Part 5 out of 5
You are old enough to be a weary man with paling interests, but you
do not show it; you do your work in the same old, delicate &
delicious & forceful & searching & perfect way. I don't know how
you can--but I suspect. I suspect that to you there is still
dignity in human life, & that man is not a joke--a poor joke--the
poorest that was ever contrived. Since I wrote my Bible--[The
"Gospel," What is Man?]--(last year), which Mrs. Clemens loathes &
shudders over & will not listen to the last half nor allow me to
print any part of it, man is not to me the respect-worthy person he
was before, & so I have lost my pride in him & can't write gaily nor
praisefully about him any more . . . .
Next morning. I have been reading the morning paper. I do it every
morning--well knowing that I shall find in it the usual depravities
& basenesses & hypocrisies and cruelties that make up civilization &
cause me to put in the rest of the day pleading for the damnation of
the human race. I cannot seem to get my prayers answered, yet I do
He was not greatly changed. Perhaps he had fewer illusions and less
iridescent ones, and certainly he had more sorrow; but the letters to
Howells do not vary greatly from those written twenty-five years before.
There is even in them a touch of the old pretense as to Mrs. Clemens's
I mustn't stop to play now or I shall never get those helfiard letters
answered. (That is not my spelling. It is Mrs. Clemens's, I have told
her the right way a thousand times, but it does no good, she never
All through this Vienna period (as during several years before and after)
Henry Rogers was in full charge of Mark Twain's American affairs.
Clemens wrote him almost daily, and upon every matter, small or large,
that developed, or seemed likely to develop, in his undertakings. The
complications growing out of the type machine and Webster failures were
endless.--["I hope to goodness I sha'n't get you into any more jobs such
as the type-setter and Webster business and the Bliss-Harper campaigns
have been. Oh, they were sickeners." (Clemens to Rogers,
November 15, 1898.)]--The disposal of the manuscripts alone was work for
a literary agent. The consideration of proposed literary, dramatic, and
financial schemes must have required not only thought, but time. Yet Mr.
Rogers comfortably and genially took care of all these things and his own
tremendous affairs besides, and apologized sometimes when he felt,
perhaps, that he had wavered a little in his attention. Clemens once
Oh, dear me, you don't have to excuse yourself for neglecting me;
you are entitled to the highest praise for being so limitlessly
patient and good in bothering with my confused affairs, and pulling
me out of a hole every little while.
It makes me lazy, the way that Steel stock is rising. If I were
lazier--like Rice--nothing could keep me from retiring. But I work
right along, like a poor person. I shall figure up the rise, as the
figures come in, and push up my literary prices accordingly, till I
get my literature up to where nobody can afford it but the family.
(N. B.--Look here, are you charging storage? I am not going to
stand that, you know.) Meantime, I note those encouraging illogical
words of yours about my not worrying because I am to be rich when I
am 68; why didn't you have Cheiro make it 90, so that I could have
plenty of room?
It would be jolly good if some one should succeed in making a play
out of "Is He Dead?"--[Clemens himself had attempted to make a play
out of his story "Is He Dead?" and had forwarded the MS. to Rogers.
Later he wrote: "Put 'Is He Dead?' in the fire. God will bless you.
I too. I started to convince myself that I could write a play, or
couldn't. I'm convinced. Nothing can disturb that conviction."]--
From what I gather from dramatists, he will have his hands something
more than full--but let him struggle, let him struggle.
Is there some way, honest or otherwise, by which you can get a copy
of Mayo's play, "Pudd'nhead Wilson," for me? There is a capable
young Austrian here who saw it in New York and wants to translate it
and see if he can stage it here. I don't think these people here
would understand it or take to it, but he thinks it will pay us to
A couple of London dramatists want to bargain with me for the right
to make a high comedy out of the "Million-Pound Note." Barkis is
This is but one of the briefer letters. Most of them were much longer
and of more elaborate requirements. Also they overflowed with the gaiety
of good-fortune and with gratitude. From Vienna in 1899 Clemens wrote:
Why, it is just splendid! I have nothing to do but sit around and
watch you set the hen and hatch out those big broods and make my
living for me. Don't you wish you had somebody to do the same for
you?--a magician who can turn steel add copper and Brooklyn gas into
gold. I mean to raise your wages again--I begin to feel that I can
I think the hen ought to have a name; she must be called Unberufen.
That is a German word which is equivalent to it "sh! hush' don't let
the spirits hear you!" The superstition is that if you happen to
let fall any grateful jubilation over good luck that you've had or
are hoping to have you must shut square off and say "Unberufen!" and
knock wood. The word drives the evil spirits away; otherwise they
would divine your joy or your hopes and go to work and spoil your
game. Set her again--do!
Oh, look here! You are just like everybody; merely because I am
literary you think I'm a commercial somnambulist, and am not
watching you with all that money in your hands. Bless you, I've got
a description of you and a photograph in every police-office in
Christendom, with the remark appended: "Look out for a handsome,
tall, slender young man with a gray mustache and courtly manners and
an address well calculated to deceive, calling himself by the name
of Smith." Don't you try to get away--it won't work.
From the note-book:
Midnight. At Miss Bailie's home for English governesses. Two
comedies & some songs and ballads. Was asked to speak & did it.
(And rung in the "Mexican Plug.")
A Voice. "The Princess Hohenlohe wishes you to write on her fan."
"With pleasure--where is she?"
"At your elbow."
