Part 8 out of 29
along at all with my work, and what I do write does not seem valuable.
I'm afraid I'll never be able to reach the standard of 'The Innocents
Abroad' again. Here is what I have written, Joe. Read it, and see if
that is your opinion."
Goodman took the manuscript and seated himself in a chair, while Clemens
went over to a table and pretended to work. Goodman read page after
page, critically, and was presently absorbed in it. Clemens watched him
furtively, till he could stand it no longer. Then he threw down his pen,
"I knew it! I knew it! I am writing nothing but rot. You have sat
there all this time reading without a smile, and pitying the ass I am
making of myself. But I am not wholly to blame. I am not strong enough
to fight against fate. I have been trying to write a funny book, with
dead people and sickness a verywhere. Mr. Langdon died first, then a
young lady in our house, and now Mrs. Clemens and the baby have been at
the point of death all winter! Oh, Joe, I wish to God I could die
"Mark," said Joe, "I was reading critically, not for amusement, and so
far as I have read, and can judge, this is one of the best things you
have ever written. I have found it perfectly absorbing. You are doing a
Clemens knew that Goodman never spoke except from conviction, and the
verdict was to him like a message of life handed down by an archangel.
He was a changed man instantly. He was all enthusiasm, full of his
subject, eager to go on. He proposed to pay Goodman a salary to stay
there and keep him company and furnish him with inspiration--the Pacific
coast atmosphere and vernacular, which he feared had slipped away from
him. Goodman declined the salary, but extended his visit as long as his
plans would permit, and the two had a happy time together, recalling old
Comstock days. Every morning, for a month or more, they used to tramp
over the farm. They fell into the habit of visiting the old quarry and
pawing over the fragments in search of fossil specimens. Both of them
had a poetic interest in geology, its infinite remotenesses and its
testimonies. Without scientific knowledge, they took a deep pleasure in
accumulating a collection, which they arranged on boards torn from an old
fence, until they had enough specimens to fill a small museum. They
imagined they could distinguish certain geological relations and
families, and would talk about trilobites, the Old Red Sandstone period,
and the azoic age, or follow random speculation to far-lying conclusions,
developing vague humors of phrase and fancy, having altogether a joyful
Another interest that developed during Goodman's stay was in one Ruloff,
who was under death sentence for a particularly atrocious murder. The
papers were full of Ruloff's prodigious learning. It was said that he
had in preparation a work showing the unity of all languages. Goodman
and Clemens agreed that Ruloff's death would be a great loss to mankind,
even though he was clearly a villain and deserved his sentence. They
decided that justice would be served just as well if some stupid person
were hung in his place, and following out this fancy Clemens one morning
put aside his regular work and wrote an article to the Tribune, offering
to supply a substitute for Ruloff. He signed it simply "Samuel
Langhorne," and it was published as a serious communication, without
comment, so far as the Tribune was concerned. Other papers, however,
took it up and it was widely copied and commented upon. Apparently no
one ever identified, Mark Twain with the authorship of the letter, which,
by the way, does not appear to have prolonged Ruloff's earthly
usefulness.--[The reader will find the Ruloff letter in full under
Appendix K, at the end of last volume.]
Life at the farm may have furnished agricultural inspiration, for Clemens
wrote something about Horace Greeley's farming, also a skit concerning
Henry Ward Beecher's efforts in that direction. Of Mr. Beecher's farming
"His strawberries would be a comfortable success if robins would eat
The article amused Beecher, and perhaps Greeley was amused too, for he
MARK,--You are mistaken as to my criticisms on your farming. I
never publicly made any, while you have undertaken to tell the exact
cost per pint of my potatoes and cabbages, truly enough the
inspiration of genius. If you will really betake yourself to
farming, or even to telling what you know about it, rather than what
you don't know about mine, I will not only refrain from disparaging
criticism, but will give you my blessing.
Yours, HORACE GREELEY.
The letter is in Mr. Greeley's characteristic scrawl, and no doubt
furnished inspiration for the turnip story in 'Roughing It', also the
model for the pretended facsimile of Greeley's writing.
Altogether that was a busy, enterprising summer at Quarry Farm. By the
middle of May, Clemens wrote to Bliss that he had twelve hundred
manuscript pages of the new book already written, and that he was turning
out the remainder at the rate of from thirty to sixty-five per day. He
was in high spirits by this time. The family health had improved, and
prospects were bright.
I have enough manuscript on hand now to make (allowing for engravings)
about four hundred pages of the book, consequently am two-thirds done.
I intended to run up to Hartford about the middle of the week and take it
along, but I find myself so thoroughly interested in my work now (a thing
I have not experienced for months) that I can't bear to lose a single
moment of the inspiration. So I will stay here and peg away as long as
it lasts. My present idea is to write as much more as I have already
written, and then collect from the mass the very best chapters and
discard the rest. When I get it done I want to see the man who will
begin to read it and not finish it. Nothing grieves me now; nothing
troubles me, nothing bothers me or gets my attention. I don't think of
anything but the book, and don't have an hour's unhappiness about
anything, and don't care two cents whether school keeps or not. The book
will be done soon now. It will be a starchy book; the dedication will be
worth the price of the volume. Thus:
TO THE LATE CAIN
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
not on account of respect for his memory, for it merits little
respect; not on account of sympathy for him, for his bloody deed
places him without the pale of sympathy, strictly speaking, but
out of a mere humane commiseration for him, in that it was his
misfortune to live in a dark age that knew not the beneficent
Probably Mrs. Clemens diverted this picturesque dedication in favor of
the Higbie inscription, or perhaps the author never really intended the
literary tribute to Cain. The impulse that inspired it, however, was
In a postscript to this letter he adds:
My stock is looking up. I am getting the bulliest offers for books
and almanacs; am flooded with lecture invitations, and one
periodical offers me $6,000 cash for twelve articles of any length,
and on any subject, treated humorously or otherwise.
He set in to make hay while the sun was shining. In addition to the
California book, which was now fast nearing completion, he discussed a
scheme with Goodman for a six-hundred-page work which they were to do
jointly; he planned and wrote one or two scenes from a Western play, to
be built from episodes in the new book (one of them was the "Arkansas"
incident, related in Chapter XXXI); he perfected one of his several
inventions--an automatically adjusting vest-strap; he wrote a number of
sketches, made an occasional business trip to New York and Hartford;
prospected the latter place for a new home. The shadow which had hung
over the sojourn in Buffalo seemed to have lifted.
He had promised Bliss some contributions for his new paper, and in June
he sent three sketches. In an accompanying letter he says:
Here are three articles which you may have if you will pay $125 for
the lot. If you don't want them I'll sell them to the Galaxy, but
not for a cent less than three times the money.... If you take them
pay one-tenth of the $125 in weekly instalments to Orion till he has
received it all.
He reconsidered his resolution not to lecture again, and closed with
Redpath for the coming season. He found himself in a lecture-writing
fever. He wrote three of them in succession: one on Artemus Ward,
another on "Reminiscences of Some Pleasant Characters I Have Met," and a
third one based on chapters from the new book. Of the "Reminiscence"
lecture he wrote Redpath:
"It covers my whole acquaintance; kings, lunatics, idiots, and all."
Immediately afterward he wrote that he had prepared still another
lecture, "title to be announced later."
"During July I'll decide which one I like best," he said. He instructed
Redpath not to make engagements for him to lecture in churches. "I never
made a success of a lecture in a church yet. People are afraid to laugh
in a church."
Redpath was having difficulties in arranging a circuit to suit him.
Clemens had prejudices against certain towns and localities, prejudices
that were likely to change overnight. In August he wrote:
DEAR RED,--I am different from other women; my mind changes oftener.
People who have no mind can easily be stead fast and firm, but when
a man is loaded down to the guards with it, as I am, every heavy sea
of foreboding or inclination, maybe of indolence, shifts the cargo.
See? Therefore, if you will notice, one week I am likely to give
rigid instructions to confine me to New England; the next week send
me to Arizona; the next week withdraw my name; the next week give
you full, untrammeled swing; and the week following modify it. You
must try to keep the run of my mind, Redpath that is your business,
being the agent, and it always was too many for me.... Now about
the West this week, I am willing that you shall retain all the
Western engagements. But what I shall want next week is still with
He was in Hartford when this letter was written, arranging for residence
there and the removal of his belongings. He finally leased the fine
Hooker house on Ford Street, in that pleasant seclusion known as Nook
Farm--the literary part of Hartford, which included the residence of
Charles Dudley Warner and Harriet Beecher Stowe. He arranged for
possession of the premises October 1st. So the new home was settled
upon; then learning that Nasby was to be in Boston, he ran over to that
city for a few days of recreation after his season's labors.
Preparations for removal to Hartford were not delayed. The Buffalo
property was disposed of, the furnishings were packed and shipped away.
The house which as bride and groom they had entered so happily was left
empty and deserted, never to be entered by them again. In the year and a
half of their occupancy it had seen well-nigh all the human round, all
that goes to make up the happiness and the sorrow of life.
Life in Hartford, in the autumn of 1871, began in the letter, rather than
in the spirit. The newcomers were received with a wide, neighborly
welcome, but the disorder of establishment and the almost immediate
departure of the head of the household on a protracted lecturing tour
were disquieting things; the atmosphere of the Clemens home during those
early Hartford days gave only a faint promise of its future loveliness.
As in a far later period, Mark Twain had resorted to lecturing to pay off
debt. He still owed a portion of his share in the Express; also he had
been obliged to obtain an advance from the lecture bureau. He dreaded,
as always, the tedium of travel, the clatter of hotel life, the monotony
of entertainment, while, more than most men, he loved the tender luxury
of home. It was only that he could not afford to lose the profit offered
on the platform.
His season opened at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, October 16th, and his
schedule carried him hither and thither, to and fro, over distances that
lie between Boston and Chicago. There were opportunities to run into
Hartford now and then, when he was not too far away, and in November he
lectured there on Artemus Ward.
He changed his entertainment at least twice that season. He began with
the "Reminiscences," the lecture which he said would treat of all those
whom he had met, "idiots, lunatics, and kings," but he did not like it,
or it did not go well. He wrote Redpath of the Artemus Ward address:
"It suits me, and I'll never deliver the nasty, nauseous 'Reminiscences'
But the Ward lecture was good for little more than a month, for on
December 8th he wrote again:
Notify all hands that from this time I shall talk nothing but
selections from my forthcoming book, 'Roughing It'. Tried it twice
last night; suits me tiptop.
And somewhat later:
Had a splendid time with a splendid audience in Indianapolis last
night; a perfectly jammed house, just as I have all the time out
here.... I don't care now to have any appointments canceled. I'll
even "fetch" those Dutch Pennsylvanians with this lecture.
Have paid up $4,000 indebtedness. You are the last on my list.
