Part 3 out of 5
neither of them found such things especially attractive in those days, so
they remained more and more in their own environment. There is an
anecdote which seems to belong here.
One Sunday morning Clemens noticed smoke pouring from the upper window of
the house across the street. The owner and his wife, comparatively
newcomers, were seated upon the veranda, evidently not aware of impending
danger. The Clemens household thus far had delayed calling on them, but
Clemens himself now stepped briskly across the street. Bowing with
leisurely politeness, he said:
"My name is Clemens; we ought to have called on you before, and I beg
your pardon for intruding now in this informal way, but your house is on
Almost the only intimate friends they had in Buffalo were in the family
of David Gray, the poet-editor of the Courier. Gray was a gentle,
lovable man. "The gentlest spirit and the loveliest that ever went
clothed in clay, since Sir Galahad laid him to rest," Mark Twain once
said of him. Both Gray and Clemens were friends of John Hay, and their
families soon became intimate. Perhaps, in time, the Clemens household
would have found other as good friends in the Buffalo circles; but heavy
clouds that had lain unseen just beyond the horizon during those earlier
months of marriage rose suddenly into view, and the social life, whatever
it might have become, was no longer a consideration.
THE OLD HUMAN STORY
Jervis Langdon was never able to accept his son-in-law's invitation to
the new home. His health began to fail that spring, and at the end of
March, with his physician and Mrs. Langdon, he made a trip to the South.
In a letter written at Richmond he said, "I have thrown off all care,"
and named a list of the four great interests in which he was involved.
Under "number 5," he included "everything," adding, "so you see how good
I am to follow the counsel of my children." He closed: "Samuel, I love
your wife and she loves me. I think it is only fair that you should know
it, but you need not flare up. I loved her before you did, and she loved
me before she did you, and has not ceased since. I see no way but for
you to make the most of it." He was already a very ill man, and this
cheerful letter was among the last he ever wrote.
He was absent six weeks and seemed to improve, but suffered an attack
early in May; in June his condition became critical. Clemens and his
wife were summoned to Elmira, and joined in the nursing, day and night.
Clemens surprised every one by his ability as a nurse. His delicacy and
thoughtfulness were unfailing; his original ways of doing things always
amused and interested the patient. In later years Mark Twain once said:
"How much of the nursing did I do? My main watch was from midnight
to four in the morning, nearly four hours. My other watch was a
midday watch, and I think it was nearly three hours. The two
sisters divided the remaining seventeen hours of the twenty-four
hours between them, and each of them tried generously and
persistently to swindle the other out of a part of her watch. I
went to bed early every night, and tried to get sleep enough by
midnight to fit me for my work, but it was always a failure. I went
on watch sleepy and remained miserable, sleepy, and wretched,
straight along through the four hours. I can still see myself
sitting by that bed in the melancholy stillness of the sweltering
night, mechanically waving a palm-leaf fan over the drawn, white
face of the patient. I can still recall my noddings, my fleeting
unconsciousness, when the fan would come to a standstill in my hand,
and I woke up with a start and a hideous shock. During all that
dreary time I began to watch for the dawn long before it came. When
the first faint gray showed through the window-blinds I felt as no
doubt a castaway feels when the dim threads of the looked-for ship
appear against the sky. I was well and strong, but I was a man,
afflicted with a man's infirmity--lack of endurance."
He always dealt with himself in this unsparing way; but those who were
about him then have left a different story.
It was all without avail. Mr. Langdon rallied, and early in July there
was hope for his recovery. He failed again, and on the afternoon of the
6th of August he died. To Mrs. Clemens, delicate and greatly worn with
the anxiety and strain of watching, the blow was a crushing one. It was
the beginning of a series of disasters which would mark the entire
remaining period of their Buffalo residence.
There had been a partial plan for spending the summer in England, and a
more definite one for joining the Twichells in the Adirondacks. Both of
these projects were now abandoned. Mrs. Clemens concluded that she would
be better at home than anywhere else, and invited an old school friend, a
Miss Emma Nye, to visit her.
But the shadow of death had not been lifted from the Clemens household.
Miss Nye presently fell ill with typhoid fever. There followed another
long period of anxiety and nursing, ending with the death of the visitor
in the new home, September 29th. The young wife was now in very delicate
health; genuinely ill, in fact. The happy home had become a place of
sorrow-of troubled nights and days. Another friend came to cheer them,
and on this friend's departure Mrs. Clemens drove to the railway station.