I turned & took the fan & said, "Your Highness's place is in a fairy
tale; & by & by I mean to write that tale," whereat she laughed a
happy girlish laugh, & we moved through the crowd to get to a
writing-table--& to get in a strong light so that I could see her
better. Beautiful little creature, with the dearest friendly ways &
sincerities & simplicities & sweetnesses--the ideal princess of the
fairy tales. She is 16 or 17, I judge.
Mental Telegraphy. Mrs. Clemens was pouring out the coffee this
morning; I unfolded the Neue Freie Presse, began to read a paragraph
"They've found a new way to tell genuine gems from false----"
"By the Roentgen ray!" she exclaimed.
That is what I was going to say. She had not seen the paper, &
there had been no talk about the ray or gems by herself or by me.
It was a plain case of telegraphy.
No man that ever lived has ever done a thing to please God--
primarily. It was done to please himself, then God next.
The Being who to me is the real God is the one who created this
majestic universe & rules it. He is the only originator, the only
originator of thoughts; thoughts suggested from within, not from
without; the originator of colors & of all their possible
combinations; of forces & the laws that govern them; of forms &
shapes of all forms-man has never invented a new one. He is the
only originator. He made the materials of all things; He made the
laws by which, & by which only, man may combine them into the
machines & other things which outside influences suggest to him. He
made character--man can portray it but not "create" it, for He is
the only creator.
He, is the perfect artisan, the perfect artist.
A SUMMER IN SWEDEN
A part of the tragedy of their trip around the world had been the
development in Jean Clemens of a malady which time had identified as
epilepsy. The loss of one daughter and the invalidism of another was the
burden which this household had now to bear. Of course they did not for
a moment despair of a cure for the beautiful girl who had been so cruelly
stricken, and they employed any agent that promised relief.
They decided now to go to London, in the hope of obtaining beneficial
treatment. They left Vienna at the end of May, followed to the station
by a great crowd, who loaded their compartment with flowers and lingered
on the platform waving and cheering, some of them in tears, while the
train pulled away. Leschetizky himself was among them, and Wilbrandt,
the author of the Master of Palmyra, and many artists and other notables,
"most of whom," writes Mrs. Clemens, "we shall probably never see again
in this world."
Their Vienna sojourn had been one of the most brilliant periods of their
life, as well as one of the saddest. The memory of Susy had been never
absent, and the failing health of Jean was a gathering cloud.
They stopped a day or two at Prague, where they were invited by the
Prince of Thurn and Taxis to visit his castle. It gave them a glimpse of
the country life of the Bohemian nobility which was most interesting.
The Prince's children were entirely familiar with Tom Sawyer and
Huckleberry Finn, which they had read both in English and in the
They journeyed to London by way of Cologne, arriving by the end of May.
Poultney Bigelow was there, and had recently been treated with great
benefit by osteopathy (then known as the Swedish movements), as practised
by Heinrick Kellgren at Sanna, Sweden. Clemens was all interest
concerning Kellgren's method and eager to try it for his daughter's
malady. He believed she could be benefited, and they made preparation to
spend some months at least in Sanna. They remained several weeks in
London, where they were welcomed with hospitality extraordinary. They
had hardly arrived when they were invited by Lord Salisbury to Hatfield
House, and by James Bryce to Portland Place, and by Canon Wilberforce to
Dean's Yard. A rather amusing incident happened at one of the luncheon-
parties. Canon Wilberforce was there and left rather early. When
Clemens was ready to go there was just one hat remaining. It was not
his, and he suspected, by the initials on the inside, that it belonged to
Canon Wilberforce. However, it fitted him exactly and he wore it away.
That evening he wrote:
PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL, DE VERE GARDENS,
DEAR CANON WILBERFORCE,--It is 8 P.M. During the past four hours I have
not been able to take anything that did not belong to me; during all that
time I have not been able to stretch a fact beyond the frontiers of truth
try as I might, & meantime, not only my morals have moved the
astonishment of all who have come in contact with me, but my manners have
gained more compliments than they have been accustomed to. This mystery
is causing my family much alarm. It is difficult to account for it.
I find I haven't my own hat. Have you developed any novelties of conduct
since you left Mr. Murray's, & have they been of a character to move the
concern of your friends? I think it must be this that has put me under
this happy charm; but, oh dear! I tremble for the other man!
S. L. CLEMENS.
Scarcely was this note on its way to Wilberforce when the following one
arrived, having crossed it in transit:
July 3, 1899.
DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--I have been conscious of a vivacity and facility of
expression this afternoon beyond the normal and I have just discovered
the reason!! I have seen the historic signature "Mark Twain" in my hat!!
Doubtless you have been suffering from a corresponding dullness & have
wondered why. I departed precipitately, the hat stood on my umbrella and
was a new Lincoln & Bennett--it fitted me exactly and I did not discover
the mistake till I got in this afternoon. Please forgive me. If you
should be passing this way to-morrow will you look in and change hats?
or shall I send it to the hotel?
I am, very sincerely yrs.,
20 Dean's Yard. BASIL WILBERFORCE.
Clemens was demanded by all the bohemian clubs, the White Friars, the
Vagabonds, the Savage, the Beefsteak, and the Authors. He spoke to them,
and those "Mark Twain Evenings" have become historic occasions in each of
the several institutions that gave him welcome. At the Vagabonds he told
them the watermelon story, and at the White Friars he reviewed the old
days when he had been elected to that society; "days," he said, "when all
Londoners were talking about nothing else than that they had discovered
Livingstone, and that the lost Sir Roger Tichborne had been found and
they were trying him for it."