Shall begin to pay you in a few days, and then I shall be a free man
Undoubtedly he reveled in the triumphs of a platform tour, though at no
time did he regard it as a pleasure excursion. During those early weeks
the proofs of his new book, chasing him from place to place, did not add
to his comfort. Still, with large, substantial rewards in hand and in
prospect, one could endure much.
In the neighborhood of Boston there were other compensations. He could
spend a good part of his days at the Lyceum headquarters, in School
Street, where there was always congenial fellowship--Nasby, Josh
Billings, and the rest of the peripatetic group that about the end of the
year collected there. Their lectures were never tried immediately in
Boston, but in the outlying towns; tried and perfected--or discarded.
When the provincial audiences were finally satisfied, then the final.
test in the Boston Music Hall was made, and if this proved successful the
rest of the season was safe. Redpath's lecturers put up at Young's
Hotel, and spent their days at the bureau, smoking and spinning yarns, or
talking shop. Early in the evening they scattered to the outlying towns,
Lowell, Lexington, Concord, New Bedford. There is no such a condition
to-day: lecturers are few, lecture bureaus obscure; there are no great
reputations made on the platform.
Neither is there any such distinct group of humorists as the one just
mentioned. Humor has become universal since then. Few writers of this
age would confess to taking their work so seriously as to be at all times
unsmiling in it; only about as many, in fact, as in that day would
confess to taking their work so lightly that they could regard life's
sterner phases and philosophies with a smile.
Josh Billings was one of the gentlest and loveliest of our pioneers of
laughter. The present generation is not overfamiliar even with his name,
but both the name and sayings of that quaint soul were on everybody's
lips at the time of which we are writing. His true name was Henry W.
Shaw, and he was a genuine, smiling philosopher, who might have built up
a more permanent and serious reputation had he not been induced to
disfigure his maxims with ridiculous spelling in order to popularize them
and make them bring a living price. It did not matter much with Nasby's
work. An assumed illiteracy belonged with the side of life which he
presented; but it is pathetic now to consider some of the really masterly
sayings of Josh Billings presented in that uncouth form which was
regarded as a part of humor a generation ago. Even the aphorisms that
were essentially humorous lose value in that degraded spelling.
"When a man starts down hill everything is greased for the occasion,"
could hardly be improved upon by distorted orthography, and here are a
few more gems which have survived that deadly blight.
"Some folks mistake vivacity for wit; whereas the difference between
vivacity and wit is the same as the difference between the lightning-bug
and the lightning."
"Don't take the bull by the horns-take him by the tail; then you can let
go when you want to."
"The difficulty is not that we know so much, but that we know so much
that isn't so."
Josh Billings, Nasby, and Mark Twain were close friends. They had
themselves photographed in a group, and there was always some pleasantry
going on among them. Josh Billings once wrote on "Lekturing," and under
the head of "Rule Seven," which treated of unwisdom of inviting a
lecturer to a private house, he said:
Think of asking Mark Twain home with yu, for instance. Yure good
wife has put her house in apple-pie order for the ockashun;
everything is just in the right place. Yu don't smoke in yure
house, never. Yu don't put yure feet on the center-table, yu don't
skatter the nuzepapers all over the room, in utter confushion: order
and ekonemy governs yure premises. But if yu expeckt Mark Twain to
be happy, or even kumfortable yu hav got to buy a box of cigars
worth at least seventeen dollars and yu hav got to move all the
tender things out ov yure parlor. Yu hav got to skatter all the
latest papers around the room careless, you hav got to hav a pitcher
ov icewater handy, for Mark is a dry humorist. Yu hav got to ketch
and tie all yure yung ones, hed and foot, for Mark luvs babys only
in theory; yu hav got to send yure favorite kat over to the nabors
and hide yure poodle. These are things that hav to be done, or Mark
will pak hiz valise with hiz extry shirt collar and hiz lektur on
the Sandwich Islands, and travel around yure streets, smoking and
reading the sighns over the store doorways untill lektur time
As we-are not likely to touch upon Mark Twain's lecturing, save only
lightly, hereafter, it may be as well to say something of his method at
this period. At all places visited by lecturers there was a committee,
and it was the place of the chairman to introduce the lecturer, a
privilege which he valued, because it gave him a momentary association
with distinction and fame. Clemens was a great disappointment to these
officials. He had learned long ago that he could introduce himself more
effectively than any one else. His usual formula was to present himself
as the chairman of the committee, introducing the lecturer of the
evening; then, with what was in effect a complete change of personality,
to begin his lecture. It was always startling and amusing, always a
success; but the papers finally printed this formula, which took the
freshness out of it, so that he had to invent others. Sometimes he got
up with the frank statement that he was introducing himself because he
had never met any one who could pay a proper tribute to his talents; but
the newspapers printed that too, and he often rose and began with no
introduction at all.
Whatever his method of beginning, Mark Twain's procedure probably was the
purest exemplification of the platform entertainer's art which this
country has ever seen. It was the art that makes you forget the
artisanship, the art that made each hearer forget that he was not being
personally entertained by a new and marvelous friend, who had traveled a
long way for his particular benefit. One listener has written that he
sat "simmering with laughter" through what he supposed was the
continuation of the introduction, waiting for the traditional lecture to
begin, when presently the lecturer, with a bow, disappeared, and it was
over. The listener looked at his watch; he had been there more than an
hour. He thought it could be no more than ten minutes, at most. Many
have tried to set down something of the effect his art produced on them,
but one may not clearly convey the story of a vanished presence and a
There were other pleasant associations in Boston. Howells was there, and
Aldrich; also Bret Harte, who had finished his triumphal progress across
the continent to join the Atlantic group. Clemens appears not to have
met Aldrich before, though their acquaintance had begun a year earlier,
when Aldrich, as editor of Every Saturday, had commented on a poem
entitled, "The Three Aces," which had appeared in the Buffalo Express.
Aldrich had assumed the poem to be the work of Mark Twain, and had
characterized it as "a feeble imitation of Bret Harte's 'Heathen
Chinee.'" Clemens, in a letter, had mildly protested as to the charge of
authorship, and Aldrich had promptly printed the letter with apologetic
explanation. A playful exchange of personal letters followed, and the
beginning of a lifelong friendship.
One of the letters has a special interest here. Clemens had followed his
protest with an apology for it, asking that no further notice be taken of
the matter. Aldrich replied that it was too late to prevent "doing him
justice," as his explanation was already on the press, but that if
Clemens insisted he would withdraw it in the next issue. Clemens then
wrote that he did not want it withdrawn, and explained that he hated to
be accused of plagiarizing Bret Harte, to whom he was deeply indebted for
literary schooling in the California days. Continuing he said:
Do you know the prettiest fancy and the neatest that ever shot
through Harte's brain? It was this. When they were trying to
decide upon a vignette cover for the Overland a grizzly bear (of the
arms of the State of California) was chosen. Nahl Bros. carved him
and the page was printed with him in it.
As a bear he was a success. He was a good bear, but then, it was
objected, he was an objectless bear--a bear that meant nothing,
signified nothing, simply stood there, snarling over his shoulder at
nothing, and was painfully and manifestly a boorish and ill-natured
intruder upon the fair page. All hands said that none were
satisfied; they hated badly to give him up, and yet they hated as
much to have him there when there was no point to him. But
presently Harte took a pencil and drew two simple lines under his
feet, and behold he was a magnificent success!--the ancient symbol
of California savagery, snarling at the approaching type of high and
progressive civilization, the first Overland locomotive! I just
think that was nothing less than an inspiration.--[The "bear" was
that which has always appeared on the Overland cover; the "two
lines" formed a railway track under his feet. Clemens's original
letter contained crude sketches illustrating these things.]
Among the Boston group was another Californian, Ralph Keeler, an
eccentric, gifted, and altogether charming fellow, whom Clemens had known
on the Pacific slope. Keeler had been adopted by the Boston writers, and
was grateful and happy accordingly. He was poor of purse, but
inexhaustibly rich in the happier gifts of fortune. He was unfailingly
buoyant, light-hearted, and hopeful. On an infinitesimal capital he had
made a tour of many lands, and had written of it for the Atlantic. In
that charmed circle he was as overflowingly happy as if he had been
admitted to the company of the gods. Keeler was affectionately regarded
by all who knew him, and he offered a sort of worship in return. He
often accompanied Mark Twain on his lecture engagements to the various
outlying towns, and Clemens brought him back to his hotel for breakfast,
where they had good, enjoyable talks together. Once Keeler came eagerly
to the hotel and made his way up to Clemens's room.
"Come with me," he said. "Quick!"
"What is it? What's happened?"
"Don't wait to talk. Come with me."
They tramped briskly through the streets till they reached the public
library, entered, Keeler leading the way, not stopping till he faced a
row of shelves filled with books. He pointed at one of them, his face
radiant with joy.
"Look," he said. "Do you see it?"
Clemens looked carefully now and identified one of the books as a still-
born novel which Keeler had published.
"This is a library," said Keeler, eagerly, "and they've got it!"
His whole being was aglow with the wonder of it. He had been
investigating; the library records showed that in the two years the book
had been there it had been taken out and read three times! It never
occurred to Clemens even to smile. Knowing Mark Twain, one would guess
that his eyes were likely to be filled with tears.
In his book about Mark Twain, Howells tells of a luncheon which Keeler
gave to his more famous associates--Aldrich, Fields, Harte, Clemens, and
Howells himself--a merry informal occasion. Says Howells:
Nothing remains to me of the happy time but a sense of idle and
aimless and joyful talk--play, beginning and ending nowhere, of
eager laughter, of countless good stories from Fields, of a heat-
lightning shimmer of wit from Aldrich, of an occasional
concentration of our joint mockeries upon our host, who took it
gladly; and amid the discourse, so little improving, but so full of
good-fellowship, Bret Harte's leering dramatization of Clemens's
mental attitude toward a symposium of Boston illuminates. "Why,
fellows," he spluttered, "this is the dream of Mark's life," and I
remember the glance from under Clemens's feathery eyebrows which
betrayed his enjoyment of the fun.
Very likely Keeler gave that luncheon in celebration of his book's
triumph; it would be like him.
Keeler's end was a mystery. The New York Tribune commissioned him to go
to Cuba to report the facts of some Spanish outrages. He sailed from New
York in the steamer, and was last seen alive the night before the vessel
reached Havana. He had made no secret of his mission, but had discussed
it in his frank, innocent way. There were some Spanish military men on
Clemens, commenting on the matter, once said:
"It may be that he was not flung into the sea, still the belief was
general that that was what had happened."
In his book Howells refers to the doubt with which Mark Twain was then
received by the polite culture of Boston; which, on the other hand,
accepted Bret Harte as one of its own, forgiving even social
The reason is not difficult to understand. Harte had made his appeal
with legitimate fiction of the kind which, however fresh in flavor and
environment, was of a sort to be measured and classified. Harte spoke a
language they could understand; his humor, his pathos, his point of view
were all recognizable. It was an art already standardized by a master.