It was a hurried trip over rough streets to catch the train. She was
prostrated on her return, and a little later, November 7, 1870, her first
child, Langdon, was prematurely born. A dangerous illness followed, and
complete recovery was long delayed. But on the 12th the crisis seemed
passed, and the new father wrote a playful letter to the Twichells, as
coming from the late arrival:
DEAR UNCLE AND AUNT,--I came into the world on the 7th inst., and
consequently am about five days old now. I have had wretched health
ever since I made my appearance . . . I am not corpulent, nor am
I robust in any way. At birth I only weighed four and one-half
pounds with my clothes on--and the clothes were the chief feature of
the weight, too, I am obliged to confess, but I am doing finely, all
things considered . . . . My little mother is very bright and
cheery, and I guess she is pretty happy, but I don't know what
about. She laughs a great deal, notwithstanding she is sick abed.
P. S.--Father says I had better write because you will be more
interested in me, just now, than in the rest of the family.
A week later Clemens, as himself, wrote:
Livy is up and the prince keeps her busy and anxious these latter
days and nights, but I am a bachelor up-stairs and don't have to
jump up and get the soothing sirup, though I would as soon do it as
not, I assure you. (Livy will be certain to read this letter.)
Tell Harmony that I do hold the baby, and do it pretty handily too,
though with occasional apprehensions that his loose head will fall
off. I don't have to quiet him; he hardly ever utters a cry. He is
always thinking about something. He is a patient, good little baby.
Further along he refers to one of his reforms:
Smoke? I always smoke from three till five on Sunday afternoons,
and in New York, the other day, I smoked a week, day and night. But
when Livy is well I smoke only those two hours on Sunday. I'm boss
of the habit now, and shall never let it boss me any more.
Originally I quit solely on Livy's account (not that I believed
there was the faintest reason in the matter, but just as I would
deprive myself of sugar in my coffee if she wished it, or quit
wearing socks if she thought them immoral), and I stick to it yet on
Livy's account, and shall always continue to do so without a pang.
But somehow it seems a pity that you quit, for Mrs. T. didn't mind
it, if I remember rightly. Ah, it is turning one's back upon a
kindly Providence to spurn away from us the good creature he sent to
make the breath of life a luxury as well as a necessity, enjoyable
as well as useful. To go quit smoking, when there ain't any
sufficient excuse for it!--why, my old boy, when they used to tell
me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew
the devotee they were wasting their puerile words upon; they little
knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no
smoking in it! But I won't persuade you, Twichell--I won't until I
see you again--but then we'll smoke for a week together, and then
shut off again.
The success of the Innocents naturally made a thrifty publisher like
Bliss anxious for a second experiment. He had begun early in the year to
talk about another book, but nothing had come of it beyond a project or
two, more or less hazy and unpursued. Clemens at one time developed a
plan for a Noah's Ark book, which was to detail the cruise of the Ark in
diaries kept by various members of it-Shem, Ham, and the others. He
really wrote some of it at the time, and it was an idea he never entirely
lost track of. All along among his manuscripts appear fragments from
those ancient voyagers. One of the earlier entries will show the style
and purpose of the undertaking. It is from Shem's record:
Friday: Papa's birthday. He is 600 years old. We celebrated it in
a big, black tent. Principal men of the tribe present. Afterward
they were shown over the ark, which was looking desolate and empty
and dreary on account of a misunderstanding with the workmen about
wages. Methuselah was as free with his criticisms as usual, and as
voluble and familiar, which I and my brothers do not like; for we
are past our one hundredth year and married. He still calls me
Shemmy, just as he did when I was a child of sixty. I am still but
a youth, it is true, but youth has its feelings, and I do not like
this . . . .
Saturday: Keeping the Sabbath.
Sunday: Papa has yielded the advance and everybody is hard at work.
The shipyard is so crowded that the men hinder each other; everybody
hurrying or being hurried; the rush and confusion and shouting and
wrangling are astonishing to our family, who have always been used
to a quiet, country life.
It was from this germ that in a later day grew the diaries of Adam and
Eve, though nothing very satisfactory ever came of this preliminary
attempt. The author had faith in it, however. To Bliss he wrote:
I mean to take plenty of time and pains with the Noah's Ark book;
maybe it will be several years before it is all written, but it will
be a perfect lightning striker when it is done.