At the Savage Club, too, he recalled old times and old friends, and
particularly that first London visit, his days in the club twenty-seven
"I was 6 feet 4 in those days," he said. "Now I am 5 feet 8 1/2 and
daily diminishing in altitude, and the shrinkage of my principles goes on
. . . . Irving was here then, is here now. Stanley is here, and Joe
Hatton, but Charles Reade is gone and Tom Hood and Harry Lee and Canon
Kingsley. In those days you could have carried Kipling around in a
lunch-basket; now he fills the world. I was young and foolish then; now
I am old and foolisher."
At the Authors Club he paid a special tribute to Rudyard Kipling, whose
dangerous illness in New York City and whose daughter's death had aroused
the anxiety and sympathy of the entire American nation. It had done much
to bring England and America closer together, Clemens said. Then he
added that he had been engaged the past eight days compiling a pun and
had brought it there to lay at their feet, not to ask for their
indulgence, but for their applause. It was this:
"Since England and America have been joined in Kipling, may they not be
severed in Twain."
Hundreds of puns had been made on his pen-name, but this was probably his
first and only attempt, and it still remains the best.
They arrived in Sweden early in July and remained until October. Jean
was certainly benefited by the Kellgren treatment, and they had for a
time the greatest hopes of her complete recovery. Clemens became
enthusiastic over osteopathy, and wrote eloquently to every one, urging
each to try the great new curative which was certain to restore universal
health. He wrote long articles on Kellgren and his science, largely
justified, no doubt, for certainly miraculous benefits were recorded;
though Clemens was not likely to underestimate a thing which appealed to
both his imagination and his reason. Writing to Twichell he concluded,
with his customary optimism over any new benefit:
Ten years hence no sane man will call a doctor except when the knife
must be used--& such cases will be rare. The educated physician
will himself be an osteopath. Dave will become one after he has
finished his medical training. Young Harmony ought to become one
now. I do not believe there is any difference between Kellgren's
science and osteopathy; but I am sending to America to find out. I
want osteopathy to prosper; it is common sense & scientific, & cures
a wider range of ailments than the doctor's methods can reach.
Twichell was traveling in Europe that summer, and wrote from Switzerland:
I seemed ever and anon to see you and me swinging along those
glorious Alpine woods, staring at the new unfoldings of splendor
that every turn brought into view-talking, talking, endlessly
talking the days through-days forever memorable to me. That was
twenty-one years ago; think of it! We were youngsters then, Mark,
and how keen our relish of everything was! Well, I can enjoy myself
now; but not with that zest and rapture. Oh, a lot of items of our
tramp travel in 1878 that I had long forgotten came back to me as we
sped through that enchanted region, and if I wasn't on duty with
Venice I'd stop and set down some of them, but Venice must be
attended to. For one thing, there is Howells's book to be read at
such intervals as can be snatched from the quick-time march on which
our rustling leader keeps us. However, in Venice so far we want to
be gazing pretty steadily from morning till night, and by the grace
of the gondola we can do it without exhaustion. Really I am drunk
But Clemens was full of Sweden. The skies there and the sunsets be
thought surpassed any he had ever known. On an evening in September he
DEAR JOE,--I've no business in here-I ought to be outside. I shall
never see another sunset to begin with it this side of heaven.
Venice? land, what a poor interest that is! This is the place to
be. I have seen about 60 sunsets here; & a good 40 of them were
away & beyond anything I had ever imagined before for dainty &
exquisite & marvelous beauty & infinite change & variety. America?
Italy? the tropics? They have no notion of what a sunset ought to
be. And this one--this unspeakable wonder! It discounts all the
rest. It brings the tears, it is so unutterably beautiful.
Clemens read a book during his stay in Sweden which interested him
deeply. It was the Open Question, by Elizabeth Robbins--a fine study of
life's sterner aspects. When he had finished he was moved to write the
author this encouraging word:
DEAR MISS ROBBINS,--A relative of Matthew Arnold lent us your 'Open
Question' the other day, and Mrs. Clemens and I are in your debt. I
am not able to put in words my feeling about the book--my admiration
of its depth and truth and wisdom and courage, and the fine and
great literary art and grace of the setting. At your age you cannot
have lived the half of the things that are in the book, nor
personally penetrated to the deeps it deals in, nor covered its wide
horizons with your very own vision--and so, what is your secret?
how have you written this miracle? Perhaps one must concede that
genius has no youth, but starts with the ripeness of age and old
Well, in any case, I am grateful to you. I have not been so
enriched by a book for many years, nor so enchanted by one. I seem
to be using strong language; still, I have weighed it.
S. L. CLEMENS.
30, WELLINGTON COURT
Clemens himself took the Kellgren treatment and received a good deal of
"I have come back in sound condition and braced for work," he wrote
MacAlister, upon his return to London. "A long, steady, faithful siege
of it, and I begin now in five minutes."
They had settled in a small apartment at 30, Wellington Court, Albert
Gate, where they could be near the London branch of the Kellgren
institution, and he had a workroom with Chatto & Windus, his publishers.
His work, however, was mainly writing speeches, for he was entertained
constantly, and it seemed impossible for him to escape. His note-book
became a mere jumble of engagements. He did write an article or a story
now and then, one of which, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It," was
made the important Christmas feature of the 'New York Sunday World.'
--[Now included in the Hadleyburg volume; "Complete Works."]
Another article of this time was the "St. Joan of Arc," which several
years later appeared in Harper's Magazine. This article was originally
written as the Introduction of the English translation of the official
record of the trials and rehabilitation of Joan, then about to be
elaborately issued. Clemens was greatly pleased at being invited to
prepare the Introduction of this important volume, but a smug person with
pedagogic proclivities was in charge of the copy and proceeded to edit
Mark Twain's manuscript; to alter its phrasing to conform to his own
ideas of the Queen's English. Then he had it all nicely typewritten, and
returned it to show how much he had improved it, and to receive thanks
and compliments. He did not receive any thanks. Clemens recorded a few
of the remarks that he made when he saw his edited manuscript:
I will not deny that my feelings rose to 104 in the shade. "The
idea! That this long-eared animal this literary kangaroo this
illiterate hostler with his skull full of axle-grease--this....."
