Part 7 out of 29
but they adored him: The Rev. Mr. Rising, of the Comstock, was an early
example of his ministerial friendships, and we have seen that Henry Ward
Beecher cultivated his company. In a San Francisco letter of two years
before, Mark Twain wrote his mother, thinking it would please her:
I am as thick as thieves with the Reverend Stebbins. I am laying for the
Reverend Scudder and the Reverend Doctor Stone. I am running on
preachers now altogether, and I find them gay.
So it may be that his first impulse toward Joseph Twichell was due to the
fact that he was a young member of that army whose mission is to comfort
and uplift mankind. But it was only a little time till the impulse had
grown into a friendship that went beyond any profession or doctrine, a
friendship that ripened into a permanent admiration and love for "Joe"
Twichell himself, as one of the noblest specimens of his race.
He was invited to the Twichell home, where he met the young wife and got
a glimpse of the happiness of that sweet and peaceful household. He had
a neglected, lonely look, and he loved to gather with them at their
fireside. He expressed his envy of their happiness, and Mrs. Twichell
asked him why, since his affairs were growing prosperous, he did not
establish a household of his own. Long afterward Mr. Twichell wrote:
Mark made no answer for a little, but, with his eyes bent on the
floor, appeared to be deeply pondering. Then he looked up, and said
slowly, in a voice tremulous with earnestness (with what sympathy he
was heard may be imagined): "I am taking thought of it. I am in
love beyond all telling with the dearest and best girl in the whole
world. I don't suppose she will marry me. I can't think it
possible. She ought not to. But if she doesn't I shall be sure
that the best thing I ever did was to fall in love with her, and
proud to have it known that I tried to win her!"
It was only a brief time until the Twichell fireside was home to him. He
came and went, and presently it was "Mark" and "Joe," as by and by it
would be "Livy" and "Harmony," and in a few years "Uncle Joe" and "Uncle
Mark," "Aunt Livy" and "Aunt Harmony," and so would remain until the
A LECTURE TOUR
James Redpath, proprietor of the Boston Lyceum Bureau, was the leading
lecture agent of those days, and controlled all, or nearly all, of the
platform celebrities. Mark Twain's success at the Cooper Union the year
before had interested Redpath. He had offered engagements then and
later, but Clemens had not been free for the regular circuit. Now there
was no longer a reason for postponement of a contract. Redpath was eager
for the new celebrity, and Clemens closed with him for the season of
1868-9. With his new lecture, "The Vandal Abroad," he was presently
earning a hundred dollars and more a night, and making most of the nights
This was affluence indeed. He had become suddenly a person of substance-
an associate of men of consequence, with a commensurate income. He could
help his mother lavishly now, and he did.
His new lecture was immensely popular. It was a resume of the 'Quaker
City' letters--a foretaste of the book which would presently follow.
Wherever he went, he was hailed with eager greetings. He caught such
drifting exclamations as, "There he is! There goes Mark Twain!" People
came out on the street to see him pass. That marvelous miracle which we
variously call "notoriety," "popularity," "fame," had come to him. In
his notebook he wrote, "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the
only, earthly certainty oblivion."
The newspapers were filled with enthusiasm both as to his matter and
method. His delivery was described as a "long, monotonous drawl, with
the fun invariably coming in at the end of a sentence--after a pause."
His appearance at this time is thus set down:
Mark Twain is a man of medium height, about five feet ten, sparsely
built, with dark reddish-brown hair and mustache. His features are
fair, his eyes keen and twinkling. He dresses in scrupulous evening
attire. In lecturing he hangs about the desk, leaning on it or
flirting around the corners of it, then marching and countermarching
in the rear of it. He seldom casts a glance at his manuscript.
No doubt this fairly presents Mark Twain, the lecturer of that day. It
was a new figure on the platform, a man with a new method. As to his
manuscript, the item might have said that he never consulted it at all.
He learned his lecture; what he consulted was merely a series of
hieroglyphics, a set of crude pictures drawn by himself, suggestive of
the subject-matter underneath new head. Certain columns represented the
Parthenon; the Sphinx meant Egypt, and so on. His manuscript lay there
in case of accident, but the accident did not happen.
A number of his engagements were in the central part of New York, at
points not far distant from Elmira. He had a standing invitation to
visit the Langdon home, and he made it convenient to avail himself of
His was not an unruffled courtship. When at last he reached the point of
proposing for the daughter of the house, neither the daughter nor the
household offered any noticeable encouragement to his suit. Many absurd
anecdotes have been told of his first interview with Mr. Langdon on the
subject, but they are altogether without foundation. It was a proper and
dignified discussion of a very serious matter. Mr. Langdon expressed
deep regard for him and friendship but he was not inclined to add him to
the family; the young lady herself, in a general way, accorded with these
views. The applicant for favor left sadly enough, but he could not
remain discouraged or sad. He lectured at Cleveland with vast success,
and the news of it traveled quickly to Elmira. He was referred to by
Cleveland papers as a "lion" and "the coming man of the age." Two days
later, in Pittsburgh (November 19th), he "played" against Fanny Kemble,
the favorite actress of that time, with the result that Miss Kemble had
an audience of two hundred against nearly ten times the number who
gathered to hear Mark Twain. The news of this went to Elmira, too. It
was in the papers there next morning; surely this was a conquering hero--
a gay Lochinvar from out of the West--and the daughter of the house must
be guarded closely, that he did not bear her away. It was on the second
morning following the Pittsburgh triumph, when the Langdon family were
gathered at breakfast, that a bushy auburn head poked fearfully in at the
door, and a low, humble voice said:
"The calf has returned; may the prodigal have some breakfast?"
No one could be reserved or reprovingly distant, or any of those
unfriendly things with a person like that; certainly not Jervis Langdon,
who delighted in the humor and the tricks and turns and oddities of this
eccentric visitor. Giving his daughter to him was another matter, but
even that thought was less disturbing than it had been at the start. In
truth, the Langdon household had somehow grown to feel that he belonged
to them. The elder sister's husband, Theodore Crane, endorsed him fully.
He had long before read some of the Mark Twain sketches that had traveled
eastward in advance of their author, and had recognized, even in the
crudest of them, a classic charm. As for Olivia Langdon's mother and
sister, their happiness lay in hers. Where her heart went theirs went
also, and it would appear that her heart, in spite of herself, had found
its rightful keeper. Only young Langdon was irreconciled, and eventually
set out for a voyage around the world to escape the situation.
There was only a provisional engagement at first. Jervis Langdon
suggested, and Samuel Clemens agreed with him, that it was proper to know
something of his past, as well as of his present, before the official
parental sanction should be given. When Mr. Langdon inquired as to the
names of persons of standing to whom he might write for credentials,
Clemens pretty confidently gave him the name of the Reverend Stebbins and
others of San Francisco, adding that he might write also to Joe Goodman
if he wanted to, but that he had lied for Goodman a hundred times and
Goodman would lie for him if necessary, so his testimony would be of no
value. The letters to the clergy were written, and Mr. Langdon also
wrote one on his own account.
It was a long mail-trip to the Coast and back in those days. It might be
two months before replies would come from those ministers. The lecturer
set out again on his travels, and was radiantly and happily busy. He
went as far west as Illinois, had crowded houses in Chicago, visited
friends and kindred in Hannibal, St. Louis, and Keokuk, carrying the
great news, and lecturing in old familiar haunts.
INNOCENTS AT HOME--AND "THE INNOCENTS ABROAD"
He was in Jacksonville, Illinois, at the end of January (1869), and in a
letter to Bliss states that he will be in Elmira two days later, and asks
that proofs of the book be sent there. He arrived at the Langdon home,
anxious to hear the reports that would make him, as the novels might say,
"the happiest or the most miserable of men." Jervis Langdon had a rather
solemn look when they were alone together. Clemens asked:
"You've heard from those gentlemen out there?"
"Yes, and from another gentleman I wrote concerning you."
"They don't appear to have been very enthusiastic, from your manner."
"Well, yes, some of them were."
"I suppose I may ask what particular form their emotion took?"
"Oh yes, yes; they agree unanimously that you are a brilliant, able man,
a man with a future, and that you would make about the worst husband on
The applicant for favor had a forlorn look.
"There's nothing very evasive about that," he said:
There was a period of reflective silence. It was probably no more than a
few seconds, but it seemed longer.
"Haven't you any other friend that you could suggest?" Langdon said.
"Apparently none whose testimony would be valuable."
Jervis Langdon held out his hand. "You have at least one," he said.
"I believe in you. I know you better than they do."
And so came the crown of happiness. The engagement of Samuel Langhorne
Clemens and Olivia Lewis Langdon was ratified next day, February 4, 1869.
But if the friends of Mark Twain viewed the idea of the carnage with
scant favor, the friends of Miss Langdon regarded it with genuine alarm.
Elmira was a conservative place--a place of pedigree and family
tradition; that a stranger, a former printer, pilot, miner, wandering
journalist and lecturer, was to carry off the daughter of one of the
oldest and wealthiest families, was a thing not to be lightly permitted.
The fact that he had achieved a national fame did not count against other
considerations. The social protest amounted almost to insurrection, but
it was not availing. The Langdon family had their doubts too, though of
a different sort. Their doubts lay in the fear that one, reared as their
daughter had been, might be unable to hold a place as the wife of this
intellectual giant, whom they felt that the world was preparing to honor.
That this delicate, sheltered girl could have the strength of mind and
body for her position seemed hard to believe. Their faith overbore such
questionings, and the future years proved how fully it was justified.
To his mother Samuel Clemens wrote:
She is only a little body, but she hasn't her peer in Christendom.
I gave her only a plain gold engagement ring, when fashion
imperatively demands a two-hundred-dollar diamond one, and told her
it was typical of her future life-namely, that she would have to
flourish on substance, rather than luxuries (but you see I know the
girl--she don't care anything about luxuries).... She spends no
money but her astral year's allowance, and spends nearly every cent
of that on other people. She will be a good, sensible little wife,
without any airs about her. I don't make intercession for her
beforehand, and ask you to love her, for there isn't any use in
that--you couldn't help it if you were to try. I warn you that
whoever comes within the fatal influence of her beautiful nature is
her willing slave forevermore.
To Mrs. Crane, absent in March, her father wrote:
DEAR SUE,--I received your letter yesterday with a great deal of
pleasure, but the letter has gone in pursuit of one S. L. Clemens,
who has been giving us a great deal of trouble lately. We cannot
have a joy in our family without a feeling, on the part of the
little incorrigible in our family, that this wanderer must share it,
so, as soon as read, into her pocket and off upstairs goes your
letter, and in the next two minutes into the mail, so it is
impossible for me now to refer to it, or by reading it over gain an
inspiration in writing you. . .
Clemens closed his lecture tour in March, acid went immediately to
Elmira. He had lectured between fifty and sixty times, with a return of
something more than $8,000, not a bad aggregate for a first season on the
circuit. He had planned to make a spring tour to California, but the
attraction at Elmira was of a sort that discouraged distant travel.
