Part 6 out of 29
"Lieutenant-General Sherman, Henry Ward Beecher, and Mask Twain; also
probably General Banks."
So he was billed as an attraction. It was his first surreptitious taste
of fame on the Atlantic coast, and not without its delight. The story
often told of his being introduced by Ned House, of the Tribune, as a
minister, though often repeated by Mark Twain himself, was in the nature
of a joke, and mainly apocryphal. Clemens was a good deal in House's
company at the time, for he had made an arrangement to contribute
occasional letters to the Tribune, and House no doubt introduced him
jokingly as one of the Quaker City ministers.
A NEW BOOK AND A LECTURE
Webb, meantime, had pushed the Frog book along. The proofs had been read
and the volume was about ready for issue. Clemens wrote to his mother
My book will probably be in the bookseller's hands in about two
weeks. After that I shall lecture. Since I have been gone, the
boys have gotten up a "call" on me signed by two hundred
The lecture plan was the idea of Frank Fuller, who as acting Governor of
Utah had known Mark Twain on the Comstock, and prophesied favorably of
his future career. Clemens had hunted up Fuller on landing in New York
in January, and Fuller had encouraged the lecture then; but Clemens was
"I have no reputation with the general public here," he said. "We
couldn't get a baker's dozen to hear me."
But Fuller was a sanguine person, with an energy and enthusiasm that were
infectious. He insisted that the idea was sound. It would solidify Mark
Twain's reputation on the Atlantic coast, he declared, insisting that the
largest house in New York, Cooper Union, should be taken. Clemens had
partially consented, and Fuller had arranged with all the Pacific slope
people who had come East, headed by ex-Governor James W. Nye (by this
time Senator at Washington), to sign a call for the "Inimitable Mark
Twain" to appear before a New York audience. Fuller made Nye agree to be
there and introduce the lecturer, and he was burningly busy and happy in
But Mark Twain was not happy. He looked at that spacious hall and
imagined the little crowd of faithful Californian stragglers that might
gather in to hear him, and the ridicule of the papers next day. He
begged Fuller to take a smaller hall, the smallest he could get. But
only the biggest hall in New York would satisfy Fuller. He would have
taken a larger one if he could have found it. The lecture was announced
for May 6th. Its subject was "Kanakadom, or the Sandwich Islands"--
tickets fifty cents. Fuller timed it to follow a few days after Webb's
book should appear, so that one event might help the other.
Mark Twain's first book, 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveyas
County, and Other Sketches', was scheduled for May 1st, and did, in fact,
appear on that date; but to the author it was no longer an important
event. Jim Smiley's frog as standard-bearer of his literary procession
was not an interesting object, so far as he was concerned--not with that
vast, empty hall in the background and the insane undertaking of trying
to fill it. The San Francisco venture had been as nothing compared with
this. Fuller was working night and day with abounding joy, while the
subject of his labor felt as if he were on the brink of a fearful
precipice, preparing to try a pair of wings without first learning to
fly. At one instant he was cold with fright, the next glowing with an
infection of Fuller's faith. He devised a hundred schemes for the sale
of seats. Once he came rushing to Fuller, saying:
"Send a lot of tickets down to the Chickering Piano Company. I have
promised to put on my programme, 'The piano used at this entertainment is
manufactured by Chickering."'
"But you don't want a piano, Mark," said Fuller, "do you?"
"No, of course not; but they will distribute the tickets for the sake of
the advertisement, whether we have the piano or not."
Fuller got out a lot of handbills and hung bunches of them in the stages,
omnibuses, and horse-cars. Clemens at first haunted these vehicles to
see if anybody noticed the bills. The little dangling bunches seemed
untouched. Finally two men came in; one of them pulled off a bill and
glanced at it. His friend asked:
"Who's Mark Twain?"
"God knows; I don't!"
The lecturer could not ride any more. He was desperate.
"Fuller," he groaned, "there isn't a sign--a ripple of interest."
Fuller assured him that everything was working all right "working
underneath," Fuller said--but the lecturer was hopeless. He reported his
impressions to the folks at home:
Everything looks shady, at least, if not dark; I have a good agent;
but now, after we have hired the Cooper Institute, and gone to an
expense in one way or another of $500, it comes out that I have got
to play against Speaker Colfax at Irving Hall, Ristori, and also the
double troop of Japanese jugglers, the latter opening at the great
Academy of Music--and with all this against me I have taken the
largest house in New York and cannot back water.
He might have added that there were other rival entertainments: "The
Flying Scud" was at Wallack's, the "Black Crook" was at Niblo's, John
Brougham at the Olympic; and there were at least a dozen lesser
attractions. New York was not the inexhaustible city in those days;
these things could gather in the public to the last man. When the day
drew near, and only a few tickets had been sold, Clemens was desperate.
"Fuller," he said, "there'll be nobody in the Cooper Union that night but
you and me. I am on the verge of suicide. I would commit suicide if I
had the pluck and the outfit. You must paper the house, Fuller. You
must send out a flood of complementaries."
"Very well," said Fuller; "what we want this time is reputation anyway--
money is secondary. I'll put you before the choicest, most intelligent
audience that ever was gathered in New York City. I will bring in the
school-instructors--the finest body of men and women in the world."
Fuller immediately sent out a deluge of complimentary tickets, inviting
the school-teachers of New York and Brooklyn, and all the adjacent
country, to come free and hear Mark Twain's great lecture on Kanakadom.
This was within forty-eight hours of the time he was to appear.
Senator Nye was to have joined Clemens and Fuller at the Westminster,
where Clemens was stopping, and they waited for him there with a
carriage, fuming and swearing, until it was evident that he was not
coming. At last Clemens said:
"Fuller, you've got to introduce me."
"No," suggested Fuller; "I've got a better scheme than that. You get up
and begin by bemeaning Nye for not being there. That will be better
"Well, Fuller, I can do that. I feel that way. I'll try to think up
something fresh and happy to say about that horse-thief."
They drove to Cooper Union with trepidation. Suppose, after all, the
school-teachers had declined to come? They went half an hour before the
lecture was to begin. Forty years later Mark Twain said:
"I couldn't keep away. I wanted to see that vast Mammoth cave and die.
But when we got near the building I saw that all the streets were blocked
with people, and that traffic had stopped. I couldn't believe that these
people were trying to get into Cooper Institute; but they were, and when
I got to the stage at last the house was jammed full-packed; there wasn't
room enough left for a child.
"I was happy and I was excited beyond expression. I poured the Sandwich
Islands out on those people, and they laughed and shouted to my entire
content. For an hour and fifteen minutes I was in paradise."
And Fuller to-day, alive and young, when so many others of that ancient
time and event have vanished, has added:
"When Mark appeared the Californians gave a regular yell of welcome.
When that was over he walked to the edge of the platform, looked
carefully down in the pit, round the edges as if he were hunting for
something. Then he said: 'There was to have been a piano here, and a
senator to introduce me. I don't seem to discover them anywhere. The
piano was a good one, but we will have to get along with such music as I
can make with your help. As for the senator--Then Mark let himself go
and did as he promised about Senator Nye. He said things that made men
from the Pacific coast, who had known Nye, scream with delight. After
that came his lecture. The first sentence captured the audience. From
that moment to the end it was either in a roar of laughter or half
breathless by his beautiful descriptive passages. People were positively
ill for days, laughing at that lecture."
So it was a success: everybody was glad to have been there; the papers
were kind, congratulations numerous.
--[Kind but not extravagant; those were burning political times, and the
doings of mere literary people did not excite the press to the extent of
headlines. A jam around Cooper Union to-day, followed by such an
artistic triumph, would be a news event. On the other hand, Schuyler
Colfax, then Speaker of the House, was reported to the extent of a
column, nonpareil. His lecture was of no literary importance, and no
echo of it now remains. But those were political, not artistic, days.
Of Mark Twain's lecture the Times notice said:
"Nearly every one present came prepared for considerable provocation for
enjoyable laughter, and from the appearance of their mirthful faces
leaving the hall at the conclusion of the lecture but few were
disappointed, and it is not too much to say that seldom has so large an
audience been so uniformly pleased as the one that listened to Mark
Twain's quaint remarks last evening. The large hall of the Union was
filled to its utmost capacity by fully two thousand persons, which fact
spoke well for the reputation of the lecturer and his future success.
Mark Twain's style is a quaint one both in manner and method, and through
his discourse he managed to keep on the right side of the audience, and
frequently convulsed it with hearty laughter.... During a description of
the topography of the Sandwich Islands the lecturer surprised his hearers
by a graphic and eloquent description of the eruption of the great
volcano, which occurred in 1840, and his language was loudly applauded.
"Judging from the success achieved by the lecturer last evening, he
should repeat his experiment at an early date."]
By Invitation of s large number of prominent Californians and
Citizens of New York,
WILL DELIVER A
THE SANDWICH ISLANDS,
On Monday Evening, May 6,1867.
TICKETS FIFTY GENTS.
For Sale at Chickering and Sons, 852 Broadway, and at the Principal
Doors open at 7 o'clock. The Wisdom will begin to flow at 8.
Mark Twain always felt grateful to the school-teachers for that night.
Many years later, when they wanted him to read to them in Steinway Hall,
he gladly gave his services without charge.
Nor was the lecture a complete financial failure. In spite of the flood
of complementaries, there was a cash return of some three hundred dollars
from the sale of tickets--a substantial aid in defraying the expenses
which Fuller assumed and insisted on making good on his own account.
That was Fuller's regal way; his return lay in the joy of the game, and
in the winning of the larger stake for a friend.
"Mark," he said, "it is all right. The fortune didn't come, but it will.
The fame has arrived; with this lecture and your book just out you are
going to be the most talked-of man in the country. Your letters for the
Alta and the Tribune will get the widest reception of any letters of
travel ever written."
THE FIRST BOOK
With the shadow of the Cooper Institute so happily dispelled, The
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and his following of Other
Sketches, became a matter of more interest. The book was a neat blue-
and-gold volume printed by John A. Gray & Green, the old firm for which
the boy, Sam Clemens, had set type thirteen years before. The title-page
bore Webb's name as publisher, with the American News Company as selling
agents. It further stated that the book was edited by "John Paul," that
is to say by Webb himself. The dedication was in keeping with the
general irresponsible character of the venture. It was as follows:
WHOM I HAVE KNOWN IN DIVERS AND SUNDRY
PLACES ABOUT THE WORLD, AND WHOSE
MANY AND MANIFOLD VIRTUES DID
ALWAYS COMMAND MY ESTEEM,
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
It is said that the man to whom a volume is dedicated always buys a copy.
