Part 4 out of 5
Friday. All day no answer--and the ship to leave Southampton next
day at noon. Clara and her mother began packing, to be ready in
case the news should be bad. Finally came a cablegram saying, "Wait
for cablegram in the morning." This was not satisfactory--not
reassuring. I cabled again, asking that the answer be sent to
Southampton, for the day was now closing. I waited in the post-
office that night till the doors were closed, toward midnight, in
the hope that good news might still come, but there was no message.
We sat silent at home till one in the morning waiting--waiting for
we knew not what. Then we took the earlier morning train, and when
we reached Southampton the message was there. It said the recovery
would be long but certain. This was a great relief to me, but not
to my wife. She was frightened. She and Clara went aboard the
steamer at once and sailed for America, to nurse Susy. I remained
behind to search for another and larger house in Guildford.
That was the 15th of August, 1896. Three days later, when my wife
and Clara were about half-way across the ocean, I was standing in
our dining-room, thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram
was put into my hand. It said, "Susy was peacefully released to-
Some of those who in later years wondered at Mark Twain's occasional
attitude of pessimism and bitterness toward all creation, when his
natural instinct lay all the other way, may find here some reasons in his
logic of gloom. For years he and his had been fighting various impending
disasters. In the end he had torn his family apart and set out on a
weary pilgrimage to pay, for long financial unwisdom, a heavy price--a
penance in which all, without complaint, had joined. Now, just when it
seemed about ended, when they were ready to unite and be happy once more,
when he could hold up his head among his fellows--in this moment of
supreme triumph had come the message that Susy's lovely and blameless
life was ended. There are not many greater dramas in fiction or in
history than this. The wonder is not that Mark Twain so often preached
the doctrine of despair during his later life, but that he did not
exemplify it--that he did not become a misanthrope in fact.
Mark Twain's life had contained other tragedies, but no other that
equaled this one. This time none of the elements were lacking--not the
smallest detail. The dead girl had been his heart's pride; it was a year
since he had seen her face, and now by this word he knew that he would
never see it again. The blow had found him alone absolutely alone among
strangers--those others--half-way across the ocean, drawing nearer and
nearer to it, and he with no way to warn them, to prepare them, to
Clemens sought no comfort for himself. Just as nearly forty years before
he had writhed in self-accusation for the death of his younger brother,
and as later he held himself to blame for the death of his infant son, so
now he crucified himself as the slayer of Susy. To Mrs. Clemens he
poured himself out in a letter in which he charged himself categorically
as being wholly and solely responsible for the tragedy, detailing step by
step with fearful reality his mistakes and weaknesses which had led to
their downfall, the separation from Susy, and this final incredible
disaster. Only a human being, he said, could have done these things.
Susy Clemens had died in the old Hartford home. She had been well for a
time at Quarry Farm, well and happy, but during the summer of '96 she had
become restless, nervous, and unlike herself in many ways. Her health
seemed to be gradually failing, and she renewed the old interest in
mental science, always with the approval of her parents. Clemens had
great faith in mind over matter, and Mrs. Clemens also believed that
Susy's high-strung nature was especially calculated to receive benefit
from a serene and confident mental attitude. From Bombay, in January,
she wrote Mrs. Crane:
I am very glad indeed that Susy has taken up Mental Science, and I do
hope it may do her as much good as she hopes. Last winter we were so
very anxious to have her get hold of it, and even felt at one time that
we must go to America on purpose to have her have the treatment, so it
all seems very fortunate that it should have come about as it has this
Just how much or how little Susy was helped by this treatment cannot be
known. Like Stevenson, she had "a soul of flame in a body of gauze," a
body to be guarded through the spirit. She worked continuously at her
singing and undoubtedly overdid herself. Early in the year she went over
to Hartford to pay some good-by visit, remaining most of the time in the
home of Charles Dudley Warner, working hard at her singing. Her health
did not improve, and when Katie Leary went to Hartford to arrange for
their departure she was startled at the change in her.
"Miss Susy; you are sick," she said. "You must have the doctor come."
Susy refused at first, but she grew worse and the doctor was sent for.
He thought her case not very serious--the result, he said, of overwork.
He prescribed some soothing remedies, and advised that she be kept very
quiet, away from company, and that she be taken to her own home, which
was but a step away. It was then that the letter was written and the
first cable sent to England. Mrs. Crane was summoned from Elmira, also
Charles Langdon. Mr. Twichell was notified and came down from his summer
place in the Adirondacks.
Susy did not improve. She became rapidly worse, and a few days later the
doctor pronounced her ailment meningitis. This was on the 15th of
August--that hot, terrible August of 1896. Susy's fever increased and
she wandered through the burning rooms in delirium and pain; then her
sight left her, an effect of the disease. She lay down at last, and
once, when Katie Leary was near her, she put her hands on Katie's face
and said, "mama." She did not speak after that, but sank into
unconsciousness, and on the evening of Tuesday, August 18th, the flame
went out forever.
To Twichell Clemens wrote of it:
Ah, well, Susy died at home. She had that privilege. Her dying
eyes rested upon no thing that was strange to them, but only upon
things which they had known & loved always & which had made her
young years glad; & she had you & Sue & Katie & & John & Ellen.
This was happy fortune--I am thankful that it was vouchsafed to her.
If she had died in another house--well, I think I could not have
borne that. To us our house was not unsentient matter--it had a
heart & a soul & eyes to see us with, & approvals & solicitudes &
deep sympathies; it was of us, & we were in its confidence, & lived
in its grace & in the peace of its benediction. We never came home
from an absence that its face did not light up & speak out its
eloquent welcome--& we could not enter it unmoved. And could we
now? oh, now, in spirit we should enter it unshod.
A tugboat with Dr. Rice, Mr. Twichell, and other friends of the family
went down the bay to meet the arriving vessel with Mrs. Clemens and Clara
on board. It was night when the ship arrived, and they did not show
themselves until morning; then at first to Clara. There had been little
need to formulate a message--their presence there was enough--and when a
moment later Clara returned to the stateroom her mother looked into her
face and she also knew. Susy already had been taken to Elmira, and at
half past ten that night Mrs. Clemens and Clara arrived there by the
through train--the same train and in the same coach which they had taken
one year and one month before on their journey westward around the world.
And again Susy was there, not waving her welcome in the glare of the
lights as she had waved her farewell to us thirteen months before, but
lying white and fair in her coffin in the house where she was born.
They buried her with the Langdon relatives and the little brother, and
ordered a headstone with some lines which they had found in Australia:
Warm summer sun shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind blow softly here;
Green sod above lie light, lie light
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.
--[These lines at first were generally attributed to Clemens himself.
When this was reported to him he ordered the name of the Australian poet,
Robert Richardson, cut beneath them. The word "southern" in the original
read "northern," as in Australia. the warm wind is from the north.
Richardson died in England in 1901.]
WINTER IN TEDWORTH SQUARE
Mrs. Clemens, Clara, and Jean, with Katie Leary, sailed for England
without delay. Arriving there, they gave up the house in Guildford, and
in a secluded corner of Chelsea, on the tiny and then almost unknown
Tedworth Square (No. 23), they hid themselves away for the winter. They
did not wish to be visited; they did not wish their whereabouts known
except to a few of their closest friends. They wanted to be alone with
their sorrow, and not a target for curious attention. Perhaps not a
dozen people in London knew their address and the outside world was
ignorant of it altogether. It was through this that a wild report
started that Mark Twain's family had deserted him--that ill and in
poverty he was laboring alone to pay his debts. This report--exploited
in five-column head-lines by a hyper-hysterical paper of that period
received wide attention.
James Ross Clemens, of the St. Louis branch, a nephew of Frau von Versen,
was in London just then, and wrote at once, through Chatto & Windus,
begging Mark Twain to command his relative's purse. The reply to this
kind offer was an invitation to tea, and "Young Doctor Jim," as he was
called, found his famous relative by no means abandoned or in want, but
in pleasant quarters, with his family still loyal. The general
impression survived, however, that Mark Twain was sorely pressed, and the
New York Herald headed a public benefit fund for the payment of his
debts. The Herald subscribed one thousand dollars on its own account,
and Andrew Carnegie followed with another thousand, but the enterprise
was barely under way when Clemens wrote a characteristic letter, in which
he declared that while he would have welcomed the help offered, being
weary of debt, his family did not wish him to accept and so long as he
was able to take care of them through his own efforts.
Meantime he was back into literary harness; a notebook entry for
October 24, 1896, says:
"Wrote the fist chapter of the book to-day-'Around the World'."
He worked at it uninterruptedly, for in work; there was respite, though
his note-books show something of his mental torture, also his spiritual
heresies. His series of mistakes and misfortunes, ending with the death
of Susy, had tended to solidify his attitude of criticism toward things
in general and the human race in particular.
"Man is the only animal that blushes, or that needs to," was one of his
maxims of this period, and in another place he sets down the myriad
diseases which human flesh is heir to and his contempt for a creature
subject to such afflictions and for a Providence that could invent them.
Even Mrs. Clemens felt the general sorrow of the race. "Poor, poor human
nature," she wrote once during that long, gloomy winter.
Many of Mark Twain's notes refer to Susy. In one he says:
"I did not hear her glorious voice at its supremest--that was in Hartford
a month or two before the end."
Notes of heavy regret most of them are, and self-reproach and the
hopelessness of it all. In one place he records her accomplishment of
"And I felt like saying 'you marvelous child,' but never said it; to my
sorrow I remember it now. But I come of an undemonstrative race."
He wrote to Twichell:
But I have this consolation: that dull as I was I always knew enough
to be proud when she commended me or my work--as proud as if Livy
had done it herself--& I took it as the accolade from the hand of
genius. I see now--as Livy always saw--that she had greatness in
her, & that she herself was dimly conscious of it.
And now she is dead--& I can never tell her.
And closing a letter to Howells:
Good-by. Will healing ever come, or life have value again?
And shall we see Susy? Without doubt! without a shadow of doubt if
it can furnish opportunity to break our hearts again.
On November 26th, Thanksgiving, occurs this note:
"We did not celebrate it. Seven years ago Susy gave her play for
the first time."
And on Christmas:
London, 11.30 Xmas morning. The Square & adjacent streets are not
merely quiet, they are dead. There is not a sound. At intervals a
Sunday-looking person passes along. The family have been to
breakfast. We three sat & talked as usual, but the name of the day
was not mentioned. It was in our minds, but we said nothing.