Furthermore, he disliked the platform, then and always. It was always a
temptation to him because of its quick and abundant return, but it was
none the less distasteful. In a letter of that spring he wrote:
I most cordially hate the lecture field. And after all, I shudder
to think I may never get out of it. In all conversation with Gough,
and Anna Dickinson, Nasby, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Wendell Phillips,
and the other old stagers, I could not observe that they ever
expected or hoped to get out of the business. I don't want to get
wedded to it as they are.
He declined further engagements on the excuse that he must attend to
getting out his book. The revised proofs were coming now, and he and
gentle Livy Langdon read them together. He realized presently that with
her sensitive nature she had also a keen literary perception. What
he lacked in delicacy--and his lack was likely to be large enough in that
direction--she detected, and together they pruned it away. She became
his editor during those happy courtship days--a position which she held
to her death. The world owed a large debt of gratitude to Mark Twain's
wife, who from the very beginning--and always, so far as in her strength
she was able--inspired him to give only his worthiest to the world,
whether in written or spoken word, in counsel or in deed. Those early
days of their close companionship, spiritual and mental, were full of
revelation to Samuel Clemens, a revelation that continued from day to
day, and from year to year, even to the very end.
The letter to Bliss and the proofs were full of suggested changes that
would refine and beautify the text. In one of them he settles the
question of title, which he says is to be:
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD
THE NEW PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
and we may be sure that it was Olivia Langdon's voice that gave the
deciding vote for the newly adopted chief title, which would take any
suggestion of irreverence out of the remaining words.
The book was to have been issued in the spring, but during his wanderings
proofs had been delayed, and there was now considerable anxiety about it,
as the agencies had become impatient for the canvass. At the end of
April Clemens wrote: "Your printers are doing well. I will hurry the
proofs"; but it was not until the early part of June that the last
chapters were revised and returned. Then the big book, at last
completed, went to press on an edition of twenty thousand, a large number
for any new book, even to-day.
In later years, through some confusion of circumstance, Mark Twain was
led to believe that the publication of The Innocents Abroad was long and
unnecessarily delayed. But this was manifestly a mistake. The book went
to press in June. It was a big book and a large edition. The first copy
was delivered July 20 (1869), and four hundred and seventeen bound
volumes were shipped that month. Even with the quicker mechanical
processes of to-day a month or more is allowed for a large book between
the final return of proofs and the date of publication. So it is only
another instance of his remembering, as he once quaintly put it, "the
thing that didn't happen."--[In an article in the North American Review
(September 21, 1906) Mr. Clemens stated that he found it necessary to
telegraph notice that he would bring suit if the book was not immediately
issued. In none of the letters covering this period is there any
suggestion of delay on the part of the publishers, and the date of the
final return of proofs, together with the date of publication, preclude
the possibility of such a circumstance. At some period of his life he
doubtless sent, or contemplated sending, such a message, and this fact,
through some curious psychology, became confused in his mind with the
first edition of The Innocents Abroad.]
THE GREAT BOOK OF TRAVEL
'The Innocents Abroad' was a success from the start. The machinery for
its sale and delivery was in full swing by August 1, and five thousand
one hundred and seventy copies were disposed of that month--a number that
had increased to more than thirty-one thousand by the first of the year.
It was a book of travel; its lowest price was three and a half dollars.
No such record had been made by a book of that description; none has
equaled it since.--[One must recall that this was the record only up to
If Mark Twain was not already famous, he was unquestionably famous now.
As the author of The New Pilgrim's Progress he was swept into the domain
of letters as one riding at the head of a cavalcade--doors and windows
wide with welcome and jubilant with applause. Newspapers chorused their
enthusiasm; the public voiced universal approval; only a few of the more
cultured critics seemed hesitant and doubtful.
They applauded--most of them--but with reservation. Doctor Holland
regarded Mark Twain as a mere fun maker of ephemeral popularity, and was
not altogether pleasant in his dictum. Doctor Holmes, in a letter to the
author, speaks of the "frequently quaint and amusing conceits," but does
not find it in his heart to refer to the book as literature. It was
naturally difficult for the East to concede a serious value to one who
approached his subject with such militant aboriginality, and occasionally
wrote "those kind." William Dean Howells reviewed the book in the
Atlantic, which was of itself a distinction, whether the review was
favorable or otherwise. It was favorable on the whole, favorable to the
humor of the book, its "delicious impudence," the charm of its good-
natured irony. The review closed:
It is no business of ours to fix his rank among the humorists
California has given us, but we think he is, in an entirely
different way from all the others, quite worthy of the company of
This is praise, but not of an intemperate sort, nor very inclusive. The
descriptive, the poetic, the more pretentious phases of the book did not
receive attention. Mr. Howells was perhaps the first critic of eminence
to recognize in Mark Twain not only the humorist, but the supreme genius-
the "Lincoln of our literature." This was later. The public--the silent
public--with what Howells calls "the inspired knowledge of the simple-
hearted multitude," reached a similar verdict forthwith. And on
sufficient evidence: let the average unprejudiced person of to-day take
up the old volume and read a few chapters anywhere and decide whether it
is the work of a mere humorist, or also of a philosopher, a poet, and a
seer. The writer well remembers a little group of "the simple-hearted
multitude" who during the winter of '69 and '70 gathered each evening to
hear the Innocents read aloud, and their unanimous verdict that it was
the "best book of modern times."
It was the most daring book of its day. Passages of it were calculated
to take the breath of the orthodox reader; only, somehow, it made him
smile, too. It was all so good-natured, so openly sincere. Without
doubt it preached heresy--the heresy of viewing revered landmarks and
relics joyously, rather than lugubriously; reverentially, when they
inspired reverence; satirically, when they invited ridicule, and with
The Innocents Abroad is Mark Twain's greatest book of travel. The
critical and the pure in speech may object to this verdict. Brander
Matthews regards it second to A Tramp Abroad, the natural viewpoint of
the literary technician. The 'Tramp' contains better usage without
doubt, but it lacks the "color" which gives the Innocents its perennial
charm. In the Innocents there is a glow, a fragrance, a romance of
touch, a subtle something which is idyllic, something which is not quite
of reality, in the tale of that little company that so long ago sailed
away to the harbors of their illusions beyond the sea, and, wandered
together through old palaces and galleries, and among the tombs of the
saints, and down through ancient lands. There is an atmosphere about it
all, a dream-like quality that lies somewhere in the telling, maybe, or
in the tale; at all events it is there, and the world has felt it ever
since. Perhaps it could be defined in a single word, perhaps that word
would be "youth." That the artist, poor True Williams, felt its
inspiration is certain. We may believe that Williams was not a great
draftsman, but no artist ever caught more perfectly the light and spirit
of the author's text. Crude some of the pictures are, no doubt, but they
convey the very essence of the story; they belong to it, they are a part
of it, and they ought never to perish. 'A Tramp Abroad' is a rare book,
but it cannot rank with its great predecessor in human charm. The
public, which in the long run makes mistakes, has rendered that verdict.
The Innocents by far outsells the Tramp, and, for that matter, any other
book of travel.
THE PURCHASE OF A PAPER
It is curious to reflect that Mark Twain still did not regard himself as
a literary man. He had no literary plans for the future; he scarcely
looked forward to the publication of another book. He considered himself
a journalist; his ambition lay in the direction of retirement in some
prosperous newspaper enterprise, with the comforts and companionship of a
home. During his travels he had already been casting about for a
congenial and substantial association in newspaperdom, and had at one
time considered the purchase of an interest in the Cleveland Herald. But
Buffalo was nearer Elmira, and when an opportunity offered, by which he
could acquire a third interest in the Buffalo Express for $25,000, the
purchase was decided upon. His lack of funds prompted a new plan for a
lecture tour to the Pacific coast, this time with D. R. Locke (Nasby),
then immensely popular, in his lecture "Cussed Be Canaan."
Clemens had met Nasby on the circuit, and was very fond of him. The two
had visited Boston together, and while there had called on Doctor Holmes;
this by the way. Nasby was fond of Clemens too, but doubtful about the
trip-doubtful about his lecture:
Your proposition takes my breath away. If I had my new lecture
completed I wouldn't hesitate a moment, but really isn't "Cussed Be
Canaan" too old? You know that lemon, our African brother, juicy as
he was in his day, has been squeezed dry. Why howl about his wrongs
after said wrongs have been redressed? Why screech about the
"damnable spirit of Cahst" when the victim thereof sits at the first
table, and his oppressor mildly takes, in hash, what he leaves? You
see, friend Twain, the Fifteenth Amendment busted "Cussed Be
Canaan." I howled feelingly on the subject while it was a living
issue, for I felt all that I said and a great deal more; but now
that we have won our fight why dance frantically on the dead corpse
of our enemy? The Reliable Contraband is contraband no more, but a
citizen of the United States, and I speak of him no more.
Give me a week to think of your proposition. If I can jerk a
lecture in time I will go with you. The Lord knows I would like to.
--[Nasby's lecture, "Cussed Be Canaan," opened, "We are all
descended from grandfathers!" He had a powerful voice, and always
just on the stroke of eight he rose and vigorously delivered this
sentence. Once, after lecturing an entire season--two hundred and
twenty-five nights--he went home to rest. That evening he sat,
musingly drowsing by the fire, when the clock struck eight. Without
a moment's thought Nasby sprang to his feet and thundered out, "We
are all descended from grandfathers!"]
Nasby did not go, and Clemens's enthusiasm cooled at the prospect of
setting out alone on that long tour. Furthermore, Jervis Langdon
promptly insisted on advancing the money required to complete the
purchase of the Express, and the trade was closed.--[Mr. Langdon is just
as good for $25,000 for me, and has already advanced half of it in cash.
I wrote and asked whether I had better send him my note, or a due bill,
or how he would prefer to have the indebtedness made of record, and he
answered every other topic in the letter pleasantly, but never replied to
that at all. Still, I shall give my note into a hands of his business
agent here, and pay him the interest as it falls due.--S. L. C. to his
The Buffalo Express was at this time in the hands of three men--Col.
George F. Selkirk, J. L. Lamed, and Thomas A. Kennett. Colonel Selkirk
was business manager, Lamed was political editor. With the purchase of
Kennett's share Clemens became a sort of general and contributing editor,
with a more or less "roving commission"--his hours and duties not very
clearly defined. It was believed by his associates, and by Clemens
himself, that his known connection with the paper would give it prestige
and circulation, as Nasby's connection had popularized the Toledo Blade.
The new editor entered upon his duties August 14 (1869). The members of
the Buffalo press gave him a dinner that evening, and after the manner of
newspaper men the world over, were handsomely cordial to the "new enemy
in their midst."
