
figure for the storm-beaten human drift as the derelict--such men as
Clive and Hastings could only be imagined as derelicts adrift, helpless,
tossed by every wind and tide."
We returned to Redding next day. On the train going home he fell to
talking of books and authors, mainly of the things he had never been able
"When I take up one of Jane Austen's books," he said, "such as Pride and
Prejudice, I feel like a barkeeper entering the kingdom of heaven. I
know, what his sensation would be and his private comments. He would not
find the place to his taste, and he would probably say so."
He recalled again how Stepniak had come to Hartford, and how humiliated
Mrs. Clemens had been to confess that her husband was not familiar with
the writings of Thackeray and others.
"I don't know anything about anything," he said, mournfully, "and never
did. My brother used to try to get me to read Dickens, long ago. I
couldn't do it--I was ashamed; but I couldn't do it. Yes, I have read
The Tale of Two Cities, and could do it again. I have read it a good
many times; but I never could stand Meredith and most of the other
By and by he handed me the Saturday Times Review, saying:
"Here is a fine poem, a great poem, I think. I can stand that."
It was "The Palatine (in the 'Dark Ages')," by Willa Sibert Cather,
reprinted from McClure's. The reader will understand better than I can
express why these lofty opening stanzas appealed to Mark Twain:
"Have you been with the King to Rome,
Brother, big brother?"
"I've been there and I've come home,
Back to your play, little brother."
"Oh, how high is Caesar's house,
Brother, big brother?"
"Goats about the doorways browse;
Night-hawks nest in the burnt roof-tree,
Home of the wild bird and home of the bee.
A thousand chambers of marble lie
Wide to the sun and the wind and the sky.
Poppies we find amongst our wheat
Grow on Caesar's banquet seat.
Cattle crop and neatherds drowse
On the floors of Caesar's house."
"But what has become of Caesar's gold,
Brother, big brother?"
"The times are bad and the world is old--
Who knows the where of the Caesar's gold?
Night comes black on the Caesar's hill;
The wells are deep and the tales are ill.
Fireflies gleam in the damp and mold,
All that is left of the Caesar's gold.
Back to your play, little brother."
Farther along in our journey he handed me the paper again, pointing to
these lines of Kipling:
How is it not good for the Christian's health
To hurry the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles and the Aryan smiles,
And he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white
And the name of the late deceased:
And the epitaph drear: "A fool lies here
Who tried to hustle the East."
"I could stand any amount of that," he said, and presently: "Life is too
long and too short. Too long for the weariness of it; too short for the
work to be done. At the very most, the average mind can only master a
few languages and a little history."
I said: "Still, we need not worry. If death ends all it does not matter;
and if life is eternal there will be time enough."
"Yes," he assented, rather grimly, "that optimism of yours is always
ready to turn hell's back yard into a playground."
I said that, old as I was, I had taken up the study of French, and
mentioned Bayard Taylor's having begun Greek at fifty, expecting to need
it in heaven.
Clemens said, reflectively: "Yes--but you see that was Greek."
THE LAST SUMMER AT STORMFIELD
I was at Stormfield pretty constantly during the rest of that year. At
first I went up only for the day; but later, when his health did not
improve, and when he expressed a wish for companionship evenings, I
remained most of the nights as well. Our rooms were separated only by a
bath-room; and as neither of us was much given to sleep, there was likely
to be talk or reading aloud at almost any hour when both were awake. In
the very early morning I would usually slip in, softly, sometimes to find
him propped up against his pillows sound asleep, his glasses on, the
reading-lamp blazing away as it usually did, day or night; but as often
as not he was awake, and would have some new plan or idea of which he was
eager to be delivered, and there was always interest, and nearly always
amusement in it, even if it happened to be three in the morning or
Sometimes, when he thought it time for me to be stirring, he would call
softly, but loudly enough for me to hear if awake; and I would go in, and
we would settle again problems of life and death and science, or, rather,
he would settle them while I dropped in a remark here and there, merely
to hold the matter a little longer in solution.
The pains in his breast came back, and with a good deal of frequency as
the summer advanced; also, they became more severe. Dr. Edward Quintard
came up from New York, and did not hesitate to say that the trouble
proceeded chiefly from the heart, and counseled diminished smoking, with
less active exercise, advising particularly against Clemens's lifetime
habit of lightly skipping up and down stairs.
There was no prohibition as to billiards, however, or leisurely walking,
and we played pretty steadily through those peaceful summer days, and
often took a walk down into the meadows or perhaps in the other
direction, when it was not too warm or windy. Once we went as far as the
river, and I showed him a part of his land he had not seen before--a
beautiful cedar hillside, remote and secluded, a place of enchantment.