And a little later:
Since bad luck struck us it is risky for people to have to do with
us. Our cook's sweetheart was healthy. He is rushing for the grave
now. Emily, one of the maids, has lost the sight of one eye and the
other is in danger. Wallace carried up coal & blacked the boots two
months--has suddenly gone to the hospital--pleurisy and a bad case.
We began to allow ourselves to see a good deal of our friends, the
Bigelows--straightway their baby sickened & died. Next Wilson got
his skull fractured.
January 23, 1897. I wish the Lord would disguise Himself in
citizen's clothing & make a personal examination of the sufferings
of the poor in London. He would be moved & would do something for
"PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOAN OF ARC"
Meantime certain publishing events had occurred. During his long voyage
a number of Mark Twain's articles had appeared in the magazines, among
them "Mental Telegraphy Again," in Harpers, and in the North American
Review that scorching reply to Paul Bourget's reflections upon America.
Clemens could criticize his own nation freely enough, but he would hardly
be patient under the strictures of a Frenchman, especially upon American
There had been book publication also during this period. The Harpers had
issued an edition of 'Tom Sawyer Abroad', which included another Tom and
Huck story 'Tom Sawyer, Detective', written in Paris, and the contents of
the old White Elephant book.
But there had been a much more important book event. The chapters of his
story of Joan having run their course in Harper's Magazine had been
issued as a volume.
As already mentioned, Joan had been early recognized as Mark Twain's
work, and it was now formally acknowledged as such on the title-page. It
is not certain now that the anonymous beginning had been a good thing.
Those who began reading it for its lofty charm, with the first hint of
Mark Twain as the author became fearful of some joke or burlesque. Some
who now promptly hastened to read it as Mark Twain's, were inclined to be
disappointed at the very lack of these features. When the book itself
appeared the general public, still doubtful as to its merits, gave it a
somewhat dubious reception. The early sales were disappointing.
Nor were the reviewers enthusiastic, as a rule. Perhaps they did not
read it over-carefully, or perhaps they were swayed a good deal by a sort
of general verdict that, in attempting 'Joan of Arc', Mark Twain had gone
out of his proper field. Furthermore, there were a number of Joan books
published just then, mainly sober, somber books, in which Joan was
pictured properly enough as a saint, and never as anything else--never
being permitted to smile or enjoy the lighter side of life, to be a human
being, in fact, at all.
But this is just the very wonder of Mark Twain's Joan. She is a saint;
she is rare, she is exquisite, she is all that is lovely, and she is a
human being besides. Considered from every point of view, Joan of Arc is
Mark Twain's supreme literary expression, the loftiest, the most
delicate, the most luminous example of his work. It is so from the first
word of its beginning, that wonderful "Translator's Preface," to the last
word of the last chapter, where he declares that the figure of Joan with
the martyr's crown upon her head shall stand for patriotism through all
The idyllic picture of Joan's childhood with her playmates around the
fairy tree is so rare in its delicacy and reality that any attempt to
recall it here would disturb its bloom. The little poem, "L'Arbre fee de
Bourlemont," Mark Twain's own composition, is a perfect note, and that
curiously enough, for in versification he was not likely to be strong.
Joan's girlhood, the picture of her father's humble cottage, the singing
there by the wandering soldier of the great song of Roland which stirred
her deepest soul with the love of France, Joan's heroism among her
playmates, her wisdom, her spiritual ideals-are not these all reverently
and nobly told, and with that touch of tenderness which only Mark Twain
could give? And the story of her voices, and her march, and of her first
appearance before the wavering king. And then the great coronation scene
at Rheims, and the dramatic moment when Joan commands the march on Paris
--the dragging of the hopeless trial, and that last, fearful day of
execution, what can surpass these? Nor must we forget those charming,
brighter moments where Joan is shown just as a human being, laughing
until the tears run at the absurdities of the paladin or the simple home
prattle of her aged father and uncle. Only here and there does one find
a touch--and it is never more than that--of the forbidden thing, the
burlesque note which was so likely to be Mark Twain's undoing.
It seems incredible to-day that any reader, whatever his preconceived
notions of the writer might have been, could have followed these chapters
without realizing their majesty, and that this tale of Joan was a book
such as had not before been written. Let any one who read it then and
doubted, go back and consider it now. A surprise will await him, and it
will be worth while. He will know the true personality of Joan of Arc
more truly than ever before, and he will love her as the author loved
her, for "the most innocent, the most lovely, the most adorable child the
ages have produced."
The tale is matchless in its workmanship. The quaint phrasing of the old
Sieur de Conte is perfectly adapted to the subject-matter, and the lovely
character of the old narrator himself is so perfectly maintained that we
find ourselves all the time as in an atmosphere of consecration, and feel
that somehow we are helping him to weave a garland to lay on Joan's tomb.
Whatever the tale he tells, he is never more than a step away. We are
within sound of his voice, we can touch his presence; we ride with him
into battle; we laugh with him in the by-play and humors of warfare; we
sit hushed at his side through the long, fearful days of the deadly
trial, and when it is all ended it is to him that we turn to weep for
Joan--with him only would we mingle our tears. It is all bathed in the
atmosphere of romance, but it is the ultimate of realism, too; not hard,
sordid, ugly realism, but noble, spiritual, divine realism, belonging to
no particular class or school--a creation apart. Not all of Mark Twain's
tales have been convincing, but there is no chapter of his Joan that we
doubt. We believe it all happened--we know that it must have happened,
for our faith in the Sieur de Conte never for an instant wavers.
Aside from the personality of the book--though, in truth, one never is
aside from it--the tale is a marvel in its pageantry, its splendid
panorama and succession of stirring and stately scenes. The fight before
Orleans, the taking of the Tourelles and of Jargeau, all the movement of
that splendid march to Rheims, there are few better battle-pictures than
these. Howells, always interested mainly in the realism of to-day, in
his review hints at staginess in the action and setting and even in Joan
herself. But Howells himself did not accept his earlier judgment as
final. Five years later he wrote:
"She is indeed realized to the modern sense as few figures of the past
have been realized in fiction."
As for the action, suppose we consider a brief bit of Joan's warfare. It
is from the attack on the Tourelles:
Joan mounted her horse now with her staff about her, and when our
people saw us coming they raised a great shout, and were at once
eager for another assault on the boulevard. Joan rode straight to
the foss where she had received her wound, and, standing there in
the rain of bolts and arrows, she ordered the paladin to let her
long standard blow free, and to note when its fringes should touch
the fortress. Presently he said:
"Now, then," said Joan to the waiting battalions, "the place is
yours--enter in! Bugles, sound the assault! Now, then--all
And go it was. You never saw anything like it. We swarmed up the
ladders and over the battlements like a wave--and the place was our
property. Why, one might live a thousand years and never see so
gorgeous a thing as that again....
We were busy and never heard the five cannon-shots fired, but they
were fired a moment after Joan had ordered the assault; and so,
while we were hammering and being hammered in the smaller fortress,
the reserve on the Orleans side poured across the bridge and
attacked the Tourelles from that side. A fireboat was brought down
and moored under the drawbridge which connected the Tourelles with
our boulevard; wherefore, when at last we drove our English ahead of
us, and they tried to cross that drawbridge and join their friends
in the Tourelles, the burning timbers gave way under them and
emptied them in a mass into the river in their heavy armor--and a
pitiful sight it was to see brave men die such a death as that.
"God pity them!" said Joan, and wept to see that sorrowful
spectacle. She said those gentle words and wept those compassionate
tears, although one of those perishing men had grossly insulted her
with a coarse name three days before when she had sent him a message
asking him to surrender. That was their leader, Sir William
Glasdale, a most valorous knight. He was clothed all in steel; so
he plunged under the water like a lance, and of course came up no
We soon patched a sort of bridge together and threw ourselves
against the last stronghold of the English power that barred Orleans
from friends and supplies. Before the sun was quite down Joan's
forever memorable day's work was finished, her banner floated from
the fortress of the Tourelles, her promise was fulfilled, she had
raised the siege of Orleans!
England had resented the Yankee, but it welcomed Joan. Andrew Lang
adored it, and some years later contemplated dedicating his own book,
'The Maid of France', to Mark Twain.'--[His letter proposing this
dedication, received in 1909, appears to have been put aside and
forgotten by Mr. Clemens, whose memory had not improved with failing
Brander Matthews ranks Huck Finn before Joan of Arc, but that is
understandable. His literary culture and research enable him, in some
measure, to comprehend the production of Joan; whereas to him Huck is
pure magic. Huck is not altogether magic to those who know the West--the
character of that section and the Mississippi River, especially of an
older time--it is rather inspiration resulting from these existing
things. Joan is a truer literary magic--the reconstruction of a far-
vanished life and time. To reincarnate, as in a living body of the
present, that marvelous child whose life was all that was pure and
exalted and holy, is veritable necromancy and something more. It is the
apotheosis of history.
Throughout his life Joan of Arc had been Mark Twain's favorite character
in the world's history. His love for her was a beautiful and a sacred
thing. He adored young maidenhood always and nobility of character, and
he was always the champion of the weak and the oppressed. The
combination of these characteristics made him the ideal historian of an
individuality and of a career like hers. It is fitting that in his old
age (he was nearing sixty when it was finished) he should have written
this marvelously beautiful thing. He could not have written it at an
earlier time. It had taken him all these years to prepare for it; to
become softened, to acquire the delicacy of expression, the refinement of
feeling, necessary to the achievement.
It was the only book of all he had written that Mark Twain considered
worthy of this dedication:
1870 To MY WIFE 1895
OLIVIA LANGDON CLEMENS
is tendered on our wedding anniversary in grateful recognition
of her twenty-five years of valued service as my literary
adviser and editor.
The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was a book not understood in
the beginning, but to-day the public, that always renders justice in the
end, has reversed its earlier verdict. The demand for Joan has
multiplied many fold and it continues to multiply with every year. Its
author lived long enough to see this change and to be comforted by it,
for though the creative enthusiasm in his other books soon passed, his
glory in the tale of Joan never died. On his seventy-third birthday,
when all of his important books were far behind him, and he could judge
them without prejudice, he wrote as his final verdict:
Nov. 30, 1908
I like the Joan of Arc best of all my books; & it is the best; I know it
perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure
afforded me by any of the others: 12 years of preparation & a years of
writing. The others needed no preparation, & got none.
MR. ROGERS AND HELEN KELLER
It was during the winter of '96, in London, that Clemens took an active
interest in the education of Helen Keller and enlisted the most valuable
adherent in that cause, that is to say, Henry H. Rogers. It was to Mrs.