If this prove true in the present instance, a princely affluence is about
to burst upon
The "advertisement" stated that the author had "scaled the heights of
popularity at a single jump, and won for himself the sobriquet of the
'Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope'; furthermore, that he was known to
fame as the 'Moralist of the Main,'" and that as such he would be likely
to go down to posterity, adding that it was in his secondary character,
as humorist, rather than in his primal one of moralist, that the volume
aimed to present him.--[The advertisement complete, with extracts from
the book, may be found under Appendix E, at the end of last volume.]
Every little while, during the forty years or more that have elapsed
since then, some one has come forward announcing Mark Twain to be as much
a philosopher as a humorist, as if this were a new discovery. But it was
a discovery chiefly to the person making the announcement. Every one who
ever knew Mark Twain at any period of his life made the same discovery.
Every one who ever took the trouble to familiarize himself with his work
made it. Those who did not make it have known his work only by hearsay
and quotation, or they have read it very casually, or have been very
dull. It would be much more of a discovery to find a book in which he
has not been serious--a philosopher, a moralist, and a poet. Even in the
Jumping Frog sketches, selected particularly for their inconsequence, the
under-vein of reflection and purpose is not lacking. The answer to Moral
Statistician--[In "Answers to Correspondents," included now in Sketches
New and Old. An extract from it, and from "A Strange Dream," will be
found in Appendix E.]--is fairly alive with human wisdom and righteous
wrath. The "Strange Dream," though ending in a joke, is aglow with
poetry. Webb's "advertisement" was playfully written, but it was
earnestly intended, and he writes Mark Twain down a moralist--not as a
discovery, but as a matter of course. The discoveries came along later,
when the author's fame as a humorist had dazzled the nations.
It is as well to say it here as anywhere, perhaps, that one reason why
Mark Twain found it difficult to be accepted seriously was the fact that
his personality was in itself so essentially humorous. His physiognomy,
his manner of speech, this movement, his mental attitude toward events--
all these were distinctly diverting. When we add to this that his medium
of expression was nearly always full of the quaint phrasing and those
surprising appositions which we recognize as amusing, it is not so
astonishing that his deeper, wiser, more serious purpose should be
overlooked. On the whole these unabated discoverers serve a purpose, if
only to make the rest of their species look somewhat deeper than the
The little blue-and-gold volume which presented the Frog story and
twenty-six other sketches in covers is chiefly important to-day as being
Mark Twain's first book. The selections in it were made for a public
that had been too busy with a great war to learn discrimination, and most
of them have properly found oblivion. Fewer than a dozen of them were
included in his collected Sketches issued eight years later, and some
even of those might have been spared; also some that were added, for that
matter; but detailed literary criticism is not the province of this work.
The reader may investigate and judge for himself.
Clemens was pleased with the appearance of his book. To Bret Harte he
The book is out and it is handsome. It is full of damnable errors of
grammar and deadly inconsistencies of spelling in the Frog sketch,
because I was away and did not read proofs; but be a friend and say
nothing about these things. When my hurry is over, I will send you a
copy to pisen the children with.
That he had no exaggerated opinion of the book's contents or prospects we
may gather from his letter home:
As for the Frog book, I don't believe it will ever pay anything worth a
cent. I published it simply to advertise myself, and not with the hope
of making anything out of it.
He had grown more lenient in his opinion of the merits of the Frog story
itself since it had made friends in high places, especially since James
Russell Lowell had pronounced it "the finest piece of humorous writing
yet produced in America"; but compared with his lecture triumph, and his
prospective journey to foreign seas, his book venture, at best, claimed
no more than a casual regard. A Sandwich Island book (he had collected
his Union letters with the idea of a volume) he gave up altogether after
one unsuccessful offer of it to Dick & Fitzgerald.
Frank Fuller's statement, that the fame had arrived, had in it some
measure of truth. Lecture propositions came from various directions.
Thomas Nast, then in the early day of his great popularity, proposed a
joint tour, in which Clemens would lecture, while he, Nast, illustrated
the remarks with lightning caricatures. But the time was too short; the
Quaker City would sail on the 8th of June, and in the mean time the Alta
correspondent was far behind with his New York letters. On May 29th he
I am 18 Alta letters behind, and I must catch up or bust. I have refused
all invitations to lecture. Don't know how my book is coming on.
He worked like a slave for a week or so, almost night and day, to clean
up matters before his departure. Then came days of idleness and
reaction-days of waiting, during which his natural restlessness and the
old-time regret for things done and undone, beset him.
My passage is paid, and if the ship sails I sail on her; but I make
no calculations, have bought no cigars, no sea-going clothing--have
made no preparations whatever--shall not pack my trunk till the
morning we sail.
All I do know or feel is that I am wild with impatience to move--
move--move! Curse the endless delays! They always kill me--they
make me neglect every duty, and then I have a conscience that tears
me like a wild beast. I wish I never had to stop anywhere a month.
I do more mean things the moment I get a chance to fold my hands and
sit down than ever I get forgiveness for.
Yes, we are to meet at Mr. Beach's next Thursday night, and I
suppose we shall have to be gotten up regardless of expense, in
swallow-tails, white kids and everything 'en regle'.
I am resigned to Rev. Mr. Hutchinson's or anybody else's
supervision. I don't mind it. I am fixed. I have got a splendid,
immoral, tobacco-smoking, wine-drinking, godless roommate who is as
good and true and right-minded a man as ever lived--a man whose
blameless conduct and example will always be an eloquent sermon to
all who shall come within their influence. But send on the
professional preachers--there are none I like better to converse
with; if they're not narrowminded and bigoted they make good
The "splendid immoral room-mate" was Dan Slote--"Dan," of The Innocents,
a lovable character--all as set down. Samuel Clemens wrote one more
letter to his mother and sister--a conscience-stricken, pessimistic
letter of good-by written the night before sailing. Referring to the
Alta letters he says:
I think they are the stupidest letters ever written from New York.
Corresponding has been a perfect drag ever since I got to the
States. If it continues abroad, I don't know what the Tribune and
Alta folk will think.
He remembers Orion, who had been officially eliminated when Nevada had
I often wonder if his law business is going satisfactorily. I wish
I had gone to Washington in the winter instead of going West. I
could have gouged an office out of Bill Stewart for him, and that
would have atoned for the loss of my home visit. But I am so
worthless that it seems to me I never do anything or accomplish
anything that lingers in my mind as a pleasant memory. My mind is
stored full of unworthy conduct toward Orion and toward you all, and
an accusing conscience gives me peace only in excitement and
restless moving from place to place. If I could only say I had done
one thing for any of you that entitled me to your good opinions (I
say nothing of your love, for I am sure of that, no matter how
unworthy of it I may make myself--from Orion down, you have always
given me that; all the days of my life, when God Almighty knows I
have seldom deserved it), I believe I could go home and stay there--
and I know I would care little for the world's praise or blame.
There is no satisfaction in the world's praise anyhow, and it has no
worth to me save in the way of business. I tried to gather up its
compliments to send you, but the work was distasteful and I dropped
You observe that under a cheerful exterior I have got a spirit that
is angry with me and gives me freely its contempt. I can get away
from that at sea, and be tranquil and satisfied; and so, with my
parting love and benediction for Orion and all of you, I say good-by
and God bless you all-and welcome the wind that wafts a weary soul
to the sunny lands of the Mediterranean!
THE INNOCENTS AT SEA
HOLY LAND PLEASURE EXCURSION
Steamer: Quaker City.
Captain C. C. Duncan.
Left New York at 2 P.m., June 8, 1867.
Rough weather--anchored within the harbor to lay all night.
That first note recorded an event momentous in Mark Twain's career--an
event of supreme importance; if we concede that any link in a chain
regardless of size is of more importance than any other link.
Undoubtedly it remains the most conspicuous event, as the world views it
now, in retrospect.
The note further heads a new chapter of history in sea-voyaging. No such
thing as the sailing of an ocean steamship with a pleasure-party on a
long transatlantic cruise had ever occurred before. A similar project
had been undertaken the previous year, but owing to a cholera scare in
the East it had been abandoned. Now the dream had become a fact--a
stupendous fact when we consider it. Such an important beginning as that
now would in all likelihood furnish the chief news story of the day.
But they had different ideas of news in those days. There were no
headlines announcing the departure of the Quaker City--only the barest
mention of the ship's sailing, though a prominent position was given to
an account of a senatorial excursion-party which set out that same
morning over the Union Pacific Railway, then under construction. Every
name in that political party was set dawn, and not one of them except
General Hancock will ever be heard of again. The New York Times,
however, had some one on its editorial staff who thought it worth while
to comment a little on the history-making Quaker City excursion. The
writer was pleasantly complimentary to officers and passengers. He
referred to Moses S. Beach, of the Sun, who was taking with him type and
press, whereby he would "skilfully utilize the brains of the company for
their mutual edification." Mr. Beecher and General Sherman would find
talent enough aboard to make the hours go pleasantly (evidently the
writer had not interested himself sufficiently to know that these
gentlemen were not along), and the paragraph closed by prophesying other
such excursions, and wishing the travelers "good speed, a happy voyage,
and a safe return."
That was handsome, especially for those days; only now, some fine day,
when an airship shall start with a band of happy argonauts to land beyond
the sunrise for the first time in history, we shall feature it and
emblazon it with pictures in the Sunday papers, and weeklies, and in the
magazines.--[The Quaker City idea was so unheard-of that in some of the
foreign ports visited, the officials could not believe that the vessel
was simply a pleasure-craft, and were suspicious of some dark, ulterior
That Henry Ward Beecher and General Sherman had concluded not to go was a
heavy disappointment at first; but it proved only a temporary disaster.
The inevitable amalgamation of all ship companies took place. The sixty-
seven travelers fell into congenial groups, or they mingled and devised
amusements, and gossiped and became a big family, as happy and as free
from contention as families of that size are likely to be.
The Quaker City was a good enough ship and sizable for her time. She was
registered eighteen hundred tons--about one-tenth the size of
Mediterranean excursion-steamers today--and when conditions were
favorable she could make ten knots an hour under steam--or, at least, she
could do it with the help of her auxiliary sails. Altogether she was a
cozy, satisfactory ship, and they were a fortunate company who had her
all to themselves and went out on her on that long-ago ocean gipsying.