There is an anecdote which relates that next morning, when Mark Twain
arrived in the Express office (it was then at 14 Swan Street), there
happened to be no one present who knew him. A young man rose very
bruskly and asked if there was any one he would like to see. It is
reported that he replied, with gentle deliberation:
"Well, yes, I should like to see some young man offer the new editor a
It is so like Mark Twain that we are inclined to accept it, though it
seems of doubtful circumstance. In any case it deserves to be true. His
"Salutatory" (August 18th) is sufficiently genuine:
Being a stranger, it would be immodest for me to suddenly and
violently assume the associate editorship of the Buffalo Express
without a single word of comfort or encouragement to the unoffending
patrons of the paper, who are about to be exposed to constant
attacks of my wisdom and learning. But the word shall be as brief
as possible. I only want to assure parties having a friendly
interest in the prosperity of the journal that I am not going to
hurt the paper deliberately and intentionally at any time. I am not
going to introduce any startling reforms, nor in any way attempt to
make trouble.... I shall not make use of slang and vulgarity upon
any occasion or under any circumstances, and shall never use
profanity except when discussing house rent and taxes. Indeed, upon
a second thought, I shall not use it even then, for it is
unchristian, inelegant, and degrading; though, to speak truly, I do
not see how house rent and taxes are going to be discussed worth a
cent without it. I shall not often meddle with politics, because we
have a political Editor who is already excellent and only needs to
serve a term or two in the penitentiary to be perfect. I shall not
write any poetry unless I conceive a spite against the subscribers.
Such is my platform. I do not see any use in it, but custom is law
and must be obeyed.
John Harrison Mills, who was connected with the Express in those days,
I cannot remember that there was any delay in getting down to his
work. I think within five minutes the new editor had assumed the
easy look of one entirely at home, pencil in hand and a clutch of
paper before him, with an air of preoccupation, as of one intent on
a task delayed. It was impossible to be conscious of the man
sitting there, and not feel his identity with all that he had
enjoyed, and the reminiscence of it he that seemed to radiate; for
the personality was so absolutely in accord with all the record of
himself and his work. I cannot say he seemed to be that vague thing
they call a type in race or blood, though the word, if used in his
case for temperament, would decidedly mean what they used to call
I thought that, pictorially, the noble costume of the Albanian would
have well become him. Or he might have been a Goth, and worn the
horned bull-pate helmet of Alaric's warriors; or stood at the prow
of one of the swift craft of the Vikings. His eyes, which have been
variously described, were, it seemed to me, of an indescribable
depth of the bluish moss-agate, with a capacity of pupil dilation
that in certain lights had the effect of a deep black....
Mr. Mills adds that in dress he was now "well groomed," and that
consequently they were obliged to revise their notions as to the careless
negligee which gossip had reported.--[From unpublished Reminiscences
kindly lent to the author by Mr. Mills]
THE FIRST MEETING WITH HOWELLS
Clemens' first period of editorial work was a brief one, though he made
frequent contributions to the paper: sketches, squibs, travel-notes, and
experiences, usually humorous in character. His wedding-day had been set
for early in the year, and it was necessary to accumulate a bank account
for that occasion. Before October he was out on the lecture circuit,
billed now for the first time for New England, nervous and apprehensive
in consequence, though with good hope. To Pamela he wrote
To-morrow night I appear for the first time before a Boston audience--
4,000 critics--and on the success of this matter depends my future
success in New England. But I am not distressed. Nasby is in the same
boat. Tonight decides the fate of his brand-new lecture. He has just
left my room--been reading his lecture to me--was greatly depressed. I
have convinced him that he has little to fear.
Whatever alarm Mark Twain may have felt was not warranted. His success
with the New England public was immediate and complete. He made his
headquarters in Boston, at Redpath's office, where there was pretty sure
to be a congenial company, of which he was presently the center.
It was during one of these Boston sojourns that he first met William Dean
Howells, his future friend and literary counselor. Howells was assistant
editor of the Atlantic at this time; James T. Fields, its editor.
Clemens had been gratified by the Atlantic review, and had called to
express his thanks for it. He sat talking to Fields, when Howells
entered the editorial rooms, and on being presented to the author of the
review, delivered his appreciation in the form of a story, sufficiently
appropriate, but not qualified for the larger types.--[He said: "When I
read that review of yours, I felt like the woman who was so glad her baby
had come white."]
His manner, his humor, his quaint colloquial forms all delighted Howells
--more, in fact, than the opulent sealskin overcoat which he affected at
this period--a garment astonishing rather than esthetic, as Mark Twain's
clothes in those days of his first regeneration were likely to be
startling enough, we may believe; in the conservative atmosphere of the
Atlantic rooms. And Howells--gentle, genial, sincere--filled with the
early happiness of his calling, won the heart of Mark Twain and never
lost it, and, what is still more notable, won his absolute and unvarying
confidence in all literary affairs. It was always Mark Twain's habit to
rely on somebody, and in matters pertaining to literature and to literary
people in general he laid his burden on William Dean Howells from that
day. Only a few weeks after that first visit we find him telegraphing to
Howells, asking him to look after a Californian poet, then ill and
friendless in Brooklyn. Clemens states that he does not know the poet,
but will contribute fifty dollars if Howells will petition the steamboat
company for a pass; and no doubt Howells complied, and spent a good deal
more than fifty dollars' worth of time to get the poet relieved and
started; it would be like him.
The wedding was planned, at first, either for Christmas or New-Year's
Day; but as the lecture engagements continued into January it was decided
to wait until these were filled. February 2d, a date near the
anniversary of the engagement, was agreed upon, also a quiet wedding with
no "tour." The young people would go immediately to Buffalo, and take up
a modest residence, in a boardinghouse as comfortable, even as luxurious,
as the husband's financial situation justified. At least that was Samuel
Clemens's understanding of the matter. He felt that he was heavily in
debt--that his first duty was to relieve himself of that obligation.
There were other plans in Elmira, but in the daily and happy letters he
received there was no inkling of any new purpose.
He wrote to J. D. F. Slee, of Buffalo, who was associated in business
with Mr. Langdon, and asked him to find a suitable boarding-place, one
that would be sufficiently refined for the woman who was to be his wife,
and sufficiently reasonable to insure prosperity. In due time Slee
replied that, while boarding was a "miserable business anyhow," he had
been particularly fortunate in securing a place on one of the most
pleasant streets--"the family a small one and choice spirits, with no
predilection for taking boarders, and consenting to the present
arrangement only because of the anticipated pleasure of your company."
The price, Slee added, would be reasonable. As a matter of fact a house
on Delaware Avenue--still the fine residence street of Buffalo--had been
bought and furnished throughout as a present to the bride and groom. It
stands to-day practically unchanged--brick and mansard without, Eastlake
within, a type then much in vogue--spacious and handsome for that period.
It was completely appointed. Diagrams of the rooms had been sent to
Elmira and Miss Langdon herself had selected the furnishings. Everything
was put in readiness, including linen, cutlery, and utensils. Even the
servants had been engaged and the pantry and cellar had been stocked.
It must have been hard for Olivia Langdon to keep this wonderful surprise
out of those daily letters. A surprise like that is always watching a
chance to slip out unawares, especially when one is eagerly impatient to
However, the traveler remained completely in the dark. He may have
wondered vaguely at the lack of enthusiasm in the boarding idea, and
could he have been certain that the sales of the book would continue, or
that his newspaper venture would yield an abundant harvest, he might have
planned his domestic beginning on a more elaborate scale. If only the
Tennessee land would yield the long-expected fortune now! But these were
all incalculable things. All that he could be sure of was the coming of
his great happiness, in whatever environment, and of the dragging weeks
At last the night of the final lecture came, and he was off for Elmira
with the smallest possible delay. Once there, the intervening days did
not matter. He could join in the busy preparations; he could write
exuberantly to his friends. To Laura Hawkins, long since Laura Frazer he
sent a playful line; to Jim Gillis, still digging and washing on the
slopes of the old Tuolumne hills, he wrote a letter which eminently
Elmira, N. Y., January 26, 1870.
DEAR Jim,--I remember that old night just as well! And somewhere
among my relics I have your remembrance stored away. It makes my
heart ache yet to call to mind some of those days. Still it
shouldn't, for right in the depths of their poverty and their
pocket-hunting vagabondage lay the germ of my coming good fortune.
You remember the one gleam of jollity that shot across our dismal
sojourn in the rain and mud of Angel's Camp--I mean that day we sat
around the tavern stove and heard that chap tell about the frog and
how they filled him with shot. And you remember how we quoted from
the yarn and laughed over it out there on the hillside while you and
dear old Stoker panned and washed. I jotted the story down in my
note-book that day, and would have been glad to get ten or fifteen
dollars for it--I was just that blind. But then we were so hard up.
I published that story, and it became widely known in America,
India, China, England, and the reputation it made for me has paid me
thousands and thousands of dollars since. Four or five months ago I
bought into the Express (I have ordered it sent to you as long as
you live, and if the bookkeeper sends you any bills you let me hear
of it). I went heavily in debt--never could have dared to do that,
Jim, if we hadn't heard the jumping Frog story that day.
And wouldn't I love to take old Stoker by the hand, and wouldn't I
love to see him in his great specialty, his wonderful rendition of
Rinalds in the "Burning Shame!" Where is Dick and what is he doing?
Give him my fervent love and warm old remembrances.
A week from to-day I shall be married-to a girl even better and
lovelier than the peerless "Chapparal Quails." You can't come so
far, Jim, but still I cordially invite you to come anyhow, and I
invite Dick too. And if you two boys were to land here on that
pleasant occasion we would make you right royally welcome.
Truly your friend,
SAML. L. CLEMENS.
P.S.---California plums are good. Jim, particularly when they are
It had been only five years before--that day in Angel's Camp--but how
long ago and how far away it seemed to him now! So much had happened
since then, so much of which that was the beginning--so little compared
with the marvel of the years ahead, whose threshold he was now about to
cross, and not alone.
A day or two before the wedding he was asked to lecture on the night of
February 2d. He replied that he was sorry to disappoint the applicant,
but that he could not lecture on the night of February 2d, for the reason
that he was going to marry a young lady on that evening, and that he
would rather marry that young lady than deliver all the lectures in the
And so came the wedding-day. It began pleasantly; the postman brought a
royalty check that morning of $4,000, the accumulation of three months'
sales, and the Rev. Joseph Twichell and Harmony, his wife, came from
Hartford--Twichell to join with the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher in
solemnizing the marriage. Pamela Moffett, a widow now, with her daughter
Annie, grown to a young lady, had come all the way from St. Louis, and
Mrs. Fairbanks from Cleveland.
Yet the guests were not numerous, not more than a hundred at most, so it
was a quiet wedding there in the Langdon parlors, those dim, stately
rooms that in the future would hold so much of his history--so much of
the story of life and death that made its beginning there.
The wedding-service was about seven o'clock, for Mr. Beecher had a
meeting at the church soon after that hour. Afterward followed the
wedding-supper and dancing, and the bride's father danced with the bride.
To the interested crowd awaiting him at the church Mr. Beecher reported
that the bride was very beautiful, and had on the longest white gloves he
had ever seen; he declared they reached to her shoulders.--[Perhaps for
a younger generation it should be said that Thomas K. Beecher was a
brother of Henry Ward Beecher. He lived and died in Elmira, the almost
worshiped pastor of the Park Congregational Church. He was a noble,
unorthodox teacher. Samuel Clemens at the time of his marriage already
strongly admired him, and had espoused his cause in an article signed
"S'cat!" in the Elmira Advertiser, when he (Beecher) had been assailed by
the more orthodox Elmira clergy. For the "S'cat" article see Appendix I,
at the end of last volume.]