Rogers that he wrote, heading his letter:
For & in behalf
of Helen Keller,
Stone blind & deaf,
& formerly dumb.
DEAR MRS. ROGERS,--Experience has convinced me that when one
wished to set a hard-worked man at something which he mightn't
prefer to be bothered with it is best to move upon him behind his
wife. If she can't convince him it isn't worth while for other
people to try.
Mr. Rogers will remember our visit with that astonishing girl at
Lawrence Hutton's house when she was fourteen years old. Last July,
in Boston, when she was 16 she underwent the Harvard examination for
admission to Radcliffe College. She passed without a single
condition. She was allowed only the same amount of time that is
granted to other applicants, & this was shortened in her case by the
fact that the question-papers had to be read to her. Yet she scored
an average of 90, as against an average of 78 on the part of the
It won't do for America to allow this marvelous child to retire from
her studies because of poverty. If she can go on with them she will
make a fame that will endure in history for centuries. Along her
special lines she is the most extraordinary product of all the ages.
There is danger that she must retire from the struggle for a college
degree for lack of support for herself & for Miss Sullivan (the
teacher who has been with her from the start--Mr. Rogers will
remember her). Mrs. Hutton writes to ask me to interest rich
Englishmen in her case, & I would gladly try, but my secluded life
will not permit it. I see nobody. Nobody knows my address.
Nothing but the strictest hiding can enable me to write my book in
So I thought of this scheme: Beg you to lay siege to your husband &
get him to interest himself and Messrs. John D. & William
Rockefeller & the other Standard Oil chiefs in Helen's case; get
them to subscribe an annual aggregate of six or seven hundred or a
thousand dollars--& agree to continue this for three or four years,
until she has completed her college course. I'm not trying to limit
their generosity--indeed no; they may pile that Standard Oil Helen
Keller College Fund as high as they please; they have my consent.
Mrs. Hutton's idea is to raise a permanent fund, the interest upon
which shall support Helen & her teacher & put them out of the fear
of want. I sha'n't say a word against it, but she will find it a
difficult & disheartening job, & meanwhile what is to become of that
No, for immediate and sound effectiveness, the thing is for you to
plead with Mr. Rogers for this hampered wonder of your sex, & send
him clothed with plenary powers to plead with the other chiefs--they
have spent mountains of money upon the worthiest benevolences, & I
think that the same spirit which moved them to put their hands down
through their hearts into their pockets in those cases will answer.
"Here!" when its name is called in this one.
There--I don't need to apologize to you or to H. H. for this appeal
that I am making; I know you too well for that:
Good-by, with love to all of you,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The result of this letter was that Mr. Rogers personally took charge of
Helen Keller's fortunes, and out of his own means made it possible for
her to continue her education and to achieve for herself the enduring
fame which Mark Twain had foreseen.
Mr. Rogers wrote that, by a curious coincidence, a letter had come to him
from Mrs. Hutton on the same morning that Mrs. Rogers had received hers
from Tedworth Square. Clemens sent grateful acknowledgments to Mrs.
DEAR MRS. ROGERS,--It is superb! And I am beyond measure grateful
to you both. I knew you would be interested in that wonderful girl,
& that Mr. Rogers was already interested in her & touched by her; &
I was sure that if nobody else helped her you two would; but you
have gone far & away beyond the sum I expected--may your lines fall
in pleasant places here, & Hereafter for it!
The Huttons are as glad & grateful as they can be, & I am glad for
their sakes as well as for Helen's.
I want to thank Mr. Rogers for crucifying himself on the same old
cross between Bliss & Harper; & goodness knows I hope he will come
to enjoy it above all other dissipations yet, seeing that it has
about it the elements of stability & permanency. However, at any
time that he says sign we're going to do it.
Ever sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
FINISHING THE BOOK OF TRAVEL
One reading the Equator book to-day, and knowing the circumstances under
which it was written, might be puzzled to reconcile the secluded
household and its atmosphere of sorrow with certain gaieties of the
subject matter. The author himself wondered at it, and to Howells wrote:
I don't mean that I am miserable; no-worse than that--indifferent.
Indifferent to nearly everything but work. I like that; I enjoy it,
& stick to it. I do it without purpose & without ambition; merely
for the love of it. Indeed, I am a mud-image; & it puzzles me to
know what it is in me that writes & has comedy fancies & finds
pleasure in phrasing them. It is the law of our nature, of course,
or it wouldn't happen; the thing in me forgets the presence of the
mud-image, goes its own way wholly unconscious of it & apparently of
no kinship with it.
He saw little company. Now and, then a good friend, J.Y.W. MacAlister,
came in for a smoke with him. Once Clemens sent this line:
You speak a language which I understand. I would like to see you.
Could you come and smoke some manilas; I would, of course, say dine,
but my family are hermits & cannot see any one, but I would have a
fire in my study, & if you came at any time after your dinner that
might be most convenient for you you would find me & a welcome.
Clemens occasionally went out to dinner, but very privately. He dined
with Bram Stoker, who invited Anthony Hope and one or two others, and
with the Chattos and Mr. Percy Spalding; also with Andrew Lang, who
wrote, "Your old friend, Lord Lome, wants to see you again"; with the
Henry M. Stanleys and Poultney Bigelow, and with Francis H. Skrine, a
government official he had met in India. But in all such affairs he was
protected from strangers and his address was kept a secret from the
public. Finally, the new-found cousin, Dr. Jim Clemens, fell ill, and
the newspapers had it presently that Mark Twain was lying at the point of
death. A reporter ferreted him out and appeared at Tedworth Square with
cabled instructions from his paper. He was a young man, and innocently
enough exhibited his credentials. His orders read:
"If Mark Twain very ill, five hundred words. If dead, send one
Clemens smiled grimly as he handed back the cable.
"You don't need as much as that," he said. "Just say the report of my
death has been grossly exaggerated."
The young man went away quite seriously, and it was not until he was
nearly to his office that he saw the joke. Then, of course, it was
flashed all over the world.
Clemens kept grinding steadily at the book, for it was to be a very large
volume--larger than he had ever written before. To MacAlister, April 6,
1897, he wrote, replying to some invitation:
Ah, but I mustn't stir from my desk before night now when the
publisher is hurrying me & I am almost through. I am up at work
now--4 o'clock in the morning-and a few more spurts will pull me
through. You come down here & smoke; that is better than tempting a
working-man to strike & go to tea.
And it would move me too deeply to see Miss Corelli. When I saw her
last it was on the street in Homburg, & Susy was walking with me.
On April 13th he makes a note-book entry: "I finished my book to-day,"
and on the 15th he wrote MacAlister, inclosing some bits of manuscript:
I finished my book yesterday, and the madam edited this stuff out of
it--on the ground that the first part is not delicate & the last
part is indelicate. Now, there's a nice distinction for you--&
correctly stated, too, & perfectly true.
It may interest the reader to consider briefly the manner in which Mark
Twain's "editor" dealt with his manuscript, and a few pages of this
particular book remain as examples. That he was not always entirely
tractable, or at least submissive, but that he did yield, and graciously,
is clearly shown.
In one of her comments Mrs. Clemens wrote:
Page 597. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that you go too
minutely into particulars in describing the feats of the
aboriginals. I felt it in the boomerang-throwing.
And Clemens just below has written:
Boomerang has been furnished with a special train--that is, I've
turned it into "Appendix." Will that answer?
Page 1002. I don't like the "shady-principled cat that has a family
in every port."
Then I'll modify him just a little.
Page 1020. 9th line from the top. I think some other word would be
better than "stench." You have used that pretty often.
But can't I get it in anywhere? You've knocked it out every time.
Out it goes again. And yet "stench" is a noble, good word.
Page 1038. I hate to have your father pictured as lashing a slave
It's out, and my father is whitewashed.
Page 1050. 2d line from the bottom. Change breech-clout. It's a
word that you love and I abominate. I would take that and "offal"
out of the language.
You are steadily weakening the English tongue, Livy.
Page 1095. Perhaps you don't care, but whoever told you that the
Prince's green stones were rubies told an untruth. They were superb
emeralds. Those strings of pearls and emeralds were famous all over
All right, I'll make them emeralds, but it loses force. Green
rubies is a fresh thing. And besides it was one of the Prince's own
staff liars that told me.
That the book was not quite done, even after the triumphant entry of
April 13th, is shown by another note which followed something more than a
May 18, 1897. Finished the book again--addition of 30,000 words.
And to MacAlister he wrote:
I have finished the book at last--and finished it for good this
time. Now I am ready for dissipation with a good conscience. What
night will you come down & smoke?
His book finished, Clemens went out rather more freely, and one evening
allowed MacAlister to take him around to the Savage Club. There happened
to be a majority of the club committee present, and on motion Mark Twain
was elected an honorary life member. There were but three others on whom
this distinction had been conferred--Stanley, Nansen, and the Prince of
Wales. When they told Mark Twain this he said:
"Well, it must make the Prince feel mighty fine."--[In a volume of Savage
Club anecdotes the date of Mark Twain's election to honorary membership
is given as 1899. Clemens's notebook gives it in 1897.]
He did not intend to rest; in another entry we find:
May 23, 1897. Wrote first chapter of above story to-day.
The "above story" is a synopsis of a tale which he tried then and later
in various forms--a tale based on a scientific idea that one may dream an
episode covering a period of years in minute detail in what, by our
reckoning, may be no more than a few brief seconds. In this particular
form of the story a man sits down to write some memories and falls into a
doze. The smell of his cigarette smoke causes him to dream of the
burning of his home, the destruction of his family, and of a long period
of years following. Awakening a few seconds later, and confronted by his
wife and children, he refuses to believe in their reality, maintaining
that this condition, and not the other, is the dream. Clemens tried the
psychological literary experiment in as many as three different ways
during the next two or three years, and each at considerable length; but
he developed none of them to his satisfaction, or at least he brought
none of them to conclusion. Perhaps the most weird of these attempts,
and the most intensely interesting, so long as the verisimilitude is
maintained, is a dream adventure in a drop of water which, through an
incredible human reduction to microbic, even atomic, proportions, has
become a vast tempestuous sea. Mark Twain had the imagination for these
undertakings and the literary workmanship, lacking only a definite plan
for development of his tale--a lack which had brought so many of his
literary ventures to the rocks.