She has grown since then, even to the proportions of the Mayflower. It
was necessary for her to grow to hold all of those who in later times
claimed to have sailed in her on that voyage with Mark Twain.--[The
Quaker City passenger list will be found under Appendix F, at the end of
They were not all ministers and deacons aboard the Quaker City. Clemens
found other congenial spirits be sides his room-mate Dan Slote--among
them the ship's surgeon, Dr. A. Reeve Jackson (the guide-destroying
"Doctor" of The Innocents); Jack Van Nostrand, of New Jersey ("Jack");
Julius Moulton, of St. Louis ("Moult"), and other care-free fellows, the
smoking-room crowd which is likely to make comradeship its chief
watchword. There were companionable people in the cabin crowd also--
fine, intelligent men and women, especially one of the latter, a middle-
aged, intellectual, motherly soul--Mrs. A. W. Fairbanks, of Cleveland,
Ohio. Mrs. Fairbanks--herself a newspaper correspondent for her
husband's paper, the Cleveland Herald had a large influence on the
character and general tone of those Quaker City letters which established
Mark Twain's larger fame. She was an able writer herself; her judgment
was thoughtful, refined, unbiased--altogether of a superior sort. She
understood Samuel Clemens, counseled him, encouraged him to read his
letters aloud to her, became in reality "Mother Fairbanks," as they
termed her, to him and to others of that ship who needed her kindly
In one of his home letters, later, he said of her:
She was the most refined, intelligent, cultivated lady in the ship,
and altogether the kindest and best. She sewed my buttons on, kept
my clothing in presentable trim, fed me on Egyptian jam (when I
behaved), lectured me awfully on the quarter-deck on moonlit
promenading evenings, and cured me of several bad habits. I am
under lasting obligations to her. She looks young because she is so
good, but she has a grown son and daughter at home.
In one of the early letters which Mrs. Fairbanks wrote to her paper she
is scarcely less complimentary to him, even if in a different way.
We have D.D.'s and M.D.'s--we have men of wisdom and men of wit.
There is one table from which is sure to come a peal of laughter,
and all eyes are turned toward Mark Twain, whose face is, perfectly
mirth-provoking. Sitting lazily at the table, scarcely genteel in
his appearance, there is something, I know not what, that interests
and attracts. I saw to-day at dinner venerable divines and sage-
looking men convulsed with laughter at his drolleries and quaint,
It requires only a few days on shipboard for acquaintances to form, and
presently a little afternoon group was gathering to hear Mark Twain read
his letters. Mrs. Fairbanks was there, of course, also Mr. and Mrs. S.
L. Severance, likewise of Cleveland, and Moses S. Beach, of the Sun, with
his daughter Emma, a girl of seventeen. Dan Slote was likely to be
there, too, and Jack, and the Doctor, and Charles J. Langdon, of Elmira,
New York, a boy of eighteen, who had conceived a deep admiration for the
brilliant writer. They were fortunate ones who first gathered to hear
those daring, wonderful letters.
But the benefit was a mutual one. He furnished a priceless entertainment,
and he derived something equally priceless in return--the test of
immediate audience and the boon of criticism. Mrs. Fairbanks especially
was frankly sincere. Mr. Severance wrote afterward:
One afternoon I saw him tearing up a bunch of the soft, white paper-
copy paper, I guess the newspapers call it-on which he had written
something, and throwing the fragments into the Mediterranean. I
inquired of him why he cast away the fruits of his labors in that
"Well," he drawled, "Mrs. Fairbanks thinks it oughtn't to be printed,
and, like as not, she is right."
And Emma Beach (Mrs. Abbott Thayer) remembers hearing him say:
"Well, Mrs. Fairbanks has just destroyed another four hours' work for
Sometimes he played chess with Emma Beach, who thought him a great hero
because, once when a crowd of men were tormenting a young lad, a
passenger, Mark Twain took the boy's part and made them desist.
"I am sure I was right, too," she declares; "heroism came natural to
Mr. Severance recalls another incident which, as he says, was trivial
enough, but not easy to forget:
We were having a little celebration over the birthday anniversary of Mrs.
Duncan, wife of our captain. Mark Twain got up and made a little speech,
in which he said Mrs. Duncan was really older than Methuselah because she
knew a lot of things that Methuselah never heard of. Then he mentioned a
number of more or less modern inventions, and wound up by saying, "What
did Methuselah know about a barbed-wire fence?"
Except Following the Equator, The Innocents Abroad comes nearer to being
history than any other of Mark Twain's travel-books. The notes for it
were made on the spot, and there was plenty of fact, plenty of fresh, new
experience, plenty of incident to set down. His idea of descriptive
travel in those days was to tell the story as it happened; also, perhaps,
he had not then acquired the courage of his inventions. We may believe
that the adventures with Jack, Dan, and the Doctor are elaborated here
and there; but even those happened substantially as recorded. There is
little to add, then, to the story of that halcyon trip, and not much to
The old note-books give a light here and there that is interesting. It
is curious to be looking through them now, trying to realize that these
penciled memoranda were the fresh, first impressions that would presently
grow into the world's most delightful book of travel; that they were set
down in the very midst of that care-free little company that frolicked
through Italy, climbed wearily the arid Syrian hills. They are all dead
now; but to us they are as alive and young to-day as when they followed
the footprints of the Son of Man through Palestine, and stood at last
before the Sphinx, impressed and awed by its "five thousand slow-
Some of the items consist of no more than a few terse, suggestive words--
serious, humorous, sometimes profane. Others are statistical,
descriptive, elaborated. Also there are drawings--"not copied," he marks
them, with a pride not always justified by the result. The earlier notes
are mainly comments on the "pilgrims," the freak pilgrims: "the Frenchy-
looking woman who owns a dog and keeps up an interminable biography of
him to the passengers"; the "long-legged, simple, wide-mouthed, horse-
laughing young fellow who once made a sea voyage to Fortress Monroe, and
quotes eternally from his experiences"; also, there is reference to
another young man, "good, accommodating, pleasant but fearfully green."
This young person would become the "Interrogation Point," in due time,
and have his picture on page 71 (old edition), while opposite him, on
page 70, would appear the "oracle," identified as one Doctor Andrews, who
(the note-book says) had the habit of "smelling in guide-books for
knowledge and then trying to play it for old information that has been
festering in his brain." Sometimes there are abstract notes such as:
How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing that no one had
ever said it before.
Of the "character" notes, the most important and elaborated is that which
presents the "Poet Lariat." This is the entry, somewhat epitomized:
BLOODGOOD H. CUTTER
He is fifty years old, and small of his age. He dresses in
homespun, and is a simple-minded, honest, old-fashioned farmer, with
a strange proclivity for writing rhymes. He writes them on all
possible subjects, and gets them printed on slips of paper, with his
portrait at the head. These he will give to any man who comes
along, whether he has anything against him or not . . . .
"It must be a great happiness to you to sit down at the close of day
and put its events all down in rhymes and poetry, like Byron and
Shakespeare and those fellows."
"Oh yes, it is--it is--Why, many's the time I've had to get up in
the night when it comes on me:
Whether we're on the sea or the land
We've all got to go at the word of command--
"Hey! how's that?"
A curious character was Cutter--a Long Island farmer with the obsession
of rhyme. In his old age, in an interview, he said:
"Mark was generally writing and he was glum. He would write what we were
doing, and I would write poetry, and Mark would say:
"'For Heaven's sake, Cutter, keep your poems to yourself.'
"Yes, Mark was pretty glum, and he was generally writing."
Poor old Poet Lariat--dead now with so many others of that happy crew.
We may believe that Mark learned to be "glum" when he saw the Lariat
approaching with his sheaf of rhymes. We may believe, too, that he was
"generally writing." He contributed fifty-three letters to the Alta
during that five months and six to the Tribune. They would average about
two columns nonpareil each, which is to say four thousand words, or
something like two hundred and fifty thousand words in all. To turn out
an average of fifteen hundred words a day, with continuous sight-seeing
besides, one must be generally writing during any odd intervals; those
who are wont to regard Mark Twain as lazy may consider these statistics.
That he detested manual labor is true enough, but at the work for which
he was fitted and intended it may be set down here upon authority (and
despite his own frequent assertions to the contrary) that to his last
year he was the most industrious of men.
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD
It was Dan, Jack, and the Doctor who with Mark Twain wandered down
through Italy and left moral footprints that remain to this day. The
Italian guides are wary about showing pieces of the True Cross, fragments
of the Crown of Thorns, and the bones of saints since then. They show
them, it is true, but with a smile; the name of Mark Twain is a touch-
stone to test their statements. Not a guide in Italy but has heard the
tale of that iconoclastic crew, and of the book which turned their
marvels into myths, their relics into bywords.
It was Doctor Jackson, Colonel Denny, Doctor Birch, and Samuel Clemens
who evaded the quarantine and made the perilous night trip to Athens and
looked upon the Parthenon and the sleeping city by moonlight. It is all
set down in the notes, and the account varies little from that given in
the book; only he does not tell us that Captain Duncan and the
quartermaster, Pratt, connived at the escapade, or how the latter watched
the shore in anxious suspense until he heard the whistle which was their
signal to be taken aboard. It would have meant six months' imprisonment
if they had been captured, for there was no discretion in the Greek law.
It was T. D. Crocker, A. N. Sanford, Col. Peter Kinney, and William
Gibson who were delegated to draft the address to the Emperor of Russia
at Yalta, with Samuel L. Clemens as chairman of that committee. The
chairman wrote the address, the opening sentence of which he grew so
weary of hearing:
We are a handful of private citizens of America, traveling simply
for recreation, and unostentatiously, as becomes our unofficial
The address is all set down in the notes, and there also exists the first
rough draft, with the emendations in his own hand. He deplores the time
That job is over. Writing addresses to emperors is not my strong
suit. However, if it is not as good as it might be it doesn't
signify--the other committeemen ought to have helped me write it;
they had nothing to do, and I had my hands full. But for bothering
with this I would have caught up entirely with my New York Tribune
correspondence and nearly up with the San Francisco.
They wanted him also to read the address to the Emperor, but he pointed
out that the American consul was the proper person for that office. He
tells how the address was presented:
August 26th. The Imperial carriages were in waiting at eleven, and at
twelve we were at the palace....
The Consul for Odessa read the address and the Czar said frequently,
"Good--very good; indeed"--and at the close, "I am very, very grateful."