It is no reflection on the genius of Bret Harte to liken his splendid
achievements to those of Charles Dickens. Much of Harte's work is in no
way inferior to that of his great English prototype. Dickens never wrote
a better short story than "The Outcasts of Poker Flats." He never wrote
as good a short story as "The Luck of Roaring Camp." Boston critics
promptly realized these things and gave Harte his correct rating. That
they failed to do this with Mark Twain, lay chiefly in the fact that he
spoke to them in new and startling tongues. His gospels were likely to
be heresies; his literary eccentricities were all unclassified. Of the
ultrafastidious set Howells tells us that Charles Eliot Norton and Prof.
Francis J. Child were about the only ones who accorded him unqualified
approval. The others smiled and enjoyed him, but with that condescension
which the courtier is likely to accord to motley and the cap and bells.
Only the great, simple-hearted, unbiased multitude, the public, which had
no standards but the direct appeal from one human heart to another, could
recognize immediately his mightier heritage, could exalt and place him on
Telegram to Redpath:
How in the name of God does a man find his way from here to Amherst,
and when must he start? Give me full particulars, and send a man
with me. If I had another engagement I would rot before I would
fill it. S. L. CLEMENS.
This was at the end of February, and he believed that he was standing on
the platform for the last time. He loathed the drudgery of the work, and
he considered there was no further need. He was no longer in debt, and
his income he accounted ample. His new book, 'Roughing It',--[It was
Bliss who had given the new book the title of Roughing It. Innocents at
Home had been its provision title, certainly a misleading one, though it
has been retained in England for the second volume; for what reason it
would be difficult to explain.]--had had a large advance sale, and its
earnings promised to rival those of the 'Innocents'. He resolved in the
future to confine himself to the trade and profits of authorship.
The new book had advantages in its favor. Issued early in the year, it
was offered at the best canvassing season; particularly so, as the
author's lectures had prepared the public for its reception.
Furthermore, it dealt with the most picturesque phases of American life,
scenes and episodes vastly interesting at that time, and peculiarly
adapted to Mark Twain's literary expression. In a different way
'Roughing It' is quite as remarkable as 'The Innocents Abroad.' If it
has less charm, it has greater interest, and it is by no means without
charm. There is something delicious, for instance, in this bit of pure
enjoyment of the first day's overland travel:
It was now just dawn, and as we stretched our cramped legs full
length on the mail-sacks, and gazed out through the windows across
the wide wastes of greensward clad in cool, powdery mist to where
there was an expectant look in the Eastern horizon, our perfect
enjoyment took the form of a tranquil and contented ecstasy. The
stage whirled along at a spanking gait, the breeze flapping the
curtains and suspended coats in a most exhilarating way; the cradle
swayed and swung luxuriously, the pattering of the horses' hoofs,
the cracking of the driver's whip, and his "Hi-yi! g'lang!" were
music; the spinning ground and the waltzing trees appeared to give
us a mute hurrah as we went by, and then slack up and look after us
with interest and envy, or something; and as we lay and smoked the
pipe of peace, and compared all this luxury with the years of
tiresome city life that had gone before it, we felt that there was
only one complete and satisfying happiness in the world, and we had
Also, there is that lofty presentation of South Pass, and a picture of
the alkali desert, so parching, so withering in its choking realism, that
it makes the throat ache and the tongue dry to read it. Just a bit of
the desert in passing:
The sun beats down with a dead, blistering, relentless malignity;
the perspiration is welling from every pore in man and beast, but
scarcely a sign of it finds its way to the surface--it is absorbed
before it gets there; there is not the faintest breath of air
stirring; there is not a merciful shred of cloud in all the
brilliant firmament; there is not a living creature visible in any
direction whither one searches the blank level that stretches its
monotonous miles on every hand; there is not a sound, not a sigh,
not a whisper, not a buzz, or a whir of wings, or distant pipe of
bird; not even a sob from the lost souls that doubtless people that
As for the humor of the book, it has been chiefly famous for that. "Buck
Fanshaw's Funeral" has become a classic, and the purchase of the "Mexican
Plug." But it is to no purpose to review the book here in detail. We
have already reviewed the life and environment out of which it grew.
Without doubt the story would have contained more of the poetic and
contemplative, in which he was always at his best, if the subject itself,
as in the Innocents, had lent itself oftener to this form of writing. It
was the lack of that halo perhaps which caused the new book never quite
to rank with its great forerunner in public favor. There could hardly be
any other reason. It presented a fresher theme; it abounded in humor;
technically, it was better written; seemingly it had all the elements of
popularity and of permanence. It did, in fact, possess these qualities,
but its sales, except during the earlier months of its canvass, never
quite equaled those of The Innocents Abroad.
'Roughing It' was accepted by the public for just what it was and is, a
great picture of the Overland Pioneer days--a marvelous picture of
frontier aspects at a time when the frontier itself, even with its
hardships and its tragedies, was little more than a vast primal joke;
when all frontiersmen were obliged to be laughing philosophers in order
to survive the stress of its warfares.
A word here about this Western humor: It is a distinct product. It grew
out of a distinct condition--the battle with the frontier. The fight was
so desperate, to take it seriously was to surrender. Women laughed that
they might not weep; men, when they could no longer swear. "Western
humor" was the result. It is the freshest, wildest humor in the world,
but there is tragedy behind it.
'Roughing It' presented the picture of those early conditions with the
startling vividness and truth of a great novel, which, in effect, it was.
It was not accurate history, even of the author's own adventures. It was
true in its aspects, rather than in its details. The greater artist
disregards the truth of detail to render more strikingly a phase or a
condition, to produce an atmosphere, to reconstruct a vanished time.
This was what Mark Twain did in 'Roughing It'. He told the story of
overland travel and the frontier, for his own and future generations, in
what is essentially a picaresque novel, a work of unperishing fiction,
founded on fact.
The sales of 'Roughing It' during the first three months aggregated
nearly forty thousand copies, and the author was lavishly elate
accordingly. To Orion (who had already closed his career with Bliss, by
exercise of those hereditary eccentricities through which he so often
came to grief) he gave $1,000 out of the first royalty check, in
acknowledgment of the memorandum book and other data which Orion had
supplied. Clemens believed the new book would sell one hundred thousand
copies within the year; but the sale diminished presently, and at the end
of the first year it was considerably behind the Innocents for the same
period. As already stated, it required ten years for Roughing It to
reach the one-hundred-thousand mark, which the Innocents reached in
A BIRTH, A DEATH, AND A VOYAGE
The year 1872 was an eventful one in Mark Twain's life. At Elmira, on
March 19th, his second child, a little girl, whom they named Susan
Olivia, was born. On June 2d, in the new home in Hartford, to which they
had recently moved, his first child, a little boy, Langdon, died. He had
never been strong, his wavering life had often been uncertain, always
more of the spirit than the body, and in Elmira he contracted a heavy
cold, or perhaps it was diphtheria from the beginning. In later years,
whenever Clemens spoke of the little fellow, he never failed to accuse
himself of having been the cause of the child's death. It was Mrs.
Clemens's custom to drive out each morning with Langdon, and once when
she was unable to go Clemens himself went instead.
"I should not have been permitted to do it," he said, remembering.
"I was not qualified for any such responsibility as that. Some one
should have gone who had at least the rudiments of a mind. Necessarily
I would lose myself dreaming. After a while the coachman looked around
and noticed that the carriage-robes had dropped away from the little
fellow, and that he was exposed to the chilly air. He called my
attention to it, but it was too late. Tonsilitis or something of the
sort set in, and he did not get any better, so we took him to Hartford.
There it was pronounced diphtheria, and of course he died."
So, with or without reason, he added the blame of another tragedy to the
heavy burden of remorse which he would go on piling up while he lived.
The blow was a terrible one to Mrs. Clemens; even the comfort of the
little new baby on her arm could not ease the ache in her breast. It
seemed to her that death was pursuing her. In one of her letters she
"I feel so often as if my path is to be lined with graves," and she
expresses the wish that she may drop out of life herself before her
sister and her husband--a wish which the years would grant.
They did not return to Elmira, for it was thought that the air of the
shore would be better for the little girl; so they spent the summer at
Saybrook, Connecticut, at Fenwick Hall, leaving Orion and his wife in
charge of the house at Hartford.
Beyond a few sketches, Clemens did very little literary work that summer,
but he planned a trip to Europe, and he invented what is still known and
sold as the "Mark Twain Scrap-Book."
He wrote to Orion of his proposed trip to England, and dilated upon his
scrap-book with considerable enthusiasm. The idea had grown out of the
inconvenience of finding a paste-jar, and the general mussiness of scrap-
book keeping. His new plan was a self-pasting scrap-book with the gum
laid on in narrow strips, requiring only to be dampened with a sponge or
other moist substance to be ready for the clipping. He states that he
intends to put the invention into the hands of Slote, Woodman & Co., of
whom Dan Slote, his old Quaker City room-mate, was the senior partner,
and have it manufactured for the trade.
About this time began Mark Twain's long and active interest in copyright.
Previously he had not much considered the subject; he had taken it for
granted there was no step that he could take, while international piracy
was a recognized institution. On both sides of the water books were
appropriated, often without profit, sometimes even without credit, to the
author. To tell the truth, Clemens had at first regarded it rather in
the nature of a compliment that his books should be thought worth
pirating in England, but as time passed he realized that he was paying
heavily for this recognition. Furthermore, he decided that he was
forfeiting a right; rather that he was being deprived of it: something
which it was in his nature to resent.
When 'Roughing It' had been ready for issue he agreed with Bliss that
they should try the experiment of copyrighting it in England, and see how
far the law would protect them against the voracious little publisher,
who thus far had not only snapped up everything bearing Mark Twain's
signature, but had included in a volume of Mark Twain sketches certain
examples of very weak humor with which Mark Twain had been previously
Whatever the English pirate's opinion of the copyright protection of
'Roughing It' may have been, he did not attempt to violate it. This was
gratifying. Clemens came to regard England as a friendly power. He
decided to visit it and spy out the land. He would make the acquaintance
of its people and institutions and write a book, which would do these
He gave out no word of his real purpose. He merely said that he was
going over to see his English publishers, and perhaps to arrange for a
few lectures. He provided himself with some stylographic note-books, by
which he could produce two copies of his daily memoranda--one for himself
and one to mail to Mrs. Clemens--and sailed on the Scotia August 21,
Arriving in Liverpool he took train for London, and presently the
wonderful charm of that old, finished country broke upon him. His "first
hour in England was an hour of delight," he records; "of rapture and
ecstasy. These are the best words I can find, but they are not adequate;
they are not strong enough to convey the feeling which this first vision
of rural England brought me." Then he noticed that the gentleman
opposite in his compartment paid no attention to the scenery, but was
absorbed in a green-covered volume. He was so absorbed in it that, by
and by, Clemens's curiosity was aroused. He shifted his position a
little and his eye caught the title. It was the first volume of the
English edition of The Innocents Abroad. This was gratifying for a
moment; then he remembered that the man had never laughed, never even
smiled during the hour of his steady reading. Clemens recalled what he
had heard of the English lack of humor. He wondered if this was a fair
example of it, and if the man could be really taking seriously every word
he was reading. Clemens could not look at the scenery any more for
watching his fellow-passenger, waiting with a fascinated interest for the
paragraph that would break up that iron-clad solemnity. It did not come.