It was the next afternoon when they set out for Buffalo, accompanied by
the bride's parents, the groom's relatives, the Beechers, and perhaps one
or two others of that happy company. It was nine o'clock at night when
they arrived, and found Mr. Slee waiting at the station with sleighs to
convey the party to the "boarding-house" he had selected. They drove and
drove, and the sleigh containing the bride and groom got behind and
apparently was bound nowhere in particular, which disturbed the groom a
good deal, for he thought it proper that they should arrive first, to
receive their guests. He commented on Slee's poor judgment in selecting
a house that was so hard to find, and when at length they turned into
fashionable Delaware Avenue, and stopped before one of the most
attractive places in the neighborhood, he was beset with fear concerning
the richness of the locality.
They were on the steps when the doors opened, and a perfect fairyland of
lights and decoration was revealed within. The friends who had gone
ahead came out with greetings, to lead in the bride and groom. Servants
hurried forward to take bags and wraps. They were ushered inside; they
were led through beautiful rooms, all newly appointed and garnished. The
bridegroom was dazed, unable to understand the meaning of things, the
apparent ownership and completeness of possession.
At last the young wife put her hand upon his arm:
"Don't you understand, Youth," she said; that was always her name for
him. "Don't you understand? It is ours, all ours--everything--a gift
But even then he could not grasp it; not at first, not until Mr. Langdon
brought a little box and, opening it, handed them the deeds.
Nobody quite remembers what was the first remark that Samuel Clemens made
then; but either then or a little later he said:
"Mr. Langdon, whenever you are in Buffalo, if it's twice a year, come
right here. Bring your bag and stay overnight if you want to. It
sha'n't cost you a cent!"
They went in to supper then, and by and by the guests were gone and the
young wedded pair were alone.
Patrick McAleer, the young coachman, who would grow old in their employ,
and Ellen, the cook, came in for their morning orders, and were full of
Irish delight at the inexperience and novelty of it all. Then they were
gone, and only the lovers in their new house and their new happiness
And so it was they entered the enchanted land.
AS TO DESTINY
If any reader has followed these chapters thus far, he may have wondered,
even if vaguely, at the seeming fatality of events. Mark Twain had but
to review his own life for justification of his doctrine of inevitability
--an unbroken and immutable sequence of cause and effect from the
beginning. Once he said:
"When the first living atom found itself afloat on the great Laurentian
sea the first act of that first atom led to the second act of that first
atom, and so on down through the succeeding ages of all life, until, if
the steps could be traced, it would be shown that the first act of that
first atom has led inevitably to the act of my standing here in my
dressing-gown at this instant talking to you."
It seemed the clearest presentment ever offered in the matter of
predestined circumstance--predestined from the instant when that primal
atom felt the vital thrill. Mark Twain's early life, however imperfectly
recorded, exemplifies this postulate. If through the years still ahead
of us the course of destiny seems less clearly defined, it is only
because thronging events make the threads less easy to trace. The web
becomes richer, the pattern more intricate and confusing, but the line of
fate neither breaks nor falters, to the end.
ON THE BUFFALO "EXPRESS"
With the beginning of life in Buffalo, Mark Twain had become already a
world character--a man of large consequence and events. He had no proper
realization of this, no real sense of the size of his conquest; he still
regarded himself merely as a lecturer and journalist, temporarily
popular, but with no warrant to a permanent seat in the world's literary
congress. He thought his success something of an accident. The fact
that he was prepared to settle down as an editorial contributor to a
newspaper in what was then only a big village is the best evidence of a
modest estimate of his talents.
He "worked like a horse," is the verdict of those who were closely
associated with him on the Express. His hours were not regular, but they
were long. Often he was at his desk at eight in the morning, and
remained there until ten or eleven at night.
His working costume was suited to comfort rather than show. With coat,
vest, collar, and tie usually removed (sometimes even his shoes), he
lounged in his chair, in any attitude that afforded the larger ease,
pulling over the exchanges; scribbling paragraphs, editorials, humorous
skits, and what not, as the notion came upon him. J. L. Lamed, his co-
worker (he sat on the opposite side of the same table), remembers that
Mark Twain enjoyed his work as he went along--the humor of it--and that
he frequently laughed as some whimsicality or new absurdity came into his
"I doubt," writes Lamed, "if he ever enjoyed anything more than the
jackknife engraving that he did on a piece of board of a military map of
the siege of Paris, which was printed in the Express from his original
plate, with accompanying explanations and comments. His half-day of
whittling and laughter that went with it are something that I find
pleasant to remember. Indeed, my whole experience of association with
him is a happy memory, which I am fortunate in having.... What one saw
of him was always the actual Mark Twain, acting out of his own nature
simply, frankly, without pretense, and almost without reserve. It was
that simplicity and naturalness in the man which carried his greatest
Lamed, like many others, likens Mark Twain to Lincoln in various of his
characteristics. The two worked harmoniously together: Lamed attending
to the political direction of the journal, Clemens to the literary, and
what might be termed the sentimental side. There was no friction in the
division of labor, never anything but good feeling between them. Clemens
had a poor opinion of his own comprehension of politics, and perhaps as
little regard for Lamed's conception of humor. Once when the latter
attempted something in the way of pleasantry his associate said:
"Better leave the humor on this paper to me, Lamed"; and once when Lamed
was away attending the Republican State Convention at Saratoga, and some
editorial comment seemed necessary, Clemens thought it best to sign the
utterance, and to make humor of his shortcomings.
I do not know much about politics, and am not sitting up nights to
learn . . . .
I am satisfied that these nominations are all right and sound, and
that they are the only ones that can bring peace to our distracted
country (the only political phrase I am perfectly familiar with and
competent to hurl at the public with fearless confidence--the other
editor is full of them), but being merely satisfied is not enough.
I always like to know before I shout. But I go for Mr. Curtis with
all my strength! Being certain of him, I hereby shout all I know
how. But the others may be a split ticket, or a scratched ticket,
or whatever you call it.
I will let it alone for the present. It will keep. The other young
man will be back to-morrow, and he will shout for it, split or no
split, rest assured of that. He will prance into this political
ring with his tomahawk and his war-whoop, and then you will hear a
crash and see the scalps fly. He has none of my diffidence. He
knows all about these nominees, and if he don't he will let on to in
such a natural way as to deceive the most critical. He knows
everything--he knows more than Webster's Unabridged and the American
Encyclopedia--but whether he knows anything about a subject or not
he is perfectly willing to discuss it. When he gets back he will
tell you all about these candidates as serenely as if he had been
acquainted with them a hundred years, though, speaking
confidentially, I doubt if he ever heard of any of them till to-day.
I am right well satisfied it is a good, sound, sensible ticket, and
a ticket to win; but wait till he comes.
In the mean time I go for George William Curtis and take the
He had become what Mr. Howells calls entirely "desouthernized" by this
time. From having been of slaveholding stock, and a Confederate soldier,
he had become a most positive Republican, a rampant abolitionist--had
there been anything left to abolish. His sympathy had been always with
the oppressed, and he had now become their defender. His work on the
paper revealed this more and more. He wrote fewer sketches and more
editorials, and the editorials were likely to be either savage assaults
upon some human abuse, or fierce espousals of the weak. They were
fearless, scathing, terrific. Of some farmers of Cohocton, who had taken
the law into their own hands to punish a couple whom they believed to be
a detriment to the community, he wrote:
"The men who did that deed are capable of doing any low, sneaking,
cowardly villainy that could be invented in perdition. They are the very
bastards of the devil."
He appended a full list of their names, and added:
"If the farmers of Cohocton are of this complexion, what on earth must a
Cohocton rough be like?"
But all this happened a long time ago, and we need not detail those
various old interests and labors here. It is enough to say that Mark
Twain on the Express was what he had been from the beginning, and would
be to the end--the zealous champion of justice and liberty; violent and
sometimes wrong in his viewpoint, but never less than fearless and
sincere. Invariably he was for the oppressed. He had a natural instinct
for the right, but, right or wrong, he was for the under dog.
Among the best of his editorial contributions is a tribute to Anson
Burlingame, who died February 23, 1870, at St. Petersburg, on his trip
around the world as special ambassador for the Chinese Empire. In this
editorial Clemens endeavored to pay something of his debt to the noble
statesman. He reviewed Burlingame's astonishing career--the career which
had closed at forty-seven, and read like a fairy-tale-and he dwelt
lovingly on his hero's nobility of character. At the close he said:
"He was a good man, and a very, very great man. America, lost a son, and
all the world a servant, when he died."
Among those early contributions to the Express is a series called "Around
the World," an attempt at collaboration with Prof. D. R. Ford, who did
the actual traveling, while Mark Twain, writing in the first person, gave
the letters his literary stamp. At least some of the contributions were
written in this way, such as "Adventures in Hayti," "The Pacific," and
"Japan." These letters exist to-day only in the old files of the
Express, and indeed this is the case with most of Clemens's work for that
paper. It was mainly ephemeral or timely work, and its larger value has
disappeared. Here and there is a sentence worth remembering. Of two
practical jokers who sent in a marriage notice of persons not even
contemplating matrimony, he said: "This deceit has been practised
maliciously by a couple of men whose small souls will escape through
their pores some day if they do not varnish their hides."
Some of the sketches have been preserved. "Journalism in Tennessee," one
of the best of his wilder burlesques, is as enjoyable to-day as when
written. "A Curious Dream" made a lasting impression on his Buffalo
readers, and you are pretty certain to hear of it when you mention Mark
Twain in that city to-day. It vividly called attention to the neglect of
the old North Street graveyard. The gruesome vision of the ancestors
deserting with their coffins on their backs was even more humiliating
than amusing, and inspired a movement for reform. It has been effective
elsewhere since then, and may still be read with profit--or satisfaction
--for in a note at the end the reader is assured that if the cemeteries
of his town are kept in good order the dream is not leveled at his town
at all, but "particularly and venomously at the next town."
Mark Twain's work on the Express represented only a portion of his
literary activities during his Buffalo residence. The Galaxy, an
ambitious New York magazine of that day--[published by Sheldon & Co. at
498 and 500 Broadway]--, proposed to him that he conduct for them a
humorous department. They would pay $2,400 a year for the work, and
allow him a free hand. There was some discussion as to book rights, but
the arrangement was concluded, and his first instalment, under the
general title of "Memoranda," appeared in the May number, 1870. In his
Introductory he outlined what the reader might expect, such as
"exhaustive statistical tables," "Patent Office reports," and "complete
instructions about farming, even from the grafting of the seed to the
harrowing of the matured crops." He declared that he would throw a
pathos into the subject of agriculture that would surprise and delight
the world. He added that the "Memoranda" was not necessarily a humorous
I would not conduct an exclusively and professedly humorous
department for any one. I would always prefer to have the privilege
of printing a serious and sensible remark, in case one occurred to
me, without the reader's feeling obliged to consider himself
outraged.... Puns cannot be allowed a place in this department....