You can have the first say (that is plain enough) on that or any
other book I may prepare for the press, as long as you deal in a
fair, open, and honorable way with me. I do not think you will ever
find me doing otherwise with you. I can get a book ready for you
any time you want it; but you can't want one before this time next
year, so I have plenty of time.
Bliss was only temporarily appeased. He realized that to get a book
ready by the time he wanted it-a book of sufficient size and importance
to maintain the pace set by the Innocents meant rather more immediate
action than his author seemed to contemplate. Futhermore, he knew that
other publishers were besieging the author of the Innocents; a
disquieting thought. In early July, when Mr. Langdon's condition had
temporarily improved, Bliss had come to Elmira and proposed a book which
should relate the author's travels and experiences in the Far West. It
was an inviting subject, and Clemens, by this time more attracted by the
idea of authorship and its rewards, readily enough agreed to undertake
the volume. He had been offered half profits, and suggested that the new
contract be arranged upon these terms. Bliss, figuring on a sale of
100,000 copies, proposed seven and one-half per cent. royalty as an
equivalent, and the contract was so arranged. In after-years, when the
cost of manufacture and paper had become greatly reduced, Clemens, with
but a confused notion of business details, believed he had been misled by
Bliss in this contract, and was bitter and resentful accordingly. The
figures remain, however, to show that Bliss dealt fairly. Seven and one-
half per cent. of a subscription book did represent half profits up to
100,000 copies when the contract was drawn; but it required ten years to
sell that quantity, and in that time conditions had changed. Bliss could
hardly foresee that these things would be so, and as he was dead when the
book touched the 100,000 mark he could not explain or readjust matters,
whatever might have been his inclination.
Clemens was pleased enough with the contract when it was made. To Orion
he wrote July 15 (1870):
Per contract I must have another six-hundred-page book ready for my
publisher January 1st, and I only began it to-day. The subject of
it is a secret, because I may possibly change it. But as it stands
I propose to do up Nevada and California, beginning with the trip
across the country in the stage. Have you a memorandum of the route
we took, or the names of any of the stations we stopped at? Do you
remember any of the scenes, names, incidents, or adventures of the
coach trip?--for I remember next to nothing about the matter. Jot
down a foolscap page of items for me. I wish I could have two days'
talk with you.
I suppose I am to get the biggest copyright this time ever paid on a
subscription book in this country.
The work so promptly begun made little progress. Hard days of illness
and sorrow followed, and it was not until September that it was really
under way. His natural enthusiasm over any new undertaking possessed
him. On the 4th he wrote Bliss:
During the past week I have written the first four chapters of the book,
and I tell you 'The Innocents Abroad' will have to get up early to beat
it. It will be a book that will jump straight into continental celebrity
the first month it is issued.
He prophesied a sale of 90,000 copies during the first twelve months and
declared, "I see the capabilities of the subject."
But further disasters, even then impending, made continued effort
impossible; the prospect of the new book for a time became gloomy, the
idea of it less inspiring. Other plans presented themselves, and at one
time he thought of letting the Galaxy publishers get out a volume of his
sketches. In October he wrote Bliss that he was "driveling along
tolerably fair on the book, getting off from twelve to twenty pages of
manuscript a day." Bliss naturally discouraged the Galaxy idea, and
realizing that the new book might be long delayed, agreed to get out a
volume of miscellany sufficiently large and important for subscription
sales. He was doubtful of the wisdom of this plan, and when Clemens
suddenly proposed a brand-new scheme his publisher very readily agreed to
hold back the publication of Sketches indefinitely.
The new book was to be adventures in the diamond mines of South Africa,
then newly opened and of wide public interest. Clemens did not propose
to visit the mines himself, but to let another man do the traveling, make
the notes, and write or tell him the story, after which Clemens would
enlarge and elaborate it in his own fashion. His adaptation of the
letters of Professor Ford, a year earlier, had convinced him that his
plan would work out successfully on a larger scale; he fixed upon his old
friend, J. H. Riley, of Washington--["Riley-Newspaper Correspondent."
See Sketches.]--(earlier of San Francisco), as the proper person to do
the traveling. At the end of November he wrote Bliss:
I have put my greedy hands upon the best man in America for my
purpose, and shall start him to the diamond field in South Africa
within a fortnight at my expense . . . that the book will have a
perfectly beautiful sale.