But I stopped there, for this was not the Christian spirit.
His would-be editor received a prompt order to return the manuscript,
after which Clemens wrote a letter, some of which will go very well here.
DEAR MR. X.,--I have examined the first page of my amended
Introduction,--& will begin now & jot down some notes upon your
corrections. If I find any changes which shall not seem to me to be
improvements I will point out my reasons for thinking so. In this
way I may chance to be helpful to you, & thus profit you perhaps as
much as you have desired to profit me.
First Paragraph. "Jeanne d'Arc." This is rather cheaply pedantic,
& is not in very good taste. Joan is not known by that name among
plain people of our race & tongue. I notice that the name of the
Deity occurs several times in the brief instalment of the Trials
which you have favored me with. To be consistent, it will be
necessary that you strike out "God" & put in "Dieu." Do not neglect
Second Paragraph. Now you have begun on my punctuation. Don't you
realize that you ought not to intrude your help in a delicate art
like that with your limitations? And do you think that you have
added just the right smear of polish to the closing clause of the
Third Paragraph. Ditto.
Fourth Paragraph. Your word "directly" is misleading; it could be
construed to mean "at once." Plain clarity is better than ornate
obscurity. I note your sensitive marginal remark: "Rather unkind to
French feelings--referring to Moscow." Indeed I have not been
concerning myself about French feelings, but only about stating the
facts. I have said several uncourteous things about the French--
calling them a "nation of ingrates" in one place--but you have been
so busy editing commas & semicolons that you overlooked them &
failed to get scared at them. The next paragraph ends with a slur
at the French, but I have reasons for thinking you mistook it for a
compliment. It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like
yours. You ought to get it out & dance on it.
That would take some of the rigidity out of it. And you ought to
use it sometimes; that would help. If you had done this every now &
then along through life it would not have petrified.
Fifth Paragraph. Thus far I regard this as your masterpiece! You
are really perfect in the great art of reducing simple & dignified
speech to clumsy & vapid commonplace.
Sixth Paragraph. You have a singularly fine & aristocratic
disrespect for homely & unpretending English. Every time I use "go
back" you get out your polisher & slick it up to "return." "Return"
is suited only to the drawing-room--it is ducal, & says itself with
a simper & a smirk.
Seventh Paragraph. "Permission" is ducal. Ducal and affected.
"Her" great days were not "over," they were only half over. Didn't
you know that? Haven't you read anything at all about Joan of Arc?
The truth is you do not pay any attention; I told you on my very
first page that the public part of her career lasted two years, &
you have forgotten it already. You really must get your mind out
and have it repaired; you see yourself that it is all caked
Eighth Paragraph. She "rode away to assault & capture a
stronghold." Very well; but you do not tell us whether she
succeeded or not. You should not worry the reader with
uncertainties like that. I will remind you once more that clarity
is a good thing in literature. An apprentice cannot do better than
keep this useful rule in mind.
Ninth Paragraph. "Known" history. That word has a polish which is
too indelicate for me; there doesn't seem to be any sense in it.
This would have surprised me last week.
. . . "Breaking a lance" is a knightly & sumptuous phrase, & I
honor it for its hoary age & for the faithful service it has done in
the prize-composition of the school-girl, but I have ceased from
employing it since I got my puberty, & must solemnly object to
fathering it here. And, besides, it makes me hint that I have
broken one of those things before in honor of the Maid, an
intimation not justified by the facts. I did not break any lances
or other furniture; I only wrote a book about her.
It cost me something to restrain myself and say these smooth & half-
flattering things of this immeasurable idiot, but I did it, & have
never regretted it. For it is higher & nobler to be kind to even a
shad like him than just . . . . I could have said hundreds of
unpleasant things about this tadpole, but I did not even feel them.
Yet, in the end, he seems not to have sent the letter. Writing it had
served every purpose.
An important publishing event of 1899 was the issue by the American
Publishing Company of Mark Twain's "Complete Works in Uniform Edition."
Clemens had looked forward to the day when this should be done, perhaps
feeling that an assembling of his literary family in symmetrical dress
constituted a sort of official recognition of his authorship. Brander
Matthews was selected to write the Introduction and prepared a fine
"Biographical Criticism," which pleased Clemens, though perhaps he did
not entirely agree with its views. Himself of a different cast of mind,
he nevertheless admired Matthews.
Writing to Twichell he said:
When you say, "I like Brander Matthews, he impresses me as a man of
parts & power," I back you, right up to the hub--I feel the same
way. And when you say he has earned your gratitude for cuffing me
for my crimes against the Leather-stockings & the Vicar I ain't
making any objection. Dern your gratitude!
His article is as sound as a nut. Brander knows literature & loves
it; he can talk about it & keep his temper; he can state his case so
lucidly & so fairly & so forcibly that you have to agree with him
even when you don't agree with him; & he can discover & praise such
merits as a book has even when they are merely half a dozen diamonds
scattered through an acre of mud. And so he has a right to be a
To detail just the opposite of the above invoice is to describe me.