During all the rest of the trip to London the atmosphere of the
compartment remained heavy with gloom.
He drove to the Langham Hotel, always popular with Americans, established
himself, and went to look up his publishers. He found the Routledges
about to sit down to luncheon in a private room, up-stairs, in their
publishing house. He joined them, and not a soul stirred from that table
again until evening. The Routledges had never heard Mark Twain talk
before, never heard any one talk who in the least resembled him. Various
refreshments were served during the afternoon, came and went, while this
marvelous creature talked on and they listened, reveling, and wondering
if America had any more of that sort at home. By and by dinner was
served; then after a long time, when there was no further excuse for
keeping him there, they took him to the Savage Club, where there were yet
other refreshments and a gathering of the clans to welcome this new
arrival as a being from some remote and unfamiliar star.
Tom Hood, the younger, was there, and Harry Lee, and Stanley the
explorer, who had but just returned from finding Livingstone, and Henry
Irving, and many another whose name remains, though the owners of those
names are all dead now, and their laughter and their good-fellowship are
only a part of that intangible fabric which we call the past.'--[Clemens
had first known Stanley as a newspaper man. "I first met him when he
reported a lecture of mine in St. Louis," he said once in a conversation
where the name of Stanley was mentioned.]
From that night Mark Twain's stay in England could not properly be called
a gloomy one.
Routledge, Hood, Lee, and, in fact, all literary London, set themselves
the task of giving him a good time. Whatever place of interest they
could think of he was taken there; whatever there was to see he saw it.
Dinners, receptions, and assemblies were not complete without him. The
White Friars' Club and others gave banquets in his honor. He was the
sensation of the day. When he rose to speak on these occasions he was
greeted with wild cheers. Whatever he said they eagerly applauded--too
eagerly sometimes, in the fear that they might be regarded as insensible
to American humor. Other speakers delighted in chaffing him in order to
provoke his retorts. When a speaker humorously referred to his American
habit of carrying a cotton umbrella, his reply that he followed this
custom because a cotton umbrella was the only kind of an umbrella that an
Englishman wouldn't steal, was all over England next day, and regarded as
one of the finest examples of wit since the days of Swift.
The suddenness and completeness of his acceptance by the great ones of
London rather overwhelmed and frightened him made him timid. Joaquin
He was shy as a girl, although time was already coyly flirting white
flowers at his temples, and could hardly be coaxed to meet the
learned and great who wanted to take him by the hand.
Many came to call on him at his hotel, among them Charles Reade and Canon
Kingsley. Kingsley came twice without finding him; then wrote, asking
for an appointment. Reade invited his assistance on a novel. Indeed, it
was in England that Mark Twain was first made to feel that he had come
into his rightful heritage. Whatever may have been the doubts concerning
him in America, there was no question in England. Howells says:
In England rank, fashion, and culture rejoiced in him. Lord mayors,
lord chief justices, and magnates of many kinds were his hosts; he
was desired in country houses, and his bold genius captivated the
favor of periodicals which spurned the rest of our nation.
After that first visit of Mark Twain's, when Americans in England,
referring to their great statesmen, authors, and the like, naturally
mentioned the names of Seward, Webster, Lowell, or Holmes, the English
comment was likely to be: "Never mind those. We can turn out academic
Sewards by the dozen, and cultured humorists like Lowell and Holmes by
the score. Tell us of Lincoln, Artemus Ward, and Mark Twain. We cannot
match these; they interest us." And it was true. History could not
match them, for they were unique.
Clemens would have been more than human if in time he had not realized
the fuller meaning of this triumph, and exulted in it a little to the
folks at home. There never lived a more modest, less pretentious, less
aggressive man than Mark Twain, but there never lived a man who took a
more childlike delight in genuine appreciation; and, being childlike, it
was only human that he should wish those nearest to him to share his
happiness. After one memorable affair he wrote:
I have been received in a sort of tremendous way to-night by the
brains of London, assembled at the annual dinner of the sheriffs of
London; mine being (between you and me) a name which was received
with a thundering outburst of spontaneous applause when the long
list of guests was called.
I might have perished on the spot but for the friendly support and
assistance of my excellent friend, Sir John Bennett.
This letter does not tell all of the incident or the real reason why he
might have perished on the spot. During the long roll-call of guests he
had lost interest a little, and was conversing in whispers with his
"excellent friend," Sir John Bennett, stopping to applaud now and then
when the applause of the others indicated that some distinguished name
had been pronounced. All at once the applause broke out with great
vehemence. This must be some very distinguished person indeed. He
joined in it with great enthusiasm. When it was over he whispered to Sir
"Whose name was that we were just applauding?"
Whereupon the support was needed.
Poor little pirate Hotten did not have a happy time during this visit.
He had reveled in the prospect at first, for he anticipated a large
increase to be derived from his purloined property; but suddenly, one
morning, he was aghast to find in the Spectator a signed letter from Mark
Twain, in which he was repudiated, referred to as "John Camden
Hottentot," an unsavory person generally. Hotten also sent a letter to
the Spectator, in which he attempted to justify himself, but it was a
feeble performance. Clemens prepared two other communications, each
worse than the other and both more destructive than the first one. But
these were only to relieve his mind. He did not print them. In one of
them he pursued the fancy of John Camden Hottentot, whom he offers as a
specimen to the Zoological Gardens.
It is not a bird. It is not a man. It is not a fish. It does not seem
to be in all respects a reptile. It has the body and features of a man,
but scarcely any of the instincts that belong to such a structure.... I
am sure that this singular little creature is the missing link between
the man and the hyena.
Hotten had preyed upon explorer Stanley and libeled him in a so-called.
biography to a degree that had really aroused some feeling against
Stanley in England. Only for the moment--the Queen invited Stanley to
luncheon, and newspaper criticism ceased. Hotten was in general
disrepute, therefore, so it was not worth while throwing a second brick
In fact, now that Clemens had expended his venom, on paper, Hotten seemed
to him rather an amusing figure than otherwise. An incident grew out of
it all, however, that was not amusing. E. P. Hingston, whom the reader
may remember as having been with Artemus Ward in Virginia City, and one
of that happy group that wined and dined the year away, had been engaged
by Hotten to write the introductory to his edition of The Innocents
Abroad. It was a well-written, highly complimentary appreciation.
Hingston did not dream that he was committing an offense, nor did Clemens
himself regard it as such in the beginning.
But Mark Twain's views had undergone a radical change, and with
characteristic dismissal of previous conditions he had forgotten that he
had ever had any other views than those he now held. Hingston was in
London, and one evening, at a gathering, approached Clemens with
outstretched hand. But Clemens failed to see Hingston's hand or to
recognize him. In after-years his conscience hurt him terribly for this.
He remembered it only with remorse and shame. Once, in his old age, he
spoke of it with deep sorrow.
THE BOOK THAT WAS NEVER WRITTEN
The book on England, which he had prepared for so carefully, was never
written. Hundreds of the stylographic pages were filled, and the
duplicates sent home for the entertainment of Olivia Clemens, but the
notes were not completed, and the actual writing was never begun. There
was too much sociability in London for one thing, and then he found that
he could not write entertainingly of England without introducing too many
personalities, and running the risk of offending those who had taken him
into their hearts and homes. In a word, he would have to write too
seriously or not at all.
He began his memoranda industriously enough, and the volume might have
been as charming and as valuable as any he has left behind. The reader
will hardly fail to find a few of the entries interesting. They are
offered here as examples of his daily observation during those early
weeks of his stay, and to show somewhat of his purpose:
There was once an American thief who fled his country and took
refuge in England. He dressed himself after the fashion of the
Londoners, and taught his tongue the peculiarities of the London
pronunciation and did his best in all ways to pass himself for a
native. But he did two fatal things: he stopped at the Langham
Hotel, and the first trip he took was to visit Stratford-on-Avon and
the grave of Shakespeare. These things betrayed his nationality.
STANLEY AND THE QUEEN
See the power a monarch wields! When I arrived here, two weeks ago,
the papers and geographers were in a fair way to eat poor Stanley up
without salt or sauce. The Queen says, "Come four hundred miles up
into Scotland and sit at my luncheon-table fifteen minutes"; which,
being translated, means, "Gentlemen, I believe in this man and take
him under my protection"; and not another yelp is heard.
AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM
What a place it is!
Mention some very rare curiosity of a peculiar nature--a something
which you have read about somewhere but never seen--they show you a
dozen! They show you all the possible varieties of that thing!
They show you curiously wrought jeweled necklaces of beaten gold,
worn by the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Etruscans, Greeks,
Britons--every people of the forgotten ages, indeed. They show you
the ornaments of all the tribes and peoples that live or ever did
live. Then they show you a cast taken from Cromwell's face in
death; then the venerable vase that once contained the ashes of
I am wonderfully thankful for the British Museum. Nobody comes
bothering around me--nobody elbows me--all the room and all the
light I want, under this huge dome--no disturbing noises--and people
standing ready to bring me a copy of pretty much any book that ever
was printed under the sun--and if I choose to go wandering about the
long corridors and galleries of the great building the secrets of
all the earth and all the ages axe laid open to me. I am not
capable of expressing my gratitude for the British Museum--it seems
as if I do not know any but little words and weak ones.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY BY NIGHT
It was past eleven o'clock and I was just going to bed. But this
friend of mine was as reliable as he was eccentric, and so there was
not a doubt in my mind that his "expedition" had merit in it. I put
on my coat and boots again, and we drove away.
"Where is it? Where are we going?"
"Don't worry. You'll see."
He was not inclined to talk. So I thought this must be a weighty
matter. My curiosity grew with the minutes, but I kept it manfully
under the surface. I watched the lamps, the signs, the numbers as
we thundered down the long street. I am always lost in London, day
or night. It was very chilly, almost bleak. People leaned against
the gusty blasts as if it were the dead of winter. The crowds grew
thinner and thinner, and the noises waxed faint and seemed far away.
The sky was overcast and threatening. We drove on, and still on,
till I wondered if we were ever going to stop. At last we passed by
a spacious bridge and a vast building, and presently entered a
gateway, passed through a sort of tunnel, and stopped in a court
surrounded by the black outlines of a great edifice. Then we
alighted, walked a dozen steps or so, and waited. In a little while
footsteps were heard, a man emerged from the darkness, and we
dropped into his wake without saying anything. He led us under an
archway of masonry, and from that into a roomy tunnel, through a
tall iron gate, which he locked behind us. We followed him down
this tunnel, guided more by his footsteps on the stone flagging than
by anything we could very distinctly see. At the end of it we came
to another iron gate, and our conductor stopped there and lit a
bull's-eye lantern. Then he unlocked the gate; and I wished he had
oiled it first, it grated so dismally. The gate swung open and we
stood on the threshold of what seemed a limitless domed and pillared
cavern, carved out of the solid darkness. The conductor and my
friend took off their hats reverently, and I did likewise. For the
moment that we stood thus there was not a sound, and the stillness
seemed to add to the solemnity of the gloom. I looked my inquiry!