On the way I pointed out a little corner of land which earlier he had
given me to straighten our division line. I told him I was going to
build a study on it, and call it "Markland." He thought it an admirable
building-site, and I think he was pleased with the name. Later he said:
"If you had a place for that extra billiard-table of mine [the Rogers
table, which had been left in New York] I would turn it over to you."
I replied that I could adapt the size of my proposed study to fit a
billiard-table, and he said:
"Now that will be very good. Then, when I want exercise, I can walk down
and play billiards with you, and when you want exercise you can walk up
and play billiards with me. You must build that study."
So it was we planned, and by and by Mr. Lounsbury had undertaken the
During the walks Clemens rested a good deal. There were the New England
hills to climb, and then he found that he tired easily, and that
weariness sometimes brought on the pain. As I remember now, I think how
bravely he bore it. It must have been a deadly, sickening, numbing pain,
for I have seen it crumple him, and his face become colorless while his
hand dug at his breast; but he never complained, he never bewailed, and
at billiards he would persist in going on and playing in his turn, even
while he was bowed with the anguish of the attack.
We had found that a glass of very hot water relieved it, and we kept
always a thermos bottle or two filled and ready. At the first hint from
him I would pour out a glass and another, and sometimes the relief came
quickly; but there were times, and alas! they came oftener, when that
deadly gripping did not soon release him. Yet there would come a week or
a fortnight when he was apparently perfectly well, and at such times we
dismissed the thought of any heart malady, and attributed the whole
trouble to acute indigestion, from which he had always suffered more or
We were alone together most of the time. He did not appear to care for
company that summer. Clara Clemens had a concert tour in prospect, and
her father, eager for her success, encouraged her to devote a large part
of her time to study. For Jean, who was in love with every form of
outdoor and animal life, he had established headquarters in a vacant
farm-house on one corner of the estate, where she had collected some
stock and poultry, and was over-flowingly happy. Ossip Gabrilowitsch was
a guest in the house a good portion of the summer, but had been invalided
through severe surgical operations, and for a long time rarely appeared,
even at meal-times. So it came about that there could hardly have been a
closer daily companionship than was ours during this the last year of
Mark Twain's life. For me, of course, nothing can ever be like it again
in this world. One is not likely to associate twice with a being from
In the notes I made of this period I caught a little drift of personality
and utterance, and I do not know better how to preserve these things than
to give them here as nearly as may be in the sequence and in the forth in
which they were set down.
One of the first of these entries occurs in June, when Clemens was
rereading with great interest and relish Andrew D. White's Science and
Theology, which he called a lovely book.--['A History of the Warfare of
Science with Theology in Christendom'.]
June 21. A peaceful afternoon, and we walked farther than usual,
resting at last in the shade of a tree in the lane that leads to
Jean's farm-house. I picked a dandelion-ball, with some remark
about its being one of the evidences of the intelligent principle in
nature--the seeds winged for a wider distribution.
"Yes," he said, "those are the great evidences; no one who reasons
can doubt them."
And presently he added:
"That is a most amusing book of White's. When you read it you see
how those old theologians never reasoned at all. White tells of an
old bishop who figured out that God created the world in an instant
on a certain day in October exactly so many years before Christ, and
proved it. And I knew a preacher myself once who declared that the
fossils in the rocks proved nothing as to the age of the world. He
said that God could create the rocks with those fossils in them for
ornaments if He wanted to. Why, it takes twenty years to build a
little island in the Mississippi River, and that man actually
believed that God created the whole world and all that's in it in
six days. White tells of another bishop who gave two new reasons
for thunder; one being that God wanted to show the world His power,
and another that He wished to frighten sinners to repent. Now
consider the proportions of that conception, even in the pettiest
way you can think of it. Consider the idea of God thinking of all
that. Consider the President of the United States wanting to
impress the flies and fleas and mosquitoes, getting up on the dome
of the Capitol and beating a bass-drum and setting off red fire."
He followed the theme a little further, then we made our way slowly back
up the long hill, he holding to my arm, and resting here and there, but
arriving at the house seemingly fresh and ready for billiards.
June 23. I came up this morning with a basket of strawberries. He
was walking up and down, looking like an ancient Roman. He said:
"Consider the case of Elsie Sigel--[Granddaughter of Gen. Franz
Sigel. She was mysteriously murdered while engaged in settlement
work among the Chinese.]--what a ghastly ending to any life!"
Then turning upon me fiercely, he continued:
"Anybody that knows anything knows that there was not a single life
that was ever lived that was worth living. Not a single child ever
begotten that the begetting of it was not a crime. Suppose a
community of people to be living on the slope of a volcano, directly
under the crater and in the path of lava-flow; that volcano has been
breaking out right along for ages and is certain to break out again.