I haven't any right to criticize books, & I don't do it except when
I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books
madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; &
therefore I have to stop every time I begin.'--[Once at a dinner
given to Matthews, Mark Twain made a speech which consisted almost
entirely of intonations of the name "Brander Matthews" to express
various shades of human emotion. It would be hopeless, of course,
to attempt to convey in print any idea of this effort, which, by
those who heard it, is said to have been a masterpiece of
Clemens also introduced the "Uniform Edition" with an Author's Preface,
the jurisdiction of which, he said, was "restricted to furnishing reasons
for the publication of the collection as a whole."
This is not easy to do. Aside from the ordinary commercial reasons
I find none that I can offer with dignity: I cannot say without
immodesty that the books have merit; I cannot say without immodesty
that the public want a "Uniform Edition"; I cannot say without
immodesty that a "Uniform Edition" will turn the nation toward high
ideals & elevated thought; I cannot say without immodesty that a
"Uniform Edition" will eradicate crime, though I think it will. I
find no reason that I can offer without immodesty except the rather
poor one that I should like to see a "Uniform Edition" myself. It
is nothing; a cat could say it about her kittens. Still, I believe
I will stand upon that. I have to have a Preface & a reason, by law
of custom, & the reason which I am putting forward is at least
MARK TWAIN AND THE WARS
English troubles in South Africa came to a head that autumn. On the day
when England's ultimatum to the Boers expired Clemens wrote:
LONDON, 3.07 P.m., Wednesday, October 11, 1899. The time is up!
Without a doubt the first shot in the war is being fired to-day in
South Africa at this moment. Some man had to be the first to fall;
he has fallen. Whose heart is broken by this murder? For, be he
Boer or be he Briton, it is murder, & England committed it by the
hand of Chamberlain & the Cabinet, the lackeys of Cecil Rhodes & his
Forty Thieves, the South Africa Company.
Mark Twain would naturally sympathize with the Boer--the weaker side, the
man defending his home. He knew that for the sake of human progress
England must conquer and must be upheld, but his heart was all the other
way. In January, 1900, he wrote a characteristic letter to Twichell,
which conveys pretty conclusively his sentiments concerning the two wars
then in progress.
DEAR JOE,--Apparently we are not proposing to set the Filipinos free
& give their islands to them; & apparently we are not proposing to
hang the priests & confiscate their property. If these things are
so the war out there has no interest for me.
I have just been examining Chapter LXX of Following the Equator to
see if the Boer's old military effectiveness is holding out. It
reads curiously as if it had been written about the present war.
I believe that in the next chapter my notion of the Boer was rightly
conceived. He is popularly called uncivilized; I do not know why.
Happiness, food, shelter, clothing, wholesome labor, modest &
rational ambitions, honesty, kindliness, hospitality, love of
freedom & limitless courage to fight for it, composure & fortitude
in time of disaster, patience in time of hardship & privation,
absence of noise & brag in time of victory, contentment with humble
& peaceful life void of insane excitements--if there is a higher &
better form of civilization than this I am not aware of it & do not
know where to look for it. I suppose that we have the habit of
imagining that a lot of artistic & intellectual & other
artificialities must be added or it isn't complete. We & the
English have these latter; but as we lack the great bulk of those
others I think the Boer civilization is the best of the two. My
idea of our civilization is that it is a shoddy, poor thing & full
of cruelties, vanities, arrogancies, meannesses, & hypocrisies.
Provided we could get something better in the place of it. But that
is not possible perhaps. Poor as it is, it is better than real
savagery, therefore we must stand by it, extend it, & (in public)
praise it. And so we must not utter any hurtful word about England
in these days, nor fail to hope that she will win in this war, for
her defeat & fall would be an irremediable disaster for the mangy
human race. Naturally, then, I am for England; but she is
profoundly in the wrong, Joe, & no (instructed) Englishman doubts
it. At least that is my belief.
Writing to Howells somewhat later, he calls the conflict in South Africa,
a "sordid and criminal war," and says that every day he is writing (in
his head) bitter magazine articles against it.
But I have to stop with that. Even if wrong--& she is wrong England
must be upheld. He is an enemy of the human race who shall speak
against her now. Why was the human race created? Or at least why
wasn't something creditable created in place of it? . . . I talk
the war with both sides--always waiting until the other man
introduces the topic. Then I say, "My head is with the Briton, but
my heart & such rags of morals as I have are with the Boer--now we
will talk, unembarrassed and without prejudice." And so we discuss
& have no trouble.
I notice that God is on both sides in this war; thus history repeats
itself. But I am the only person who has noticed this; everybody
here thinks He is playing the game for this side, & for this side
Clemens wrote one article for anonymous publication in the Times. But
when the manuscript was ready to mail in an envelope stamped and
addressed to Moberly Bell--he reconsidered and withheld it. It still
lies in the envelope with the accompanying letter, which says:
Don't give me away, whether you print it or not. But I think you ought
to print it and get up a squabble, for the weather is just suitable.
PLASMON, AND A NEW MAGAZINE
Clemens was not wholly wedded to osteopathy. The financial interest
which he had taken in the new milk albumen, "a food for invalids," tended
to divide his faith and make him uncertain as to which was to be the
chief panacea for all ills--osteopathy or plasmon.
MacAlister, who was deeply interested in the plasmon fortunes, was
anxious to get the product adopted by the army. He believed, if he could
get an interview with the Medical Director-General, he could convince him
of its merits. Discussing the matter with Clemens, the latter said:
"MacAlister, you are going at it from the wrong end. You can't go direct
to that man, a perfect stranger, and convince him of anything. Who is
his nearest friend?"
MacAlister knew a man on terms of social intimacy with the official.
Clemens said, "That is the man to speak to the Director-General."
"But I don't know him, either," said MacAlister.