A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND
The Queen's Jubilee came along--June 22, 1897, being the day chosen to
celebrate the sixty-year reign. Clemens had been asked to write about it
for the American papers, and he did so after his own ideas, illustrating
some of his material with pictures of his own selection. The selections
were made from various fashion-plates, which gave him a chance to pick
the kind of a prince or princess or other royal figure that he thought
fitted his description without any handicap upon his imagination. Under
his portrait of Henry V. (a very correctly dressed person in top hat and
overcoat) he wrote:
In the original the King has a crown on. That is no kind of a thing
for the King to wear when he has come home on business. He ought to
wear something he can collect taxes in. You will find this
represenation of Henry V. active, full of feeling, full of
sublimity. I have pictured him looking out over the battle of
Agincourt and studying up where to begin.
Mark Twain's account of the Jubilee probably satisfied most readers; but
James Tufts, then managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner, had a
rather matter-of-fact Englishman on the staff, who, after reading the
"Well, Jim Tufts, I hope you are satisfied with that Mark Twain cable."
"Why, yes," said Tufts; "aren't you?"
"I should say not. Just look what he says about the number of soldiers.
He says, 'I never saw so many soldiers anywhere except on the stage of a
theater.' Why, Tufts, don't you know that the soldiers in the theater are
the same old soldiers marching around and around? There aren't more than
a hundred soldiers in the biggest army ever put on the stage."
It was decided to vacate the house in Tedworth Square and go to
Switzerland for the summer. Mrs. Crane and Charles Langdon's daughter,
Julia, joined them early in July, and they set out for Switzerland a few
days later. Just before leaving, Clemens received an offer from Pond of
fifty thousand dollars for one hundred and twenty-five nights on the
platform in America. It was too great a temptation to resist at once,
and they took it under advisement. Clemens was willing to accept, but
Mrs. Clemens opposed the plan. She thought his health no longer equal to
steady travel. She believed that with continued economy they would be
able to manage their problem without this sum. In the end the offer was
They journeyed to Switzerland by way of Holland and Germany, the general
destination being Lucerne. They did not remain there, however. They
found a pretty little village farther up the lake--Weggis, at the foot of
the Rigi--where, in the Villa Buhlegg, they arranged for the summer at
very moderate rates indeed. Weggis is a beautiful spot, looking across
the blue water to Mount Pilatus, the lake shore dotted with white
villages. Down by the water, but a few yards from the cottage--for it
was scarcely a villa except by courtesy--there was a little inclosure,
and a bench under a large tree, a quiet spot where Clemens often sat to
rest and smoke. The fact is remembered there to-day, and recorded. A
small tablet has engraved upon it "Mark Twain Ruhe." Farther along the
shore he discovered a neat, white cottage were some kindly working-people
agreed to rent him an upper room for a study. It was a sunny room with
windows looking out upon the lake, and he worked there steadily. To
Twichell he wrote:
This is the charmingest place we have ever lived in for repose and
restfulness, superb scenery whose beauty undergoes a perpetual change
from one miracle to another, yet never runs short of fresh surprises and
new inventions. We shall always come here for the summers if we can.
The others have climbed the Rigi, he says, and he expects to some day if
Twichell will come and climb it with him. They had climbed it together
during that summer vagabondage, nineteen years before.
He was full of enthusiasm over his work. To F. H. Skrine, in London, he
wrote that he had four or five books all going at once, and his note-book
contains two or three pages merely of titles of the stories he proposed
But of the books begun that summer at Weggis none appears to have been
completed. There still exists a bulky, half-finished manuscript about
Tom and Huck, most of which was doubtless written at this time, and there
is the tale already mentioned, the "dream" story; and another tale with a
plot of intricate psychology and crime; still another with the burning
title of "Hell-Fire Hotchkiss"--a, story of Hannibal life--and some short
stories. Clemens appeared to be at this time out of tune with fiction.
Perhaps his long book of travel had disqualified his invention. He
realized that these various literary projects were leading nowhere, and
one after another he dropped them. The fact that proofs of the big book
were coming steadily may also have interfered with his creative faculty.
As was his habit, Clemens formed the acquaintance of a number of the
native residents, and enjoyed talking to them about their business and
daily affairs. They were usually proud and glad of these attentions,
quick to see the humor of his remarks.
But there was an old watchmaker-an 'Uhrmacher' who remained indifferent.
He would answer only in somber monosyllables, and he never smiled.
Clemens at last brought the cheapest kind of a watch for repairs.
"Be very careful of this watch," he said. "It is a fine one."
The old man merely glared at him.
"It is not a valuable watch. It is a worthless watch."
"But I gave six francs for it in Paris."
"Still, it is a cheap watch," was the unsmiling answer. Defeat waits
somewhere for every conqueror.
Which recalls another instance, though of a different sort. On one of
his many voyages to America, he was sitting on deck in a steamer-chair
when two little girls stopped before him. One of them said,
"Are you Mr. Mark Twain?"
"Why, yes, dear, they call me that."
"Won't you please say something funny?"
And for the life of him he couldn't make the required remark.
In one of his letters to Twichell of that summer, Clemens wrote of the
arrival there of the colored jubilee singers, always favorites of his,
and of his great delight in them.
We went down to the village hotel & bought our tickets & entered the
beer-hall, where a crowd of German & Swiss men & women sat grouped
around tables with their beer-mugs in front of them--self-contained
& unimpressionable-looking people--an indifferent & unposted &
disheartening audience--& up at the far end of the room sat the
jubilees in a row. The singers got up & stood--the talking & glass-
jingling went on. Then rose & swelled out above those common
earthly sounds one of those rich chords, the secret of whose make
only the jubilees possess, & a spell fell upon that house. It was
fine to see the faces light up with the pleased wonder & surprise of
it. No one was indifferent any more; & when the singers finished
the camp was theirs. It was a triumph. It reminded me of Lancelot
riding in Sir Kay's armor, astonishing complacent knights who
thought they had struck a soft thing. The jubilees sang a lot of
pieces. Arduous & painstaking cultivation has not diminished or
artificialized their music, but on the contrary--to my surprise--has
mightily reinforced its eloquence and beauty. Away back in the
beginning--to my mind--their music made all other vocal music cheap;
& that early notion is emphasized now. It is entirely beautiful to
me; & it moves me infinitely more than any other music can. I think
that in the jubilees & their songs America has produced the
perfectest flower of the ages; & I wish it were a foreign product,
so that she would worship it & lavish money on it & go properly
crazy over it.
Now, these countries are different: they would do all that if it
were native. It is true they praise God, but that is merely a
formality, & nothing in it; they open out their whole hearts to no
As the first anniversary of Susy's death drew near the tension became
very great. A gloom settled on the household, a shadow of restraint. On
the morning of the 18th Clemens went early to his study. Somewhat later
Mrs. Clemens put on her hat and wrap, and taking a small bag left the
house. The others saw her go toward the steamer-landing, but made no
inquiries as to her destination. They guessed that she would take the
little boat that touched at the various points along the lake shore.
This she did, in fact, with no particular plan as to where she would
leave it. One of the landing-places seemed quiet and inviting, and there
she went ashore, and taking a quiet room at a small inn spent the day in
reading Susy's letters. It was evening when she returned, and her
husband, lonely and anxious, was waiting for her at the landing. He had
put in the day writing the beautiful poem, "In Memoriam," a strain lofty,
tender, and dirge-like-liquidly musical, though irregular in form.--[Now
included in the Uniform Edition.]
WINTER IN VIENNA
They remained two months in Weggis--until toward the end of September;
thence to Vienna, by way of Innsbruck, in the Tyrol, "where the mountains
seem more approachable than in Switzerland." Clara Clemens wished to
study the piano under Leschetizky, and this would take them to Austria
for the winter. Arriving at Vienna, they settled in the Hotel Metropole,
on the banks of the Danube. Their rooms, a corner suite, looked out on a
pretty green square, the Merzimplatz, and down on the Franz Josef quay.
A little bridge crosses the river there, over which all kinds of life are
continually passing. On pleasant days Clemens liked to stand on this
bridge and watch the interesting phases of the Austrian capital. The
Vienna humorist, Poetzl, quickly formed his acquaintance, and they
sometimes stood there together. Once while Clemens was making some
notes, Poetzl interested the various passers by asking each one--the
errand-boy, the boot-black, the chestnut-vender, cabmen, and others--to
guess who the stranger was and what he wanted. Most of them recognized
him when their attention was called, for the newspapers had proudly
heralded his arrival and his picture was widely circulated.
Clemens had scarcely arrived in Vienna, in fact, before he was pursued by
photographers, journalists, and autograph-hunters. The Viennese were his
fond admirers, and knowing how the world elsewhere had honored him they
were determined not to be outdone. The 'Neues Viener Tageblatt', a
fortnight after his arrival, said:
It is seldom that a foreign author has found such a hearty reception
in Vienna as that accorded to Mark Twain, who not only has the
reputation of being the foremost humorist in the whole civilized.
world, but one whose personality arouses everywhere a peculiar
interest on account of the genuine American character which sways
He was the guest of honor at the Concordia Club soon after his arrival,
and the great ones of Vienna assembled to do him honor. Charlemagne
Tower, then American minister, was also one of the guests. Writers,
diplomats, financiers, municipal officials, everybody in Vienna that was
worth while, was there. Clemens gave them a surprise, for when Ferdinand
Gross, Concordia president, introduced him first in English, then in
German, Mark Twain made his reply wholly in the latter language.
The paper just quoted gives us a hint of the frolic and wassail of that
old 'Festkneipe' when it says:
At 9 o'clock Mark Twain appeared in the salon, and amid a storm of
applause took his seat at the head of the table. His characteristic
shaggy and flowing mane of hair adorning a youthful countenance
attracted the attention at once of all present. After a few formal
convivial commonplaces the president of the Concordia, Mr. Ferdinand
Gross, delivered an excellent address in English, which he wound up
with a few German sentences. Then Mr. Tower was heard in praise of
his august countryman. In the course of his remarks he said he
could hardly find words enough to express his delight at the
presence of the popular American. Then followed the greatest
attraction of the evening, an impromptu speech by Mark Twain in the
German language, which it is true he has not fully mastered, but
which he nevertheless controls sufficiently well to make it
difficult to detect any harsh foreign accent. He had entitled his
speech, "Die Schrecken der Deutschen Sprache" (the terrors of the
German language). At times he would interrupt himself in English
and ask, with a stuttering smile, "How do you call this word in
German" or "I only know that in mother-tongue." The Festkneipe
lasted far into the morning hours.
It was not long after their arrival in Vienna that the friction among the
unamalgamated Austrian states flamed into a general outbreak in the
Austrian Reichsrath, or Imperial Parliament. We need not consider just
what the trouble was. Any one wishing to know can learn from Mark
Twain's article on the subject, for it is more clearly pictured there
than elsewhere. It is enough to say here that the difficulty lay mainly
between the Hungarian and German wings of the house; and in the midst of
it Dr. Otto Lecher made his famous speech, which lasted twelve hours
without a break, in order to hold the floor against the opposing forces.