No circumstance, however dismal, will ever be considered a
sufficient excuse for the admission of that last and saddest
evidence of intellectual poverty, the pun.
The Galaxy was really a fine magazine, with the best contributors
obtainable; among them Justin McCarthy, S. M. B. Piatt, Richard Grant
White, and many others well known in that day, with names that still
flicker here and there in its literary twilight. The new department
appealed to Clemens, and very soon he was writing most of his sketches
for it. They were better literature, as a rule, than those published in
his own paper.
The first number of the "Memoranda" was fairly representative of those
that followed it. "The Facts in the Case of the Great Beef Contract,"
a manuscript which he had undertaken three years before and mislaid, was
its initial contribution. Besides the "Beef Contract," there was a
tribute to George Wakeman, a well-known journalist of those days; a
stricture on the Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, who had delivered from the
pulpit an argument against workingmen occupying pews in fashionable
churches; a presentment of the Chinese situation in San Francisco,
depicting the cruel treatment of the Celestial immigrant; a burlesque of
the Sunday-school "good little boy" story,--["The Story of the Good
Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper" and the "Beef Contract" are included in
Sketches New and Old; also the Chinese sketch, under the title,
"Disgraceful Persecution of a Boy."]--and several shorter skits--and
anecdotes, ten pages in all; a rather generous contract.
Mark Twain's comment on Talmage was prompted by an article in which
Talmage had assumed the premise that if workingmen attended the churches
it would drive the better class of worshipers away. Among other things
I have a good Christian friend who, if he sat in the front pew in
church, and a workingman should enter the door at the other end,
would smell him instantly. My friend is not to blame for the
sensitiveness of his nose, any more than you would flog a pointer
for being keener on the scent than a stupid watch-dog. The fact is,
if you had all the churches free, by reason of the mixing of the
common people with the uncommon, you would keep one-half of
Christendom sick at their stomach. If you are going to kill the
church thus with bad smells I will have nothing to do with this work
Commenting on this Mark Twain said--well, he said a good deal more than
we have room for here, but a portion of his closing paragraphs is worth
preserving. He compares the Reverend Mr. Talmage with the early
disciples of Christ--Paul and Peter and the others; or, rather, he
contrasts him with them.
They healed the very beggars, and held intercourse with people of a
villainous odor every day. If the subject of these remarks had been
chosen among the original Twelve Apostles he would not have
associated with the rest, because he could not have stood the fishy
smell of some of his comrades who came from around the Sea of
Galilee. He would have resigned his commission with some such
remark as he makes in the extract quoted above: "Master, if thou art
going to kill the church thus with bad smells I will have nothing to
do with this work of evangelization." He is a disciple, and makes
that remark to the Master; the only difference is that he makes it
in the nineteenth instead of the first century.
Talmage was immensely popular at this time, and Mark Twain's open attack
on him must have shocked a good many Galaxy readers, as perhaps his
article on the Chinese cruelties offended the citizens of San Francisco.
It did not matter. He was not likely to worry over the friends he would
lose because of any stand taken for human justice. Lamed said of him:
"He was very far from being one who tried in any way to make himself
popular." Certainly he never made any such attempt at the expense of his
The first Galaxy instalment was a sort of platform of principles for the
campaign that was to follow. Not that each month's contribution
contained personal criticism, or a defense of the Chinese (of whom he was
always the champion as long as he lived), but a good many of them did.
In the October number he began a series of letters under the general
title of "Goldsmith's Friend Abroad Again," supposed to have been written
by a Chinese immigrant in San Francisco, detailing his experience there.
In a note the author says: "No experience is set down in the following
letters which had to be invented. Fancy is not needed to give variety to
the history of the Chinaman's sojourn in America. Plain fact is amply
sufficient." The letters show how the supposed Chinese writer of them
had set out for America, believing it to be a land whose government was
based on the principle that all men are created equal, and treated
accordingly; how, upon arriving in San Francisco, he was kicked and
bruised and beaten, and set upon by dogs, flung into jail, tried and
condemned without witnesses, his own race not being allowed to testify
against Americans--Irish-Americans--in the San Francisco court. They are
scathing, powerful letters, and one cannot read them, even in this day of
improved conditions, without feeling the hot waves of resentment and
indignation which Mark Twain must have felt when he penned them.
Reverend Mr. Talmage was not the only divine to receive attention in the
"Memoranda." The Reverend Mr. Sabine, of New York, who had declined to
hold a church burial service for the old actor, George Holland, came in
for the most caustic as well as the most artistic stricture of the entire
series. It deserves preservation to-day, not only for its literary
value, but because no finer defense of the drama, no more searching
sermon on self-righteousness, has ever been put into concrete form.
--["The Indignity Put Upon the Remains of Gorge Holland by the Rev. Mr.
Sabine"; Galaxy for February, 1871. The reader will find it complete
under Appendix J, at the end of last volume.]
The "Little Church Around the Corner" on Twenty-ninth Street received
that happy title from this incident.
"There is a little church around the corner that will, perhaps, permit
the service," Mr. Sabine had said to Holland's friends.
The little church did permit the service, and there was conferred upon it
the new name, which it still bears. It has sheltered a long line of
actor folk and their friends since then, earning thereby reverence,
gratitude, and immortal memory.--[Church of the Transfiguration.
Memorial services were held there for Joseph Jefferson; and a memorial
window, by John La Farge, has been placed there in memory of Edwin
Of the Galaxy contributions a number are preserved in Sketches New and
Old. "How I Edited an Agricultural Paper" is one of the best of these--
an excellent example of Mark Twain's more extravagant style of humor. It
is perennially delightful; in France it has been dramatized, and is still
A successful Galaxy feature, also preserved in the Sketches, was the
"Burlesque Map of Paris," reprinted from the Express. The Franco-
Prussian War was in progress, and this travesty was particularly timely.
It creates only a smile of amusement to-day, but it was all fresh and
delightful then. Schuyler Colfax, by this time Vice-President, wrote to
him: "I have had the heartiest possible laugh over it, and so have all my
family. You are a wicked, conscienceless wag, who ought to be punished
The "Official Commendations," which accompany the map, are its chief
charm. They are from Grant, Bismarck, Brigham Young, and others, the
best one coming from one J. Smith, who says:
My wife was for years afflicted with freckles, and though everything
was done for her relief that could be done, all was in vain. But,
sir, since her first glance at your map they have entirely left her.
She has nothing but convulsions now.
It is said that the "Map of Paris" found its way to Berlin, where the
American students in the beer-halls used to pretend to quarrel over it
until they attracted the attention of the German soldiers that might be
present. Then they would wander away and leave it on the table and watch
results. The soldiers would pounce upon it and lose their tempers over
it; then finally abuse it and revile its author, to the satisfaction of
The larger number of "Memoranda" sketches have properly found oblivion
to-day. They were all, or nearly all, collected by a Canadian pirate,
C. A. Backas, in a volume bearing the title of Memoranda,--[Also by a
harpy named John Camden Hotten (of London), of whom we shall hear again.
Hotten had already pirated The Innocents, and had it on the market before
Routledge could bring out the authorized edition. Routledge later
published the "Memoranda" under the title of Sketches, including the
contents of the Jumping Frog book.]--a book long ago suppressed. Only
about twenty of the Galaxy contributions found place in Sketches New and
Old, five years later, and some of these might have been spared as
literature. "To Raise Poultry," "John Chinaman in New York," and
"History Repeats Itself" are valuable only as examples of his work at
that period. The reader may consult them for himself.
THE PRIMROSE PATH
But we are losing sight of more important things. From the very
beginning Mark Twain's home meant always more to him than his work. The
life at 472 Delaware Avenue had begun with as fair a promise as any
matrimonial journey ever undertaken: There seemed nothing lacking: a
beautiful home, sufficient income, bright prospects--these things, with
health and love; constitute married happiness. Mrs. Clemens wrote to her
sister, Mrs. Crane, at the end of February: "Sue, we are two as happy
people as you ever saw. Our days seem to be made up of only bright
sunlight, with no shadow in them." In the same letter the husband added:
"Livy pines and pines every day for you, and I pine and pine every day
for you, and when we both of us are pining at once you would think it was
a whole pine forest let loose."
To Redpath, who was urging lecture engagements for the coming season, he
DEAR RED,--I am not going to lecture any more forever. I have got
things ciphered down to a fraction now. I know just about what it
will cost to live, and I can make the money without lecturing.
Therefore, old man, count me out.
And still later, in May:
I guess I am out of the field permanently. Have got a lovely wife,
a lovely house, bewitchingly furnished, a lovely carriage, and a
coachman whose style and dignity are simply awe-in-spiring, nothing
less; and I am making more money than necessary, by considerable,
and therefore why crucify myself nightly on the platform? The
subscriber will have to be excused for the present season at least.
So they were very happy during those early months, acquiring pleasantly
the education which any matrimonial experience is sure to furnish,
accustoming themselves to the uses of housekeeping, to life in
partnership, with all the discoveries and mental and spiritual
adaptations that belong to the close association of marriage. They were
far, very far, apart on many subjects. He was unpolished, untrained,
impulsive, sometimes violent. Twichell remembers that in the earlier
days of their acquaintance he wore a slouch hat pulled down in front, and
smoked a cigar that sometimes tilted up and touched the brim of it. The
atmosphere and customs of frontier life, the Westernisms of that day,
still clung to him. Mrs. Clemens, on the other hand, was conservative,
dainty, cultured, spiritual. He adored her as little less than a saint,
and she became, indeed, his saving grace. She had all the personal
refinement which he lacked, and she undertook the work of polishing and
purifying her life companion. She had no wish to destroy his
personality, to make him over, but only to preserve his best, and she set
about it in the right way--gently, and with a tender gratitude in each
She did not entirely approve of certain lines of his reading; or, rather,
she did not understand them in those days. That he should be fond of
history and the sciences was natural enough, but when the Life of P. T.
Barnum, Written by Himself, appeared, and he sat up nights to absorb it,
and woke early and lighted the lamp to follow the career of the great
showman, she was at a loss to comprehend this particular literary
passion, and indeed was rather jealous of it. She did not realize then
his vast interest in the study of human nature, or that such a book
contained what Mr. Howells calls "the root of the human matter," the
inner revelation of the human being at first hand.
Concerning his religious observances her task in the beginning was easy
enough. Clemens had not at that time formulated any particular doctrines
of his own. His natural kindness of heart, and especially his love for
his wife, inclined him toward the teachings and customs of her Christian
faith--unorthodox but sincere, as Christianity in the Langdon family was
likely to be. It took very little persuasion on his wife's part to
establish family prayers in their home, grace before meals, and the
morning reading of a Bible chapter. Joe Goodman, who made a trip East,
and visited them during the early days of their married life, was
dumfounded to see Mark Twain ask a blessing and join in family worship.
Just how long these forms continued cannot be known to-day; the time of
their abandonment has perished from the recollection of any one now
It would seem to have been the Bible-reading that wrought the change.