It was not improper for him to set down all this, and much more, in his
own note-book--not then for publication. It was in fact a very proper
One incident of the imperial audience Mark Twain omitted from his book,
perhaps because the humor of it had not yet become sufficiently evident.
"The humorous perception of a thing is a pretty slow growth sometimes,"
he once remarked. It was about seventeen years before he could laugh
enjoyably at a slight mistake he made at the Emperor's reception. He set
down a memorandum of it, then, for fear it might be lost:
There were a number of great dignitaries of the Empire there, and
although, as a general thing, they were dressed in citizen's
clothing, I observed that the most of them wore a very small piece
of ribbon in the lapels of their coats. That little touch of color
struck my fancy, and it seemed to me a good idea to add it to my own
attractions; not imagining that it had any special significance. So
I stepped aside, hunted up a bit of red ribbon, and ornamented my
lapel with it. Presently, Count Festetics, the Grand Master of
ceremonies, and the only man there who was gorgeously arrayed, in
full official costume, began to show me a great many attentions. He
was particularly polite, and pleasant, and anxious to be of service
to me. Presently, he asked me what order of nobility I belonged to?
I said, "I didn't belong to any." Then he asked me what order of
knighthood I belonged to? I said, "None." Then he asked me what
the red ribbon in my buttonhole stood for? I saw, at once, what an
ass I had been making of myself, and was accordingly confused and
embarrassed. I said the first thing that came into my mind, and
that was that the ribbon was merely the symbol of a club of
journalists to which I belonged, and I was not pursued with any more
of Count Festetic's attentions.
Later, I got on very familiar terms with an old gentleman, whom I
took to be the head gardener, and walked him all about the gardens,
slipping my arm into his without invitation, yet without demur on
his part, and by and by was confused again when I found that he was
not a gardener at all, but the Lord High Admiral of Russia! I
almost made up my mind that I would never call on an Emperor again.
Like all Mediterranean excursionists, those first pilgrims were
insatiable collectors of curios, costumes, and all manner of outlandish
things. Dan Slote had the stateroom hung and piled with such gleanings.
At Constantinople his room-mate writes:
I thought Dan had got the state-room pretty full of rubbish at last,
but awhile ago his dragoman arrived with a brand-new ghastly
tombstone of the Oriental pattern, with his name handsomely carved
and gilted on it in Turkish characters. That fellow will buy a
Circassian slave next.
It was Church, Denny, Jack, Davis, Dan, Moult, and Mark Twain who made
the "long trip" through Syria from Beirut to Jerusalem with their
elaborate camping outfit and decrepit nags "Jericho," "Baalbec," and the
rest. It was better camping than that Humboldt journey of six years
before, though the horses were not so dissimilar, and altogether it was a
hard, nerve-racking experience, climbing the arid hills of Palestine in
that torrid summer heat. Nobody makes that trip in summer-time now.
Tourists hurry out of Syria before the first of April, and they do not go
back before November. One brief quotation from Mark Twain's book gives
us an idea of what that early party of pilgrims had to undergo:
We left Damascus at noon and rode across the plain a couple of
hours, and then the party stopped a while in the shade of some fig-
trees to give me a chance to rest. It was the hottest day we had
seen yet--the sun-flames shot down like the shafts of fire that
stream out before a blow-pipe; the rays seemed to fall in a deluge
on the head and pass downward like rain from a roof. I imagined I
could distinguish between the floods of rays. I thought I could
tell when each flood struck my head, when it reached my shoulders,
and when the next one came. It was terrible.
He had been ill with cholera at Damascus, a light attack; but any attack
of that dread disease is serious enough. He tells of this in the book,
but he does not mention, either in the book or in his notes, the attack
which Dan Slote had some days later. It remained for William F. Church,
of the party, to relate that incident, for it was the kind of thing that
Mark Twain was not likely to record, or even to remember. Doctor Church
was a deacon with orthodox views and did not approve of Mark Twain; he
thought him sinful, irreverent, profane.
"He was the worst man I ever knew," Church said; then he added, "And the
What happened was this: At the end of a terrible day of heat, when the
party had camped on the edge of a squalid Syrian village, Dan was taken
suddenly ill. It was cholera, beyond doubt. Dan could not go on--he
might never go on. The chances were that way. It was a serious matter
all around. To wait with Dan meant to upset their travel schedule--it
might mean to miss the ship. Consultation was held and a resolution
passed (the pilgrims were always passing resolutions) to provide for Dan
as well as possible, and leave him behind. Clemens, who had remained
with Dan, suddenly appeared and said:
"Gentlemen, I understand that you are going to leave Dan Slote here
alone. I'll be d---d if I do!"
And he didn't. He stayed there and brought Dan into Jerusalem, a few
days late, but convalescent.
Perhaps most of them were not always reverent during that Holy Land trip.
It was a trying journey, and after fierce days of desert hills the
reaction might not always spare even the holiest memories. Jack was
particularly sinful. When they learned the price for a boat on Galilee,
and the deacons who had traveled nearly half around the world to sail on
that sacred water were confounded by the charge, Jack said:
"Well, Denny, do you wonder now that Christ walked?"
It was the irreverent Jack who one morning (they had camped the night
before by the ruins of Jericho) refused to get up to see the sun rise
across the Jordan. Deacon Church went to his tent.
"Jack, my boy, get up. Here is the place where the Israelites crossed
over into the Promised Land, and beyond are the mountains of Moab, where
Moses lies buried."
"Moses who!" said Jack.
"Oh, Jack, my boy, Moses, the great lawgiver--who led the Israelites out
of Egypt-forty years through the wilderness--to the Promised Land."
"Forty years!" said Jack. "How far was it?"
"It was three hundred miles, Jack; a great wilderness, and he brought
them through in safety."
Jack regarded him with scorn. "Huh, Moses--three hundred miles forty
years--why, Ben Holiday would have brought them through in thirty-six
hours!"--[Ben Holiday, owner of the Overland stages, and a man of great
executive ability. This incident, a true one, is more elaborately told
in Roughing It, but it seems pertinent here.]
Jack probably learned more about the Bible during that trip-its history
and its heroes-than during all his former years. Nor was Jack the only
one of that group thus benefited. The sacred landmarks of Palestine
inspire a burning interest in the Scriptures, and Mark Twain probably did
not now regret those early Sunday-school lessons; certainly he did not
fail to review them exhaustively on that journey. His note-books fairly
overflow with Bible references; the Syrian chapters in The Innocents
Abroad are permeated with the poetry and legendary beauty of the Bible
story. The little Bible he carried on that trip, bought in
Constantinople, was well worn by the time they reached the ship again at
Jaffa. He must have read it with a large and persistent interest; also
with a double benefit. For, besides the knowledge acquired, he was
harvesting a profit--probably unsuspected at the time---viz., the
influence of the most direct and beautiful English--the English of the
King James version--which could not fail to affect his own literary
method at that impressionable age. We have already noted his earlier
admiration for that noble and simple poem, "The Burial of Moses," which
in the Palestine note-book is copied in full. All the tendency of his
expression lay that way, and the intense consideration of stately Bible
phrase and imagery could hardly fail to influence his mental processes.
The very distinct difference of style, as shown in The Innocents Abroad
and in his earlier writings, we may believe was in no small measure due
to his study of the King James version during those weeks in Palestine.
He bought another Bible at Jerusalem; but it was not for himself. It was
a little souvenir volume bound in olive and balsam wood, and on the fly-
leaf is inscribed:
Mrs. Jane Clemens from her son. Jerusalem, Sept. 24, 1867.
There is one more circumstance of that long cruise-recorded neither in
the book nor the notes--an incident brief, but of more importance in the
life of Samuel Clemens than any heretofore set down. It occurred in the
beautiful Bay of Smyrna, on the fifth or sixth of September, while the
vessel lay there for the Ephesus trip.
Reference has been made to young Charles Langdon, of Elmira (the
"Charley" once mentioned in the Innocents), as an admirer of Mark Twain.
There was a good deal of difference in their ages, and they were seldom
of the same party; but sometimes the boy invited the journalist to his
cabin and, boy-like, exhibited his treasures. He had two sisters at
home; and of Olivia, the youngest, he had brought a dainty miniature done
on ivory in delicate tints--a sweet-pictured countenance, fine and
spiritual. On that fateful day in the day of Smyrna, Samuel Clemens,
visiting in young Langdon's cabin, was shown this portrait. He looked at
it with long admiration, and spoke of it reverently, for the delicate
face seemed to him to be something more than a mere human likeness. Each
time he came, after that, he asked to see the picture, and once even
begged to be allowed to take it away with him. The boy would not agree
to this, and the elder man looked long and steadily at the miniature,
resolving in his mind that some day he would meet the owner of that
lovely face--a purpose for once in accord with that which the fates had
arranged for him, in the day when all things were arranged, the day of
the first beginning.
THE RETURN OF THE PILGRIMS
The last note-book entry bears date of October 11th:
At sea, somewhere in the neighborhood of Malta. Very stormy.
Terrible death to be talked to death. The storm has blown two small
land birds and a hawk to sea and they came on board. Sea full of
That is all. There is no record of the week's travel in Spain, which a
little group of four made under the picturesque Gibraltar guide, Benunes,
still living and quite as picturesque at last accounts. This side-trip
is covered in a single brief paragraph in the Innocents, and the only
account we have of it is in a home letter, from Cadiz, of October 24th:
We left Gibraltar at noon and rode to Algeciras (4 hours), thus
dodging the quarantine--took dinner, and then rode horseback all
night in a swinging trot, and at daylight took a caleche (a-wheeled
vehicle), and rode 5 hours--then took cars and traveled till twelve
at night. That landed us at Seville, and we were over the hard part
of our trip and somewhat tired. Since then we have taken things
comparatively easy, drifting around from one town to another and
attracting a good deal of attention--for I guess strangers do not
wander through Andalusia and the other southern provinces of Spain
often. The country is precisely what it was when Don Quixote and
Sancho Panza were possible characters.
But I see now what the glory of Spain must have been when it was
under Moorish domination. No, I will not say that--but then when
one is carried away, infatuated, entranced, with the wonders of the
Alhambra and the supernatural beauty of the Alcazar, he is apt to
overflow with admiration for the splendid intellects that created
We may wish that he had left us a chapter of that idyllic journey, but it
will never be written now. A night or two before the vessel reached New
York there was the usual good-by assembly, and for this occasion, at Mrs.