Clemens was in the gallery most of the time while that speech, with its
riotous accompaniment, was in progress.--["When that house is
legislating you can't tell it from artillery practice." From Mark
Twain's report, "Stirring Times in Austria," in Literary Essays,]--He
was intensely interested. Nothing would appeal to him more than that,
unless it should be some great astronomic or geologic change. He was
also present somewhat later when a resolution was railroaded through
which gave the chair the right to invoke the aid of the military, and he
was there when the military arrived and took the insurgents in charge.
It was a very great occasion, a "tremendous episode," he says.
The memory of it will outlast all the others that exist to-day. In
the whole history of free parliament the like of it had been seen
but three times before. It takes imposing place among the world's
unforgetable things. I think that in my lifetime I have not twice
seen abiding history made before my eyes, but I know that I have
seen it once.
Wild reports were sent to the American press; among them one that Mark
Twain had been hustled out with the others, and that, having waved his
handkerchief and shouted "Hoch die Deutschen!" he had been struck by an
officer of the law. Of course nothing of the kind happened. The
sergeant-at-arms, who came to the gallery where he sat, said to a friend
who suggested that Clemens be allowed to remain:
"Oh, I know him very well. I recognize him by his pictures, and I should
be very glad to let him stay, but I haven't any choice because of the
strictness of the order."
Clemens, however, immediately ran across a London Times correspondent,
who showed him the way into the first gallery, which it seems was not
emptied, so he lost none of the exhibit.
Mark Twain's report of the Austrian troubles, published in Harper's
Magazine the following March and now included with the Literary Essays,
will keep that episode alive and important as literature when otherwise
it would have been merely embalmed, and dimly remembered, as history.
It was during these exciting political times in Vienna that a
representative of a New York paper wrote, asking for a Mark Twain
interview. Clemens replied, giving him permission to call. When the
reporter arrived Clemens was at work writing in bed, as was so much his
habit. At the doorway the reporter paused, waiting for a summons to
enter. The door was ajar and he heard Mrs. Clemens say:
"Youth, don't you think it will be a little embarrassing for him, your
being in bed?"
And he heard Mark Twain's easy, gentle, deliberate voice reply:
"Why, Livy, if you think so, we might have the other bed made up for
Clemens became a privileged character in Vienna. Official rules were
modified for his benefit. Everything was made easy for him. Once, on a
certain grand occasion, when nobody was permitted to pass beyond a
prescribed line, he was stopped by a guard, when the officer in charge
suddenly rode up:
"Let him pass," he commanded. "Lieber Gott! Don't you see it's Herr
The Clemens apartments at the Metropole were like a court, where with
those of social rank assembled the foremost authors, journalists,
diplomats, painters, philosophers, scientists, of Europe, and therefore
of the world. A sister of the Emperor of Germany lived at the Metropole
that winter and was especially cordial. Mark Twain's daily movements
were chronicled as if he had been some visiting potentate, and, as usual,
invitations and various special permissions poured in. A Vienna paper
He has been feted and dined from morn till eve. The homes of the
aristocracy are thrown open to him, counts and princes delight to do
him honor, and foreign audiences hang upon the words that fall from
his lips, ready to burst out any instant into roars of laughter.
Deaths never came singly in the Clemens family. It was on the 11th of
December, 1897, something more than a year after the death of Susy, that
Orion Clemens died, at the age of seventy-two. Orion had remained the
same to the end, sensitively concerned as to all his brother's doings,
his fortunes and misfortunes: soaring into the clouds when any good news
came; indignant, eager to lend help and advice in the hour of defeat;
loyal, upright, and generally beloved by those who knew and understood
his gentle nature. He had not been ill, and, in fact, only a few days
before he died had written a fine congratulatory letter on his brother's
success in accumulating means for the payment of his debts, entering
enthusiastically into some literary plans which Mark Twain then had in
prospect, offering himself for caricature if needed.
I would fit in as a fool character, believing, what the Tennessee
mountaineers predicted, that I would grow up to be a great man and go to
Congress. I did not think it worth the trouble to be a common great man
like Andy Johnson. I wouldn't give a pinch of snuff, little as I needed
it, to be anybody, less than Napoleon. So when a farmer took my father's
offer for some chickens under advisement till the next day I said to
myself, "Would Napoleon Bonaparte have taken under advisement till the
next day an offer to sell him some chickens?"
To his last day and hour Orion was the dreamer, always with a new plan.
It was one morning early that he died. He had seated himself at a table
with pencil and paper and was setting down the details of his latest
project when death came to him, kindly enough, in the moment of new hope.
There came also, just then, news of the death of their old Hartford
butler, George. It saddened them as if it had been a member of the
household. Jean, especially, wept bitterly.
MARK TWAIN PAYS HIS DEBTS
'Following the Equator'--[In England, More Tramps Abroad.]--had come from
the press in November and had been well received. It was a large,
elaborate subscription volume, more elaborate than artistic in
appearance. Clemens, wishing to make some acknowledgment to his
benefactor, tactfully dedicated it to young Harry Rogers:
"With recognition of what he is, and an apprehension of what he may
become unless he form himself a little more closely upon the model of the
Following the Equator was Mark Twain's last book of travel, and it did
not greatly resemble its predecessors. It was graver than the Innocents
Abroad; it was less inclined to cynicism and burlesque than the Tramp.
It was the thoughtful, contemplative observation and philosophizing of
the soul-weary, world-weary pilgrim who has by no means lost interest,
but only his eager, first enthusiasm. It is a gentler book than the
Tramp Abroad, and for the most part a pleasanter one. It is better
history and more informing. Its humor, too, is of a worthier sort, less
likely to be forced and overdone. The holy Hindoo pilgrim's "itinerary
of salvation" is one of the richest of all Mark Twain's fancies, and is
about the best thing in the book. The revised philosophies of Pudd'nhead
Wilson, that begin each chapter, have many of them passed into our daily
speech. That some of Mark Twain's admirers were disappointed with the
new book is very likely, but there were others who could not praise it
enough. James Whitcomb Riley wrote:
DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--For a solid week-night sessions--I have been glorying
in your last book-and if you've ever done anything better, stronger, or
of wholesomer uplift I can't recall it. So here's my heart and here's my
hand with all the augmented faith and applause of your proudest
countryman! It's just a hail I'm sending you across the spaces--not to
call you from your blessed work an instant, but simply to join my voice
in the universal cheer that is steadfastly going up for you.
As gratefully as delightedly,
Your abiding friend,
JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY.
Notwithstanding the belief that the sale of single subscription volumes
had about ended, Bliss did well with the new book. Thirty or forty
thousand copies were placed without much delay, and the accumulated
royalties paid into Mr. Rogers's hands. The burden of debt had become a
nightmare. Clemens wrote:
Let us begin on those debts. I cannot bear the weight any longer. It
totally unfits me for work.
This was November 10, 1897. December 29th he wrote:
Land, we are glad to see those debts diminishing. For the first time in
my life I am getting more pleasure from paying money out than pulling it
To Howells, January 3d, Clemens wrote that they had "turned the corner,"
and a month later:
We've lived close to the bone and saved every cent we could, & there's no
undisputed claim now that we can't cash. There are only two claims which
I dispute & which I mean to look into personally before I pay them. But
they are small. Both together they amount to only $12,500. I hope you
will never get the like of the load saddled onto you that was saddled
onto me 3 years ago. And yet there is such a solid pleasure in paying
the things that I reckon maybe it is worth while to get into that kind of
a hobble after all. Mrs. Clemens gets millions of delight out of it; &
the children have never uttered one complaint about the scrimping from
By the end of January, 1898, Mark Twain had accumulated enough money to
make the final payment to his creditors and stand clear of debt. At the
time of his failure he said he had given himself five years in which to
clear himself of the heavy obligation. He had achieved that result in
less than three. The world heralded it as a splendid triumph.
Miss Katharine I. Harrison, Henry Rogers's secretary, who had been in
charge of the details, wrote in her letter announcing his freedom:
"I wish I could shout it across the water to you so that you would get it
ten days ahead of this letter."
Miss Harrison's letter shows that something like thirteen thousand
dollars would remain to his credit after the last accounts were wiped
Clemens had kept his financial progress from the press, but the payment
of the final claims was distinctly a matter of news and the papers made
the most of it. Head-lines shouted it, there were long editorials in
which Mark Twain was heralded as a second Walter Scott, though it was
hardly necessary that he should be compared with anybody; he had been in
that--as in those peculiarities which had invited his disaster--just
One might suppose now that he had had enough of inventions and commercial
enterprises of every sort that is, one who did not know Mark Twain might
suppose this; but it would not be true. Within a month after the debts
were paid he had negotiated with the great Austrian inventor, Szczepanik,
and his business manager for the American rights of a wonderful carpet-
pattern machine, obtained an option for these rights at fifteen hundred
thousand dollars, and, Sellers-like, was planning to organize a company
with a capital of fifteen hundred million dollars to control carpet-
weaving industries of the world. He records in his note-book that a
certain Mr. Wood, representing the American carpet interests, called upon
him and, in the course of their conversation, asked him at what price he
would sell his option.
I declined, and got away from the subject. I was afraid he would
offer me $500,000 for it. I should have been obliged to take it,
but I was born with a speculative instinct & I did not want that
temptation put in my way.
He wrote to Mr. Rogers about the great scheme, inviting the Standard Oil
to furnish the capital for it--but it appears not to have borne the test
of Mr. Rogers's scrutiny, and is heard of no more.
Szczepanik had invented the 'Fernseher', or Telelectroscope, the machine
by which one sees at a distance. Clemens would have invested heavily in
this, too, for he had implicit faith in its future, but the 'Fernseher'
was already controlled for the Paris Exposition; so he could only employ
Szczepanik as literary material, which he did in two instances: "The
Austrian Edison Keeping School Again" and "From the London Times of
1904"--magazine articles published in the Century later in the year. He
was fond of Szczepanik and Szczepanik's backer, Mr. Kleinburg. In one of
his note-book entries he says:
Szczepanik is not a Paige. He is a gentleman; his backer, Mr. Kleinburg,
is a gentleman, too, yet is not a Clemens--that is to say, he is not an
Clemens did not always consult his financial adviser, Rogers, any more
than he always consulted his spiritual adviser, Twichell, or his literary
adviser, Howells, when he intended to commit heresies in their respective
provinces. Somewhat later an opportunity came along to buy an interest
in a preparation of skimmed milk, an invalid food by which the human race
was going to be healed of most of its ills. When Clemens heard that
Virchow had recommended this new restorative, the name of which was
plasmon, he promptly provided MacAlister with five thousand pounds to
invest in a company then organizing in London. It should be added that
this particular investment was not an entire loss, for it paid very good
dividends for several years. We shall hear of it again.