The prayer and the blessing were to him sincere and gracious; but as the
readings continued he realized that he had never before considered the
Bible from a doctrinal point of view, as a guide to spiritual salvation.
To his logical reasoning mind, a large portion of it seemed absurd: a
mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology. From such material
humanity had built its mightiest edifice of hope, the doctrines of its
faith. After a little while he could stand it no longer.
"Livy," he said one day, "you may keep this up if you want to, but I must
ask you to excuse me from it. It is making me a hypocrite. I don't
believe in this Bible. It contradicts my reason. I can't sit here and
listen to it, letting you believe that I regard it, as you do, in the
light of gospel, the word of God."
He was moved to write an article on the human idea of God, ancient and
modern. It contained these paragraphs:
The difference in importance, between the God of the Bible and the
God of the present day, cannot be described, it can only be vaguely
and inadequately figured to the mind . . . . If you make figures
to represent the earth and moon, and allow a space of one inch
between them, to represent the four hundred thousand miles of
distance which lies between the two bodies, the map will have to be
eleven miles long in order to bring in the nearest fixed star.--
[His figures were far too small. A map drawn on the scale of
400,000 miles to the inch would need to be 1,100 miles long to take
in both the earth and the nearest fixed star. On such a map the
earth would be one-fiftieth of an inch in diameter--the size of a
small grain of sand.]--So one cannot put the modern heavens on a
map, nor the modern God; but the Bible God and the Bible heavens can
be set down on a slate and yet not be discommoded . . . .
The difference between that universe and the modern one revealed by
science is as the difference between a dust-flecked ray in a barn
and the sublime arch of the Milky Way in the skies. Its God was
strictly proportioned to its dimensions. His sole solicitude was
about a handful of truculent nomads. He worried and fretted over
them in a peculiarly and distractingly human way. One day he coaxed
and petted them beyond their due, the next he harried and lashed
them beyond their deserts. He sulked, he cursed, he raged, he
grieved, according to his mood and the circumstances, but all to no
purpose; his efforts were all vain, he could not govern them. When
the fury was on him he was blind to all reason--he not only
slaughtered the offender, but even his harmless little children and
To trust the God of the Bible is to trust an irascible, vindictive,
fierce and ever fickle and changeful master; to trust the true God
is to trust a Being who has uttered no promises, but whose
beneficent, exact, and changeless ordering of the machinery of his
colossal universe is proof that he is at least steadfast to his
purposes; whose unwritten laws, so far as they affect man, being
equal and impartial, show that he is just and fair; these things,
taken together, suggest that if he shall ordain us to live
hereafter, he will still be steadfast, just, and fair toward us. We
shall not need to require anything more.
It seems mild enough, obvious, even orthodox, now--so far have we
traveled in forty years. But such a declaration then would have shocked
a great number of sincerely devout persons. His wife prevailed upon him
not to print it. She respected his honesty--even his reasoning, but his
doubts were a long grief to her, nevertheless. In time she saw more
clearly with his vision, but this was long after, when she had lived more
with the world, had become more familiar with its larger needs, and the
proportions of created things.
They did not mingle much or long with the social life of Buffalo. They
received and returned calls, attended an occasional reception; but
neither of them found such things especially attractive in those days, so
they remained more and more in their own environment. There is an
anecdote which seems to belong here.
One Sunday morning Clemens noticed smoke pouring from the upper window of
the house across the street. The owner and his wife, comparatively
newcomers, were seated upon the veranda, evidently not aware of impending
danger. The Clemens household thus far had delayed calling on them, but
Clemens himself now stepped briskly across the street. Bowing with
leisurely politeness, he said:
"My name is Clemens; we ought to have called on you before, and I beg
your pardon for intruding now in this informal way, but your house is on
Almost the only intimate friends they had in Buffalo were in the family
of David Gray, the poet-editor of the Courier. Gray was a gentle,
lovable man. "The gentlest spirit and the loveliest that ever went
clothed in clay, since Sir Galahad laid him to rest," Mark Twain once
said of him. Both Gray and Clemens were friends of John Hay, and their
families soon became intimate. Perhaps, in time, the Clemens household
would have found other as good friends in the Buffalo circles; but heavy
clouds that had lain unseen just beyond the horizon during those earlier
months of marriage rose suddenly into view, and the social life, whatever
it might have become, was no longer a consideration.
THE OLD HUMAN STORY
Jervis Langdon was never able to accept his son-in-law's invitation to
the new home. His health began to fail that spring, and at the end of
March, with his physician and Mrs. Langdon, he made a trip to the South.
In a letter written at Richmond he said, "I have thrown off all care,"
and named a list of the four great interests in which he was involved.
Under "number 5," he included "everything," adding, "so you see how good
I am to follow the counsel of my children." He closed: "Samuel, I love
your wife and she loves me. I think it is only fair that you should know
it, but you need not flare up. I loved her before you did, and she loved
me before she did you, and has not ceased since. I see no way but for
you to make the most of it." He was already a very ill man, and this
cheerful letter was among the last he ever wrote.
He was absent six weeks and seemed to improve, but suffered an attack
early in May; in June his condition became critical. Clemens and his
wife were summoned to Elmira, and joined in the nursing, day and night.
Clemens surprised every one by his ability as a nurse. His delicacy and
thoughtfulness were unfailing; his original ways of doing things always
amused and interested the patient. In later years Mark Twain once said:
"How much of the nursing did I do? My main watch was from midnight
to four in the morning, nearly four hours. My other watch was a
midday watch, and I think it was nearly three hours. The two
sisters divided the remaining seventeen hours of the twenty-four
hours between them, and each of them tried generously and
persistently to swindle the other out of a part of her watch. I
went to bed early every night, and tried to get sleep enough by
midnight to fit me for my work, but it was always a failure. I went
on watch sleepy and remained miserable, sleepy, and wretched,
straight along through the four hours. I can still see myself
sitting by that bed in the melancholy stillness of the sweltering
night, mechanically waving a palm-leaf fan over the drawn, white
face of the patient. I can still recall my noddings, my fleeting
unconsciousness, when the fan would come to a standstill in my hand,
and I woke up with a start and a hideous shock. During all that
dreary time I began to watch for the dawn long before it came. When
the first faint gray showed through the window-blinds I felt as no
doubt a castaway feels when the dim threads of the looked-for ship
appear against the sky. I was well and strong, but I was a man,
afflicted with a man's infirmity--lack of endurance."
He always dealt with himself in this unsparing way; but those who were
about him then have left a different story.
It was all without avail. Mr. Langdon rallied, and early in July there
was hope for his recovery. He failed again, and on the afternoon of the
6th of August he died. To Mrs. Clemens, delicate and greatly worn with
the anxiety and strain of watching, the blow was a crushing one. It was
the beginning of a series of disasters which would mark the entire
remaining period of their Buffalo residence.
There had been a partial plan for spending the summer in England, and a
more definite one for joining the Twichells in the Adirondacks. Both of
these projects were now abandoned. Mrs. Clemens concluded that she would
be better at home than anywhere else, and invited an old school friend, a
Miss Emma Nye, to visit her.
But the shadow of death had not been lifted from the Clemens household.
Miss Nye presently fell ill with typhoid fever. There followed another
long period of anxiety and nursing, ending with the death of the visitor
in the new home, September 29th. The young wife was now in very delicate
health; genuinely ill, in fact. The happy home had become a place of
sorrow-of troubled nights and days. Another friend came to cheer them,
and on this friend's departure Mrs. Clemens drove to the railway station.
It was a hurried trip over rough streets to catch the train. She was
prostrated on her return, and a little later, November 7, 1870, her first
child, Langdon, was prematurely born. A dangerous illness followed, and
complete recovery was long delayed. But on the 12th the crisis seemed
passed, and the new father wrote a playful letter to the Twichells, as
coming from the late arrival:
DEAR UNCLE AND AUNT,--I came into the world on the 7th inst., and
consequently am about five days old now. I have had wretched health
ever since I made my appearance . . . I am not corpulent, nor am
I robust in any way. At birth I only weighed four and one-half
pounds with my clothes on--and the clothes were the chief feature of
the weight, too, I am obliged to confess, but I am doing finely, all
things considered . . . . My little mother is very bright and
cheery, and I guess she is pretty happy, but I don't know what
about. She laughs a great deal, notwithstanding she is sick abed.
P. S.--Father says I had better write because you will be more
interested in me, just now, than in the rest of the family.
A week later Clemens, as himself, wrote:
Livy is up and the prince keeps her busy and anxious these latter
days and nights, but I am a bachelor up-stairs and don't have to
jump up and get the soothing sirup, though I would as soon do it as
not, I assure you. (Livy will be certain to read this letter.)
Tell Harmony that I do hold the baby, and do it pretty handily too,
though with occasional apprehensions that his loose head will fall
off. I don't have to quiet him; he hardly ever utters a cry. He is
always thinking about something. He is a patient, good little baby.
Further along he refers to one of his reforms:
Smoke? I always smoke from three till five on Sunday afternoons,
and in New York, the other day, I smoked a week, day and night. But
when Livy is well I smoke only those two hours on Sunday. I'm boss
of the habit now, and shall never let it boss me any more.
Originally I quit solely on Livy's account (not that I believed
there was the faintest reason in the matter, but just as I would
deprive myself of sugar in my coffee if she wished it, or quit
wearing socks if she thought them immoral), and I stick to it yet on
Livy's account, and shall always continue to do so without a pang.
But somehow it seems a pity that you quit, for Mrs. T. didn't mind
it, if I remember rightly. Ah, it is turning one's back upon a
kindly Providence to spurn away from us the good creature he sent to
make the breath of life a luxury as well as a necessity, enjoyable
as well as useful. To go quit smoking, when there ain't any
sufficient excuse for it!--why, my old boy, when they used to tell
me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew
the devotee they were wasting their puerile words upon; they little
knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no
smoking in it! But I won't persuade you, Twichell--I won't until I
see you again--but then we'll smoke for a week together, and then
shut off again.
The success of the Innocents naturally made a thrifty publisher like
Bliss anxious for a second experiment. He had begun early in the year to
talk about another book, but nothing had come of it beyond a project or
two, more or less hazy and unpursued. Clemens at one time developed a
plan for a Noah's Ark book, which was to detail the cruise of the Ark in
diaries kept by various members of it-Shem, Ham, and the others. He
really wrote some of it at the time, and it was an idea he never entirely
lost track of. All along among his manuscripts appear fragments from
those ancient voyagers. One of the earlier entries will show the style
and purpose of the undertaking. It is from Shem's record:
Friday: Papa's birthday. He is 600 years old. We celebrated it in
a big, black tent. Principal men of the tribe present. Afterward
they were shown over the ark, which was looking desolate and empty
and dreary on account of a misunderstanding with the workmen about
wages. Methuselah was as free with his criticisms as usual, and as
voluble and familiar, which I and my brothers do not like; for we
are past our one hundredth year and married. He still calls me
Shemmy, just as he did when I was a child of sixty. I am still but
a youth, it is true, but youth has its feelings, and I do not like
this . . . .