"It is the tomb of the great dead of England-Westminster Abbey."...
We were among the tombs; on every hand dull shapes of men, sitting,
standing, or stooping, inspected us curiously out of the darkness--
reached out their hands toward us--some appealing, some beckoning,
some warning us away. Effigies they were--statues over the graves;
but they looked human and natural in the murky shadows. Now a
little half-grown black and white cat squeezed herself through the
bars of the iron gate and came purring lovingly about us, unawed by
the time or the place, unimpressed by the marble pomp that
sepulchers a line of mighty dead that ends with a great author of
yesterday and began with a sceptered monarch away back in the dawn
of history, more than twelve hundred years ago . . . .
Mr. Wright flashed his lantern first upon this object and then upon
that, and kept up a running commentary that showed there was nothing
about the venerable Abbey that was trivial in his eyes or void of
interest. He is a man in authority, being superintendent, and his
daily business keeps him familiar with every nook and corner of the
great pile. Casting a luminous ray now here, now yonder, he would
"Observe the height of the Abbey--one hundred and three feet to the
base of the roof; I measured it myself the other day. Notice the
base of this column--old, very old--hundreds and hundreds of years--
and how well they knew how to build in those old days! Notice it--
every stone is laid horizontally; that is to say, just as nature
laid it originally in the quarry not set up edgewise; in our day
some people set them on edge, and then wonder why they split and
flake. Architects cannot teach nature anything. Let me remove this
matting--it is put here to preserve the pavement; now there is a bit
of pavement that is seven hundred years old; you can see by these
scattering clusters of colored mosaics how beautiful it was before
time and sacrilegious idlers marred it. Now there, in the border,
was an inscription, once see, follow the circle-you can trace it by
the ornaments that have been pulled out--here is an A and there is
an O, and yonder another A--all beautiful Old English capitals;
there is no telling what the inscription was--no record left now.
Now move along in this direction, if you please. Yonder is where
old King Sebert the Saxon lies his monument is the oldest one in the
Abbey; Sebert died in 616,--[Clemens probably misunderstood the
name. It was Ethelbert who died in 616. The name Sebert does not
appear in any Saxon annals accessible to the author.]--and that's
as much, as twelve hundred and fifty years ago think of it! Twelve
hundred and fifty years! Now yonder is the last one--Charles
Dickens--there on the floor, with the brass letters on the slab--and
to this day the people come and put flowers on it.... There is
Garrick's monument; and Addison's, and Thackeray's bust--and
Macaulay lies there. And close to Dickens and Garrick lie Sheridan
and Dr. Johnson--and here is old Parr....
"That stone there covers Campbell the poet. Here are names you know
pretty well--Milton, and Gray who wrote the Elegy, and Butler who
wrote Hudibras; and Edmund Spenser, and Ben Jonson--there are three
tablets to him scattered about the Abbey, and all got 'O, Rare Ben
Jonson' cut on them. You were standing on one of them just now he
is buried standing up. There used to be a tradition here that
explains it. The story goes that he did not dare ask to be buried
in the Abbey, so he asked King James if he would make him a present
of eighteen inches of English ground, and the King said 'yes,' and
asked him where he would have it, and he said in Westminster Abbey.
Well, the King wouldn't go back on his word, and so there he is,
sure enough-stood up on end."
The reader may regret that there are not more of these entries, and that
the book itself was never written. Just when he gave up the project is
not recorded. He was urged to lecture in London, but declined. To Mrs.
Clemens, in September, he wrote:
Everybody says lecture, lecture, lecture, but I have not the least idea
of doing it; certainly not at present. Mr. Dolby, who took Dickens to
America, is coming to talk business tomorrow, though I have sent him word
once before that I can't be hired to talk here; because I have no time to
spare. There is too much sociability; I do not get along fast enough
In October he declared that he was very homesick, and proposed that Mrs.
Clemens and Susie join him at once in London, unless she would prefer to
have him come home for the winter and all of them return to London in the
spring. So it is likely that the book was not then abandoned. He felt
that his visit was by no means ended; that it was, in fact, only just
begun, but he wanted the ones he loved most to share it with him. To his
mother and sister, in November, he wrote:
I came here to take notes for a book, but I haven't done much but attend
dinners and make speeches. I have had a jolly good time, and I do hate
to go away from these English folks; they make a stranger feel entirely
at home, and they laugh so easily that it is a comfort to make after-
dinner speeches here. I have made hundreds of friends; and last night,
in the crush at the opening of the new Guild Hall Library and Museum, I
was surprised to meet a familiar face every other step.
All his impressions of England had been happy ones. He could deliver a
gentle satire now and then at certain British institutions--certain
London localities and features--as in his speech at the Savage Club,
--[September 28, 1872. This is probably the most characteristic speech
made by Mark Twain during his first London visit; the reader will find it
in full in Appendix L, at the end of last volume.]--but taking the snug
island as a whole, its people, its institutions, its fair, rural aspects,
he had found in it only delight. To Mrs. Crane he wrote:
If you and Theodore will come over in the spring with Livy and me,
and spend the summer, you shall see a country that is so beautiful
that you will be obliged to believe in fairy-land. There is nothing
like it elsewhere on the globe. You should have a season ticket and
travel up and down every day between London and Oxford and worship
And Theodore can browse with me among dusty old dens that look now
as they looked five hundred years ago; and puzzle over books in the
British Museum that were made before Christ was born; and in the
customs of their public dinners, and the ceremonies of every
official act, and the dresses of a thousand dignitaries, trace the
speech and manners of all the centuries that have dragged their
lagging decades over England since the Heptarchy fell asunder. I
would a good deal rather live here if I could get the rest of you
He sailed November 12th, on the Batavia, loaded with Christmas presents
for everybody; jewelry, furs, laces; also a practical steam-engine for
his namesake, Sam Moffett. Half-way across the Atlantic the Batavia ran
into a hurricane and was badly damaged by heavy seas, and driven far out
of her course. It was a lucky event on the whole, for she fell in with a
water-logged lumber bark, a complete wreck, with nine surviving sailors
clinging to her rigging. In the midst of the wild gale a lifeboat was
launched and the perishing men were rescued. Clemens prepared a graphic
report of the matter for the Royal Humane Society, asking that medals be
conferred upon the brave rescuers, a document that was signed by his
fellow-passengers and obtained for the men complete recognition and wide
celebrity. Closing, the writer said:
As might have been anticipated, if I have been of any service toward
rescuing these nine shipwrecked human beings by standing around the
deck in a furious storm, without an umbrella, keeping an eye on
things and seeing that they were done right, and yelling whenever a
cheer seemed to be the important thing, I am glad and I am
satisfied. I ask no reward. I would do it again under the same
circumstances. But what I do plead for, earnestly and sincerely, is
that the Royal Humane Society will remember our captain and our
life-boat crew, and in so remembering them increase the high honor
and esteem in which the society is held all over the civilized
The Batavia reached New York November 26, 1872. Mark Twain had been
absent three months, during which he had been brought to at least a
partial realization of what his work meant to him and to mankind.
An election had taken place during his absence--an election which
gratified him deeply, for it had resulted in the second presidency of
General Grant and in the defeat of Horace Greeley, whom he admired
perhaps, but not as presidential material. To Thomas Nast, who had aided
very effectually in Mr. Greeley's overwhelming defeat, Clemens wrote:
Nast, you more than any other man have won a prodigious victory for
Grant--I mean, rather, for civilization and progress. Those pictures
were simply marvelous, and if any man in the land has a right to hold his
head up and be honestly proud of his share in this year's vast events
that man is unquestionably yourself. We all do sincerely honor you, and
are proud of you.
Horace Greeley's peculiar abilities and eccentricities won celebrity for
him, rather than voters. Mark Twain once said of him:
"He was a great man, an honest man, and served his, country well and was
an honor to it. Also, he was a good-natured man, but abrupt with
strangers if they annoyed him when he was busy. He was profane, but that
is nothing; the best of us is that. I did not know him well, but only
just casually, and by accident. I never met him but once. I called on
him in the Tribune office, but I was not intending to. I was looking for
Whitelaw Reid, and got into the wrong den. He was alone at his desk,
writing, and we conversed--not long, but just a little. I asked him if
he was well, and he said, 'What the hell do you want?' Well, I couldn't
remember what I wanted, so I said I would call again. But I didn't."
Clemens did not always tell the incident just in this way. Sometimes it
was John Hay he was looking for instead of Reid, and the conversation
with Greeley varied; but perhaps there was a germ of history under it
somewhere, and at any rate it could have happened well enough, and not
have been out of character with either of the men.
"THE GILDED AGE"
Mark Twain did not go on the lecture circuit that winter. Redpath had
besought him as usual, and even in midsummer had written:
"Will you? Won't you? We have seven thousand to eight thousand dollars
in engagements recorded for you," and he named a list of towns ranging
geographically from Boston to St. Paul.
But Clemens had no intention then of ever lecturing any more, and again
in November, from London, he announced (to Redpath):
"When I yell again for less than $500 I'll be pretty hungry, but I
haven't any intention of yelling at any price."
Redpath pursued him, and in January proposed $400 for a single night in
Philadelphia, but without result. He did lecture two nights in Steinway
Hall for the Mercantile Library Association, on the basis of half
profits, netting $1,300 for the two nights as his share; and he lectured
one night in Hartford, at a profit Of $1,500, for charity. Father
Hawley, of Hartford, had announced that his missionary work was suffering
for lack of funds. Some of his people were actually without food, he
said, their children crying with hunger. No one ever responded to an
appeal like that quicker than Samuel Clemens. He offered to deliver a
lecture free, and to bear an equal proportion of whatever expenses were
incurred by the committee of eight who agreed to join in forwarding the
project. He gave the Sandwich Island lecture, and at the close of it a
large card was handed him with the figures of the receipts printed upon
it. It was held up to view, and the house broke into a storm of cheers.
He did very little writing during the early weeks following his return.
Early in the year (January 3 and 6, 1873) he contributed two Sandwich
Island letters to the Tribune, in which, in his own peculiar fashion, he
"We must annex those people," he declared, and proceeded to specify the
blessings we could give them, such as "leather-headed juries, the
insanity law, and the Tweed Ring."
We can confer Woodhull and Clafin on them, and George Francis Train.
We can give them lecturers! I will go myself.
We can make that little bunch of sleepy islands the hottest corner
on earth, and array it in the moral splendor of our high and holy
civilization. Annexation is what the poor islanders need!
"Shall we, to men benighted, the lamp of life deny?"