He suggested that Bliss advance Riley's expense money, the amount to be
deducted from the first royalty returns; also he proposed an increased
royalty, probably in view of the startling splendor of the new idea.
Bliss was duly impressed, and the agreement was finally made on a basis
of eight and one-half per cent., with an advance of royalty sufficient to
see Riley to South Africa and return.
Clemens had not yet heard from Riley definitely when he wrote his glowing
letter to Bliss. He took it for granted that Riley, always an
adventurous sort, would go. When Riley wrote him that he felt morally
bound to the Alta, of which he was then Washington correspondent, also in
certain other directions till the end of the session, Clemens wrote him
at great length, detailing his scheme in full and urging him to write
instantly to the Alta and others, asking a release on the ground of being
offered a rare opportunity to improve his fortunes.
You know right well that I would not have you depart a hair from any
obligation for any money. The, boundless confidence that I have in you
is born of a conviction of your integrity in small as well as in great
things. I know plenty of men whose integrity I would trust to here, but
not off yonder in Africa.
His proposal, in brief, to Riley was that the latter should make the trip
to Africa without expense to himself, collect memoranda, and such diamond
mines as might be found lying about handy. Upon his return he was to
take up temporary residence in the Clemens household until the book was
finished, after which large benefits were to accrue to everybody
concerned. In the end Riley obtained a release from his obligations and
was off for the diamond mines and fortune.
Poor fellow! He was faithful in his mission, and it is said that he
really located a mining claim that would have made him and his
independent for all time to come; but returning home with his precious
memoranda and the news of good fortune, he accidentally wounded himself
with a fork while eating; blood-poisoning set in (they called it cancer
then), and he was only able to get home to die. His memoranda were never
used, his mining claim was never identified. Certainly, death was
closely associated with Mark Twain's fortunes during those earlier days
of his married life.
On the whole the Buffalo residence was mainly a gloomy one; its ventures
were attended by ill-fortune. For some reason Mark Twain's connection
with the Express, while it had given the paper a wide reputation, had not
largely increased its subscription. Perhaps his work on it was too
varied and erratic. Nasby, who had popularized the Toledo Blade, kept
steadily to one line. His farmer public knew always just what to expect
when their weekly edition arrived.
Clemens and his wife dreamed of a new habitation, and new faces and
surroundings. They agreed to offer their home and his interests in the
Express for sale. They began to talk of Hartford, where Twichell lived,
and where Orion Clemens and his wife had recently located.
Mark Twain's new fortunes had wrought changes in the affairs of his
relatives. Already, before his marriage, he had prospected towns here
and there with a view to finding an Eastern residence for his mother and
sister, and he had kept Orion's welfare always in mind. When Pamela and
her daughter came to his wedding he told them of a little city by the
name of Fredonia (New York), not far from Buffalo, where he thought they
might find a pleasant home.
"I went in there by night and out by night," he said, "so I saw none of
it, but I had an intelligent, attractive audience. Prospect Fredonia and
let me know what it is like. Try to select a place where a good many
funerals pass. Ma likes funerals. If you can pick a good funeral corner
she will be happy."
It was in her later life that Jane Clemens had developed this particular
passion. She would consult the morning paper for any notice of obsequies
and attend those that were easy of access. Watching the processions go
by gave her a peculiar joy. Mrs. Moffett and her daughter did go to
Fredonia immediately following the wedding. They found it residentially
attractive, and rented a house before returning to St. Louis, a
promptness that somewhat alarmed the old lady, who did not altogether
fancy the idea of being suddenly set down in a strange house, in a
strange land, even though it would be within hailing distance of Sam and
his new wife. Perhaps the Fredonia funerals were sufficiently numerous
and attractive, for she soon became attached to the place, and entered
into the spirit of the life there, joining its temperance crusades, and
the like, with zest and enjoyment.
Onion remained in St. Louis, but when Bliss established a paper called
The Publisher, and wanted an editor, he was chosen for the place,
originally offered to his brother; the latter, writing to Onion, said:
If you take the place with an air of perfect confidence in yourself,
never once letting anything show in your bearing but a quiet, modest,
entire, and perfect confidence in your ability to do pretty much anything
in the world, Bliss will think you are the very man he needs; but don't
show any shadow of timidity or unsoldierly diffidence, for that sort of
thing is fatal to advancement.
I warn you thus because you are naturally given to knocking your pot over
in this way, when a little judicious conduct would make it boil.