Saturday: Keeping the Sabbath.
Sunday: Papa has yielded the advance and everybody is hard at work.
The shipyard is so crowded that the men hinder each other; everybody
hurrying or being hurried; the rush and confusion and shouting and
wrangling are astonishing to our family, who have always been used
to a quiet, country life.
It was from this germ that in a later day grew the diaries of Adam and
Eve, though nothing very satisfactory ever came of this preliminary
attempt. The author had faith in it, however. To Bliss he wrote:
I mean to take plenty of time and pains with the Noah's Ark book;
maybe it will be several years before it is all written, but it will
be a perfect lightning striker when it is done.
You can have the first say (that is plain enough) on that or any
other book I may prepare for the press, as long as you deal in a
fair, open, and honorable way with me. I do not think you will ever
find me doing otherwise with you. I can get a book ready for you
any time you want it; but you can't want one before this time next
year, so I have plenty of time.
Bliss was only temporarily appeased. He realized that to get a book
ready by the time he wanted it-a book of sufficient size and importance
to maintain the pace set by the Innocents meant rather more immediate
action than his author seemed to contemplate. Futhermore, he knew that
other publishers were besieging the author of the Innocents; a
disquieting thought. In early July, when Mr. Langdon's condition had
temporarily improved, Bliss had come to Elmira and proposed a book which
should relate the author's travels and experiences in the Far West. It
was an inviting subject, and Clemens, by this time more attracted by the
idea of authorship and its rewards, readily enough agreed to undertake
the volume. He had been offered half profits, and suggested that the new
contract be arranged upon these terms. Bliss, figuring on a sale of
100,000 copies, proposed seven and one-half per cent. royalty as an
equivalent, and the contract was so arranged. In after-years, when the
cost of manufacture and paper had become greatly reduced, Clemens, with
but a confused notion of business details, believed he had been misled by
Bliss in this contract, and was bitter and resentful accordingly. The
figures remain, however, to show that Bliss dealt fairly. Seven and one-
half per cent. of a subscription book did represent half profits up to
100,000 copies when the contract was drawn; but it required ten years to
sell that quantity, and in that time conditions had changed. Bliss could
hardly foresee that these things would be so, and as he was dead when the
book touched the 100,000 mark he could not explain or readjust matters,
whatever might have been his inclination.
Clemens was pleased enough with the contract when it was made. To Orion
he wrote July 15 (1870):
Per contract I must have another six-hundred-page book ready for my
publisher January 1st, and I only began it to-day. The subject of
it is a secret, because I may possibly change it. But as it stands
I propose to do up Nevada and California, beginning with the trip
across the country in the stage. Have you a memorandum of the route
we took, or the names of any of the stations we stopped at? Do you
remember any of the scenes, names, incidents, or adventures of the
coach trip?--for I remember next to nothing about the matter. Jot
down a foolscap page of items for me. I wish I could have two days'
talk with you.
I suppose I am to get the biggest copyright this time ever paid on a
subscription book in this country.
The work so promptly begun made little progress. Hard days of illness
and sorrow followed, and it was not until September that it was really
under way. His natural enthusiasm over any new undertaking possessed
him. On the 4th he wrote Bliss:
During the past week I have written the first four chapters of the book,
and I tell you 'The Innocents Abroad' will have to get up early to beat
it. It will be a book that will jump straight into continental celebrity
the first month it is issued.
He prophesied a sale of 90,000 copies during the first twelve months and
declared, "I see the capabilities of the subject."
But further disasters, even then impending, made continued effort
impossible; the prospect of the new book for a time became gloomy, the
idea of it less inspiring. Other plans presented themselves, and at one
time he thought of letting the Galaxy publishers get out a volume of his
sketches. In October he wrote Bliss that he was "driveling along
tolerably fair on the book, getting off from twelve to twenty pages of
manuscript a day." Bliss naturally discouraged the Galaxy idea, and
realizing that the new book might be long delayed, agreed to get out a
volume of miscellany sufficiently large and important for subscription
sales. He was doubtful of the wisdom of this plan, and when Clemens
suddenly proposed a brand-new scheme his publisher very readily agreed to
hold back the publication of Sketches indefinitely.
The new book was to be adventures in the diamond mines of South Africa,
then newly opened and of wide public interest. Clemens did not propose
to visit the mines himself, but to let another man do the traveling, make
the notes, and write or tell him the story, after which Clemens would
enlarge and elaborate it in his own fashion. His adaptation of the
letters of Professor Ford, a year earlier, had convinced him that his
plan would work out successfully on a larger scale; he fixed upon his old
friend, J. H. Riley, of Washington--["Riley-Newspaper Correspondent."
See Sketches.]--(earlier of San Francisco), as the proper person to do
the traveling. At the end of November he wrote Bliss:
I have put my greedy hands upon the best man in America for my
purpose, and shall start him to the diamond field in South Africa
within a fortnight at my expense . . . that the book will have a
perfectly beautiful sale.
He suggested that Bliss advance Riley's expense money, the amount to be
deducted from the first royalty returns; also he proposed an increased
royalty, probably in view of the startling splendor of the new idea.
Bliss was duly impressed, and the agreement was finally made on a basis
of eight and one-half per cent., with an advance of royalty sufficient to
see Riley to South Africa and return.
Clemens had not yet heard from Riley definitely when he wrote his glowing
letter to Bliss. He took it for granted that Riley, always an
adventurous sort, would go. When Riley wrote him that he felt morally
bound to the Alta, of which he was then Washington correspondent, also in
certain other directions till the end of the session, Clemens wrote him
at great length, detailing his scheme in full and urging him to write
instantly to the Alta and others, asking a release on the ground of being
offered a rare opportunity to improve his fortunes.
You know right well that I would not have you depart a hair from any
obligation for any money. The, boundless confidence that I have in you
is born of a conviction of your integrity in small as well as in great
things. I know plenty of men whose integrity I would trust to here, but
not off yonder in Africa.
His proposal, in brief, to Riley was that the latter should make the trip
to Africa without expense to himself, collect memoranda, and such diamond
mines as might be found lying about handy. Upon his return he was to
take up temporary residence in the Clemens household until the book was
finished, after which large benefits were to accrue to everybody
concerned. In the end Riley obtained a release from his obligations and
was off for the diamond mines and fortune.
Poor fellow! He was faithful in his mission, and it is said that he
really located a mining claim that would have made him and his
independent for all time to come; but returning home with his precious
memoranda and the news of good fortune, he accidentally wounded himself
with a fork while eating; blood-poisoning set in (they called it cancer
then), and he was only able to get home to die. His memoranda were never
used, his mining claim was never identified. Certainly, death was
closely associated with Mark Twain's fortunes during those earlier days
of his married life.
On the whole the Buffalo residence was mainly a gloomy one; its ventures
were attended by ill-fortune. For some reason Mark Twain's connection
with the Express, while it had given the paper a wide reputation, had not
largely increased its subscription. Perhaps his work on it was too
varied and erratic. Nasby, who had popularized the Toledo Blade, kept
steadily to one line. His farmer public knew always just what to expect
when their weekly edition arrived.
Clemens and his wife dreamed of a new habitation, and new faces and
surroundings. They agreed to offer their home and his interests in the
Express for sale. They began to talk of Hartford, where Twichell lived,
and where Orion Clemens and his wife had recently located.
Mark Twain's new fortunes had wrought changes in the affairs of his
relatives. Already, before his marriage, he had prospected towns here
and there with a view to finding an Eastern residence for his mother and
sister, and he had kept Orion's welfare always in mind. When Pamela and
her daughter came to his wedding he told them of a little city by the
name of Fredonia (New York), not far from Buffalo, where he thought they
might find a pleasant home.
"I went in there by night and out by night," he said, "so I saw none of
it, but I had an intelligent, attractive audience. Prospect Fredonia and
let me know what it is like. Try to select a place where a good many
funerals pass. Ma likes funerals. If you can pick a good funeral corner
she will be happy."
It was in her later life that Jane Clemens had developed this particular
passion. She would consult the morning paper for any notice of obsequies
and attend those that were easy of access. Watching the processions go
by gave her a peculiar joy. Mrs. Moffett and her daughter did go to
Fredonia immediately following the wedding. They found it residentially
attractive, and rented a house before returning to St. Louis, a
promptness that somewhat alarmed the old lady, who did not altogether
fancy the idea of being suddenly set down in a strange house, in a
strange land, even though it would be within hailing distance of Sam and
his new wife. Perhaps the Fredonia funerals were sufficiently numerous
and attractive, for she soon became attached to the place, and entered
into the spirit of the life there, joining its temperance crusades, and
the like, with zest and enjoyment.
Onion remained in St. Louis, but when Bliss established a paper called
The Publisher, and wanted an editor, he was chosen for the place,
originally offered to his brother; the latter, writing to Onion, said:
If you take the place with an air of perfect confidence in yourself,
never once letting anything show in your bearing but a quiet, modest,
entire, and perfect confidence in your ability to do pretty much anything
in the world, Bliss will think you are the very man he needs; but don't
show any shadow of timidity or unsoldierly diffidence, for that sort of
thing is fatal to advancement.
I warn you thus because you are naturally given to knocking your pot over
in this way, when a little judicious conduct would make it boil.
SOME FURTHER LITERARY MATTERS
Meantime The Innocents Abroad had continued to prosper. Its author
ranked mainly as a humorist, but of such colossal proportions that his
contemporaries had seemed to dwindle; the mighty note of the "Frog of
Calaveras" had dwarfed a score of smaller peepers. At the end of a year
from its date of publication the book had sold up to 67,000 and was
continuing at the rate of several thousand monthly.
"You are running it in staving, tiptop, first-class style," Clemens wrote
to Bliss. "On the average ten people a day come and hunt me up to tell
me I am a benefactor! I guess that is a part of the program we didn't
expect, in the first place."
Apparently the book appealed to readers of every grade. One hundred and
fifteen copies were in constant circulation at the Mercantile Library, in
New York, while in the most remote cabins of America it was read and
quoted. Jack Van Nostrand, making a long horseback tour of Colorado,
I stopped a week ago in a ranch but a hundred miles from nowhere. The
occupant had just two books: the Bible and The Innocents Abroad--the
former in good repair.
Across the ocean the book had found no less favor, and was being
translated into many and strange tongues. By what seems now some
veritable magic its author's fame had become literally universal. The
consul at Hongkong, discussing English literature with a Chinese
acquaintance, a mandarin, mentioned The Pilgrim's Progress.
"Yes, indeed, I have read it!" the mandarin said, eagerly. "We are
enjoying it in China, and shall have it soon in our own language. It is
by Mark Twain."
In England the book had an amazing vogue from the beginning, and English
readers were endeavoring to outdo the Americans in appreciation. Indeed,
as a rule, English readers of culture, critical readers, rose to an
understanding of Mark Twain's literary value with greater promptness than
did the same class of readers at home. There were exceptions, of course.