His success in England became an incentive to certain American
institutions to recognize his gifts at home. Early in the year he was
dined as the guest of the Lotos Club of New York, and a week or two later
elected to its membership. This was but a beginning. Some new
membership or honor was offered every little while, and so many banquets
that he finally invented a set form for declining them. He was not yet
recognized as the foremost American man of letters, but undoubtedly he
had become the most popular; and Edwin Whipple, writing at this time, or
but little later, said:
"Mark Twain is regarded chiefly as a humorist, but the exercise of his
real talents would rank him with the ablest of our authors in the past
fifty years." So he was beginning to be "discovered" in high places.
It was during this winter that the Clemens household enjoyed its first
real home life in Hartford, its first real home life anywhere since those
earliest days of marriage. The Hooker mansion was a comfortable place.
The little family had comparatively good health. Their old friends were
stanch and lavishly warm-hearted, and they had added many new ones.
Their fireside was a delightful nucleus around which gathered those they
cared for most, the Twichells, the Warner families, the Trumbulls--all
certain of a welcome there. George Warner, only a little while ago,
"The Clemens house was the only one I have ever known where there was
never any preoccupation in the evenings, and where visitors were always
welcome. Clemens was the best kind of a host; his evenings after dinner
were an unending flow of stories."
Friends living near by usually came and went at will, often without the
ceremony of knocking or formal leave-taking. They were more like one
great family in that neighborhood, with a community of interests, a unity
of ideals. The Warner families and the Clemenses were particularly
intimate, and out of their association grew Mark Twain's next important
literary undertaking, his collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner in
'The Gilded Age'.
A number of more or less absurd stories have been printed about the
origin of this book. It was a very simple matter, a perfectly natural
At the dinner-table one night, with the Warners present, criticisms of
recent novels were offered, with the usual freedom and severity of
dinner-table talk. The husbands were inclined to treat rather lightly
the novels in which their wives were finding entertainment. The wives
naturally retorted that the proper thing for the husbands to do was to
furnish the American people with better ones. This was regarded in the
nature of a challenge, and as such was accepted--mutually accepted: that
is to say, in partnership. On the spur of the moment Clemens and Warner
agreed that they would do a novel together, that they would begin it
immediately. This is the whole story of the book's origin; so far, at
least, as the collaboration is concerned. Clemens, in fact, had the
beginning of a story in his mind, but had been unwilling to undertake an
extended work of fiction alone. He welcomed only too eagerly, therefore,
the proposition of joint authorship. His purpose was to write a tale
around that lovable character of his youth, his mother's cousin, James
Lampton--to let that gentle visionary stand as the central figure against
a proper background. The idea appealed to Warner, and there was no delay
in the beginning. Clemens immediately set to work and completed 399
pages of the manuscript, the first eleven chapters of the book, before
the early flush of enthusiasm waned.
Warner came over then, and Clemens read it aloud to him. Warner had some
plans for the story, and took it up at this point, and continued it
through the next twelve chapters; and so they worked alternately, "in the
superstition," as Mark Twain long afterward declared, "that we were
writing one coherent yarn, when I suppose, as a matter of fact, we were
writing two incoherent ones."--[The reader may be interested in the
division of labor. Clemens wrote chapters I to XI; also chapters XXIV,
XXV, XXVII, XXVIII, XXX, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XLII,
XLIII, XLV, LI, LII, LIII, LVII, LIX, LX, LXI, LXII, and portions of
chapters XXXV, XLIX, LVI. Warner wrote chapters XII to XXIII; also
chapters XXVI, XXIX, XXXI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL, XLI, XLIV, XLVI, XLVII,
XLVITT, L, LIV, LV, LVIII, LXIII, and portions of chapters XXXV, XLIX,
and LVI. The work was therefore very evenly divided.
There was another co-worker on The Gilded Age before the book was finally
completed. This was J. Hammond Trumbull, who prepared the variegated,
marvelous cryptographic chapter headings: Trumbull was the most learned
man that ever lived in Hartford. He was familiar with all literary and
scientific data, and according to Clemens could swear in twenty-seven
languages. It was thought to be a choice idea to get Trumbull to supply
a lingual medley of quotations to precede the chapters in the new book,
the purpose being to excite interest and possibly to amuse the reader--a
purpose which to some extent appears to have miscarried.]
The book was begun in February and finished in April, so the work did not
lag. The result, if not highly artistic, made astonishingly good
reading. Warner had the touch of romance, Clemens, the gift of creating,
or at least of portraying, human realities. Most of his characters
reflected intimate personalities of his early life. Besides the
apotheosis of James Lampton into the immortal Sellers, Orion became
Washington Hawkins, Squire Clemens the judge, while Mark Twain's own
personality, in a greater or lesser degree, is reflected in most of his
creations. As for the Tennessee land, so long a will-o'the-wisp and a
bugbear, it became tangible property at last. Only a year or two before
Clemens had written to Orion:
Oh, here! I don't want to be consulted at all about Tennessee. I
don't want it even mentioned to me. When I make a suggestion it is
for you to act upon it or throw it aside, but I beseech you never to
ask my advice, opinion, or consent about that hated property.
But it came in good play now. It is the important theme of the story.
Mark Twain was well qualified to construct his share of the tale. He
knew his characters, their lives, and their atmospheres perfectly.
Senator Dilworthy (otherwise Senator Pomeroy, of Kansas, then notorious
for attempted vote-buying) was familiar enough. That winter in
Washington had acquainted Clemens with the life there, its political
intrigues, and the disrepute of Congress. Warner was equally well
qualified for his share of the undertaking, and the chief criticism that
one may offer is the one stated by Clemens himself--that the divisions of
the tale remain divisions rather than unity.
As for the story itself--the romance and tragedy of it--the character of
Laura in the hands of either author is one not easy to forget. Whether
this means that the work is well done, or only strikingly done, the
reader himself must judge. Morally, the character is not justified.
Laura was a victim of circumstance from the beginning. There could be no
poetic justice in her doom. To drag her out of a steamer wreck, only to
make her the victim of a scoundrel, later an adventuress, and finally a
murderess, all may be good art, but of a very bad kind. Laura is a sort
of American Becky Sharp; but there is retributive justice in Becky's
fate, whereas Laura's doom is warranted only by the author's whim. As
for her end, whatever the virtuous public of that day might have done, a
present-day audience would not have pelted her from the stage, destroyed
her future, taken away her life.
The authors regarded their work highly when it was finished, but that is
nothing. Any author regards his work highly at the moment of its
completion. In later years neither of them thought very well of their
production; but that also is nothing. The author seldom cares very
deeply for his offspring once it is turned over to the public charge.
The fact that the story is still popular, still delights thousands of
readers, when a myriad of novels that have been written since it was
completed have lived their little day and died so utterly that even their
names have passed out of memory, is the best verdict as to its worth.
PLANNING A NEW HOME
Clemens and his wife bought a lot for the new home that winter, a fine,
sightly piece of land on Farmington Avenue--table-land, slopingdown to a
pretty stream that wound through the willows and among the trees. They
were as delighted as children with their new purchase and the prospect of
building. To her sister Mrs. Clemens wrote:
Mr. Clemens seems to glory in his sense of possession; he goes daily
into the lot, has had several falls trying to lay off the land by
sliding around on his feet....
For three days the ice has covered the trees, and they have been
glorious. We could do nothing but watch the beauty outside; if you
looked at the trees as the sun struck them, with your back toward
the sun, they were covered with jewels. If you looked toward the
sun it was all crystal whiteness, a perfect fairy-land. Then the
nights were moonlight, and that was a great beauty, the moon giving
us the same prismatic effect.
This was the storm of which Mark Twain wrote his matchless description,
given first in his speech on New England weather, and later preserved in
'Following the Equator', in more extended form. In that book he likens
an ice-storm to his impressions derived from reading descriptions of the
Taj Mahal, that wonderful tomb of a fair East Indian queen. It is a
marvelous bit of word-painting--his description of that majestic vision:
"When every bough and twig is strung with ice-beads, frozen dewdrops, and
the whole tree sparkles cold and white, like the Shah of Persia's diamond
plume." It will pay any one to look up that description and read it all,
though it has been said, by the fortunate one or two who heard him first
give it utterance as an impromptu outburst, that in the subsequent
process of writing the bloom of its original magnificence was lost.
The plans for the new house were drawn forthwith by that gentle architect
Edward Potter, whose art to-day may be considered open to criticism, but
not because of any lack of originality. Hartford houses of that period
were mainly of the goods-box form of architecture, perfectly square,
typifying the commercial pursuits of many of their owners. Potter agreed
to get away from this idea, and a radical and even frenzied departure was
the result. Certainly his plans presented beautiful pictures, and all
who saw them were filled with wonder and delight. Architecture has
lavished itself in many florescent forms since then, but we may imagine
that Potter's "English violet" order of design, as he himself designated
it, startled, dazzled, and captivated in a day, when most houses were
mere habitations, built with a view to economy and the largest possible
amount of room.
Workmen were put on the ground without delay, to prepare for the
builders, and work was rapidly pushed along. Then in May the whole
matter was left in the hands of the architect and the carpenters (with
Lawyer Charles E. Perkins to stand between Potter and the violent
builder, who roared at Potter and frightened him when he wanted changes),
while the Clemens household, with Clara Spaulding, a girlhood friend of
Mrs. Clemens, sailed away to England for a half-year holiday.
A LONG ENGLISH HOLIDAY
They sailed on the Batavia, and with them went a young man named
Thompson, a theological student whom Clemens had consented to take as an
amanuensis. There is a pathetic incident connected with this young man,
and it may as well be set down here. Clemens found, a few weeks after
his arrival in England, that so great was the tax upon his time that he
could make no use of Thompson's services. He gave Thompson fifty
dollars, and upon the possibility of the young man's desiring to return
to America, advanced him another fifty dollars, saying that he could
return it some day, and never thought of it again. But the young man
remembered it, and one day, thirty-six years later, after a life of
hardship and struggle, such as the life of a country minister is apt to
be, he wrote and inclosed a money-order, a payment on his debt. That
letter and its inclosure brought only sorrow to Mark Twain. He felt that
it laid upon him the accumulated burden of the weary thirty-six years'
struggle with ill-fortune. He returned the money, of course, and in a
biographical note commented:
How pale painted heroisms of romance look beside it! Thompson's
heroism, which is real, which is colossal, which is sublime, and
which is costly beyond all estimate, is achieved in profound
obscurity, and its hero walks in rags to the end of his days. I had
forgotten Thompson completely, but he flashes before me as vividly
as lightning. I can see him now. It was on the deck of the
Batavia, in the dock. The ship was casting off, with that hubbub
and confusion and rushing of sailors, and shouting of orders and
shrieking of boatswain whistles, which marked the departure
preparations in those days--an impressive contrast with the solemn
silence which marks the departure preparations of the giant ships of
the present day. Mrs. Clemens, Clara Spaulding, little Susy, and
the nurse-maid were all properly garbed for the occasion. We all
had on our storm-rig, heavy clothes of somber hue, but new and
designed and constructed for the purpose, strictly in accordance
with sea-going etiquette; anything wearable on land being distinctly
and odiously out of the question.