"Very good. Do you know any one who does know him?"
"Yes, I know his most intimate friend."
"Then he is the man for you to approach. Convince him that plasmon is
what the army needs, that the military hospitals are suffering for it.
Let him understand that what you want is to get this to the Director-
General, and in due time it will get to him in the proper way. You'll
This proved to be a true prophecy. It was only a little while until the
British army had experimented with plasmon and adopted it. MacAlister
reported the success of the scheme to Clemens, and out of it grew the
story entitled, "Two Little Tales," published in November of the
following year (1901) in the Century Magazine. Perhaps the reader will
remember that in the "Two Little Tales" the Emperor is very ill and the
lowest of all his subjects knows a certain remedy, but he cannot seek the
Emperor direct, so he wisely approaches him through a series of
progressive stages--finally reaching and curing his stricken Majesty.
Clemens had the courage of his investments. He adopted plasmon as his
own daily food, and induced various members of the family to take it in
its more palatable forms, one of these being a preparation of chocolate.
He kept the reading-table by his bed well stocked with a variety of the
products and invited various callers to try a complimentary sample lot.
It was really an excellent and harmless diet, and both the company and
its patients would seem to have prospered--perhaps are prospering still.
There was another business opportunity came along just at this time.
S. S. McClure was in England with a proposition for starting a new
magazine whose complexion was to be peculiarly American, with Mark Twain
as its editor. The magazine was to be called 'The Universal', and by the
proposition Clemens was to receive a tenth interest in it for his first
year's work, and an added twentieth interest for each of the two
succeeding years, with a guarantee that his shares should not earn him
less than five thousand dollars the first year, with a proportionate
increase as his holdings grew.
The scheme appealed to Clemens, it being understood in the beginning that
he was to give very little time to the work, with the privilege of doing
it at his home, wherever that might happen to be. He wrote of the matter
to Mr. Rogers, explaining in detail, and Rogers replied, approving the
plan. Mr. Rogers said he knew that he [Rogers] would have to do most of
the work in editing the magazine, and further added:
One thing I shall insist upon, however, if I have anything to do
with the matter, and it is this: that when you have made up your
mind on the subject you will stick to it. I have not found in your
composition that element of stubbornness which is a constant source
of embarrassment to me in all friendly and social ways, but which,
when applied to certain lines of business, brings in the dollar and
fifty-cent pieces. If you accept the position, of course that means
that you have to come to this country. If you do, the yachting will
be a success.
There was considerable correspondence with McClure over the new
periodical. In one letter Clemens set forth his general views of the
matter quite clearly:
Let us not deceive any one, nor allow any one to deceive himself, if
it can be prevented. This is not to be comic magazine. It is to be
simply a good, clean, wholesome collection of well-written &
enticing literary products, like the other magazines of its class;
not setting itself to please but one of man's moods, but all of
them. It will not play but one kind of music, but all kinds. I
should not be able to edit a comic periodical satisfactorily, for
lack of interest in the work. I value humor highly, & am
constitutionally fond of it, but I should not like it as a steady
diet. For its own best interests, humor should take its outings in
grave company; its cheerful dress gets heightened color from the
proximity of sober hues. For me to edit a comic magazine would be
an incongruity & out of character, for of the twenty-three books
which I have written eighteen do not deal in humor as their chiefs
feature, but are half & half admixtures of fun & seriousness. I
think I have seldom deliberately set out to be humorous, but have
nearly always allowed the humor to drop in or stay out, according to
its fancy. Although I have many times been asked to write something
humorous for an editor or a publisher I have had wisdom enough to
decline; a person could hardly be humorous with the other man
watching him like that. I have never tried to write a humorous
lecture; I have only tried to write serious ones--it is the only way
not to succeed.
I shall write for this magazine every time the spirit moves me; but
I look for my largest entertainment in editing. I have been edited
by all kinds of people for more than thirty-eight years; there has
always been somebody in authority over my manuscript & privileged to
improve it; this has fatigued me a good deal, & I have often longed
to move up from the dock to the bench & rest myself and fatigue
others. My opportunity is come, but I hope I shall not abuse it
overmuch. I mean to do my best to make a good magazine; I mean to
do my whole duty, & not shirk any part of it. There are plenty of
distinguished artists, novelists, poets, story-tellers,
philosophers, scientists, explorers, fighters, hunters, followers of
the sea, & seekers of adventure; & with these to do the hard & the
valuable part of the work with the pen & the pencil it will be
comfort & joy to me to walk the quarter-deck & superintend.
Meanwhile McClure's enthusiasm had had time to adjust itself to certain
existing facts. Something more than a month later he wrote from America
at considerable length, setting forth the various editorial duties and
laying stress upon the feature of intimate physical contact with the
magazine. He went into the matter of the printing schedule, the various
kinds of paper used, the advertising pages, illustrations--into all the
detail, indeed, which a practical managing editor must compass in his
daily rounds. It was pretty evident that Clemens would not be able to go
sailing about on Mr. Rogers's yacht or live at will in London or New York
or Vienna or Elmira, but that he would be more or less harnessed to a
revolving chair at an editorial desk, the thing which of all fates he
would be most likely to dread The scheme appears to have died there--the
correspondence to have closed.
Somewhat of the inducement in the McClure scheme had been the thought in
Clemens's mind that it would bring him back to America. In a letter to
Mr. Rogers (January 8, 1900) he said, "I am tired to death of this
everlasting exile." Mrs. Clemens often wrote that he was restlessly
impatient to return. They were, in fact, constantly discussing the
practicability of returning to their own country now and opening the
Hartford home. Clemens was ready to do that or to fall in with any plan
that would bring him across the water and settle him somewhere
permanently. He was tired of the wandering life they had been leading.