Severance's request, Mark Twain wrote some verses. They were not
especially notable, for meter and rhyme did not come easy to him, but one
prophetic stanza is worth remembering. In the opening lines the
passengers are referred to as a fleet of vessels, then follows:
Lo! other ships of that parted fleet
Shall suffer this fate or that:
One shall be wrecked, another shall sink,
Or ground on treacherous flat.
Some shall be famed in many lands
As good ships, fast and fair,
And some shall strangely disappear,
Men know not when or where.
The Quaker City returned to America on November 19, 1867, and Mark Twain
found himself, if not famous, at least in very wide repute. The fifty-
three letters to the Alta and the half-dozen to the New York Tribune had
carried his celebrity into every corner of the States and Territories.
Vivid, fearless, full of fresh color, humor, poetry, they came as a
revelation to a public weary of the driveling, tiresome travel-letters of
that period. They preached a new gospel in travel-literature: the gospel
of seeing with an overflowing honesty; a gospel of sincerity in according
praises to whatever seemed genuine, and ridicule to the things considered
sham. It was the gospel that Mark Twain would continue to preach during
his whole career. It became his chief literary message to the world-a
world waiting for that message.
Moreover, the letters were literature. He had received, from whatever
source, a large and very positive literary impulse, a loftier conception
and expression. It was at Tangier that he first struck the grander
chord, the throbbing cadence of human story.
Here is a crumbling wall that was old when Columbus discovered America;
old when Peter the Hermit roused the knightly men of the Middle Ages to
arm for the first Crusade; old when Charlemagne and his paladins
beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants and genii in the
fabled days of the olden time; old when Christ and his disciples walked
the earth; stood where it stands to-day when the lips of Memnon were
vocal and men bought and sold in the streets of ancient Thebes.
This is pure poetry. He had never touched so high a strain before, but
he reached it often after that, and always with an ever-increasing
mastery and confidence. In Venice, in Rome, in Athens, through the Holy
Land, his retrospection becomes a stately epic symphony, a processional
crescendo that swings ever higher until it reaches that sublime strain,
the ageless contemplation of the Sphinx. We cannot forego a paragraph or
two of that word-picture:
After years of waiting it was before me at last. The great face was
so sad, so earnest, so longing, so patient. There was a dignity not
of earth in its mien, and in its countenance a benignity such as
never anything human wore. It was stone, but it seemed sentient.
If ever image of stone thought, it was thinking. It was looking
toward the verge of the landscape, yet looking at nothing--nothing
but distance and vacancy. It was looking over and beyond everything
of the present, and far into the past.... It was thinking of the
wars of the departed ages; of the empires it had seen created and
destroyed; of the nations whose birth it had witnessed, whose
progress it had watched, whose annihilation it had noted; of the joy
and sorrow, the life and death, the grandeur and decay, of five
thousand slow-revolving years . . . .
The Sphinx is grand in its loneliness; it is imposing in its
magnitude; it is impressive in the mystery that hangs over its
story. And there is that in the overshadowing majesty of this
eternal figure of stone, with its accusing memory of the deeds of
all ages, which reveals to one something of what we shall feel when
we shall stand at last in the awful presence of God.
Then that closing word of Egypt. He elaborated it for the book, and did
not improve it. Let us preserve here its original form.
We are glad to have seen Egypt. We are glad to have seen that old
land which taught Greece her letters--and through Greece, Rome--and
through Rome, the world--that venerable cradle of culture and
refinement which could have humanized and civilized the Children of
Israel, but allowed them to depart out of her borders savages--those
Children whom we still revere, still love, and whose sad
shortcomings we still excuse--not because they were savages, but
because they were the chosen savages of God.
The Holy Land letters alone would have brought him fame. They presented
the most graphic and sympathetic picture of Syrian travel ever written--
one that will never become antiquated or obsolete so long as human nature
remains unchanged. From beginning to end the tale is rarely, reverently
told. Its closing paragraph has not been surpassed in the voluminous
literature of that solemn land:
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of
a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.
Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers that solemn
sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing
exists--over whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs
motionless and dead--about whose borders nothing grows but weeds and
scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises
refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch.
Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of
Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing one finds
only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the
accursed lies a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua's miracle left
it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in
their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to
remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's
presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks
by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature
that is pleasant to the eye. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the
stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and
is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer
there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the
wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel is
gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on
that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the
Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode
at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships,
was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its
borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin;
Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have
vanished from the earth, and the "desert places" round about them
where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate
the miraculous bread sleep in the hush of a solitude that is
inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.
Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise?
Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?
It would be easy to quote pages here--a pictorial sequence from Gibraltar
to Athens, from Athens to Egypt, a radiant panoramic march. In time he
would write technically better. He would avoid solecism, he would become
a greater master of vocabulary and phrase, but in all the years ahead he
would never match the lambent bloom and spontaneity of those fresh, first
impressions of Mediterranean lands and seas. No need to mention the
humor, the burlesque, the fearless, unrestrained ridicule of old masters
and of sacred relics, so called. These we have kept familiar with much
repetition. Only, the humor had grown more subtle, more restrained; the
burlesque had become impersonal and harmless, the ridicule so frank and
good-natured, that even the old masters themselves might have enjoyed it,
while the most devoted churchman, unless blinded by bigotry, would find
in it satisfaction, rather than sacrilege.
The final letter was written for the New York Herald after the arrival,
and was altogether unlike those that preceded it. Gaily satirical and
personal--inclusively so--it might better have been left unwritten, for
it would seem to have given needless offense to a number of goodly
people, whose chief sin was the sedateness of years. However, it is all
past now, and those who were old then, and perhaps queer and pious and
stingy, do not mind any more, and those who were young and frivolous have
all grown old too, and most of them have set out on the still farther
voyage. Somewhere, it may be, they gather, now; and then, and lightly,
tenderly recall their old-time journeying.
IN WASHINGTON--A PUBLISHING PROPOSITION
Clemens remained but one day in New York. Senator Stewart had written,
about the time of the departure of the Quaker City, offering him the
position of private secretary--a position which was to give him leisure
for literary work, with a supporting salary as well. Stewart no doubt
thought it would be considerably to his advantage to have the brilliant
writer and lecturer attached to his political establishment, and Clemens
likewise saw possibilities in the arrangement. From Naples, in August,
he had written accepting Stewart's offer; he lost no time now in
discussing the matter in person.--[In a letter home, August 9th, he
referred to the arrangement: "I wrote to Bill Stewart to-day accepting
his private secretaryship in Washington, next winter."]
There seems to have been little difficulty in concluding the arrangement.
When Clemens had been in Washington a week we find him writing:
DEAR FOLKS, Tired and sleepy--been in Congress all day and making
newspaper acquaintances. Stewart is to look up a clerkship in the
Patent Office for Orion. Things necessarily move slowly where there
is so much business and such armies of office-seekers to be attended
to. I guess it will be all right. I intend it shall be all right.
I have 18 invitations to lecture, at $100 each, in various parts
of the Union--have declined them all. I am for business now.
Belong on the Tribune Staff, and shall write occasionally. Am
offered the same berth to-day on the Herald by letter. Shall write
Mr. Bennett and accept, as soon as I hear from Tribune that it will
not interfere. Am pretty well known now--intend to be better known.
Am hobnobbing with these old Generals and Senators and other humbugs
for no good purpose. Don't have any more trouble making friends
than I did in California. All serene. Good-by. Shall continue on
P.S.--I room with Bill Stewart and board at Willard's Hotel.
But the secretary arrangement was a brief matter. It is impossible to
conceive of Mark Twain as anybody's secretary, especially as the
secretary of Senator Stewart.
--[In Senator Stewart's memoirs he refers unpleasantly to Mark Twain, and
after relating several incidents that bear only strained relations to the
truth, states that when the writer returned from the Holy Land he
(Stewart) offered him a secretaryship as a sort of charity. He adds that
Mark Twain's behavior on his premises was such that a threat of a
thrashing was necessary. The reason for such statements becomes
apparent, however, when he adds that in 'Roughing It' the author accuses
him of cheating, prints a picture of him with a hatch over his eye, and
claims to have given him a sound thrashing, none of which statements,
save only the one concerning the picture (an apparently unforgivable
offense to his dignity), is true, as the reader may easily ascertain for
Within a few weeks he was writing humorous accounts of "My Late
Senatorial Secretaryship," "Facts Concerning the Recent Resignation,"
etc., all good-natured burlesque, but inspired, we. may believe, by the
change: These articles appeared in the New York Tribune, the New York
Citizen, and the Galaxy Magazine.
There appears to have been no ill-feeling at this time between Clemens
and Stewart. If so, it is not discoverable in any of the former's
personal or newspaper correspondence. In fact, in his article relating
to his "late senatorial secretaryship" he puts the joke, so far as it is
a joke, on Senator James W. Nye, probably as an additional punishment for
Nye's failure to appear on the night of his lecture. He established
headquarters with a brilliant newspaper correspondent named Riley. "One
of the best men in Washington--or elsewhere," he tells us in a brief
sketch of that person.--[See Riley, newspaper correspondent. Sketches
New and Old.]--He had known Riley in San Francisco; the two were
congenial, and settled down to their several undertakings.
Clemens was chiefly concerned over two things: he wished to make money
and he wished to secure a government appointment for Orion. He had used
up the most of his lecture accumulations, and was moderately in debt.
His work was in demand at good rates, for those days, and with working
opportunity he could presently dispose of his financial problem. The
Tribune was anxious for letters; the Enterprise and Alta were waiting for
them; the Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the magazines--all had solicited
contributions; the lecture bureaus pursued him. Personally his outlook
The appointment for Orion was a different matter. The powers were not
especially interested in a brother; there were too many brothers and
assorted relatives on the official waiting-list already. Clemens was
offered appointments for himself--a consulship, a post-mastership; even
that of San Francisco. From the Cabinet down, the Washington political
contingent had read his travel-letters, and was ready to recognize
officially the author of them in his own person and personality.
Also, socially: Mark Twain found himself all at once in the midst of
receptions, dinners, and speech-making; all very exciting for a time at
least, but not profitable, not conducive to work. At a dinner of the
Washington Correspondents Club his response to the toast, "Women," was
pronounced by Schuyler Colfax to be "the best after dinner speech ever
made." Certainly it was a refreshing departure from the prosy or clumsy-
witted efforts common to that period. He was coming altogether into his
own.--[This is the first of Mark Twain's after-dinner speeches to be
preserved. The reader will find it complete, as reported next day, in
Appendix G, at the end of last volume.]