Very well. On that deck, and gliding placidly among those honorable
and properly upholstered groups, appeared Thompson, young, grave,
long, slim, with an aged fuzzy plug hat towering high on the upper
end of him and followed by a gray duster, which flowed down, without
break or wrinkle, to his ankles. He came straight to us, and shook
hands and compromised us. Everybody could see that we knew him. A
nigger in heaven could not have created a profounder astonishment.
However, Thompson didn't know that anything was happening. He had
no prejudices about clothes. I can still see him as he looked when
we passed Sandy Hook and the winds of the big ocean smote us.
Erect, lofty, and grand he stood facing the blast, holding his plug
on with both hands and his generous duster blowing out behind, level
with his neck. There were scoffers observing, but he didn't know
it; he wasn't disturbed.
In my mind, I see him once afterward, clothed as before, taking me
down in shorthand. The Shah of Persia had come to England and Dr.
Hosmer, of the Herald, had sent me to Ostend, to view his Majesty's
progress across the Channel and write an account of it. I can't
recall Thompson after that, and I wish his memory had been as poor
They had been a month in London, when the final incident referred to took
place--the arrival of the Shah of Persia--and were comfortably quartered
at the Langham Hotel. To Twichell Clemens wrote:
We have a luxuriously ample suite of apartments on the third floor,
our bedroom looking straight up Portland Place, our parlor having a
noble array of great windows looking out upon both streets (Portland
Place and the crook that joins it onto Regent Street).
Nine p.m. full twilight, rich sunset tints lingering in the west.
I am not going to write anything; rather tell it when I get back.
I love you and Harmony, and that is all the fresh news I've got
anyway. And I mean to keep that fresh all the time.
Mrs. Clemens, in a letter to her sister, declared: "It is perfectly
discouraging to try to write you. There is so much to write about that
it makes me feel as if it was no use to begin."
It was a period of continuous honor and entertainment. If Mark Twain had
been a lion on his first visit, he was little less than royalty now. His
rooms at the Langham were like a court. Miss Spaulding (now Mrs. John B.
Stanchfield) remembers that Robert Browning, Turgenieff, Sir John
Millais, Lord Houghton, and Sir Charles Dilke (then at the height of his
fame) were among those that called to pay their respects. In a recent
letter she says:
I remember a delightful luncheon that Charles Kingsley gave for Mr.
Clemens; also an evening when Lord Dunraven brought Mr. Home, the
medium, Lord Dunraven telling many of the remarkable things he had
seen Mr. Home do. I remember I wanted so much to see him float out
of a seven or eight story window, and enter another, which Lord
Dunraven said he had seen him do many times. But Mr. Home had been
very ill, and said his power had left him. My great regret was that
we did not see Carlyle, who was too sad and ill for visits.
Among others they met Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland,
and found him so shy that it was almost impossible to get him to say a
word on any subject.
"The shyest full-grown man, except Uncle Remus, I ever met," Clemens once
wrote. "Dr. MacDonald and several other lively talkers were present, and
the talk went briskly on for a couple of hours, but Carroll sat still all
the while, except now and then when he answered a question."
At a dinner given by George Smalley they met Herbert Spencer, and at a
luncheon-party at Lord Houghton's, Sir Arthur Helps, then a world-wide
Lord Elcho, a large, vigorous man, sat at some distance down the
table. He was talking earnestly about the town of Godalming. It
was a deep, flowing, and inarticulate rumble, but I caught the
Godalming pretty nearly every time it broke free of the rumbling,
and as all the strength was on the first end of the word, it
startled me every time, because it sounded so like swearing. In the
middle of the luncheon Lady Houghton rose, remarked to the guests on
her right and on her left, in a matter-of-fact way, "Excuse me, I
have an engagement," and without further ceremony, she went off to
meet it. This would have been doubtful etiquette in America. Lord
Houghton told a number of delightful stories. He told them in
French, and I lost nothing of them but the nubs.
Little Susy and her father thrived on London life, but after a time it
wore on Mrs. Clemens. She delighted in the English cordiality and
culture, but the demands were heavy, the social forms sometimes trying.
Life in London was interesting, and in its way charming, but she did not
enter into it with quite her husband's enthusiasm and heartiness. In the
end they canceled all London engagements and quietly set out for
Scotland. On the way they rested a few days in York, a venerable place
such as Mark Twain always loved to describe. In a letter to Mrs. Langdon
For the present we shall remain in this queer old walled town, with
its crooked, narrow lanes, that tell us of their old day that knew
no wheeled vehicles; its plaster-and-timber dwellings, with upper
stories far overhanging the street, and thus marking their date,
say three hundred years ago; the stately city walls, the castellated
gates, the ivy-grown, foliage-sheltered, most noble and picturesque
ruin of St. Mary's Abbey, suggesting their date, say five hundred
years ago, in the heart of Crusading times and the glory of English
chivalry and romance; the vast Cathedral of York, with its worn
carvings and quaintly pictured windows, preaching of still remoter
days; the outlandish names of streets and courts and byways that
stand as a record and a memorial, all these centuries, of Danish
dominion here in still earlier times; the hint here and there of
King Arthur and his knights and their bloody fights with Saxon
oppressors round about this old city more than thirteen hundred
years gone by; and, last of all, the melancholy old stone coffins
and sculptured inscriptions, a venerable arch and a hoary tower of
stone that still remain and are kissed by the sun and caressed by
the shadows every day, just as the sun and the shadows have kissed
and, caressed them every lagging day since the Roman Emperor's
soldiers placed them here in the times when Jesus the Son of Mary
walked the streets of Nazareth a youth, with no more name or fame
than the Yorkshire boy who is loitering down this street this
They reached Edinburgh at the end of July and secluded themselves in
Veitch's family hotel in George Street, intending to see no one. But
this plan was not a success; the social stress of London had been too
much for Mrs. Clemens, and she collapsed immediately after their arrival.
Clemens was unacquainted in Edinburgh, but remembered that Dr. John
Brown, who had written Rab and His Friend, lived there. He learned his
address, and that he was still a practising physician. He walked around
to 23 Rutland Street, and made himself known. Dr. Brown came forthwith,
and Mrs. Clemens speedily recovered under his able and inspiring
The association did not end there. For nearly a month Dr. Brown was
their daily companion, either at the hotel, or in his own home, or on
protracted drives when he made his round of visits, taking these new
friends along. Dr. John was beloved by everybody in Edinburgh, everybody
in Scotland, for that matter, and his story of Rab had won him a
following throughout Christendom. He was an unpretentious sovereign.
Clemens once wrote of him:
His was a sweet and winning face, as beautiful a face as I have ever
known. Reposeful, gentle, benignant; the face of a saint at peace
with all the world and placidly beaming upon it the sunshine of love
that filled his heart.
He was the friend of all dogs, and of all people. It has been told of
him that once, when driving, he thrust his head suddenly out of the
carriage window, then resumed his place with a disappointed look.
"Who was it?" asked his companion. "Some one you know?"
"No," he said. "A dog I don't know."
He became the boon companion and playmate of little Susy, then not quite
a year and a half old. He called her Megalopis, a Greek term, suggested
by her eyes; those deep, burning eyes that seemed always so full of
life's sadder philosophies, and impending tragedy. In a collection of
Dr. Brown's letters he refers to this period. In one place he says:
Had the author of The Innocents Abroad not come to Edinburgh at that
time we in all human probability might never have met, and what a
deprivation that would have been to me during the last quarter of a
And in another place:
I am attending the wife of Mark Twain. His real name is Clemens.
She is a quite lovely little woman, modest and clever, and she has a
girlie eighteen months old, her ludicrous miniature--and such eyes!
Those playmates, the good doctor and Megalopis, romped together through
the hotel rooms with that complete abandon which few grown persons can
assume in their play with children, and not all children can assume in
their play with grown-ups. They played "bear," and the "bear" (which was
a very little one, so little that when it stood up behind the sofa you
could just get a glimpse of yellow hair) would lie in wait for her
victim, and spring out and surprise him and throw him into frenzies of
Almost every day they made his professional rounds with him. He always
carried a basket of grapes for his patients. His guests brought along
books to read while they waited. When he stopped for a call he would
"Entertain yourselves while I go in and reduce the population."
There was much sight-seeing to do in Edinburgh, and they could not quite
escape social affairs. There were teas and luncheons and dinners with
the Dunfermlines and the Abercrombies, and the MacDonalds, and with
others of those brave clans that no longer slew one another among the
grim northern crags and glens, but were as sociable and entertaining
lords and ladies as ever the southland could produce. They were very
gentle folk indeed, and Mrs. Clemens, in future years, found her heart
going back oftener to Edinburgh than to any other haven of those first
wanderings. August 24th she wrote to her sister:
We leave Edinburgh to-morrow with sincere regret; we have had such a
delightful stay here--we do so regret leaving Dr. Brown and his
sister, thinking that we shall probably never see them again [as
indeed they never did].
They spent a day or two at Glasgow and sailed for Ireland, where they put
in a fortnight, and early in September were back in England again, at
Chester, that queer old city where; from a tower on the wall, Charles I.
read the story of his doom. Reginald Cholmondeley had invited them to
visit his country seat, beautiful Condover Hall, near Shrewsbury, and in
that lovely retreat they spent some happy, restful days. Then they were
in the whirl of London once more, but escaped for a fortnight to Paris,
sight-seeing and making purchases for the new home.
Mrs. Clemens was quite ready to return to America, by this time.
I am blue and cross and homesick [she wrote]. I suppose what makes
me feel the latter is because we are contemplating to stay in London
another month. There has not one sheet of Mr. Clemens's proof come
yet, and if he goes home before the book is published here he will
lose his copyright. And then his friends feel that it will be
better for him to lecture in London before his book is published,
not only that it will give him a larger but a more enviable
reputation. I would not hesitate one moment if it were simply for
the money that his copyright will bring him, but if his reputation
will be better for his staying and lecturing, of course he ought to
stay.... The truth is, I can't bear the thought of postponing going
It is rather gratifying to find Olivia Clemens human, like that, now and
then. Otherwise, on general testimony, one might well be tempted to
regard her as altogether of another race and kind.