Besides the long trip of '95 and '96 they had moved two or three times a
year regularly since leaving Hartford, nine years before. It seemed to
him that they were always packing and unpacking.
"The poor man is willing to live anywhere if we will only let him 'stay
put," wrote Mrs. Clemens, but he did want to settle in his own land.
Mrs. Clemens, too, was weary with wandering, but the Hartford home no
longer held any attraction for her. There had been a time when her every
letter dwelt on their hope of returning to it. Now the thought filled
her with dread. To her sister she wrote:
Do you think we can live through the first going into the house in
Hartford? I feel if we had gotten through the first three months all
might be well, but consider the first night.
The thought of the responsibility of that great house--the taking up
again of the old life-disheartened her, too. She had added years and she
had not gained in health or strength.
When I was comparatively young I found the burden of that house very
great. I don't think I was ever fitted for housekeeping. I dislike
the practical part of it so much. I hate it when the servants don't
do well, and I hate the correcting them.
Yet no one ever had better discipline in her domestic affairs or
ever commanded more devoted service. Her strength of character and
the proportions of her achievement show large when we consider this
They planned to return in the spring, but postponed the date for sailing.
Jean was still under Kellgren's treatment, and, though a cure had been
promised her, progress was discouragingly slow. They began to look about
for summer quarters in or near London.
LONDON SOCIAL AFFAIRS
All this time Clemens had been tossing on the London social tide. There
was a call for him everywhere. No distinguished visitor of whatever
profession or rank but must meet Mark Twain. The King of Sweden was
among his royal conquests of that season.
He was more happy with men of his own kind. He was often with Moberly
Bell, editor of the Times; E. A. Abbey, the painter; Sir Henry Lucy, of
Punch (Toby, M.P.); James Bryce, and Herbert Gladstone; and there were a
number of brilliant Irishmen who were his special delight. Once with
Mrs. Clemens he dined with the author of his old favorite, 'European
Morals', William E. H. Lecky. Lady Gregory was there and Sir Dennis
Fitz-Patrick; who had been Governor-General at Lahore when they were in
India, and a number of other Irish ladies and gentlemen. It was a
memorable evening. To Twichell Clemens wrote:
Joe, do you know the Irish gentleman & the Irish lady, the Scotch
gentleman & the Scotch lady? These are darlings, every one. Night
before last it was all Irish--24. One would have to travel far to
match their ease & sociability & animation & sparkle & absence of
shyness & self-consciousness. It was American in these fine
qualities. This was at Mr. Lecky's. He is Irish, you know. Last
night it was Irish again, at Lady Gregory's. Lord Roberts is Irish,
& Sir William Butler, & Kitchener, I think, & a disproportion of the
other prominent generals are of Irish & Scotch breed keeping up the
traditions of Wellington & Sir Colin Campbell, of the Mutiny. You
will have noticed that in S. A., as in the Mutiny, it is usually the
Irish & Scotch that are placed in the forefront of the battle....
Sir William Butler said, "the Celt is the spearhead of the British
He mentions the news from the African war, which had been favorable to
England, and what a change had come over everything in consequence. The
dinner-parties had been lodges of sorrow and depressing. Now everybody
was smiling again. In a note-book entry of this time he wrote:
Relief of Mafeking (May 18, 1900). The news came at 9.17 P.M.
Before 10 all London was in the streets, gone mad with joy. By then
the news was all over the American continent.
Clemens had been talking copyright a good deal in London, and introducing
it into his speeches. Finally, one day he was summoned before a
committee of the House of Lords to explain his views. His old idea that
the product of a man's brain is his property in perpetuity and not for
any term of years had not changed, and they permitted him to dilate on
this (to them) curious doctrine. The committee consisted of Lords
Monkswell, Knutsford, Avebury, Farrar, and Thwing. When they asked for
his views he said:
"In my opinion the copyright laws of England and America need only the
removal of the forty-two-year limit and the return to perpetual copyright
to be perfect. I consider that at least one of the reasons advanced in
justification of limited copyright is fallacious--namely, the one which
makes a distinction between an author's property and real estate, and
pretends that the two are not created, produced, or acquired in the same
way, thus warranting a different treatment of the two by law."
Continuing, he dwelt on the ancient doctrine that there was no property
in an idea, showing how the far greater proportion of all property
consisted of nothing more than elaborated ideas--the steamship,
locomotive, telephone, the vast buildings in the world, how all of these
had been constructed upon a basic idea precisely as a book is
constructed, and were property only as a book is property, and therefore
rightly subject to the same laws. He was carefully and searchingly
examined by that shrewd committee. He kept them entertained and
interested and left them in good-nature, even if not entirely converted.
The papers printed his remarks, and London found them amusing.
A few days after the copyright session, Clemens, responding to the toast,
"Literature," at the Royal Literary Fund Banquet, made London laugh
again, and early in June he was at the Savoy Hotel welcoming Sir Henry
Irving back to England after one of his successful American tours.
On the Fourth of July (1900) Clemens dined with the Lord Chief-Justice,
and later attended an American banquet at the Hotel Cecil. He arrived
late, when a number of the guests were already going. They insisted,
however, that he make a speech, which he did, and considered the evening
ended. It was not quite over. A sequel to his "Luck" story, published
nine years before, suddenly developed.
To go back a little, the reader may recall that "Luck" was a story which
Twichell had told him as being supposedly true. The hero of it was a
military officer who had risen to the highest rank through what at least
seemed to be sheer luck, including a number of fortunate blunders.