For the most part Clemens was content to let Henry Rogers do his
financiering, and as the market was low with an upward incline, Rogers
put the various accumulations into this thing and that, and presently had
some fifty thousand dollars to Mark Twain's credit, a very comfortable
balance for a man who had been twice that amount in debt only a few years
before. It has been asserted most strenuously, by those in a position to
know least about the matter, that Henry Rogers lent, and even gave, Mark
Twain large sums, and pointed out opportunities whereby he could make
heavily by speculation. No one of these statements is true. Mr. Rogers
neither lent nor gave Mark Twain money for investment, and he never
allowed him to speculate when he could prevent it. He invested for him
wisely, but he never bought for him a share of stock that he did not have
the money in hand to pay for in full-money belonging to and earned by
Clemens himself. What he did give to Mark Twain was his priceless
counsel and time--gifts more precious than any mere sum of money--boons
that Mark Twain could accept without humiliation. He did accept them and
was unceasingly grateful.--[Mark Twain never lost an opportunity for
showing his gratitude to Henry Rogers. The reader is referred to
Appendix T, at the end of the last volume, for a brief tribute which
Clemens prepared in 1902. Mr. Rogers would not consent to its
SOCIAL LIFE IN VIENNA
Clemens, no longer worried about finances and full of ideas and
prospects, was writing now at a great rate, mingling with all sorts of
social events, lecturing for charities, and always in the lime-light.
I have abundant peace of mind again--no sense of burden. Work is become
a pleasure--it is not labor any longer.
He was the lion of the Austrian capital, and it was natural that he
should revel in his new freedom and in the universal tribute. Mrs.
Clemens wrote that they were besieged with callers of every description:
Such funny combinations are here sometimes: one duke, several
counts, several writers, several barons, two princes, newspaper
women, etc. I find so far, without exception, that the high-up
aristocracy are simple and cordial and agreeable.
When Clemens appeared as a public entertainer all society turned out to
hear him and introductions were sought by persons of the most exclusive
rank. Once a royal introduction led to an adventure. He had been giving
a charity reading in Vienna, and at the end of it was introduced, with
Mrs. Clemens, to her Highness, Countess Bardi, a princess of the
Portuguese royal house by marriage and sister to the Austrian Archduchess
Maria Theresa. They realized that something was required after such an
introduction; that, in fact, they must go within a day or two and pay
their respects by writing their names in the visitors' book, kept in a
sort of anteroom of the royal establishment. A few days later, about
noon, they drove to the archducal palace, inquired their way to the royal
anteroom, and informed the grandly uniformed portier that they wished to
write their names in the visitors' book. The portier did not produce the
book, but summoned a man in livery and gold lace and directed him to take
them up-stairs, remarking that her Royal Highness was out, but would be
in presently. They protested that her Royal Highness was not looking for
them, that they were not calling, but had merely come to sign the
visitors' book, but he said:
"You are Americans, are you not?"
"Yes, we are Americans."
"Then you are expected. Please go up-stairs."
Mrs. Clemens said:
"Oh no, we are not expected; there is some mistake. Please let us sign
the book and we will go away."
But it was no use. He insisted that her Royal Highness would be back in
a very little while; that she had commanded him to say so and that they
must wait. They were shown up-stairs, Clemens going willingly enough,
for he scented an adventure; but Mrs. Clemens was far from happy. They
were taken to a splendid drawing-room, and at the doorway she made her
last stand, refusing to enter. She declared that there was certainly
some mistake, and begged them to let her sign her name in the book and
go, without parleying. It was no use. Their conductor insisted that
they remove their wraps and sit down, which they finally did--Mrs.
Clemens miserable, her husband in a delightful state of anticipation.
Writing of it to Twichell that night he said:
I was hoping and praying that the Princess would come and catch us
up there, & that those other Americans who were expected would
arrive and be taken as impostors by the portier & be shot by the
sentinels & then it would all go into the papers & be cabled all
over the world & make an immense stir and be perfectly lovely.
Livy was in a state of mind; she said it was too theatrically
ridiculous & that I would never be able to keep my mouth shut; that
I would be sure to let it out & it would get into the papers, & she
tried to make me promise.
"Promise what?" I said.
"To be quiet about this."
"Indeed I won't; it's the best thing ever happened. I'll tell it
and add to it & I wish Joe & Howells were here to make it perfect; I
can't make all the rightful blunders by myself--it takes all three
of us to do justice to an opportunity like this. I would just like
to see Howells get down to his work & explain & lie & work his
futile & inventionless subterfuges when that Princess comes raging
in here & wanting to know."
But Livy could not hear fun--it was not a time to be trying to be
funny. We were in a most miserable & shameful situation, & it----
Just then the door spread wide & our Princess & 4 more & 3 little
Princes flowed in! Our Princess & her sister, the Archduchess Maria
Theresa (mother to the imperial heir & to the a young girl
Archduchesses present, & aunt to the 3 little Princes), & we shook
hands all around & sat down & had a most sociable time for half an
hour, & by & by it turned out that we were the right ones & had been
sent for by a messenger who started too late to catch us at the
hotel. We were invited for a o'clock, but we beat that arrangement
by an hour & a half.
Wasn't it a rattling good comedy situation? Seems a kind of pity we
were the right ones. It would have been such nuts to see the right
ones come and get fired out, & we chatting along comfortably &
nobody suspecting us for impostors.
Mrs. Clemens to Mrs. Crane:
Of course I know that I should have courtesied to her Imperial
Majesty & not quite so deep to her Royal Highness, and that Mr.
Clemens should have kissed their hands; but it was all so unexpected
that I had no time to prepare, and if I had had I should not have
been there; I only went in to help Mr. C. with my bad German. When
our minister's wife is going to be presented to the Archduchess she
practises her courtesying beforehand.
They had met royalty in simple American fashion and no disaster had
We have already made mention of the distinguished visitors who gathered
in the Clemens apartments at the Hotel Metropole. They were of many
nations and ranks. It was the winter in London of twenty-five years
before over again. Only Mark Twain was not the same. Then he had been
unsophisticated, new, not always at his ease; now he was the polished
familiar of courts and embassies--at home equally with poets and princes,
authors and ambassadors and kings. Such famous ones were there as
Vereshchagin, Leschetizky, Mark Hambourg, Dvorak, Lenbach, and Jokai,
with diplomats of many nations. A list of foreign names may mean little
to the American reader, but among them were Neigra, of Italy; Paraty, of
Portugal; Lowenhaupt, of Sweden; and Ghiki, of Rumania. The Queen of
Rumania, Carmen Sylva, a poetess in her own right, was a friend and warm
admirer of Mark Twain. The Princess Metternich, and Madame de
Laschowska, of Poland, were among those who came, and there were Nansen
and his wife, and Campbell-Bannerman, who was afterward British Premier.
Also there was Spiridon, the painter, who made portraits of Clara Clemens
and her father, and other artists and potentates--the list is too long.
Those were brilliant, notable gatherings and are remembered in Vienna
today. They were not always entirely harmonious, for politics was in the
air and differences of opinion were likely to be pretty freely expressed.
Clemens and his family, as Americans, did not always have a happy time of
it. It was the eve of the Spanish American War and most of continental
Europe sided with Spain. Austria, in particular, was friendly to its
related nation; and from every side the Clemenses heard how America was
about to take a brutal and unfair advantage of a weaker nation for the
sole purpose of annexing Cuba.
Charles Langdon and his son Jervis happened to arrive in Vienna about
this time, bringing straight from America the comforting assurance that
the war was not one of conquest or annexation, but a righteous defense of
the weak. Mrs. Clemens gave a dinner for them, at which, besides some
American students, were Mark Hambourg, Gabrilowitsch, and the great
Leschetizky himself. Leschetizky, an impetuous and eloquent talker, took
this occasion to inform the American visitors that their country was only
shamming, that Cuba would soon be an American dependency. No one not
born to the language could argue with Leschetizky. Clemens once wrote of
He is a most capable and felicitous talker-was born for an orator, I
think. What life, energy, fire in a man past 70! & how he does play! He
is easily the greatest pianist in the world. He is just as great & just
as capable today as ever he was.
Last Sunday night, at dinner with us, he did all the talking for 3 hours,
and everybody was glad to let him. He told his experiences as a
revolutionist 50 years ago in '48, & his battle-pictures were
magnificently worded. Poetzl had never met him before. He is a talker
himself & a good one--but he merely sat silent & gazed across the table
at this inspired man, & drank in his words, & let his eyes fill & the
blood come & go in his face & never said a word.
Whatever may have been his doubts in the beginning concerning the Cuban
War, Mark Twain, by the end of May, had made up his mind as to its
justice. When Theodore Stanton invited him to the Decoration Day banquet
to be held in Paris, he replied:
I thank you very much for your invitation and I would accept if I were
foot-free. For I should value the privilege of helping you do honor to
the men who rewelded our broken Union and consecrated their great work
with their lives; and also I should like to be there to do, homage to our
soldiers and sailors of today who are enlisted for another most righteous
war, and utter the hope that they may make short and decisive work of it
and leave Cuba free and fed when they face for home again. And finally I
should like to be present and see you interweave those two flags which,
more than any others, stand for freedom and progress in the earth-flags
which represent two kindred nations, each great and strong by itself,
competent sureties for the peace of the world when they stand together.
That is to say, the flags of England and America. To an Austrian friend
he emphasized this thought:
The war has brought England and America close together--and to my mind
that is the biggest dividend that any war in this world has ever paid.
If this feeling is ever to grow cold again I do not wish to live to see
And to Twichell, whose son David had enlisted:
You are living your war-days over again in Dave & it must be strong
pleasure mixed with a sauce of apprehension . . . .
I have never enjoyed a war, even in history, as I am enjoying this one,
for this is the worthiest one that was ever fought, so far as my
knowledge goes. It is a worthy thing to fight for one's own country. It
is another sight finer to fight for another man's. And I think this is
the first time it has been done.
But it was a sad day for him when he found that the United States really
meant to annex the Philippines, and his indignation flamed up. He said:
"When the United States sent word to Spain that the Cuban atrocities must
end she occupied the highest moral position ever taken by a nation since
the Almighty made the earth. But when she snatched the Philippines she
stained the flag."