They do not know when it will break out, but they know it will do
it--that much can be counted on. Suppose those people go to a
community in a far neighborhood and say, 'We'd like to change places
with you. Come take our homes and let us have yours.' Those people
would say, 'Never mind, we are not interested in your country. We
know what has happened there, and what will happen again.' We don't
care to live under the blow that is likely to fall at any moment;
and yet every time we bring a child into the world we are bringing
it to a country, to a community gathered under the crater of a
volcano, knowing that sooner or later death will come, and that
before death there will be catastrophes infinitely worse. Formerly
it was much worse than now, for before the ministers abolished hell
a man knew, when he was begetting a child, that he was begetting a
soul that had only one chance in a hundred of escaping the eternal
fires of damnation. He knew that in all probability that child
would be brought to damnation--one of the ninety-nine black sheep.
But since hell has been abolished death has become more welcome.
I wrote a fairy story once. It was published somewhere. I don't
remember just what it was now, but the substance of it was that a
fairy gave a man the customary wishes. I was interested in seeing
what he would take. First he chose wealth and went away with it,
but it did not bring him happiness. Then he came back for the
second selection, and chose fame, and that did not bring happiness
either. Finally he went to the fairy and chose death, and the fairy
said, in substance, 'If you hadn't been a fool you'd have chosen
that in the first place.'
"The papers called me a pessimist for writing that story.
Pessimist--the man who isn't a pessimist is a d---d fool."
But this was one of his savage humors, stirred by tragic circumstance.
Under date of July 5th I find this happier entry:
We have invented a new game, three-ball carom billiards, each player
continuing until he has made five, counting the number of his shots
as in golf, the one who finishes in the fewer shots wins. It is a
game we play with almost exactly equal skill, and he is highly
pleased with it. He said this afternoon:
"I have never enjoyed billiards as I do now. I look forward to it
every afternoon as my reward at the end of a good day's work."--[His
work at this time was an article on Marjorie Fleming, the "wonder
child," whose quaint writings and brief little life had been
published to the world by Dr. John Brown. Clemens always adored the
thought of Marjorie, and in this article one can see that she ranked
almost next to Joan of Arc in his affections.]
We went out in the loggia by and by and Clemens read aloud from a book
which Professor Zubelin left here a few days ago--'The Religion of a
Democrat'. Something in it must have suggested to Clemens his favorite
science, for presently he said:
"I have been reading an old astronomy; it speaks of the perfect line
of curvature of the earth in spite of mountains and abysses, and I
have imagined a man three hundred thousand miles high picking up a
ball like the earth and looking at it and holding it in his hand.
It would be about like a billiard-ball to him, and he would turn it
over in his hand and rub it with his thumb, and where he rubbed over
the mountain ranges he might say, 'There seems to be some slight
roughness here, but I can't detect it with my eye; it seems
perfectly smooth to look at.' The Himalayas to him, the highest
peak, would be one-sixty-thousandth of his height, or about the one-
thousandth part of an inch as compared with the average man."
I spoke of having somewhere read of some very tiny satellites, one as
small, perhaps, as six miles in diameter, yet a genuine world.
"Could a man live on a world so small as that?" I asked.
"Oh yes," he said. "The gravitation that holds it together would
hold him on, and he would always seem upright, the same as here.
His horizon would be smaller, but even if he were six feet tall he
would only have one foot for each mile of that world's diameter, so
you see he would be little enough, even for a world that he could
walk around in half a day."
He talked astronomy a great deal--marvel astronomy. He had no real
knowledge of the subject, and I had none of any kind, which made its
ungraspable facts all the more thrilling. He was always thrown into a
sort of ecstasy by the unthinkable distances of space--the supreme drama
of the universe. The fact that Alpha Centauri was twenty-five trillions
of miles away--two hundred and fifty thousand times the distance of our
own remote sun, and that our solar system was traveling, as a whole,
toward the bright star Vega, in the constellation of Lyra, at the rate of
forty-four miles a second, yet would be thousands upon thousands of years
reaching its destination, fairly enraptured him.
The astronomical light-year--that is to say, the distance which light
travels in a year--was one of the things which he loved to contemplate;
but he declared that no two authorities ever figured it alike, and that
he was going to figure it for himself. I came in one morning, to find
that he had covered several sheets of paper with almost interminable rows
of ciphers, and with a result, to him at least, entirely satisfactory.
I am quite certain that he was prouder of those figures and their
enormous aggregate than if he had just completed an immortal tale; and
when he added that the nearest fixed star--Alpha Centauri--was between
four and five light-years distant from the earth, and that there was no
possible way to think that distance in miles or even any calculable
fraction of it, his glasses shone and his hair was roached up as with the
stimulation of these stupendous facts.