He was not immediately interested in the matter of book publication.
The Jumping Frog book was popular, and in England had been issued by
Routledge; but the royalty returns were modest enough and slow in
arrival. His desire was for prompter results. His interest in book
publication had never been an eager one, and related mainly to the
advertising it would furnish, which he did not now need; or to the money
return, in which he had no great faith. Yet at this very moment a letter
for him was lying in the Tribune office in New York which would bring the
book idea into first prominence and spell the beginning of his fortune.
Among those who had read and found delight in the Tribune letters was
Elisha Bliss, Jr., of the American Publishing Company, of Hartford.
Bliss was a shrewd and energetic man, with a keen appreciation for humor
and the American fondness for that literary quality. He had recently
undertaken the management of a Hartford concern, and had somewhat alarmed
its conservative directorate by publishing books that furnished
entertainment to the reader as well as moral instruction. Only his
success in paying dividends justified this heresy and averted his
downfall. Two days after the arrival of the Quaker City Bliss wrote the
letter above mentioned. It ran as follows:
OFFICE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHING CO.
HARTFORD, CONN., November 21, 1867.
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS, ESQ.,
Tribune Office, New York.
DEAR SIR,--We take the liberty to address you this, in place of a letter
which we had recently written and were about to forward to you, not
knowing your arrival home was expected so soon. We are desirous of
obtaining from you a work of some kind, perhaps compiled from your
letters from the past, etc., with such interesting additions as may be
proper. We are the publishers of A. D. Richardson's works, and flatter
ourselves that we can give an author a favorable term and do as full
justice to his productions as any other house in the country. We are
perhaps the oldest subscription house in the country, and have never
failed to give a book an immense circulation. We sold about 100,000
copies of Richardson's F. D. and E. ('Field, Dungeon and Escape'), and
are now printing 41,000 of 'Beyond the Mississippi', and large orders
ahead. If you have any thought of writing a book, or could be induced to
do so, we should be pleased to see you, and will do so. Will you do us
the favor of reply at once, at your earliest convenience.
Very truly etc.,
E. BLISS, JR.,
After ten days' delay this letter was forwarded to the Tribune bureau in
Washington, where Clemens received it. He replied promptly.
WASHINGTON, December 2, 1867.
E. BLISS, JR., ESQ.,
Secretary American Publishing Co.
DEAR SIR,--I only received your favor of November 21st last night, at the
rooms of the Tribune Bureau here. It was forwarded from the Tribune
office, New York where it had lain eight or ten days. This will be a
sufficient apology for the seeming discourtesy of my silence.
I wrote fifty-two letters for the San Francisco Alta California during
the Quakes City excusion, about half of which number have been printed
thus far. The Alta has few exchanges in the East, and I suppose scarcely
any of these letters have been copied on this side of the Rocky
Mountains. I could weed them of their chief faults of construction and
inelegancies of expression, and make a volume that would be more
acceptable in many respects than any I could now write. When those
letters were written my impressions were fresh, but now they have lost
that freshness; they were warm then, they are cold now. I could strike
out certain letters, and write new ones wherewith to supply their places.
If you think such a book would suit your purpose, please drop me a line,
specifying the size and general style of the volume--when the matter
ought to be ready; whether it should have pictures in it or not; and
particularly what your terms with me would be, and what amount of money
I might possibly make out of it. The latter clause has a degree of
importance for me which is almost beyond my own comprehension. But you
understand that, of course.
I have other propositions for a book, but have doubted the propriety of
interfering with good newspaper engagements, except my way as an author
could be demonstrated to be plain before me. But I know Richardson, and
learned from him some months ago something of an idea of the subscription
plan of publishing. If that is your plan invariably it looks safe.
I am on the New York Tribune staff here as an "occasional," among other
things, and a note from you addressed to
Very truly, etc.,
SAM. L. CLEMENS,
New York Tribune Bureau, Washington
will find me, without fail.
The exchange of those two letters marked the beginning of one of the most
notable publishing connections in American literary history.
Consummation, however, was somewhat delayed. Bliss was ill when the
reply came, and could not write again in detail until nearly a month
later. In this letter he recited the profits made by Richardson and
others through subscription publication, and named the royalties paid.
Richardson had received four per cent. of the sale price, a small enough
rate for these later days; but the cost of manufacture was larger then,
and the sale and delivery of books through agents has ever been an
expensive process. Even Horace Greeley had received but a fraction more
on his Great American Conflict. Bliss especially suggested and
emphasized a "humorous work--that is to say, a work humorously inclined."
He added that they had two arrangements for paying authors: outright
purchase, and royalty. He invited a meeting in New York to arrange
Clemens did in fact go to New York that same evening, to spend Christmas
with Dan Slote, and missed Bliss's second letter. It was no matter.
Fate had his affairs properly in hand, and had prepared an event of still
larger moment than the publication even of Innocents Abroad. There was a
pleasant reunion at Dan Slote's. He wrote home about it:
Charley Langdon, Jack Van Nostrand, Dan and I (all Quaker City
night-hawks) had a blow-out at Dan's house and a lively talk over
old times. I just laughed till my sides ached at some of our
reminiscences. It was the unholiest gang that ever cavorted through
Palestine, but those are the best boys in the world.
This, however, was not the event; it was only preliminary to it. We are
coming to that now. At the old St. Nicholas Hotel, which stood on the
west of Broadway between Spring and Broome streets, there were stopping
at this time Jervis Langdon, a wealty coal-dealer and mine-owner of
Elmira, his son Charles and his daughter Olivia, whose pictured face
Samuel Clemens had first seen in the Bay of Smyrna one September day.
Young Langdon had been especially anxious to bring his distinguished
Quaker City friend and his own people together, and two days before
Christmas Samuel Clemens was invited to dine at the hotel. He went very
willingly. The lovely face of that miniature had been often a part of
his waking dreams. For the first time now he looked upon its reality.
Long afterward he said:
"It is forty years ago. From that day to this she has never been out of
Charles Dickens was in New York then, and gave a reading that night in
Steinway Hall. The Langdons went, and Samuel Clemens accompanied them.
He remembered afterward that Dickens wore a black velvet coat with a
fiery red flower in his buttonhole, and that he read the storm scene from
Copperfield--the death of James Steerforth. But he remembered still more
clearly the face and dress of that slender girlish figure at his side.
Olivia Langdon was twenty-two years old at this time, delicate as the
miniature he had seen, fragile to look upon, though no longer with the
shattered health of her girlhood. At sixteen, through a fall upon the
ice, she had become a complete invalid, confined to her bed for two
years, unable to sit, even when supported, unable to lie in any position
except upon her back. Great physicians and surgeons, one after another,
had done their best for her but she had failed steadily until every hope
had died. Then, when nothing else was left to try, a certain Doctor
Newton, of spectacular celebrity, who cured by "laying on of hands," was
brought to Elmira to see her. Doctor Newton came into the darkened room
"Open the windows--we must have light!"
They protested that she could not bear the light, but the windows were
opened. Doctor Newton came to the bedside of the helpless girl,
delivered a short, fervent prayer, put his arm under her shoulders, and
bade her sit up. She had not moved for two years, and the family were
alarmed, but she obeyed, and he assisted her into a chair. Sensation
came back to her limbs. With his assistance she even made a feeble
attempt to walk. He left then, saying that she would gradually improve,
and in time be well, though probably never very strong. On the same day
he healed a boy, crippled and drawn with fever.
It turned out as he had said. Olivia Langdon improved steadily, and now
at twenty-two, though not robust--she was never that--she was
comparatively well. Gentle, winning, lovable, she was the family idol,
and Samuel Clemens joined in their worship from the moment of that first
Olivia Langdon, on her part, was at first dazed and fascinated, rather
than attracted, by this astonishing creature, so unlike any one she had
ever known. Her life had been circumscribed, her experiences of a simple
sort. She had never seen anything resembling him before. Indeed, nobody
had. Somewhat carelessly, even if correctly, attired; eagerly, rather
than observantly, attentive; brilliant and startling, rather than
cultured, of speech--a blazing human solitaire, unfashioned, unset,
tossed by the drift of fortune at her feet. He disturbed rather than
gratified her. She sensed his heresy toward the conventions and forms
which had been her gospel; his bantering, indifferent attitude toward
life--to her always so serious and sacred; she suspected that he even
might have unorthodox views on matters of religion. When he had gone she
somehow had the feeling that a great fiery meteor of unknown portent had
swept across her sky.
To her brother, who was eager for her approval of his celebrity, Miss
Langdon conceded admiration. As for her father, he did not qualify his
opinion. With hearty sense of humor, and a keen perception of verity and
capability in men, Jervis Langdon accepted Samuel Clemens from the start,
and remained his stanch admirer and friend. Clemens left that night with
an invitation to visit Elmira by and by, and with the full intention of
going--soon. Fate, however, had another plan. He did not see Elmira for
the better part of a year.
He saw Miss Langdon again within the week. On New-Year's Day he set
forth to pay calls, after the fashion of the time--more lavish then than
now. Miss Langdon was receiving with Miss Alice Hooker, a niece of Henry
Ward Beecher, at the home of a Mrs. Berry; he decided to go there first.
With young Langdon he arrived at eleven o'clock in the morning, and they
did not leave until midnight. If his first impression upon Olivia
Langdon had been meteoric, it would seem that he must now have become to
her as a streaming comet that swept from zenith to horizon. One thing is
certain: she had become to him the single, unvarying beacon of his future
years. He visited Henry Ward Beecher on that trip and dined with him by
invitation. Harriet Beecher Stowe was present, and others of that
eminent family. Likewise his old Quaker City comrades, Moses S. and
Emma Beach. It was a brilliant gathering, a conclave of intellectual
gods--a triumph to be there for one who had been a printer-boy on the
banks of the Mississippi, and only a little while before a miner with
pick and shovel. It was gratifying to be so honored; it would be
pleasant to write home; but the occasion lacked something too--
everything, in fact--for when he ran his eye around the board the face of
the minature was not there.
Still there were compensations; inadequate, of course, but pleasant
enough to remember. It was Sunday evening and the party adjourned to
Plymouth Church. After services Mr. Beecher invited him to return home
with him for a quiet talk. Evidently they had a good time, for in the
letter telling of these things Samuel Clemens said: "Henry Ward Beecher
is a brick."
A CONTRACT WITH ELISHA BLISS, JR.