Clemens thought the story improbable, but wrote it and laid it away for
several years, offering it at last in the general house-cleaning which
took place after the first collapse of the machine. It was published in
Harper's Magazine for August, 1891, and something less than a year later,
in Rome, an English gentleman--a new acquaintance--said to him:
"Mr. Clemens, shall you go to England?"
"Shall you take your tomahawk with you?"
"Why--yes, if it shall seem best."
"Well, it will. Be advised. Take it with you."
"Because of that sketch of yours entitled 'Luck.' That sketch is current
in England, and you will surely need your tomahawk."
"What makes you think so?"
"I think so because the hero of the sketch will naturally want your
scalp, and will probably apply for it. Be advised. Take your tomahawk
"Why, even with it I sha'n't stand any chance, because I sha'n't know him
when he applies, and he will have my scalp before I know what his errand
"Come, do you mean to say that you don't know who the hero of that sketch
"Indeed I haven't any idea who the hero of the sketch is. Who is it?"
His informant hesitated a moment, then named a name of world-wide
As Mask Twain finished his Fourth of July speech at the Cecil and started
to sit down a splendidly uniformed and decorated personage at his side
"Mr. Clemens, I have been wanting to know you a long time," and he was
looking down into the face of the hero of "Luck."
"I was caught unprepared," he said in his notes of it. "I didn't sit
down--I fell down. I didn't have my tomahawk, and I didn't know what
would happen. But he was, composed, and pretty soon I got composed and
we had a good, friendly time. If he had ever heard of that sketch of
mine he did not manifest it in any way, and at twelve, midnight, I took
my scalp home intact."
DOLLIS HILL AND HOME
It was early in July, 1900, that they removed to Dollis Hill House, a
beautiful old residence surrounded by trees on a peaceful hilltop, just
outside of London. It was literally within a stone's-throw of the city
limits, yet it was quite rural, for the city had not overgrown it then,
and it retained all its pastoral features--a pond with lily-pads, the
spreading oaks, the wide spaces of grassy lawn. Gladstone, an intimate
friend of the owner, had made it a favorite retreat at one period of his
life, and the place to-day is converted into a public garden called
Gladstone Park. The old English diplomat used to drive out and sit in
the shade of the trees and read and talk and translate Homer, and pace
the lawn as he planned diplomacy, and, in effect, govern the English
empire from that retired spot.
Clemens, in some memoranda made at the moment, doubts if Gladstone was
always at peace in his mind in this retirement.
"Was he always really tranquil within," he says, "or was he only
externally so--for effect? We cannot know; we only know that his rustic
bench under his favorite oak has no bark on its arms. Facts like this
speak louder than words."
The red-brick residential wave of London was still some distance away in
1900. Clemens says:
The rolling sea of green grass still stretches away on every hand,
splotches with shadows of spreading oaks in whose black coolness
flocks of sheep lie peacefully dreaming. Dreaming of what? That
they are in London, the metropolis of the world, Post-office
District, N. W.? Indeed no. They are not aware of it. I am aware
of it, but that is all. It is not possible to realize it. For
there is no suggestion of city here; it is country, pure & simple,
& as still & reposeful as is the bottom of the sea.
They all loved Dollis Hill. Mrs. Clemens wrote as if she would like to
remain forever in that secluded spot.
It is simply divinely beautiful & peaceful; . . . the great old
trees are beyond everything. I believe nowhere in the world do you
find such trees as in England . . . . Jean has a hammock swung
between two such great trees, & on the other side of a little pond,
which is full of white & yellow pond-lilies, there is tall grass &
trees & Clara & Jean go there in the afternoons, spread down a rug
on the grass in the shade & read & sleep.
They all spent most of their time outdoors at Dollis Hill under those
Clemens to Twichell in midsummer wrote:
I am the only person who is ever in the house in the daytime, but I
am working & deep in the luxury of it. But there is one tremendous
defect. Livy is all so enchanted with the place & so in love with
it that she doesn't know how she is going to tear herself away from
Much company came to them at Dollis Hill. Friends drove out from London,
and friends from America came often, among them--the Sages, Prof.
Willard Fiske, and Brander Matthews with his family. Such callers were
served with tea and refreshment on the lawn, and lingered, talking and
talking, while the sun got lower and the shadows lengthened, reluctant to
leave that idyllic spot.
"Dollis Hill comes nearer to being a paradise than any other home I ever
occupied," he wrote when the summer was about over.
But there was still a greater attraction than Dollis Hill. Toward the
end of summer they willingly left that paradise, for they had decided at
last to make that home-returning voyage which had invited them so long.
They were all eager enough to go--Clemens more eager than the rest,
though he felt a certain sadness, too, in leaving the tranquil spot which
in a brief summer they had so learned to love.
Writing to W. H. Helm, a London newspaper man who had spent pleasant
hours with him chatting in the shade, he said:
. . . The packing & fussing & arranging have begun, for the
removal to America &, by consequence, the peace of life is marred &
its contents & satisfactions are departing. There is not much
choice between a removal & a funeral; in fact, a removal is a
funeral, substantially, & I am tired of attending them.
They closed Dollis Hill, spent a few days at Brown's Hotel, and sailed
for America, on the Minnehaha, October 6, 1900, bidding, as Clemens
believed, and hoped, a permanent good-by to foreign travel. They reached
New York on the 15th, triumphantly welcomed after their long nine years
of wandering. How glad Mark Twain was to get home may be judged from his
remark to one of the many reporters who greeted him.
"If I ever get ashore I am going to break both of my legs so I
can't, get away again."