By and by he said:
"I came in with Halley's comet in 1835. It is coming again next year,
and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment
of my life if I don't go out with Halley's comet. The Almighty has said,
no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in
together, they must go out together.' Oh! I am looking forward to
that." And a little later he added:
"I've got some kind of a heart disease, and Quintard won't tell me
whether it is the kind that carries a man off in an instant or keeps him
lingering along and suffering for twenty years or so. I was in hopes
that Quintard would tell me that I was likely to drop dead any minute;
but he didn't. He only told me that my blood-pressure was too strong.
He didn't give me any schedule; but I expect to go with Halley's comet."
I seem to have omitted making any entries for a few days; but among his
notes I find this entry, which seems to refer to some discussion of a
favorite philosophy, and has a special interest of its own:
July 14, 1909. Yesterday's dispute resumed, I still maintaining
that, whereas we can think, we generally don't do it. Don't do it,
& don't have to do it: we are automatic machines which act
unconsciously. From morning till sleeping-time, all day long. All
day long our machinery is doing things from habit & instinct, &
without requiring any help or attention from our poor little 7-by-9
thinking apparatus. This reminded me of something: thirty years
ago, in Hartford, the billiard-room was my study, & I wrote my
letters there the first thing every morning. My table lay two
points off the starboard bow of the billiard-table, & the door of
exit and entrance bore northeast&-by-east-half-east from that
position, consequently you could see the door across the length of
the billiard-table, but you couldn't see the floor by the said
table. I found I was always forgetting to ask intruders to carry my
letters down-stairs for the mail, so I concluded to lay them on the
floor by the door; then the intruder would have to walk over them, &
that would indicate to him what they were there for. Did it? No,
it didn't. He was a machine, & had habits. Habits take precedence
Now consider this: a stamped & addressed letter lying on the floor--
lying aggressively & conspicuously on the floor--is an unusual
spectacle; so unusual a spectacle that you would think an intruder
couldn't see it there without immediately divining that it was not
there by accident, but had been deliberately placed there & for a
definite purpose. Very well--it may surprise you to learn that that
most simple & most natural & obvious thought would never occur to
any intruder on this planet, whether he be fool, half-fool, or the
most brilliant of thinkers. For he is always an automatic machine &
has habits, & his habits will act before his thinking apparatus can
get a chance to exert its powers. My scheme failed because every
human being has the habit of picking up any apparently misplaced
thing & placing it where it won't be stepped on.
My first intruder was George. He went and came without saying
anything. Presently I found the letters neatly piled up on the
billiard-table. I was astonished. I put them on the floor again.
The next intruder piled them on the billiard-table without a word.
I was profoundly moved, profoundly interested. So I set the trap
again. Also again, & again, & yet again--all day long. I caught
every member of the family, & every servant; also I caught the three
finest intellects in the town. In every instance old, time-worn
automatic habit got in its work so promptly that the thinking
apparatus never got a chance.
I do not remember this particular discussion, but I do distinctly recall
being one of those whose intelligence was not sufficient to prevent my
picking up the letter he had thrown on the floor in front of his bed, and
being properly classified for doing it.
Clemens no longer kept note-books, as in an earlier time, but set down
innumerable memoranda-comments, stray reminders, and the like--on small
pads, and bunches of these tiny sheets accumulated on his table and about
his room. I gathered up many of them then and afterward, and a few of
these characteristic bits may be offered here.
It is at our mother's knee that we acquire our noblest & truest & highest
ideals, but there is seldom any money in them.
He is all-good. He made man for hell or hell for man, one or the other--
take your choice. He made it hard to get into heaven and easy to get
into hell. He commended man to multiply & replenish-what? Hell.
MODESTY ANTEDATES CLOTHES
& will be resumed when clothes are no more.
[The latter part of this aphorism is erased and underneath it he adds:]
when clothes were born.
when false modesty was born.
A historian who would convey the truth has got to lie. Often he must
enlarge the truth by diameters, otherwise his reader would not be able to
are not the important thing--nor enlightenment--nor civilization. A man
can do absolutely well without them, but he can't do without something to
eat. The supremest thing is the needs of the body, not of the mind &
There is conscious suggestion & there is unconscious suggestion--both
come from outside--whence all ideas come.
I think I could wipe out a dishonor by crippling the other man, but I
don't see how I could do it by letting him cripple me.
I have no feeling of animosity toward people who do not believe as I do;
I merely do not respect 'em. In some serious matters (relig.) I would
have them burnt.
I am old now and once was a sinner. I often think of it with a kind of
soft regret. I trust my days are numbered. I would not have that detail
She was always a girl, she was always young because her heart was young;
& I was young because she lived in my heart & preserved its youth from
He often busied himself working out more extensively some of the ideas
that came to him--moral ideas, he called them. One fancy which he
followed in several forms (some of them not within the privilege of
print) was that of an inquisitive little girl, Bessie, who pursues her