LITERARY WORK IN VIENNA
One must wonder, with all the social demands upon him, how Clemens could
find time to write as much as he did during those Vienna days. He piled
up a great heap of manuscript of every sort. He wrote Twichell:
There may be idle people in the world, but I am not one of them.
And to Howells:
I couldn't get along without work now. I bury myself in it up to
the ears. Long hours--8 & 9 on a stretch sometimes. It isn't all
for print, by any means, for much of it fails to suit me; 50,000
words of it in the past year. It was because of the deadness which
invaded me when Susy died.
He projected articles, stories, critiques, essays, novels, autobiography,
even plays; he covered the whole literary round. Among these activities
are some that represent Mark Twain's choicest work. "Concerning the
Jews," which followed the publication of his "Stirring Times in Austria"
(grew out of it, in fact), still remains the best presentation of the
Jewish character and racial situation. Mark Twain was always an ardent
admirer of the Jewish race, and its oppression naturally invited his
sympathy. Once he wrote to Twichell:
The difference between the brain of the average Christian and that of the
average Jew--certainly in Europe--is about the difference between a
tadpole's brain & an archbishop's. It is a marvelous race; by long odds
the most marvelous race the world has produced, I suppose.
Yet he did not fail to see its faults and to set them down in his summary
of Hebrew character. It was a reply to a letter written to him by a
lawyer, and he replied as a lawyer might, compactly, logically,
categorically, conclusively. The result pleased him. To Mr. Rogers he
The Jew article is my "gem of the ocean." I have taken a world of
pleasure in writing it & doctoring it & fussing at it. Neither Jew nor
Christian will approve of it, but people who are neither Jews nor
Christian will, for they are in a condition to know the truth when they
Clemens was not given to race distinctions. In his article he says:
I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudices, and I think I
have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices.
Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is
that a man is a human being, that is enough for me; he can't be any
We gather from something that follows that the one race which he bars is
the French, and this, just then, mainly because of the Dreyfus
He also states in this article:
I have no special regard for Satan, but I can at least claim that I have
no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way on
account of his not having a fair show.
Clemens indeed always had a friendly feeling toward Satan (at least, as
he conceived him), and just at this time addressed a number of letters to
him concerning affairs in general--cordial, sympathetic, informing
letters enough, though apparently not suited for publication. A good
deal of the work done at this period did not find its way into print. An
interview with Satan; a dream-story concerning a platonic sweetheart, and
some further comment on Austrian politics, are among the condemned
Mark Twain's interest in Satan would seem later to have extended to his
relatives, for there are at least three bulky manuscripts in which he has
attempted to set down some episodes in the life of one "Young Satan," a
nephew, who appears to have visited among the planets and promoted some
astonishing adventures in Austria several centuries ago. The idea of a
mysterious, young, and beautiful stranger who would visit the earth and
perform mighty wonders, was always one which Mark Twain loved to play
with, and a nephew of Satan's seemed to him properly qualified to carry
out his intention. His idea was that this celestial visitant was not
wicked, but only indifferent to good and evil and suffering, having no
personal knowledge of any of these things. Clemens tried the experiment
in various ways, and portions of the manuscript are absorbingly
interesting, lofty in conception, and rarely worked out--other portions
being merely grotesque, in which the illusion of reality vanishes.
Among the published work of the Vienna period is an article about a
morality play, the "Master of Palmyra,"--[About play-acting, Forum,
October, 1898.]--by Adolf Wilbrandt, an impressive play presenting
Death, the all-powerful, as the principal part.
The Cosmopolitan Magazine for August published "At the Appetite-Cure," in
which Mark Twain, in the guise of humor, set forth a very sound and
sensible idea concerning dietetics, and in October the same magazine
published his first article on "Christian Science and the Book of Mrs.
Eddy." As we have seen, Clemens had been always deeply interested in
mental healing, and in closing this humorous skit he made due
acknowledgments to the unseen forces which, properly employed, through
the imagination work physical benefits:
"Within the last quarter of a century," he says, "in America, several
sects of curers have appeared under various names and have done notable
things in the way of healing ailments without the use of medicines."
Clemens was willing to admit that Mrs. Eddy and her book had benefited
humanity, but he could not resist the fun-making which certain of her
formulas and her phrasing invited. The delightful humor of the
Cosmopolitan article awoke a general laugh, in which even devout
Christian Scientists were inclined to join.--[It was so popular that
John Brisben Walker voluntarily added a check for two hundred dollars to
the eight hundred dollars already paid.]--Nothing that he ever did
exhibits more happily that peculiar literary gift upon which his fame
But there is another story of this period that will live when most of
those others mentioned are but little remembered. It is the story of
"The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg." This is a tale that in its own way
takes its place with the half-dozen great English short stories of the
world-with such stories as "The Fall of the House of Usher," by Poe;
"The Luck of Roaring Camp," by Harte; "The Man Who Would be King," by
Kipling; and "The Man Without a Country," by Hale. As a study of the
human soul, its flimsy pretensions and its pitiful frailties, it outranks
all the rest. In it Mark Twain's pessimistic philosophy concerning the
"human animal" found a free and moral vent. Whatever his contempt for a
thing, he was always amused at it; and in this tale we can imagine him a
gigantic Pantagruel dangling a ridiculous manikin, throwing himself back
and roaring out his great bursting guffaws at its pitiful antics. The
temptation and the downfall of a whole town was a colossal idea, a
sardonic idea, and it is colossally and sardonically worked out.
Human weakness and rotten moral force were never stripped so bare or so
mercilessly jeered at in the marketplace. For once Mark Twain could hug
himself with glee in derision of self-righteousness, knowing that the
world would laugh with him, and that none would be so bold as to gainsay
his mockery. Probably no one but Mark Twain ever conceived the idea of
demoralizing a whole community--of making its "nineteen leading citizens"
ridiculous by leading them into a cheap, glittering temptation, and
having them yield and openly perjure themselves at the very moment when
their boasted incorruptibility was to amaze the world. And it is all
wonderfully done. The mechanism of the story is perfect, the drama of it
is complete. The exposure of the nineteen citizens in the very sanctity
of the church itself, and by the man they have discredited, completing
the carefully prepared revenge of the injured stranger, is supreme in its
artistic triumph. "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" is one of the
mightiest sermons against self-righteousness ever preached. Its
philosophy, that every man is strong until his price is named; the
futility of the prayer not to be led into temptation, when it is only by
resisting temptation that men grow strong--these things blaze out in a
way that makes us fairly blink with the truth of them.
It is Mark Twain's greatest short story. It is fine that it should be
that, as well as much more than that; for he was no longer essentially a
story-teller. He had become more than ever a moralist and a sage.
Having seen all of the world, and richly enjoyed and deeply suffered at
its hands, he sat now as in a seat of judgment, regarding the passing
show and recording his philosophies.
AN IMPERIAL TRAGEDY
For the summer they went to Kaltenleutgeben, just out of Vienna, where
they had the Villa Paulhof, and it was while they were there, September
10, 1898, that the Empress Elizabeth of Austria was assassinated at
Geneva by an Italian vagabond, whose motive seemed to have been to gain
notoriety. The news was brought to them one evening, just at supper-
time, by Countess Wydenbouck-Esterhazy.
Clemens wrote to Twichell:
That good & unoffending lady, the Empress, is killed by a madman, &
I am living in the midst of world-history again. The Queen's
Jubilee last year, the invasion of the Reichsrath by the police, &
now this murder, which will still be talked of & described & painted
a thousand years from now. To have a personal friend of the wearer
of two crowns burst in at the gate in the deep dusk of the evening &
say, in a voice broken with tears, "My God! the Empress is
murdered," & fly toward her home before we can utter a question--
why, it brings the giant event home to you, makes you a part of it &
personally interested; it is as if your neighbor Antony should come
flying & say, "Caesar is butchered--the head of the world is
Of course there is no talk but of this. The mourning is universal and
genuine, the consternation is stupefying. The Austrian Empire is being
draped with black. Vienna will be a spectacle to see by next Saturday,
when the funeral cortege marches.
Clemens and the others went into Vienna for the funeral ceremonies and
witnessed them from the windows of the new Krantz Hotel, which faces the
Capuchin church where the royal dead lie buried. It was a grandly
impressive occasion, a pageant of uniforms of the allied nations that
made up the Empire of Austria. Clemens wrote of it at considerable
length, and sent the article to Mr. Rogers to offer to the magazines.
Later, however, he recalled it just why is not clear. In one place he
Twice the Empress entered Vienna in state; the first time was in
1854, when she was a bride of seventeen, & when she rode in measureless
pomp through a world of gay flags & decorations down the streets, walled
on both hands with the press of shouting & welcoming subjects; & the
second time was last Wednesday, when she entered the city in her coffin,
& moved down the same streets in the dead of night under waving black
flags, between human walls again, but everywhere was a deep stillness now
& a stillness emphasized rather than broken by the muffled hoofbeats of
the long cavalcade over pavements cushioned with sand, & the low sobbing
of gray-headed women who had witnessed the first entrance, forty-four
years before, when she & they were young & unaware.... She was so
blameless--the Empress; & so beautiful in mind & heart, in person &
spirit; & whether with the crown upon her head, or without it & nameless,
a grace to the human race, almost a justification of its creation; would
be, indeed, but that the animal that struck her down re-establishes the
They passed a quiet summer at Kaltenleutgeben. Clemens wrote some
articles, did some translating of German plays, and worked on his
"Gospel," an elaboration of his old essay on contenting one's soul
through selfishness, later to be published as 'What is Man?' A. C.
Dunham and Rev. Dr. Parker, of Hartford, came to Vienna, and Clemens
found them and brought them out to Kaltenleutgeben and read them chapters
of his doctrines, which, he said, Mrs. Clemens would not let him print.
Dr. Parker and Dunham returned to Hartford and reported Mark Twain more
than ever a philosopher; also that he was the "center of notability and
his house a court."
THE SECOND WINTER IN VIENNA
The Clemens family did not return to the Metropole for the winter, but
went to the new Krantz, already mentioned, where they had a handsome and
commodious suite looking down on the Neuer Markt and on the beautiful
facade of the Capuchin church, with the great cathedral only a step away.