SOME FURTHER LITERARY MATTERS
Meantime The Innocents Abroad had continued to prosper. Its author
ranked mainly as a humorist, but of such colossal proportions that his
contemporaries had seemed to dwindle; the mighty note of the "Frog of
Calaveras" had dwarfed a score of smaller peepers. At the end of a year
from its date of publication the book had sold up to 67,000 and was
continuing at the rate of several thousand monthly.
"You are running it in staving, tiptop, first-class style," Clemens wrote
to Bliss. "On the average ten people a day come and hunt me up to tell
me I am a benefactor! I guess that is a part of the program we didn't
expect, in the first place."
Apparently the book appealed to readers of every grade. One hundred and
fifteen copies were in constant circulation at the Mercantile Library, in
New York, while in the most remote cabins of America it was read and
quoted. Jack Van Nostrand, making a long horseback tour of Colorado,
I stopped a week ago in a ranch but a hundred miles from nowhere. The
occupant had just two books: the Bible and The Innocents Abroad--the
former in good repair.
Across the ocean the book had found no less favor, and was being
translated into many and strange tongues. By what seems now some
veritable magic its author's fame had become literally universal. The
consul at Hongkong, discussing English literature with a Chinese
acquaintance, a mandarin, mentioned The Pilgrim's Progress.
"Yes, indeed, I have read it!" the mandarin said, eagerly. "We are
enjoying it in China, and shall have it soon in our own language. It is
by Mark Twain."
In England the book had an amazing vogue from the beginning, and English
readers were endeavoring to outdo the Americans in appreciation. Indeed,
as a rule, English readers of culture, critical readers, rose to an
understanding of Mark Twain's literary value with greater promptness than
did the same class of readers at home. There were exceptions, of course.
There were English critics who did not take Mark Twain seriously, there
were American critics who did. Among the latter was a certain William
Ward, an editor of a paper down in Macon, Georgia--The Beacon. Ward did
not hold a place with the great magazine arbiters of literary rank. He
was only an obscure country editor, but he wrote like a prophet. His
article--too long to quote in full--concerned American humorists in
general, from Washington Irving, through John Phoenix, Philander
Doesticks, Sut Lovingwood, Artemus Ward, Josh Billings and Petroleum V.
Nasby, down to Mark Twain. With the exception of the first and last
named he says of them:
They have all had, or will have, their day. Some of them are
resting beneath the sod, and others still live whose work will
scarcely survive them. Since Irving no humorist in prose has held
the foundation of a permanent fame except it be Mark Twain, and
this, as in the case of Irving, is because he is a pure writer.
Aside from any subtle mirth that lurks through his composition, the
grace and finish of his more didactic and descriptive sentences
indicate more than mediocrity.
The writer then refers to Mark Twain's description of the Sphinx,
comparing it with Bulwer's, which he thinks may have influenced it. He
was mistaken in this, for Clemens had not read Bulwer--never could read
him at any length.
Of the English opinions, that of The Saturday Review was perhaps most
doubtful. It came along late in 1870, and would hardly be worth
recalling if it were not for a resulting, or collateral, interest.
Clemens saw notice of this review before he saw the review itself. A
paragraph in the Boston Advertiser spoke of The Saturday Review as
treating the absurdities of the Innocents from a serious standpoint. The
We can imagine the delight of the humorist in reading this tribute
to his power; and indeed it is so amusing in itself that he can
hardly do better than reproduce the article in full in his next
The old temptation to hoax his readers prompted Mark Twain to "reproduce"
in the Galaxy, not the Review article, which he had not yet seen, but an
imaginary Review article, an article in which the imaginary reviewer
would be utterly devoid of any sense of humor and treat the most absurd
incidents of The New Pilgrim's Progress as if set down by the author in
solemn and serious earnest. The pretended review began:
Lord Macaulay died too soon. We never felt this so deeply as when
we finished the last chapter of the above-named extravagant work.
Macaulay died too soon; for none but he could mete out complete and
comprehensive justice to the insolence, the impudence, the
presumption, the mendacity, and, above all, the majestic ignorance
of this author.
The review goes on to cite cases of the author's gross deception. It
Let the cultivated English student of human nature picture to
himself this Mark Twain as a person capable of doing the following
described things; and not only doing them, but, with incredible
innocence, printing them tranquilly and calmly in a book. For
He states that he entered a hair-dresser's in Paris to get a shave,
and the first "rake" the barber gave him with his razor it loosened
his "hide," and lifted him out of the chair.