There were English critics who did not take Mark Twain seriously, there
were American critics who did. Among the latter was a certain William
Ward, an editor of a paper down in Macon, Georgia--The Beacon. Ward did
not hold a place with the great magazine arbiters of literary rank. He
was only an obscure country editor, but he wrote like a prophet. His
article--too long to quote in full--concerned American humorists in
general, from Washington Irving, through John Phoenix, Philander
Doesticks, Sut Lovingwood, Artemus Ward, Josh Billings and Petroleum V.
Nasby, down to Mark Twain. With the exception of the first and last
named he says of them:
They have all had, or will have, their day. Some of them are
resting beneath the sod, and others still live whose work will
scarcely survive them. Since Irving no humorist in prose has held
the foundation of a permanent fame except it be Mark Twain, and
this, as in the case of Irving, is because he is a pure writer.
Aside from any subtle mirth that lurks through his composition, the
grace and finish of his more didactic and descriptive sentences
indicate more than mediocrity.
The writer then refers to Mark Twain's description of the Sphinx,
comparing it with Bulwer's, which he thinks may have influenced it. He
was mistaken in this, for Clemens had not read Bulwer--never could read
him at any length.
Of the English opinions, that of The Saturday Review was perhaps most
doubtful. It came along late in 1870, and would hardly be worth
recalling if it were not for a resulting, or collateral, interest.
Clemens saw notice of this review before he saw the review itself. A
paragraph in the Boston Advertiser spoke of The Saturday Review as
treating the absurdities of the Innocents from a serious standpoint. The
We can imagine the delight of the humorist in reading this tribute
to his power; and indeed it is so amusing in itself that he can
hardly do better than reproduce the article in full in his next
The old temptation to hoax his readers prompted Mark Twain to "reproduce"
in the Galaxy, not the Review article, which he had not yet seen, but an
imaginary Review article, an article in which the imaginary reviewer
would be utterly devoid of any sense of humor and treat the most absurd
incidents of The New Pilgrim's Progress as if set down by the author in
solemn and serious earnest. The pretended review began:
Lord Macaulay died too soon. We never felt this so deeply as when
we finished the last chapter of the above-named extravagant work.
Macaulay died too soon; for none but he could mete out complete and
comprehensive justice to the insolence, the impudence, the
presumption, the mendacity, and, above all, the majestic ignorance
of this author.
The review goes on to cite cases of the author's gross deception. It
Let the cultivated English student of human nature picture to
himself this Mark Twain as a person capable of doing the following
described things; and not only doing them, but, with incredible
innocence, printing them tranquilly and calmly in a book. For
He states that he entered a hair-dresser's in Paris to get a shave,
and the first "rake" the barber gave him with his razor it loosened
his "hide," and lifted him out of the chair.
This is unquestionably extravagant. In Florence he was so annoyed
by beggars that he pretends to have seized and eaten one in a
frantic spirit of revenge. There is, of course, no truth in this.
He gives at full length the theatrical program, seventeen or
eighteen hundred years old, which he professes to have found in the
ruins of the Colosseum, among the dirt-and mold and rubbish. It is
a sufficient comment upon this subject to remark that even a cast-
iron program would not have lasted so long under the circumstances.
There were two and one-half pages of this really delightful burlesque
which the author had written with huge-enjoyment, partly as a joke on the
Review, partly to trick American editors, who he believed would accept it
as a fresh and startling proof of the traditional English lack of humor.
But, as in the early sage-brush hoaxes, he rather overdid the thing.
Readers and editors readily enough accepted it as genuine, so far as
having come from The Saturday Review; but most of them, regarded it as a
delicious bit of humor which Mark Twain himself had taken seriously, and
was therefore the one sold. This was certainly startling, and by no
means gratifying. In the next issue he undertook that saddest of all
performances with tongue or pen: he explained his joke, and insisted on
the truth of the explanation. Then he said:
If any man doubts my word now I will kill him. No, I will not kill
him; I will win his money. I will bet him twenty to one, and let
any New York publisher hold the stakes, that the statements I have
above made as to the authorship of the article in question are
But the Cincinnati Enquirer persisted in continuing the joke--in "rubbing
it in," as we say now. The Enquirer declared that Mark Twain had been
intensely mortified at having been so badly taken in; that his
explanation in the Galaxy was "ingenious, but unfortunately not true."
The Enquirer maintained that The Saturday Review of October 8, 1870, did
contain the article exactly as printed in the "Memoranda," and advised
Mark Twain to admit that he was sold, and say no more about it.
This was enraging. Mark Twain had his own ideas as to how far a joke
might be carried without violence, and this was a good way beyond the
limits. He denounced the Enquirer's statement as a "pitiful, deliberate
falsehood," in his anger falling into the old-time phrasing of newspaper
editorial abuse. He offered to bet them a thousand dollars in cash
that they could not prove their assertions, and asked pointedly, in
conclusion: "Will they swallow that falsehood ignominiously, or will they
send an agent to the Galaxy office? I think the Cincinnati Enquirer must
be edited by children." He promised that if they did not accept his
financial proposition he would expose them in the next issue.
The incident closed there. He was prevented, by illness in his
household, from contributing to the next issue, and the second issue
following was his final "Memoranda" installment. So the matter perished
and was forgotten. It was his last editorial hoax. Perhaps he concluded
that hoaxes in any form were dangerous playthings; they were too likely
to go off at the wrong end.
It was with the April number (1871) that he concluded his relations with
the Galaxy. In a brief valedictory he gave his reasons:
I have now written for the Galaxy a year. For the last eight
months, with hardly an interval, I have had for my fellows and
comrades, night and day, doctors and watchers of the sick! During
these eight months death has taken two members of my home circle and
malignantly threatened two others. All this I have experienced, yet
all the time have been under contract to furnish "humorous" matter,
once a month, for this magazine. I am speaking the exact truth in
the above details. Please to put yourself in my place and
contemplate the grisly grotesqueness of the situation. I think that
some of the "humor" I have written during this period could have
been injected into a funeral sermon without disturbing the solemnity
of the occasion.
The "Memoranda" will cease permanently with this issue of the
magazine. To be a pirate on a low salary, and with no share in the
profits of the business, used to be my idea of an uncomfortable
occupation, but I have other views now. To be a monthly humorist in
a cheerless time is drearier.
Without doubt he felt a glad relief in being rid of this recurrent,
imperative demand. He wrote to Orion that he had told the Galaxy people
he would not write another article, long or short, for less than $500,
and preferred not to do it at all.
The Galaxy department and the work on the Express were Mark Twain's
farewell to journalism; for the "Memoranda" was essentially journalistic,
almost as much so, and as liberally, as his old-time Enterprise position.
Apparently he wrote with absolute freedom, unhampered by editorial policy
or restriction. The result was not always pleasant, and it was not
always refined. We may be certain that it was because of Mrs. Clemens's
heavy burdens that year, and her consequent inability to exert a
beneficent censorship, that more than one--more than a dozen--of the
"Memoranda" contributions were permitted to see the light of print.
As a whole, the literary result of Mark Twain's Buffalo period does not
reach the high standard of The Innocents Abroad. It was a retrogression
--in some measure a return to his earlier form. It had been done under
pressure, under heavy stress of mind, as he said. Also there was another
reason; neither the subject treated nor the environment of labor had
afforded that lofty inspiration which glorified every step of the Quaker
City journey. Buffalo was a progressive city--a beautiful city, as
American cities go--but it was hardly an inspiring city for literature,
and a dull, dingy newspaper office was far, very far, from the pleasant
decks of the Quaker City, the camp-fires of Syria, the blue sky and sea
of the Medit&ranean.
THE WRITING OF "ROUGHING IT"
The third book published by Mark Twain was not the Western book he was
preparing for Bliss. It was a small volume, issued by Sheldon & Co.,
entitled Mark Twain's Autobiography (Burlesque) and First Romance. The
Romance was the "Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance" which had appeared in
the Express at the beginning of 1870. The burlesque autobiography had
not previously appeared. The two made a thin little book, which, in
addition to its literary features, had running through it a series of
full-page, irrelevant pictures---cartoons of the Erie Railroad Ring,
presented as illustrations of a slightly modified version of "The House
That Jack Built." The "House" was the Erie headquarters, the purpose
being to illustrate the swindling methods of the Ring. The faces of Jay
Gould, James Fisk, Jr., John T. Hoffman, and others of the combination,
are chiefly conspicuous. The publication was not important, from any
standpoint. Literary burlesque is rarely important, and it was far from
Mark Twain's best form of expression. A year or two later he realized
the mistake of this book, bought in the plates and destroyed them.
Meantime the new Western book was at a standstill. To Orion, in March,
I am still nursing Livy night and day. I am nearly worn out. We
shall go to Elmira ten days hence (if Livy can travel on a mattress
then), and stay there until I finish the California book, say three
months. But I can't begin work right away when I get there; must
have a week's rest, for I have been through thirty days' terrific
He promised to forward some of the manuscript soon.
Hold on four or five days and I will see if I can get a few chapters
fixed to send to Bliss . . . .
I have offered this house and the Express for sale, and when we go
to Elmira we leave here for good. I shall not select a new home
till the book is finished, but we have little doubt that Hartford
will be the place.
He disposed of his interest in the Express in April, at a sacrifice of
$10,000 on the purchase price. Mrs. Clemens and the baby were able to
travel, and without further delay he took them to Elmira, to Quarry Farm.
Quarry Farm, the home of Mrs. Clemens's sister, Mrs. Theodore Crane, is a
beautiful hilltop, with a wide green slope, overlooking the hazy city and
the Chemung River, beyond which are the distant hills. It was bought
quite incidentally by Mr. and Mrs. Langdon, who, driving by one evening,
stopped to water the horses and decided that it would make a happy summer
retreat, where the families could combine their housekeeping arrangements
during vacation days. When the place had first been purchased, they had
debated on a name for it. They had tried several, among them "Go-as-you-
please Hall," "Crane's Nest," and had finally agreed upon "Rest and Be
Thankful." But this was only its official name. There was an abandoned
quarry up the hill, a little way from the house, and the title suggested
by Thomas K. Beecher came more naturally to the tongue. The place became
Quarry Farm, and so remains.
Clemens and his wife had fully made up their minds to live in Hartford.
They had both conceived an affection for the place, Clemens mainly
because of Twichell, while both of them yearned for the congenial
literary and social atmosphere, and the welcome which they felt awaited
them. Hartford was precisely what Buffalo in that day was not--a home
for the literary man. It held a distinguished group of writers, most of
whom the Clemenses already knew. Furthermore, with Bliss as publisher of
the Mark Twain books, it held their chief business interests.
Their plans for going were not very definite as to time. Clemens found
that his work went better at the farm, and that Mrs. Clemens and the
delicate baby daily improved. They decided to remain at Quarry Farm for
the summer, their first summer in that beautiful place which would mean
so much to them in the years to come.
It was really Joe Goodman, as much as anything, that stirred a fresh
enthusiasm in the new book. Goodman arrived just when the author's
spirits were at low ebb.
"Joe," he said, "I guess I'm done for. I don't appear to be able to get