He returned to Washington without seeing Miss Langdon again, though he
would seem to have had permission to write--friendly letters. A little
later (it was on the evening of January 9th) he lectured in Washington--
on very brief notice indeed. The arrangement for his appearance had been
made by a friend during his absence--"a friend," Clemens declared
afterward, "not entirely sober at the time." To his mother he wrote:
I scared up a doorkeeper and was ready at the proper time, and by pure
good luck a tolerably good house assembled and I was saved. I hardly
knew what I was going to talk about, but it went off in splendid style.
The title of the lecture delivered was "The Frozen Truth"--"more truth in
the title than in the lecture," according to his own statement. What it
dealt with is not remembered now. It had to do with the Quaker City
trip, perhaps, and it seems to have brought a financial return which was
welcome enough. Subsequently he delivered it elsewhere; though just how
far the tour extended cannot be learned from the letters, and he had but
little memory of it in later years.
There was some further correspondence with Bliss, then about the 21st of
January (1868) Clemens made a trip to Hartford to settle the matter.
Bliss had been particularly anxious to meet him, personally and was a
trifle disappointed with his appearance. Mark Twain's traveling costume
was neither new nor neat, and he was smoking steadily a pipe of power.
His general make-up was hardly impressive.
Bliss's disturbance was momentary. Once he began to talk the rest did
not matter. He was the author of those letters, and Bliss decided that
personally he was even greater than they. The publisher, confined to his
home with illness, offered him the hospitality of his household. Also,
he made him two propositions: he would pay him ten thousand dollars cash
for his copyright, or he would pay five per cent. royalty, which was a
fourth more than Richardson had received. He advised the latter
Clemens had already taken advice and had discussed the project a good
deal with Richardson. The ten thousand dollars was a heavy temptation,
but he withstood it and closed on the royalty basis--"the best business
judgment I ever displayed," he was wont to declare. A letter written to
his mother and sister near the end of this Hartford stay is worth quoting
pretty fully here, for the information and "character" it contains. It
bears date of January 24th.
This is a good week for me. I stopped in the Herald office, as I
came through New York, to see the boys on the staff, and young James
Gordon Bennett asked me to write twice a week, impersonally, for the
Herald, and said if I would I might have full swing, and about
anybody and everything I wanted to. I said I must have the very
fullest possible swing, and he said, "All right." I said, "It's a
contract--" and that settled that matter.
I'll make it a point to write one letter a week anyhow. But the
best thing that has happened is here. This great American
Publishing Company kept on trying to bargain with me for a book till
I thought I would cut the matter short by coming up for a talk. I
met Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, and with his usual whole-souled
way of dropping his own work to give other people a lift when he
gets a chance, he said: "Now, here, you are one of the talented men
of the age--nobody is going to deny that--but in matters of business
I don't suppose you know more than enough to come in when it rains.
I'll tell you what to do and how to do it." And he did.
And I listened well, and then came up here and made a splendid
contract for a Quaker City book of 5 or 600 large pages, with
illustrations, the manuscript to be placed in the publisher's hands
by the middle of July.--[The contract was not a formal one. There
was an exchange of letters agreeing to the terms, but no joint
document was drawn until October 16 (1868).]--My percentage is to
be a fourth more than they have ever paid any author except Greeley.
Beecher will be surprised, I guess, when he hears this.
These publishers get off the most tremendous editions of their books
you can imagine. I shall write to the Enterprise and Alta every
week, as usual, I guess, and to the Herald twice a week,
occasionally to the Tribune and the magazines (I have a stupid
article in the Galaxy, just issued), but I am not going to write to
this and that and the other paper any more.
I have had a tiptop time here for a few days (guest of Mr. Jno.
Hooker's family--Beecher's relatives--in a general way of Mr. Bliss
also, who is head of the publishing firm). Puritans are mighty
straight-laced, and they won't let me smoke in the parlor, but the
Almighty don't make any better people.
I have to make a speech at the annual Herald dinner on the 6th of
So the book, which would establish his claim to a peerage in the literary
land, was arranged for, and it remained only to prepare the manuscript, a
task which he regarded as not difficult. He had only to collate the Alta
and Tribune letters, edit them, and write such new matter as would be
required for completeness.
Returning to Washington, he plunged into work with his usual terrific
energy, preparing the copy--in the mean time writing newspaper
correspondence and sketches that would bring immediate return. In
addition to his regular contributions, he entered into a syndicate
arrangement with John Swinton (brother of William Swinton, the historian)
to supply letters to a list of newspapers.
"I have written seven long newspaper letters and a short magazine article
in less than two days," he wrote home, and by the end of January he had
also prepared several chapters of his book.
The San Francisco post-mastership was suggested to him again, but he put
the temptation behind him. He refers to this more than once in his home
letters, and it is clear that he wavered.
Judge Field said if I wanted the place he could pledge me the
President's appointment, and Senator Corners said he would guarantee
me the Senate's confirmation. It was a great temptation, but it
would render it impossible to fill my book contract, and I had to
drop the idea....
And besides I did not want the office.
He made this final decision when he heard that the chief editor of the
Alta wanted the place, and he now threw his influence in that quarter.
"I would not take ten thousand dollars out of a friend's pocket," he
But then suddenly came the news from Goodman that the Alta publishers had
copyrighted his Quaker City letters and proposed getting them out in a
book, to reimburse themselves still further on their investment. This
was sharper than a serpent's tooth. Clemens got confirmation of the
report by telegraph. By the same medium he protested, but to no purpose.
Then he wrote a letter and sat down to wait. He reported his troubles to
I have made a superb contract for a book, and have prepared the
first ten chapters of the sixty or eighty, but I will bet it never
sees the light. Don't you let the folks at home hear that. That
thieving Alta copyrighted the letters, and now shows no disposition
to let me use them. I have done all I can by telegraph, and now
await the final result by mail. I only charged them for 50 letters
what (even in) greenbacks would amount to less than two thousand
dollars, intending to write a good deal for high-priced Eastern
papers, and now they want to publish my letters in book form
themselves to get back that pitiful sum.
Orion was by this time back from Nevada, setting type in St. Louis. He
was full of schemes, as usual, and his brother counsels him freely. Then
We chase phantoms half the days of our lives. It is well if we
learn wisdom even then, and save the other half.
I am in for it. I must go on chasing them, until I marry, then I am
done with literature and all other bosh--that is, literature
wherewith to please the general public.
I shall write to please myself then.
He closes by saying that he rather expects to go with Anson Burlingame on
the Chinese embassy. Clearly he was pretty hopeless as to his book
His first meeting with General Grant occurred just at this time. In one
of his home letters he mentions, rather airily, that he will drop in
someday on the General for an interview; and at last, through Mrs. Grant,
an appointment was made for a Sunday evening when the General would be at
home. He was elated with the prospect of an interview; but when he
looked into the imperturbable, square, smileless face of the soldier he
found himself, for the first time in his life, without anything
particular to say. Grant nodded slightly and waited. His caller wished
something would happen. It did. His inspiration returned.
"General," he said, "I seem to be a little embarrassed. Are you?"
That broke the ice. There were no further difficulties.--[Mark Twain
has variously related this incident. It is given here in accordance with
the letters of the period.]
BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO
Reply came from the Alta, but it was not promising. It spoke rather
vaguely of prior arrangements and future possibilities. Clemens gathered
that under certain conditions he might share in the profits of the
venture. There was but one thing to do; he knew those people--some of
them--Colonel McComb and a Mr. McCrellish intimately. He must confer
with them in person.
He was weary of Washington, anyway. The whole pitiful machinery of
politics disgusted him. In his notebook he wrote:
Whiskey is taken into the committee rooms in demijohns and carried
out in demagogues.
And in a letter:
This is a place to get a poor opinion of everybody in. There are
some pitiful intellects in this Congress! There isn't one man in
Washington in civil office who has the brains of Anson Burlingame,
and I suppose if China had not seized and saved his great talents to
the world this government would have discarded him when his time was
up.--[Anson Burlingame had by this time become China's special
ambassador to the nations.]
Furthermore, he was down on the climate of Washington. He decided to go
to San Francisco and see "those Alta thieves face to face." Then, if a
book resulted, he could prepare it there among friends. Also, he could
He had been anxious to visit his people before sailing, but matters were
too urgent to permit delay. He obtained from Bliss an advance of royalty
and took passage, by way of Aspinwall, on the sidewheel steamer Henry
Chauncey, a fine vessel for those days. The name of Mark Twain was
already known on the isthmus, and when it was learned he had arrived on
the Chauncey a delegation welcomed him on the wharf, and provided him
with refreshments and entertainment. Mr. Tracy Robinson, a poet, long a
resident of that southern land, was one of the group. Beyond the isthmus
Clemens fell in again with his old captain, Ned Wakeman, who during the
trip told him the amazing dream that in due time would become Captain
Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. He made the first draft of this story soon
after his arrival in San Francisco, as a sort of travesty of Elizabeth
Stuart Phelps's Gates Ajar, then very popular. Clemens, then and later,
had a high opinion of Capt. Ned Wakeman's dream, but his story of it
would pass through several stages before finally reaching the light of
publication.--[Mr. John P. Vollmer, now of Lewiston, Idaho, a
companion of that voyage, writes of a card game which took place beyond
the isthmus. The notorious crippled gambler, "Smithy," figured in it,
and it would seem to have furnished the inspiration for the exciting
story in Chapter XXXVI of the Mississippi book.]
In San Francisco matters turned out as he had hoped. Colonel McComb was
his stanch friend; McCrellish and Woodward, the proprietors, presently
conceded that they had already received good value for the money paid.
The author agreed to make proper acknowledgments to the Alta in his
preface, and the matter was settled with friendliness all around.
The way was now clear, the book assured. First, however, he must provide
himself with funds. He delivered a lecture, with the Quaker City
excursion as his subject. On the 5th of May he wrote to Bliss:
I lectured here on the trip the other night; over $1,600 in gold in the
house; every seat taken and paid for before night.
He reports that he is steadily at work, and expects to start East with
the completed manuscript about the middle of June.
But this was a miscalculation. Clemens found that the letters needed
more preparation than he had thought. His literary vision and equipment
had vastly altered since the beginning of that correspondence. Some of
the chapters he rewrote; others he eliminated entirely. It required two
months of fairly steady work to put the big manuscript together.