This is unquestionably extravagant. In Florence he was so annoyed
by beggars that he pretends to have seized and eaten one in a
frantic spirit of revenge. There is, of course, no truth in this.
He gives at full length the theatrical program, seventeen or
eighteen hundred years old, which he professes to have found in the
ruins of the Colosseum, among the dirt-and mold and rubbish. It is
a sufficient comment upon this subject to remark that even a cast-
iron program would not have lasted so long under the circumstances.
There were two and one-half pages of this really delightful burlesque
which the author had written with huge-enjoyment, partly as a joke on the
Review, partly to trick American editors, who he believed would accept it
as a fresh and startling proof of the traditional English lack of humor.
But, as in the early sage-brush hoaxes, he rather overdid the thing.
Readers and editors readily enough accepted it as genuine, so far as
having come from The Saturday Review; but most of them, regarded it as a
delicious bit of humor which Mark Twain himself had taken seriously, and
was therefore the one sold. This was certainly startling, and by no
means gratifying. In the next issue he undertook that saddest of all
performances with tongue or pen: he explained his joke, and insisted on
the truth of the explanation. Then he said:
If any man doubts my word now I will kill him. No, I will not kill
him; I will win his money. I will bet him twenty to one, and let
any New York publisher hold the stakes, that the statements I have
above made as to the authorship of the article in question are
But the Cincinnati Enquirer persisted in continuing the joke--in "rubbing
it in," as we say now. The Enquirer declared that Mark Twain had been
intensely mortified at having been so badly taken in; that his
explanation in the Galaxy was "ingenious, but unfortunately not true."
The Enquirer maintained that The Saturday Review of October 8, 1870, did
contain the article exactly as printed in the "Memoranda," and advised
Mark Twain to admit that he was sold, and say no more about it.
This was enraging. Mark Twain had his own ideas as to how far a joke
might be carried without violence, and this was a good way beyond the
limits. He denounced the Enquirer's statement as a "pitiful, deliberate
falsehood," in his anger falling into the old-time phrasing of newspaper
editorial abuse. He offered to bet them a thousand dollars in cash
that they could not prove their assertions, and asked pointedly, in
conclusion: "Will they swallow that falsehood ignominiously, or will they
send an agent to the Galaxy office? I think the Cincinnati Enquirer must
be edited by children." He promised that if they did not accept his
financial proposition he would expose them in the next issue.
The incident closed there. He was prevented, by illness in his
household, from contributing to the next issue, and the second issue
following was his final "Memoranda" installment. So the matter perished
and was forgotten. It was his last editorial hoax. Perhaps he concluded
that hoaxes in any form were dangerous playthings; they were too likely
to go off at the wrong end.
It was with the April number (1871) that he concluded his relations with
the Galaxy. In a brief valedictory he gave his reasons:
I have now written for the Galaxy a year. For the last eight
months, with hardly an interval, I have had for my fellows and
comrades, night and day, doctors and watchers of the sick! During
these eight months death has taken two members of my home circle and
malignantly threatened two others. All this I have experienced, yet
all the time have been under contract to furnish "humorous" matter,
once a month, for this magazine. I am speaking the exact truth in
the above details. Please to put yourself in my place and
contemplate the grisly grotesqueness of the situation. I think that
some of the "humor" I have written during this period could have
been injected into a funeral sermon without disturbing the solemnity
of the occasion.
The "Memoranda" will cease permanently with this issue of the
magazine. To be a pirate on a low salary, and with no share in the
profits of the business, used to be my idea of an uncomfortable
occupation, but I have other views now. To be a monthly humorist in
a cheerless time is drearier.
Without doubt he felt a glad relief in being rid of this recurrent,
imperative demand. He wrote to Orion that he had told the Galaxy people
he would not write another article, long or short, for less than $500,
and preferred not to do it at all.
The Galaxy department and the work on the Express were Mark Twain's
farewell to journalism; for the "Memoranda" was essentially journalistic,
almost as much so, and as liberally, as his old-time Enterprise position.
Apparently he wrote with absolute freedom, unhampered by editorial policy
or restriction. The result was not always pleasant, and it was not
always refined. We may be certain that it was because of Mrs. Clemens's
heavy burdens that year, and her consequent inability to exert a
beneficent censorship, that more than one--more than a dozen--of the
"Memoranda" contributions were permitted to see the light of print.