A LONDON LECTURE
Clemens concluded to hasten the homeward journey, but to lecture a few
nights in London before starting. He would then accompany his little
family home, and return at once to continue the lecture series and
protect his copyright. This plan was carried out. In a communication to
the Standard, October 7th, he said:
SIR,--In view of the prevailing frenzy concerning the Sandwich
Islands, and the inflamed desire of the public to acquire
information concerning them, I have thought it well to tarry yet
another week in England and deliver a lecture upon this absorbing
subject. And lest it should be thought unbecoming in me, a
stranger, to come to the public rescue at such a time, instead of
leaving to abler hands a matter of so much moment, I desire to
explain that I do it with the best motives and the most honorable
intentions. I do it because I am convinced that no one can allay
this unwholesome excitement as effectually as I can, and to allay
it, and allay it as quickly as possible, is surely one thing that is
absolutely necessary at this juncture. I feel and know that I am
equal to this task, for I can allay any kind of an excitement by
lecturing upon it. I have saved many communities in this way. I
have always been able to paralyze the public interest in any topic
that I chose to take hold of and elucidate with all my strength.
Hoping that this explanation will show that if I am seeming to
intrude I am at least doing it from a high impulse, I am, sir, your
A day later the following announcement appeared:
QUEEN'S CONCERT ROOMS,
MR. GEORGE DOLBY begs to announce that
MR. MARK TWAIN
WILL DELIVER A
AS ABOVE, ON
MONDAY EVENING NEXT, OCTOBER 13th, 1873,
AND REPEAT IT IN THE SAME PLACE, ON
TUESDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 14th,
WEDNESDAY " " 15th,
THURSDAY " " 16th,
FRIDAY " " 17th,
At Eight o'Clock,
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, OCTOBER 18th,
At Three o'Clock.
"Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands."
As Mr. TWAIN has spent several months in these Islands, and is well
acquainted with his subject, the Lecture may be expected to furnish
matter of interest.
STALLS, 5s. UNRESERVED SEATS, 3s.
The prospect of a lecture from Mark Twain interested the London public.
Those who had not seen him were willing to pay even for that privilege.
The papers were encouraging; Punch sounded a characteristic note:
WELCOME TO A LECTURER
"'Tis time we Twain did show ourselves." 'Twas said
By Caesar, when one Mark had lost his head:
By Mark, whose head's quite bright, 'tis said again:
Therefore, "go with me, friends, to bless this Twain."
Dolby had managed the Dickens lectures, and he proved his sound business
judgment and experience by taking the largest available hall in London
for Mark Twain.
On the evening of October 13th, in the spacious Queen's Concert Rooms,
Hanover Square, Mark Twain delivered his first public address in England.
The subject was "Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands," the old
lecture with which he had made his first great successes. He was not
introduced. He appeared on the platform in evening dress, assuming the
character of a manager announcing a disappointment.
Mr. Clemens, he said, had fully expected to be present. He paused and
loud murmurs arose from the audience. He lifted his hand and they
subsided. Then he added, "I am happy to say that Mark Twain is present,
and will now give his lecture." Whereupon the audience roared its
It would be hardly an exaggeration to say that his triumph that week was
a regal one. For five successive nights and a Saturday matinee the
culture and fashion of London thronged to hear him discourse of their
"fellow savages." It was a lecture event wholly without precedent. The
lectures of Artemus Ward,--["Artemus the delicious," as Charles Reade
called him, came to London in June, 1866, and gave his "piece" in
Egyptian Hall. The refined, delicate, intellectual countenance, the
sweet, gave, mouth, from which one might have expected philosophical
lectures retained their seriousness while listeners were convulsed with
laughter. There was something magical about it. Every sentence was a
surprise. He played on his audience as Liszt did on a piano most easily
when most effectively. Who can ever forget his attempt to stop his
Italian pianist-" a count in his own country, but not much account in
this "-who went on playing loudly while he was trying to tell us an
"affecting incident" that occurred near a small clump of trees shown on
his panorama of the Far West. The music stormed on-we could see only
lips and arms pathetically moving till the piano suddenly ceased, and we
heard-it was all we heard "and, she fainted in Reginald's arms." His
tricks have been at tempted in many theaters, but Artemus Ward was
inimitable. And all the time the man was dying. (Moneure D. Conway,
Autobiography.)]--who had quickly become a favorite in London, had
prepared the public for American platform humor, while the daily doings
of this new American product, as reported by the press, had aroused
interest, or curiosity, to a high pitch. On no occasion in his own
country had he won such a complete triumph. The papers for a week
devoted columns of space to appreciation and editorial comment. The
Daily News of October 17th published a column-and-a-half editorial on
American humor, with Mark Twain's public appearance as the general text.
The Times referred to the continued popularity of the lectures:
They can't be said to have more than whetted the public appetite, if
we are to take the fact which has been imparted to us, that the
holding capacity of the Hanover Square Rooms has been inadequate to
the demand made upon it every night by Twain's lecturing, as a
criterion. The last lecture of this too brief course was delivered
yesterday before an audience which crammed to discomfort every part
of the principal apartment of the Hanover Square Rooms....
At the close of yesterday's lecture Mark Twain was so loudly applauded
that he returned to the stage, and, as soon as the audience gave him a
chance of being heard, he said, with much apparent emotion:
"Ladies and Gentlemen,--I won't keep you one single moment in this
suffocating atmosphere. I simply wish to say that this is the last
lecture I shall have the honor to deliver in London until I return
from America, four weeks from now. I only wish to say (here Mr.
Clemens faltered as if too much affected to proceed) I am very
grateful. I do not wish to appear pathetic, but it is something
magnificent for a stranger to come to the metropolis of the world
and be received so handsomely as I have been. I simply thank you."
The Saturday Review devoted a page, and Once a Week, under the head of
"Cracking jokes," gave three pages, to praise of the literary and lecture
methods of the new American humorist. With the promise of speedy return,
he left London, gave the lecture once in Liverpool, and with his party
(October 21st) set sail for home.
In mid-Atlantic he remembered Dr. Brown, and wrote him:
We have plowed a long way over the sea, and there's twenty-two
hundred miles of restless water between us now, besides the railway
stretch. And yet you are so present with us, so close to us, that a
span and a whisper would bridge the distance.
So it would seem that of all the many memories of that eventful half-
year, that of Dr. Brown was the most present, the most tender.
FURTHER LONDON LECTURE TRIUMPHS
Orion Clemens records that he met "Sam and Livy" on their arrival from
England, November 2d, and that the president of the Mercantile Library
Association sent up his card "four times," in the hope of getting a
chance to propose a lecture engagement--an incident which impressed Orion
deeply in its evidence of his brother's towering importance. Orion
himself was by this time engaged in various projects. He was inventing a
flying-machine, for one thing, writing a Jules Verne story, reading proof
on a New York daily, and contemplating the lecture field. This great
blaze of international appreciation which had come to the little boy who
used to set type for him in Hannibal, and wash up the forms and cry over
the dirty proof, made him gasp.
They went to see Booth in Hamlet [he says], and Booth sent for Sam to
come behind the scenes, and when Sam proposed to add a part to Hamlet,
the part of a bystander who makes humorous modern comment on the
situations in the play, Booth laughed immoderately.
Proposing a sacrilege like that to Booth! To what heights had this
printer-pilot, miner-brother not attained!--[This idea of introducing a
new character in Hamlet was really attempted later by Mark Twain, with
the connivance of Joe Goodman [of all men], sad to relate. So far as is
known it is the one stain on Goodman's literary record.]
Clemens returned immediately to England--the following Saturday, in fact
--and was back in London lecturing again after barely a month's absence.
He gave the "Roughing It" address, this time under the title of "Roughing
It on the Silver Frontier," and if his audiences were any less
enthusiastic, or his houses less crowded than before, the newspapers of
that day have left no record of it. It was the height of the season now,
and being free to do so, he threw himself into the whirl of it, and for
two months, beyond doubt, was the most talked-of figure in London. The
Athenaeum Club made him a visiting member (an honor considered next to
knighthood); Punch quoted him; societies banqueted him; his apartments,
as before; were besieged by callers. Afternoons one was likely to find
him in "Poets' Corner" of the Langham smoking-room, with a group of
London and American authors--Reade, Collins, Miller, and the others--
frankly rioting in his bold fancies. Charles Warren Stoddard was in
London at the time, and acted as his secretary. Stoddard was a gentle
poet, a delightful fellow, and Clemens was very fond of him. His only
complaint of Stoddard was that he did not laugh enough at his humorous
yarns. Clemens once said:
"Dolby and I used to come in after the lecture, or perhaps after being
out to some dinner, and we liked to sit down and talk it over and tell
yarns, and we expected Stoddard to laugh at them, but Stoddard would lie
there on the couch and snore. Otherwise, as a secretary, he was
The great Tichborne trial was in progress then, and the spectacle of an
illiterate impostor trying to establish his claim as the rightful heir to
a great estate was highly diverting to Mark Twain.--[In a letter of this
period he speaks of having attended one of the Claimant's "Evenings."]--
He wanted to preserve the evidence as future literary material, and
Stoddard day after day patiently collected the news reports and neatly
pasted them into scrap-books, where they still rest, a complete record of
that now forgotten farce. The Tichborne trial recalled to Mark Twain the
claimant in the Lampton family, who from time to time wrote him long
letters, urging him to join in the effort to establish his rights to the
earldom of Durham. This American claimant was a distant cousin, who had
"somehow gotten hold of, or had fabricated a full set of documents."
Colonel Henry Watterson, just quoted (also a Lampton connection), adds:
During the Tichborne trial Mark and I were in London, and one day he
said to me: "I have investigated this Durham business down at the
Herald's office. There is nothing to it. The Lamptons passed out
of the earldom of Durham a hundred years ago. There were never any
estates; the title lapsed; the present earldom is a new creation,
not in the same family at all. But I'll tell you what: if you'll
put up $500, I'll put up $500 more; we'll bring our chap over here
and set him in as claimant, and, my word for it, Kenealy's fat boy
won't be a marker to him."
It was a characteristic Mark Twain project, one of the sort he never
earned out in reality, but loved to follow in fancy, and with the pen
sometimes. The "Rightful Earl of Durham" continued to send letters for a
long time after that (some of them still exist), but he did not establish
his claim. No one but Mark Twain ever really got anything out of it.
Like the Tennessee land, it furnished material by and by for a book.
Colonel Watterson goes on to say that Clemens was only joking about
having looked up the matter in the peerage; that he hadn't really looked
it up at all, and that the earldom lies still in the Lampton family.
Another of Clemens's friends in London at this time was Prentice Mulford,
of California. In later years Mulford acquired a wide reputation for his
optimistic and practical psychologies. Through them he lifted himself
out of the slough of despond, and he sought to extend a helping hand to
others. His "White Cross Library" had a wide reading and a wide
influence; perhaps has to this day. But in 1873 Mulford had not found
the tangibility of thought, the secret of strength; he was only finding
it, maybe, in his frank acknowledgment of shortcoming:
Now, Mark, I am down-very much down at present; you are up-where you
deserve to be. I can't ask this on the score of any past favors,
for there have been none. I have not always spoken of you in terms
of extravagant praise; have sometimes criticized you, which was due,
I suppose, in part to an envious spirit. I am simply human. Some
people in the same profession say they entertain no jealousy of
those more successful. I can't. They are divine; I am not.
It was only that he wished Clemens to speak a word for him to Routledge,