Some of the new chapters he gave to Bret Harte for the Overland Monthly,
then recently established. Harte himself was becoming a celebrity about
this time. His "Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat,"
published in early numbers of the Overland, were making a great stir in
the East, arousing there a good deal more enthusiasm than in the magazine
office or the city of their publication. That these two friends, each
supreme in his own field, should have entered into their heritage so
nearly at the same moment, is one of the many seemingly curious
coincidences of literary history.
Clemens now concluded to cover his lecture circuit of two years before.
He was assured that it would be throwing away a precious opportunity not
to give his new lecture to his old friends. The result justified that
opinion. At Virginia, at Carson, and elsewhere he was received like a
returned conqueror. He might have been accorded a Roman triumph had
there been time and paraphernalia. Even the robbers had reformed, and
entire safety was guaranteed him on the Divide between Virginia and Gold
Hill. At Carson he called on Mrs. Curry, as in the old days, and among
other things told her how snow from the Lebanon Mountains is brought to
Damascus on the backs of camels.
"Sam," she said, "that's just one of your yarns, and if you tell it in
your lecture to-night I'll get right up and say so."
But he did tell it, for it was a fact; and though Mrs. Curry did not rise
to deny it she shook her finger at him in a way he knew.
He returned to San Francisco and gave one more lecture, the last he would
ever give in California. His preparatory advertising for that occasion
was wholly unique, characteristic of him to the last degree. It assumed
the form of a handbill of protest, supposed to have been issued by the
foremost citizens of San Francisco, urging him to return to the States
without inflicting himself further upon them. As signatures he made free
with the names of prominent individuals, followed by those of
organizations, institutions, "Various Benevolent Societies, Citizens on
Foot and Horseback, and fifteen hundred in the Steerage."
Following this (on the same bill) was his reply, "To the fifteen hundred
and others," in which he insisted on another hearing:
I will torment the people if I want to.... It only costs the people
$1 apiece, and if they can't stand it what do they stay here for?...
My last lecture was not as fine as I thought it was, but I have
submitted this discourse to several able critics, and they have
pronounced it good. Now, therefore, why should I withhold it?
He promised positively to sail on the 6th of July if they would let him
talk just this once. Continuing, the handbill presented a second
protest, signed by the various clubs and business firms; also others
bearing variously the signatures of the newspapers, and the clergy,
ending with the brief word:
You had better go. Yours, CHIEF OF POLICE.
All of which drollery concluded with his announcement of place and date
of his lecture, with still further gaiety at the end. Nothing short of a
seismic cataclysm--an earthquake, in fact--could deter a San Francisco
audience after that. Mark Twain's farewell address, given at the
Mercantile Library July 2 (1868), doubtless remains today the leading
literary event in San Francisco's history.--[Copy of the lecture
announcement, complete, will be found in Appendix H, at the end of last
He sailed July 6th by the Pacific mail steamer Montana to Acapulco,
caught the Henry Chauncey at Aspinwall, reached New York on the 28th, and
a day or two later had delivered his manuscript at Hartford.
But a further difficulty had arisen. Bliss was having troubles himself,
this time, with his directors. Many reports of Mark Twain's new book had
been traveling the rounds of the press, some of which declared it was to
be irreverent, even blasphemous, in tone. The title selected, The New
Pilgrim's Progress, was in itself a sacrilege. Hartford was a
conservative place; the American Publishing Company directors were of
orthodox persuasion. They urged Bliss to relieve the company of this
impending disaster of heresy. When the author arrived one or more of
them labored with him in person, without avail. As for Bliss, he was
stanch; he believed in the book thoroughly, from every standpoint. He
declared if the company refused to print it he would resign the
management and publish the book himself. This was an alarming suggestion
to the stockholders. Bliss had returned dividends--a boon altogether too
rare in the company's former history. The objectors retired and were
heard of no more. The manuscript was placed in the hands of Fay and Cox,
illustrators, with an order for about two hundred and fifty pictures.
Fay and Cox turned it over to True Williams, one of the well-known
illustrators of that day. Williams was a man of great talent--of fine
imagination and sweetness of spirit--but it was necessary to lock him in
a room when industry was required, with nothing more exciting than cold
water as a beverage. Clemens himself aided in the illustrating by
obtaining of Moses S. Beach photographs from the large collection he had
A VISIT TO ELMIRA
Meantime he had skilfully obtained a renewal of the invitation to spend a
week in the Langdon home.
He meant to go by a fast train, but, with his natural gift for
misunderstanding time-tables, of course took a slow one, telegraphing his
approach from different stations along the road. Young Langdon concluded
to go down the line as far as Waverly to meet him. When the New York
train reached there the young man found his guest in the smoking-car,
travel-stained and distressingly clad. Mark Twain was always
scrupulously neat and correct of dress in later years, but in that
earlier day neatness and style had not become habitual and did not give
him comfort. Langdon greeted him warmly but with doubt. Finally he
summoned courage to say, hesitatingly--
"You've got some other clothes, haven't you?"
The arriving guest was not in the least disturbed.
"Oh yes," he said with enthusiasm, "I've got a fine brand-new outfit in
this bag, all but a hat. It will be late when we get in, and I won't see
any one to-night. You won't know me in the morning. We'll go out early
and get a hat."
This was a large relief to the younger man, and the rest of the journey
was happy enough. True to promise, the guest appeared at daylight
correctly, even elegantly clad, and an early trip to the shops secured
the hat. A gay and happy week followed--a week during which Samuel
Clemens realized more fully than ever that in his heart there was room
for only one woman in all the world: Olivia Langdon--"Livy," as they all
called her--and as the day of departure drew near it may be that the
gentle girl had made some discoveries, too.
No word had passed between them. Samuel Clemens had the old-fashioned
Southern respect for courtship conventions, and for what, in that day at
least, was regarded as honor. On the morning of the final day he said to
"Charley, my week is up, and I must go home."
The young man expressed a regret which was genuine enough, though not
wholly unqualified. His older sister, Mrs. Crane, leaving just then for
a trip to the White Mountains, had said:
"Charley, I am sure Mr. Clemens is after our Livy. You mustn't let him
carry her off before our return."
The idea was a disturbing one. The young man did not urge his guest to
prolong his-visit. He said:
"We'll have to stand it, I guess, but you mustn't leave before to-night."
"I ought to go by the first train," Clemens said, gloomily. "I am in
"In love-with your sister, and I ought to get away from here."
The young man was now very genuinely alarmed. To him Mark Twain was a
highly gifted, fearless, robust man--a man's man--and as such altogether
admirable--lovable. But Olivia--Livy--she was to him little short of a
saint. No man was good enough for her, certainly not this adventurous
soldier of letters from the West. Delightful he was beyond doubt,
adorable as a companion, but not a companion for Livy.
"Look here, Clemens," he said, when he could get his voice. "There's a
train in half an hour. I'll help you catch it. Don't wait till to-
night. Go now."
Clemens shook his head.
"No, Charley," he said, in his gentle drawl, "I want to enjoy your
hospitality a little longer. I promise to be circumspect, and I'll go
That night, after dinner, when it was time to take the New York train, a
light two-seated wagon was at the gate. The coachman was in front, and
young Langdon and his guest took the back seat. For some reason the seat
had not been locked in its place, and when, after the good-bys, the
coachman touched the horse it made a quick spring forward, and the back
seat, with both passengers, described a half-circle and came down with
force on the cobbled street. Neither passenger was seriously hurt;
Clemens not at all--only dazed a little for a moment. Then came an
inspiration; here was a chance to prolong his visit. Evidently it was
not intended that he should take that train. When the Langdon household
gathered around with restoratives he did not recover too quickly. He
allowed them to support or carry him into the house and place him in an
arm-chair and apply remedies. The young daughter of the house especially
showed anxiety and attention. This was pure happiness. He was perjuring
himself, of course, but they say Jove laughs at such things.
He recovered in a day or two, but the wide hospitality of the handsome
Langdon home was not only offered now; it was enforced. He was still
there two weeks later, after which he made a trip to Cleveland to confide
in Mrs. Fairbanks how he intended to win Livy Langdon for his wife.
THE REV. "JOE" TWICHELL
He returned to Hartford to look after the progress of his book. Some of
it was being put into type, and with his mechanical knowledge of such
things he was naturally interested in the process.
He made his headquarters with the Blisses, then living at 821 Asylum
Avenue, and read proof in a little upper room, where the lamp was likely
to be burning most of the time, where the atmosphere was nearly always
blue with smoke, and the window-sill full of cigar butts. Mrs. Bliss
took him into the quiet social life of the neighborhood--to small church
receptions, society gatherings and the like--all of which he seemed to
enjoy. Most of the dwellers in that neighborhood were members of the
Asylum Hill Congregational Church, then recently completed; all but the
spire. It was a cultured circle, well-off in the world's goods, its male
members, for the most part, concerned in various commercial ventures.
The church stood almost across the way from the Bliss home, and Mark
Twain, with his picturesque phrasing, referred to it as the "stub-tailed
church," on account of its abbreviated spire; also, later, with a
knowledge of its prosperous membership, as the "Church of the Holy
Speculators." He was at an evening reception in the home of one of its
members when he noticed a photograph of the unfinished building framed
and hanging on the wall.
"Why, yes," he commented, in his slow fashion, "this is the 'Church of
the Holy Speculators.'"
"Sh," cautioned Mrs. Bliss. "Its pastor is just behind you. He knows
your work and wants to meet you." Turning, she said: "Mr. Twichell, this
is Mr. Clemens. Most people know him as Mark Twain."
And so, in this casual fashion, he met the man who was presently to
become his closest personal friend and counselor, and would remain so for
more than forty years.
Joseph Hopkins Twichell was a man about his own age, athletic and
handsome, a student and a devout Christian, yet a man familiar with the
world, fond of sports, with an exuberant sense of humor and a wide
understanding of the frailties of humankind. He had been "port waist
oar" at Yale, and had left college to serve with General "Dan" Sickles as
a chaplain who had followed his duties not only in the camp, but on the
Mention has already been made of Mark Twain's natural leaning toward
ministers of the gospel, and the explanation of it is easier to realize
than to convey. He was hopelessly unorthodox--rankly rebellious as to
creeds. Anything resembling cant or the curtailment of mental liberty
roused only his resentment and irony. Yet something in his heart always
warmed toward any laborer in the vineyard, and if we could put the
explanation into a single sentence, perhaps we might say it was because
he could meet them on that wide, common ground sympathy with mankind.
Mark Twain's creed, then and always, may be put into three words,
"liberty, justice, humanity." It may be put into one word, "humanity."
Ministers always loved Mark Twain. They did not always approve of him,