As a whole, the literary result of Mark Twain's Buffalo period does not
reach the high standard of The Innocents Abroad. It was a retrogression
--in some measure a return to his earlier form. It had been done under
pressure, under heavy stress of mind, as he said. Also there was another
reason; neither the subject treated nor the environment of labor had
afforded that lofty inspiration which glorified every step of the Quaker
City journey. Buffalo was a progressive city--a beautiful city, as
American cities go--but it was hardly an inspiring city for literature,
and a dull, dingy newspaper office was far, very far, from the pleasant
decks of the Quaker City, the camp-fires of Syria, the blue sky and sea
of the Medit&ranean.
THE WRITING OF "ROUGHING IT"
The third book published by Mark Twain was not the Western book he was
preparing for Bliss. It was a small volume, issued by Sheldon & Co.,
entitled Mark Twain's Autobiography (Burlesque) and First Romance. The
Romance was the "Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance" which had appeared in
the Express at the beginning of 1870. The burlesque autobiography had
not previously appeared. The two made a thin little book, which, in
addition to its literary features, had running through it a series of
full-page, irrelevant pictures---cartoons of the Erie Railroad Ring,
presented as illustrations of a slightly modified version of "The House
That Jack Built." The "House" was the Erie headquarters, the purpose
being to illustrate the swindling methods of the Ring. The faces of Jay
Gould, James Fisk, Jr., John T. Hoffman, and others of the combination,
are chiefly conspicuous. The publication was not important, from any
standpoint. Literary burlesque is rarely important, and it was far from
Mark Twain's best form of expression. A year or two later he realized
the mistake of this book, bought in the plates and destroyed them.
Meantime the new Western book was at a standstill. To Orion, in March,
I am still nursing Livy night and day. I am nearly worn out. We
shall go to Elmira ten days hence (if Livy can travel on a mattress
then), and stay there until I finish the California book, say three
months. But I can't begin work right away when I get there; must
have a week's rest, for I have been through thirty days' terrific
He promised to forward some of the manuscript soon.
Hold on four or five days and I will see if I can get a few chapters
fixed to send to Bliss . . . .
I have offered this house and the Express for sale, and when we go
to Elmira we leave here for good. I shall not select a new home
till the book is finished, but we have little doubt that Hartford
will be the place.
He disposed of his interest in the Express in April, at a sacrifice of
$10,000 on the purchase price. Mrs. Clemens and the baby were able to
travel, and without further delay he took them to Elmira, to Quarry Farm.
Quarry Farm, the home of Mrs. Clemens's sister, Mrs. Theodore Crane, is a
beautiful hilltop, with a wide green slope, overlooking the hazy city and
the Chemung River, beyond which are the distant hills. It was bought
quite incidentally by Mr. and Mrs. Langdon, who, driving by one evening,
stopped to water the horses and decided that it would make a happy summer
retreat, where the families could combine their housekeeping arrangements
during vacation days. When the place had first been purchased, they had
debated on a name for it. They had tried several, among them "Go-as-you-
please Hall," "Crane's Nest," and had finally agreed upon "Rest and Be
Thankful." But this was only its official name. There was an abandoned
quarry up the hill, a little way from the house, and the title suggested
by Thomas K. Beecher came more naturally to the tongue. The place became
Quarry Farm, and so remains.
Clemens and his wife had fully made up their minds to live in Hartford.
They had both conceived an affection for the place, Clemens mainly
because of Twichell, while both of them yearned for the congenial
literary and social atmosphere, and the welcome which they felt awaited
them. Hartford was precisely what Buffalo in that day was not--a home
for the literary man. It held a distinguished group of writers, most of
whom the Clemenses already knew. Furthermore, with Bliss as publisher of
the Mark Twain books, it held their chief business interests.
Their plans for going were not very definite as to time. Clemens found
that his work went better at the farm, and that Mrs. Clemens and the
delicate baby daily improved. They decided to remain at Quarry Farm for
the summer, their first summer in that beautiful place which would mean
so much to them in the years to come.
It was really Joe Goodman, as much as anything, that stirred a fresh
enthusiasm in the new book. Goodman arrived just when the author's
spirits were at low ebb.
"Joe," he said, "I guess I'm done for. I don't appear to be able to get
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