There they passed another brilliant and busy winter. Never in Europe had
they been more comfortably situated; attention had been never more
lavishly paid to them. Their drawing-room was a salon which acquired the
name of the "Second Embassy." Clemens in his note-book wrote:
During 8 years now I have filled the position--with some credit, I trust,
of self-appointed ambassador-at-large of the United States of America--
Which was a joke; but there was a large grain of truth in it, for Mark
Twain, more than any other American in Europe, was regarded as typically
representing his nation and received more lavish honors.
It had become the fashion to consult him on every question of public
interest, for he was certain to say something worth printing, whether
seriously or otherwise. When the Tsar of Russia proposed the disarmament
of the nations William T. Stead, editor of the Review of Reviews, wrote
for Mark Twain's opinion. He replied:
DEAR MR. STEADY,--The Tsar is ready to disarm. I am ready to disarm.
Collect the others; it should not be much of a task now.
He was on a tide of prosperity once more, one that was to continue now
until the end. He no longer had any serious financial qualms. He could
afford to be independent. He refused ten thousand dollars for a tobacco
indorsement, though he liked the tobacco well enough; and he was aware
that even royalty was willing to put a value on its opinions. He
declined ten thousand dollars a year for five years to lend his name as
editor of a humorous periodical, though there was no reason to suppose
that the paper would be otherwise than creditably conducted. He declined
lecture propositions from Pond at the rate of about one a month. He
could get along without these things, he said, and still preserve some
remnants of self-respect. In a letter to Rogers he said:
Pond offers me $10,000 for 10 nights, but I do not feel strongly tempted.
Mrs. Clemens ditto.
Early in 1899 he wrote to Howells that Mrs. Clemens had proved to him
that they owned a house and furniture in Hartford, that his English and
American copyrights paid an income on the equivalent of two hundred
thousand dollars, and that they had one hundred and seven thousand
dollars' accumulation in the bank.
"I have been out and bought a box of 6c. cigars," he says; "I was smoking
4 1/2c. before."
The things that men are most likely to desire had come to Mark Twain, and
no man was better qualified to rejoice in them. That supreme, elusive
thing which we call happiness might have been his now but for the tragedy
of human bereavement and the torture of human ills. That he did rejoice
--reveled indeed like a boy in his new fortunes, the honors paid him, and
in all that gay Viennese life-there is no doubt. He could wave aside
care and grief and remorse, forget their very existence, it seemed; but
in the end he had only driven them ahead a little way and they waited by
his path. Once, after reciting his occupations and successes, he wrote:
All these things might move and interest one. But how, desperately
more I have been moved to-night by the thought of a little old copy
in the nursery of 'At the Back of the North Wind'. Oh, what happy
days they were when that book was read, and how Susy loved it!...
Death is so kind, benignant, to whom he loves, but he goes by us
others & will not look our way.
And to Twichell a few days later:
A Hartford with no Susy in it--& no Ned Bunce!--It is not the city
of Hartford, it is the city of Heartbreak.... It seems only a few
weeks since I saw Susy last--yet that was 1895 & this is 1899....
My work does not go well to-day. It failed yesterday--& the day
before & the day before that. And so I have concluded to put the
MS. in the waste-basket & meddle with some other subject. I was
trying to write an article advocating the quadrupling of the
salaries of our ministers & ambassadors, & the devising of an
official dress for them to wear. It seems an easy theme, yet I
couldn't do the thing to my satisfaction. All I got out of it was
an article on Monaco & Monte Carlo--matters not connected with the
subject at all. Still, that was something--it's better than a total
He finished the article--"Diplomatic Pay and Clothes"--in which he shows
how absurd it is for America to expect proper representation on the
trifling salaries paid to her foreign ministers, as compared with those
allowed by other nations.
He prepared also a reminiscent article--the old tale of the shipwrecked
Hornet and the magazine article intended as his literary debut a
generation ago. Now and again he worked on some one of the several
unfinished longer tales, but brought none of them to completion. The
German drama interested him. Once he wrote to Mr. Rogers that he had
translated "In Purgatory" and sent it to Charles Frohman, who pronounced
it "all jabber and no play."
Curious, too, for it tears these Austrians to pieces with laughter. When
I read it, now, it seems entirely silly; but when I see it on the stage
it is exceedingly funny.
He undertook a play for the Burg Theater, a collaboration with a Vienna
journalist, Siegmund Schlesinger. Schlesinger had been successful with
several dramas, and agreed with Clemens to do some plays dealing with
American themes. One of them was to be called "Die Goldgraeberin," that
is, "The Woman Gold-Miner." Another, "The Rival Candidates," was to
present the humors of female suffrage. Schlesinger spoke very little
English, and Clemens always had difficulty in comprehending rapid-fire
German. So the work did not progress very well. By the time they had
completed a few scenes of mining-drama the interest died, and they good-
naturedly agreed that it would be necessary to wait until they understood
each other's language more perfectly before they could go on with the
project. Frau Kati Schratt, later morganatic wife of Emperor Franz
Josef, but then leading comedienne of the Burg Theater, is said to have
been cast for the leading part in the mining-play; and Director-General
Herr Schlenther, head of the Burg Theater management, was deeply
disappointed. He had never doubted that a play built by Schlesinger and
Mark Twain, with Frau Schratt in the leading role, would have been a
Clemens continued the subject of Christian Science that winter. He wrote
a number of articles, mainly criticizing Mrs. Eddy and her financial
methods, and for the first time conceived the notion of a book on the
subject. The new hierarchy not only amused but impressed him. He
realized that it was no ephemeral propaganda, that its appeal to human
need was strong, and that its system of organization was masterful and
complete. To Twichell he wrote:
Somehow I continue to feel sure of that cult's colossal future.... I am
selling my Lourdes stock already & buying Christian Science trust. I
regard it as the Standard Oil of the future.
He laid the article away for the time and, as was his custom, put the
play quite out of his mind and invented a postal-check which would be far
more simple than post-office orders, because one could buy them in any
quantity and denomination and keep them on hand for immediate use, making
them individually payable merely by writing in the name of the payee. It
seems a fine, simple scheme, one that might have been adopted by the
government long ago; but the idea has been advanced in one form or
another several times since then, and still remains at this writing
unadopted. He wrote John Hay about it, remarking at the close that the
government officials would probably not care to buy it as soon as they
found they couldn't kill Christians with it.
He prepared a lengthy article on the subject, in dialogue form, making it
all very clear and convincing, but for some reason none of the magazines
would take it. Perhaps it seemed too easy, too simple, too obvious.
Great ideas, once developed, are often like that.
SPEECHES THAT WERE NOT MADE
In a volume of Mark Twain's collected speeches there is one entitled
"German for the Hungarians--Address at the jubilee Celebration of the
Emancipation of the Hungarian Press, March 26, 1899." An introductory
paragraph states that the ministers and members of Parliament were
present, and that the subject was the "Ausgleich"--i.e., the arrangement
for the apportionment of the taxes between Hungary and Austria. The
speech as there set down begins:
Now that we are all here together I think that it will be a good
idea to arrange the Ausgleich. If you will act for Hungary I shall
be quite willing to act for Austria, and this is the very time for
It is an excellent speech, full of good-feeling and good-humor, but it
was never delivered. It is only a speech that Mark Twain intended to
deliver, and permitted to be copied by a representative of the press
before he started for Budapest.
It was a grand dinner, brilliant and inspiring, and when, Mark Twain was
presented to that distinguished company he took a text from something the
introducer had said and became so interested in it that his prepared
speech wholly disappeared from his memory.
I think I will never embarrass myself with a set speech again [he wrote
Twichell]. My memory is old and rickety and cannot stand the strain.
But I had this luck. What I did was to furnish a text for a part of the
splendid speech which was made by the greatest living orator of the
European world--a speech which it was a great delight to listen to,
although I did not understand any word of it, it being in Hungarian.
I was glad I came, it was a great night, & I heard all the great men in
the German tongue.
The family accompanied Clemens to Budapest, and while there met Franz,
son of Louis Kossuth, and dined with him.
I assure you [wrote Mrs. Clemens] that I felt stirred, and I kept saying
to myself "This is Louis Kossuth's son." He came to our room one day,
and we had quite a long and a very pleasant talk together. He is a man
one likes immensely. He has a quiet dignity about him that is very
winning. He seems to be a man highly esteemed in Hungary. If I am not
mistaken, the last time I saw the old picture of his father it was
hanging in a room that we turned into a music-room for Susy at the farm.
They were most handsomely treated in Budapest. A large delegation
greeted them on arrival, and a carriage and attendants were placed
continually at their disposal. They remained several days, and Clemens
showed his appreciation by giving a reading for charity.
It was hinted to Mark Twain that spring, that before leaving Vienna, it
would be proper for him to pay his respects to Emperor Franz Josef, who
had expressed a wish to meet him. Clemens promptly complied with the
formalities and the meeting was arranged. He had a warm admiration for
the Austrian Emperor, and naturally prepared himself a little for what he
wanted to say to him. He claimed afterward that he had compacted a sort
of speech into a single German sentence of eighteen words. He did not
make use of it, however. When he arrived at the royal palace and was
presented, the Emperor himself began in such an entirely informal way
that it did no occur to his visitor to deliver his prepared German
sentence. When he returned from the audience he said:
"We got along very well. I proposed to him a plan to exterminate the
human race by withdrawing the oxygen from the air for a period of two
minutes. I said Szczepanik would invent it for him. I think it
impressed him. After a while, in the course of our talk I remembered and
told the Emperor I had prepared and memorized a very good speech but had
forgotten it. He was very agreeable about it. He said a speech wasn't
necessary. He seemed to be a most kind-hearted emperor, with a great
deal of plain, good, attractive human nature about him. Necessarily he
must have or he couldn't have unbent to me as he did. I couldn't unbend
if I were an emperor. I should feel the stiffness of the position.
Franz Josef doesn't feel it. He is just a natural man, although an
emperor. I was greatly impressed by him, and I liked him exceedingly.
His face is always the face of a pleasant man and he has a fine sense of
humor. It is the Emperor's personality and the confidence all ranks have
in him that preserve the real political serenity in what has an outside
appearance of being the opposite. He is a man as well as an emperor--an
emperor and a man."
Clemens and Howells were corresponding with something of the old-time
frequency. The work that Mark Twain was doing--thoughtful work with
serious intent--appealed strongly to Howells. He wrote:
You are the greatest man of your sort that ever lived, and there is
no use saying anything else . . . . You have pervaded your
century almost more than any other man of letters, if not more; and
it is astonishing how you keep spreading . . . . You are my
"shadow of a great rock in a weary land" more than any other writer.
Clemens, who was reading Howells's serial, "Their Silver-Wedding
journey," then running in Harper's Magazine, responded: