Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by David Widger
MARK TWAIN, A BIOGRAPHY
By Albert Bigelow Paine
VOLUME III, Part 1: 1900-1907
THE RETURN OF THE CONQUEROR
It would be hard to exaggerate the stir which the newspapers and the
public generally made over the homecoming of Mark Twain. He had left
America, staggering under heavy obligation and set out on a pilgrimage of
redemption. At the moment when this Mecca, was in view a great sorrow
had befallen him and, stirred a world-wide and soul-deep tide of human
sympathy. Then there had followed such ovation as has seldom been
conferred upon a private citizen, and now approaching old age, still in
the fullness of his mental vigor, he had returned to his native soil with
the prestige of these honors upon him and the vast added glory of having
made his financial fight single-handed-and won.
He was heralded literally as a conquering hero. Every paper in the land
had an editorial telling the story of his debts, his sorrow, and his
"He had behaved like Walter Scott," says Howells, "as millions rejoiced
to know who had not known how Walter Scott had behaved till they knew it
was like Clemens."
Howells acknowledges that he had some doubts as to the permanency of the
vast acclaim of the American public, remembering, or perhaps assuming, a
national fickleness. Says Howells:
He had hitherto been more intelligently accepted or more largely
imagined in Europe, and I suppose it was my sense of this that
inspired the stupidity of my saying to him when we came to consider
"the state of polite learning" among us, "You mustn't expect people
to keep it up here as they do in England." But it appeared that his
countrymen were only wanting the chance, and they kept it up in
honor of him past all precedent.
Clemens went to the Earlington Hotel and began search for a furnished
house in New York. They would not return to Hartford--at least not yet.
The associations there were still too sad, and they immediately became
more so. Five days after Mark Twain's return to America, his old friend
and co-worker, Charles Dudley Warner, died. Clemens went to Hartford to
act as a pall-bearer and while there looked into the old home. To
Sylvester Baxter, of Boston, who had been present, he wrote a few days
It was a great pleasure to me to renew the other days with you, &
there was a pathetic pleasure in seeing Hartford & the house again;
but I realized that if we ever enter the house again to live our
hearts will break. I am not sure that we shall ever be strong
enough to endure that strain.
Even if the surroundings had been less sorrowful it is not likely that
Clemens would have returned to Hartford at this time. He had become a
world-character, a dweller in capitals. Everywhere he moved a world
revolved about him. Such a figure in Germany would live naturally in
Berlin; in England London; in France, Paris; in Austria, Vienna; in
America his headquarters could only be New York.
Clemens empowered certain of his friends to find a home for him, and Mr.
Frank N. Doubleday discovered an attractive and handsomely furnished
residence at 14 West Tenth Street, which was promptly approved.
Doubleday, who was going to Boston, left orders with the agent to draw
the lease and take it up to the new tenant for signature. To Clemens he
"The house is as good as yours. All you've got to do is to sign the
lease. You can consider it all settled."
When Doubleday returned from Boston a few days later the agent called on
him and complained that he couldn't find Mark Twain anywhere. It was
reported at his hotel that he had gone and left no address. Doubleday
was mystified; then, reflecting, he had an inspiration. He walked over
to 14 West Tenth Street and found what he had suspected--Mark Twain had
moved in. He had convinced the caretaker that everything was all right
and he was quite at home. Doubleday said:
"Why, you haven't executed the lease yet."
"No," said Clemens, "but you said the house was as good as mine," to
which Doubleday agreed, but suggested that they go up to the real-estate
office and give the agent notice that he was in possession of the
Doubleday's troubles were not quite over, however. Clemens began to find
defects in his new home and assumed to hold Doubleday responsible for
them. He sent a daily postal card complaining of the windows, furnace,
the range, the water-whatever he thought might lend interest to
Doubleday's life. As a matter of fact, he was pleased with the place.
To MacAlister he wrote:
We were very lucky to get this big house furnished. There was not
another one in town procurable that would answer us, but this one is
all right-space enough in it for several families, the rooms all
old-fashioned, great size.
The house at 14 West Tenth Street became suddenly one of the most
conspicuous residences in New York. The papers immediately made its
appearance familiar. Many people passed down that usually quiet street,
stopping to observe or point out where Mark Twain lived. There was a
constant procession of callers of every kind. Many were friends, old and
new, but there was a multitude of strangers. Hundreds came merely to
express their appreciation of his work, hoping for a personal word or a
hand-shake or an autograph; but there were other hundreds who came with
this thing and that thing--axes to grind--and there were newspaper
reporters to ask his opinion on politics, or polygamy, or woman's
suffrage; on heaven and hell and happiness; on the latest novel; on the
war in Africa, the troubles in China; on anything under the sun,
important or unimportant, interesting or inane, concerning which one
might possibly hold an opinion. He was unfailing "copy" if they could
but get a word with him. Anything that he might choose to say upon any
subject whatever was seized upon and magnified and printed with
head-lines. Sometimes opinions were invented for him. If he let fall a
few words they were multiplied into a column interview.
"That reporter worked a miracle equal to the loaves and fishes," he said
of one such performance.
Many men would have become annoyed and irritable as these things
continued; but Mark Twain was greater than that. Eventually he employed
a secretary to stand between him and the wash of the tide, as a sort of
breakwater; but he seldom lost his temper no matter what was the request
which was laid before him, for he recognized underneath it the great
tribute of a great nation.
Of course his literary valuation would be affected by the noise of the
general applause. Magazines and syndicates besought him for manuscripts.
He was offered fifty cents and even a dollar a word for whatever he might
give them. He felt a child-like gratification in these evidences of his
market advancement, but he was not demoralized by them. He confined his
work to a few magazines, and in November concluded an arrangement with
the new management of Harper & Brothers, by which that firm was to have
the exclusive serial privilege of whatever he might write at a fixed rate
of twenty cents per word--a rate increased to thirty cents by a later
contract, which also provided an increased royalty for the publication of
The United States, as a nation, does not confer any special honors upon
private citizens. We do not have decorations and titles, even though
there are times when it seems that such things might be not
inappropriately conferred. Certain of the newspapers, more lavish in
their enthusiasm than others, were inclined to propose, as one paper
phrased it, "Some peculiar recognition--something that should appeal to
Samuel L. Clemens, the man, rather than to Mark Twain, the literate.
Just what form this recognition should take is doubtful, for the case has
no exact precedent."
Perhaps the paper thought that Mark Twain was entitled--as he himself
once humorously suggested-to the "thanks of Congress" for having come
home alive and out of debt, but it is just as well that nothing of the
sort was ever seriously considered. The thanks of the public at large
contained more substance, and was a tribute much more to his mind. The
paper above quoted ended by suggesting a very large dinner and memorial
of welcome as being more in keeping with the republican idea and the
American expression of good-will.
But this was an unneeded suggestion. If he had eaten all the dinners
proposed he would not have lived to enjoy his public honors a month. As
it was, he accepted many more dinners than he could eat, and presently
fell into the habit of arriving when the banqueting was about over and
the after-dinner speaking about to begin. Even so the strain told on
"His friends saw that he was wearing himself out," says Howells, and
perhaps this was true, for he grew thin and pale and contracted a hacking
cough. He did not spare himself as often as he should have done. Once
to Richard Watson Gilder he sent this line of regrets:
In bed with a chest cold and other company--Wednesday.
DEAR GILDER,--I can't. If I were a well man I could explain with
this pencil, but in the cir---ces I will leave it all to your
Was it Grady who killed himself trying to do all the dining and
No, old man, no, no! Ever yours, MARK.
He became again the guest of honor at the Lotos Club, which had dined him
so lavishly seven years before, just previous to his financial collapse.
That former dinner had been a distinguished occasion, but never before
had the Lotos Club been so brimming with eager hospitality as on the
second great occasion. In closing his introductory speech President
Frank Lawrence said, "We hail him as one who has borne great burdens with
manliness and courage, who has emerged from great struggles victorious,"
and the assembled diners roared out their applause. Clemens in his reply
Your president has referred to certain burdens which I was weighted
with. I am glad he did, as it gives me an opportunity which I
wanted--to speak of those debts. You all knew what he meant when he
referred to it, & of the poor bankrupt firm of C. L. Webster & Co.
No one has said a word about those creditors. There were ninety-six
creditors in all, & not by a finger's weight did ninety-five out of
the ninety-six add to the burden of that time. They treated me
well; they treated me handsomely. I never knew I owed them
anything; not a sign came from them.
It was like him to make that public acknowledgment. He could not let an
unfair impression remain that any man or any set of men had laid an
unnecessary burden upon him-his sense of justice would not consent to it.
He also spoke on that occasion of certain national changes.
How many things have happened in the seven years I have been away
from home! We have fought a righteous war, and a righteous war is a
rare thing in history. We have turned aside from our own comfort
and seen to it that freedom should exist, not only within our own
gates, but in our own neighborhood. We have set Cuba free and
placed her among the galaxy of free nations of the world. We
started out to set those poor Filipinos free, but why that righteous
plan miscarried perhaps I shall never know. We have also been
making a creditable showing in China, and that is more than all the
other powers can say. The "Yellow Terror" is threatening the world,
but no matter what happens the United States says that it has had no
part in it.
Since I have been away we have been nursing free silver. We have
watched by its cradle, we have done our best to raise that child,
but every time it seemed to be getting along nicely along came some
pestiferous Republican and gave it the measles or something. I fear
we will never raise that child.
We've done more than that. We elected a President four years ago.
We've found fault and criticized him, and here a day or two ago we
go and elect him for another four years, with votes enough to spare
to do it over again.
One club followed another in honoring Mark Twain--the Aldine, the St.
Nicholas, the Press clubs, and other associations and societies. His old
friends were at these dinners--Howells, Aldrich, Depew, Rogers,
ex-Speaker Reed--and they praised him and gibed him to his and their
It was a political year, and he generally had something to say on matters
municipal, national, or international; and he spoke out more and more
freely, as with each opportunity he warmed more righteously to his
At the dinner given to him by the St. Nicholas Club he said, with deep
Gentlemen, you have here the best municipal government in the world,
and the most fragrant and the purest. The very angels of heaven
envy you and wish they had a government like it up there. You got
it by your noble fidelity to civic duty; by the stern and ever
watchful exercise of the great powers lodged in you as lovers and
guardians of your city; by your manly refusal to sit inert when base
men would have invaded her high places and possessed them; by your
instant retaliation when any insult was offered you in her person,
or any assault was made upon her fair fame. It is you who have made
this government what it is, it is you who have made it the envy and
despair of the other capitals of the world--and God bless you for
it, gentlemen, God bless you! And when you get to heaven at last
they'll say with joy, "Oh, there they come, the representatives of
the perfectest citizenship in the universe show them the archangel's
box and turn on the limelight!"
Those hearers who in former years had been indifferent to Mark Twain's
more serious purpose began to realize that, whatever he may have been
formerly, he was by no means now a mere fun-maker, but a man of deep and
grave convictions, able to give them the fullest and most forcible
expression. He still might make them laugh, but he also made them think,
and he stirred them to a truer gospel of patriotism. He did not preach a
patriotism that meant a boisterous cheering of the Stars and Stripes
right or wrong, but a patriotism that proposed to keep the Stars and
Stripes clean and worth shouting for. In an article, perhaps it was a
speech, begun at this time he wrote:
We teach the boys to atrophy their independence. We teach them to
take their patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest
crowd without examining into the right or wrong of the matter--
exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been
taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion
and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, & so here in our
democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most
foreign to it & out of place--the delivery of our political
conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the
Howells tells of discussing these vital matters with him in "an upper
room, looking south over a quiet, open space of back yards where," he
says, "we fought our battles in behalf of the Filipinos and Boers, and he
carried on his campaign against the missionaries in China."
Howells at the time expressed an amused fear that Mark Twain's
countrymen, who in former years had expected him to be merely a humorist,
should now, in the light of his wider acceptance abroad, demand that he
be mainly serious.
But the American people were quite ready to accept him in any of his
phases, fully realizing that whatever his philosophy or doctrine it would
have somewhat of the humorous form, and whatever his humor, there would
somewhere be wisdom in it. He had in reality changed little; for a
generation he had thought the sort of things which he now, with advanced
years and a different audience, felt warranted in uttering openly. The
man who in '64 had written against corruption in San Francisco, who a few
years later had defended the emigrant Chinese against persecution, who at
the meetings of the Monday Evening Club had denounced hypocrisy in
politics, morals, and national issues, did not need to change to be able
to speak out against similar abuses now. And a newer generation as
willing to herald Mark Twain as a sage as well as a humorist, and on
occasion to quite overlook the absence of the cap and bells.
MARK TWAIN--GENERAL SPOKESMAN
Clemens did not confine his speeches altogether to matters of reform. At
a dinner given by the Nineteenth Century Club in November, 1900, he spoke
on the "Disappearance of Literature," and at the close of the discussion
of that subject, referring to Milton and Scott, he said:
Professor Winchester also said something about there being no modern
epics like "Paradise Lost." I guess he's right. He talked as if he
was pretty familiar with that piece of literary work, and nobody
would suppose that he never had read it. I don't believe any of you
have ever read "Paradise Lost," and you don't want to. That's
something that you just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just
as Professor Winchester says, and it meets his definition of a
classic--something that everybody wants to have read and nobody
wants to read.
Professor Trent also had a good deal to say about the disappearance
of literature. He said that Scott would outlive all his critics.
I guess that's true. That fact of the business is you've got to be
one of two ages to appreciate Scott. When you're eighteen you can
read Ivanhoe, and you want to wait until you're ninety to read some
of the rest. It takes a pretty well-regulated abstemious critic to
live ninety years.
But a few days later he was back again in the forefront of reform,
preaching at the Berkeley Lyceum against foreign occupation in China.
It was there that he declared himself a Boxer.
Why should not China be free from the foreigners, who are only
making trouble on her soil? If they would only all go home what a
pleasant place China would be for the Chinese! We do not allow
Chinamen to come here, and I say, in all seriousness, that it would
be a graceful thing to let China decide who shall go there.
China never wanted foreigners any more than foreigners wanted
Chinamen, and on this question I am with the Boxers every time. The
Boxer is a patriot. He loves his country better than he does the
countries of other people. I wish him success. We drive the
Chinaman out of our country; the Boxer believes in driving us out of
his country. I am a Boxer, too, on those terms.
Introducing Winston Churchill, of England, at a dinner some weeks later,
he explained how generous England and America had been in not requiring
fancy rates for "extinguished missionaries" in China as Germany had done.
Germany had required territory and cash, he said, in payment for her
missionaries, while the United States and England had been willing to
settle for produce--firecrackers and tea.
The Churchill introduction would seem to have been his last speech for
the year 1900, and he expected it, with one exception, to be the last for
a long time. He realized that he was tired and that the strain upon him
made any other sort of work out of the question. Writing to MacAlister
at the end of the year, he said, "I seem to have made many speeches, but
it is not so. It is not more than ten, I think." Still, a respectable
number in the space of two months, considering that each was carefully
written and committed to memory, and all amid crushing social pressure.
Again to MacAlister:
I declined 7 banquets yesterday (which is double the daily average)
& answered 29 letters. I have slaved at my mail every day since we
arrived in mid-October, but Jean is learning to typewrite &
presently I'll dictate & thereby save some scraps of time.
He added that after January 4th he did not intend to speak again for a
year--that he would not speak then only that the matter concerned the
reform of city government.
The occasion of January 4, 1901, was a rather important one. It was a
meeting of the City Club, then engaged in the crusade for municipal
reform. Wheeler H. Peckham presided, and Bishop Potter made the opening
address. It all seems like ancient history now, and perhaps is not very
vital any more; but the movement was making a great stir then, and Mark
Twain's declaration that he believed forty-nine men out of fifty were
honest, and that the forty-nine only needed to organize to disqualify the
fiftieth man (always organized for crime), was quoted as a sort of slogan
Clemens was not permitted to keep his resolution that he wouldn't speak
again that year. He had become a sort of general spokesman on public
matters, and demands were made upon him which could not be denied. He
declined a Yale alumni dinner, but he could not refuse to preside at the
Lincoln Birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, February 11th, where he
must introduce Watterson as the speaker of the evening.
"Think of it!" he wrote Twichell. "Two old rebels functioning there: I
as president and Watterson as orator of the day! Things have changed
somewhat in these forty years, thank God!"
The Watterson introduction is one of the choicest of Mark Twain's
speeches--a pure and perfect example of simple eloquence, worthy of the
occasion which gave it utterance, worthy in spite of its playful
paragraphs (or even because of them, for Lincoln would have loved them),
to become the matrix of that imperishable Gettysburg phrase with which he
makes his climax. He opened by dwelling for a moment on Colonel
Watterson as a soldier, journalist, orator, statesman, and patriot; then
It is a curious circumstance that without collusion of any kind, but
merely in obedience to a strange and pleasant and dramatic freak of
destiny, he and I, kinsmen by blood--[Colonel Watterson's forebears
had intermarried with the Lamptons.]--for we are that--and one-time
rebels--for we were that--should be chosen out of a million
surviving quondam rebels to come here and bare our heads in
reverence and love of that noble soul whom 40 years ago we tried
with all our hearts and all our strength to defeat and dispossess--
Abraham Lincoln! Is the Rebellion ended and forgotten? Are the
Blue and the Gray one to-day? By authority of this sign we may
answer yes; there was a Rebellion--that incident is closed.
I was born and reared in a slave State, my father was a slaveowner;
and in the Civil War I was a second lieutenant in the Confederate
service. For a while. This second cousin of mine, Colonel
Watterson, the orator of this present occasion, was born and reared
in a slave State, was a colonel in the Confederate service, and
rendered me such assistance as he could in my self-appointed great
task of annihilating the Federal armies and breaking up the Union.
I laid my plans with wisdom and foresight, and if Colonel Watterson
had obeyed my orders I should have succeeded in my giant
undertaking. It was my intention to drive General Grant into the
Pacific--if I could get transportation--and I told Colonel Watterson
to surround the Eastern armies and wait till I came. But he was
insubordinate, and stood upon a punctilio of military etiquette; he
refused to take orders from a second lieutenant--and the Union was
saved. This is the first time that this secret has been revealed.
Until now no one outside the family has known the facts. But there
they stand: Watterson saved the Union. Yet to this day that man
gets no pension. Those were great days, splendid days. What an
uprising it was! For the hearts of the whole nation, North and
South, were in the war. We of the South were not ashamed; for, like
the men of the North, we were fighting for 'flags we loved; and when
men fight for these things, and under these convictions, with
nothing sordid to tarnish their cause, that cause is holy, the blood
spilt for it is sacred, the life that is laid down for it is
consecrated. To-day we no longer regret the result, to-day we are
glad it came out as it did, but we are not ashamed that we did our
endeavor; we did our bravest best, against despairing odds, for the
cause which was precious to us and which our consciences approved;
and we are proud--and you are proud--the kindred blood in your veins
answers when I say it--you are proud of the record we made in those
mighty collisions in the fields.
What an uprising it was! We did not have to supplicate for soldiers
on either side. "We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred
thousand strong!" That was the music North and South. The very
choicest young blood and brawn and brain rose up from Maine to the
Gulf and flocked to the standards--just as men always do when in
their eyes their cause is great and fine and their hearts are in it;
just as men flocked to the Crusades, sacrificing all they possessed
to the cause, and entering cheerfully upon hardships which we cannot
even imagine in this age, and upon toilsome and wasting journeys
which in our time would be the equivalent of circumnavigating the
globe five times over.
North and South we put our hearts into that colossal struggle, and
out of it came the blessed fulfilment of the prophecy of the
immortal Gettysburg speech which said: "We here highly resolve that
these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom; and that a government of the
people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the
We are here to honor the birthday of the greatest citizen, and the
noblest and the best, after Washington, that this land or any other
has yet produced. The old wounds are healed, you and we are
brothers again; you testify it by honoring two of us, once soldiers
of the Lost Cause, and foes of your great and good leader--with the
privilege of assisting here; and we testify it by laying our honest
homage at the feet of Abraham Lincoln, and in forgetting that you of
the North and we of the South were ever enemies, and remembering
only that we are now indistinguishably fused together and nameable
by one common great name--Americans!
MARK TWAIN AND THE MISSIONARIES
Mark Twain had really begun his crusade for reform soon after his arrival
in America in a practical hand-to-hand manner. His housekeeper, Katie
Leary, one night employed a cabman to drive her from the Grand Central
Station to the house at 14 West Tenth Street. No contract had been made
as to price, and when she arrived there the cabman's extortionate charge
was refused. He persisted in it, and she sent into the house for her
employer. Of all men, Mark Twain was the last one to countenance an
extortion. He reasoned with the man kindly enough at first; when the
driver at last became abusive Clemens demanded his number, which was at
first refused. In the end he paid the legal fare, and in the morning
entered a formal complaint, something altogether unexpected, for the
American public is accustomed to suffering almost any sort of imposition
to avoid trouble and publicity.
In some notes which Clemens had made in London four years earlier he
If you call a policeman to settle the dispute you can depend on one
thing--he will decide it against you every time. And so will the
New York policeman. In London if you carry your case into court the
man that is entitled to win it will win it. In New York--but no one
carries a cab case into court there. It is my impression that it is
now more than thirty years since any one has carried a cab case into
Nevertheless, he was promptly on hand when the case was called to sustain
the charge and to read the cabdrivers' union and the public in general a
lesson in good-citizenship. At the end of the hearing, to a
representative of the union he said:
"This is not a matter of sentiment, my dear sir. It is simply practical
business. You cannot imagine that I am making money wasting an hour or
two of my time prosecuting a case in which I can have no personal
interest whatever. I am doing this just as any citizen should do. He
has no choice. He has a distinct duty. He is a non-classified
policeman. Every citizen is, a policeman, and it is his duty to assist
the police and the magistracy in every way he can, and give his time, if
necessary, to do so. Here is a man who is a perfectly natural product of
an infamous system in this city--a charge upon the lax patriotism in this
city of New York that this thing can exist. You have encouraged him, in
every way you know how to overcharge. He is not the criminal here at
all. The criminal is the citizen of New York and the absence of
patriotism. I am not here to avenge myself on him. I have no quarrel
with him. My quarrel is with the citizens of New York, who have
encouraged him, and who created him by encouraging him to overcharge in
The driver's license was suspended. The case made a stir in the
newspapers, and it is not likely that any one incident ever contributed
more to cab-driving morals in New York City.
But Clemens had larger matters than this in prospect. His many speeches
on municipal and national abuses he felt were more or less ephemeral. He
proposed now to write himself down more substantially and for a wider
hearing. The human race was behaving very badly: unspeakable corruption
was rampant in the city; the Boers were being oppressed in South Africa;
the natives were being murdered in the Philippines; Leopold of Belgium
was massacring and mutilating the blacks in the Congo, and the allied
powers, in the cause of Christ, were slaughtering the Chinese. In his
letters he had more than once boiled over touching these matters, and for
New-Year's Eve, 1900, had written:
A GREETING FROM THE NINETEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
I bring you the stately nation named Christendom, returning,
bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiao-
Chou, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul
full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of
pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking-
glass.--[Prepared for Red Cross Society watch-meeting, which was
postponed until March. Clemens recalled his "Greeting" for that
reason and for one other, which he expressed thus: "The list of
greeters thus far issued by you contains only vague generalities and
one definite name--mine: 'Some kings and queens and Mark Twain.' Now
I am not enjoying this sparkling solitude and distinction. It makes
me feel like a circus-poster in a graveyard."]
This was a sort of preliminary. Then, restraining himself no longer, he
embodied his sentiments in an article for the North American Review
entitled, "To the Person Sitting in Darkness." There was crying need for
some one to speak the right word. He was about the only one who could do
it and be certain of a universal audience. He took as his text some
Christmas Eve clippings from the New York Tribune and Sun which he had
been saving for this purpose. The Tribune clipping said:
Christmas will dawn in the United States over a people full of hope
and aspiration and good cheer. Such a condition means contentment
and happiness. The carping grumbler who may here and there go forth
will find few to listen to him. The majority will wonder what is
the matter with him, and pass on.
A Sun clipping depicted the "terrible offenses against humanity committed
in the name of politics in some of the most notorious East Side districts
"--the unmissionaried, unpoliced darker New York. The Sun declared that
they could not be pictured even verbally. But it suggested enough to
make the reader shudder at the hideous depths of vice in the sections
named. Another clipping from the same paper reported the "Rev. Mr.
Ament, of the American Board of Foreign Missions," as having collected
indemnities for Boxer damages in China at the rate of three hundred taels
for each murder, "full payment for all destroyed property belonging to
Christians, and national fines amounting to thirteen times the
indemnity." It quoted Mr. Ament as saying that the money so obtained was
used for the propagation of the Gospel, and that the amount so collected
was moderate when compared with the amount secured by the Catholics, who
had demanded, in addition to money, life for life, that is to say, "head
for head"--in one district six hundred and eighty heads having been so
The despatch made Mr. Ament say a great deal more than this, but the gist
here is enough. Mark Twain, of course, was fiercely stirred. The
missionary idea had seldom appealed to him, and coupled with this
business of bloodshed, it was less attractive than usual. He printed the
clippings in full, one following the other; then he said:
By happy luck we get all these glad tidings on Christmas Eve--just
the time to enable us to celebrate the day with proper gaiety and
enthusiasm. Our spirits soar and we find we can even make jokes;
taels I win, heads you lose.
He went on to score Ament, to compare the missionary policy in China to
that of the Pawnee Indians, and to propose for him a monument--
subscriptions to be sent to the American Board. He denounced the
national policies in Africa, China, and the Philippines, and showed by
the reports and by the private letters of soldiers home, how cruel and
barbarous and fiendish had been the warfare made by those whose avowed
purpose was to carry the blessed light of civilization and Gospel "to the
benighted native"--how in very truth these priceless blessings had been
handed on the point of a bayonet to the "Person Sitting in Darkness."
Mark Twain never wrote anything more scorching, more penetrating in its
sarcasm, more fearful in its revelation of injustice and hypocrisy, than
his article "To the Person Sitting in Darkness." He put aquafortis on
all the raw places, and when it was finished he himself doubted the
wisdom of printing it. Howells, however, agreed that it should be
published, and "it ought to be illustrated by Dan Beard," he added, "with
such pictures as he made for the Yankee in King Arthur's Court, but you'd
better hang yourself afterward."
Meeting Beard a few days later, Clemens mentioned the matter and said:
"So if you make the pictures, you hang with me."
But pictures were not required. It was published in the North American
Review for February, 1901, as the opening article; after which the
cyclone. Two storms moving in opposite directions produce a cyclone, and
the storms immediately developed; one all for Mark Twain and his
principles, the other all against him. Every paper in England and
America commented on it editorially, with bitter denunciations or with
eager praise, according to their lights and convictions.
At 14 West Tenth Street letters, newspaper clippings, documents poured in
by the bushel--laudations, vituperations, denunciations, vindications; no
such tumult ever occurred in a peaceful literary home. It was really as
if he had thrown a great missile into the human hive, one-half of which
regarded it as a ball of honey and the remainder as a cobblestone.
Whatever other effect it may have had, it left no thinking person
Clemens reveled in it. W. A. Rogers, in Harper's Weekly, caricatured him
as Tom Sawyer in a snow fort, assailed by the shower of snowballs,
"having the time of his life." Another artist, Fred Lewis, pictured him
as Huck Finn with a gun.
The American Board was naturally disturbed. The Ament clipping which
Clemens had used had been public property for more than a month--its
authenticity never denied; but it was immediately denied now, and the
cable kept hot with inquiries.
The Rev. Judson Smith, one of the board, took up the defense of Dr.
Ament, declaring him to be one who had suffered for the cause, and asked
Mark Twain, whose "brilliant article," he said, "would produce an effect
quite beyond the reach of plain argument," not to do an innocent man an
injustice. Clemens in the same paper replied that such was not his
intent, that Mr. Ament in his report had simply arraigned himself.
Then it suddenly developed that the cable report had "grossly
exaggerated" the amount of Mr. Ament's collections. Instead of thirteen
times the indemnity it should have read "one and a third times" the
indemnity; whereupon, in another open letter, the board demanded
retraction and apology. Clemens would not fail to make the apology--at
least he would explain. It was precisely the kind of thing that would
appeal to him--the delicate moral difference between a demand thirteen
times as great as it should be and a demand that was only one and a third
times the correct amount. "To My Missionary Critics," in the North
American Review for April (1901), was his formal and somewhat lengthy
"I have no prejudice against apologies," he wrote. "I trust I shall
never withhold one when it is due."
He then proceeded to make out his case categorically. Touching the
exaggerated indemnity, he said:
To Dr. Smith the "thirteen-fold-extra" clearly stood for "theft and
extortion," and he was right, distinctly right, indisputably right. He
manifestly thinks that when it got scaled away down to a mere "one-third"
a little thing like that was some other than "theft and extortion." Why,
only the board knows!
I will try to explain this difficult problem so that the board can get an
idea of it. If a pauper owes me a dollar and I catch him unprotected and
make him pay me fourteen dollars thirteen of it is "theft and extortion."
If I make him pay only one dollar thirty-three and a third cents the
thirty-three and a third cents are "theft and extortion," just the same.
I will put it in another way still simpler. If a man owes me one dog--
any kind of a dog, the breed is of no consequence--and I--but let it go;
the board would never understand it. It can't understand these involved
and difficult things.
He offered some further illustrations, including the "Tale of a King and
His Treasure" and another tale entitled "The Watermelons."
I have it now. Many years ago, when I was studying for the gallows,
I had a dear comrade, a youth who was not in my line, but still a
scrupulously good fellow though devious. He was preparing to
qualify for a place on the board, for there was going to be a
vacancy by superannuation in about five years. This was down South,
in the slavery days. It was the nature of the negro then, as now,
to steal watermelons. They stole three of the melons of an adoptive
brother of mine, the only good ones he had. I suspected three of a
neighbor's negroes, but there was no proof, and, besides, the
watermelons in those negroes' private patches were all green and
small and not up to indemnity standard. But in the private patches
of three other negroes there was a number of competent melons. I
consulted with my comrade, the understudy of the board. He said
that if I would approve his arrangements he would arrange. I said,
"Consider me the board; I approve; arrange." So he took a gun and
went and collected three large melons for my brother-on-the-
halfshell, and one over. I was greatly pleased and asked:
"Who gets the extra one?"
"Widows and orphans."
"A good idea, too. Why didn't you take thirteen?"
"It would have been wrong; a crime, in fact-theft and extortion."
"What is the one-third extra--the odd melon--the same?"
It caused him to reflect. But there was no result.
The justice of the peace was a stern man. On the trial he found
fault with the scheme and required us to explain upon what we based
our strange conduct--as he called it. The understudy said:
"On the custom of the niggers. They all do it."--[The point had
been made by the board that it was the Chinese custom to make the
inhabitants of a village responsible for individual crimes; and
custom, likewise, to collect a third in excess of the damage, such
surplus having been applied to the support of widows and orphans of
the slain converts.]
The justice forgot his dignity and descended to sarcasm.
"Custom of the niggers! Are our morals so inadequate that we have
to borrow of niggers?"
Then he said to the jury: "Three melons were owing; they were
collected from persons not proven to owe them: this is theft; they
were collected by compulsion: this is extortion. A melon was added
for the widows and orphans. It was owed by no one. It is another
theft, another extortion. Return it whence it came, with the
others. It is not permissible here to apply to any purpose goods
dishonestly obtained; not even to the feeding of widows and orphans,
for this would be to put a shame upon charity and dishonor it."
He said it in open court, before everybody, and to me it did not
seem very kind.
It was in the midst of the tumult that Clemens, perhaps feeling the need
of sacred melody, wrote to Andrew Carnegie:
DEAR SIR & FRIEND,--You seem to be in prosperity. Could you lend an
admirer $1.50 to buy a hymn-book with? God will bless you. I feel it;
I know it.
N. B.--If there should be other applications, this one not to count.
P. S.-Don't send the hymn-book; send the money; I want to make the
Nothing less than a two-dollar & a half hymn-book gilt will do for
you. Your place in the choir (celestial) demands that & you shall
There's a new Gospel of Saint Mark in the North American which I
like better than anything I've read for many a day.
I am willing to borrow a thousand dollars to distribute that sacred
message in proper form, & if the author don't object may I send that
sum, when I can raise it, to the Anti-Imperialist League, Boston, to
which I am a contributor, the only missionary work I am responsible
Just tell me you are willing & many thousands of the holy little
missals will go forth. This inimitable satire is to become a
classic. I count among my privileges in life that I know you, the
Perhaps a few more of the letters invited by Mark Twain's criticism of
missionary work in China may still be of interest to the reader:
Frederick T. Cook, of the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Association,
wrote: "I hail you as the Voltaire of America. It is a noble
distinction. God bless you and see that you weary not in well-doing
in this noblest, sublimest of crusades."
Ministers were by no means all against him. The associate pastor of the
Every-day Church, in Boston, sent this line: "I want to thank you for
your matchless article in the current North American. It must make
converts of well-nigh all who read it."
But a Boston school-teacher was angry. "I have been reading the North
American," she wrote, "and I am filled with shame and remorse that I have
dreamed of asking you to come to Boston to talk to the teachers."
On the outside of the envelope Clemens made this pencil note:
"Now, I suppose I offended that young lady by having an opinion of my
own, instead of waiting and copying hers. I never thought. I suppose
she must be as much as twenty-five, and probably the only patriot in the
A critic with a sense of humor asked: "Please excuse seeming
impertinence, but were you ever adjudged insane? Be honest. How much
money does the devil give you for arraigning Christianity and missionary
But there were more of the better sort. Edward S. Martin, in a grateful
letter, said: "How gratifying it is to feel that we have a man among us
who understands the rarity of the plain truth, and who delights to utter
it, and has the gift of doing so without cant and with not too much
Sir Hiram Maxim wrote: "I give you my candid opinion that what you have
done is of very great value to the civilization of the world. There is
no man living whose words carry greater weight than your own, as no one's
writings are so eagerly sought after by all classes."
Clemens himself in his note-book set down this aphorism:
"Do right and you will be conspicuous."
SUMMER AT "THE LAIR"
In June Clemens took the family to Saranac Lake, to Ampersand. They
occupied a log cabin which he called "The Lair," on the south shore, near
the water's edge, a remote and beautiful place where, as had happened
before, they were so comfortable and satisfied that they hoped to return
another summer. There were swimming and boating and long walks in the
woods; the worry and noise of the world were far away. They gave little
enough attention to the mails. They took only a weekly paper, and were
likely to allow it to lie in the postoffice uncalled for. Clemens,
especially, loved the place, and wrote to Twichell:
I am on the front porch (lower one-main deck) of our little bijou of
a dwelling-house. The lake edge (Lower Saranac) is so nearly under
me that I can't see the shore, but only the water, small-poxed with
rain splashes--for there is a heavy down pour. It is charmingly
like sitting snuggled up on a ship's deck with the stretching sea
all around but very much more satisfactory, for at sea a rainstorm
is depressing, while here of course the effect engendered is just a
deep sense of comfort & contentment. The heavy forest shuts us
solidly in on three sides--there are no neighbors. There are
beautiful little tan-colored impudent squirrels about. They take
tea 5 P.M. (not invited) at the table in the woods where Jean does
my typewriting, & one of them has been brave enough to sit upon
Jean's knee with his tail curved over his back & munch his food.
They come to dinner 7 P.M. on the front porch (not invited), but
Clara drives them away. It is an occupation which requires some
industry & attention to business. They all have the one name-
Blennerhasset, from Burr's friend--& none of them answers to it
except when hungry.
Clemens could work at "The Lair," often writing in shady seclusions along
the shore, and he finished there the two-part serial,--[ Published in
Harper's Magazine for January and February, 1902.]--"The Double-
Barrelled Detective Story," intended originally as a burlesque on
Sherlock Holmes. It did not altogether fulfil its purpose, and is hardly
to be ranked as one of Mark Twain's successes. It contains, however, one
paragraph at least by which it is likely to be remembered, a hoax--his
last one--on the reader. It runs as follows:
It was a crisp and spicy morning in early October. The lilacs and
laburnums, lit with the glory-fires of autumn, hung burning and
flashing in the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by kind nature
for the wingless wild things that have their home in the tree-tops
and would visit together; the larch and the pomegranate flung their
purple and yellow flames in brilliant broad splashes along the
slanting sweep of woodland, the sensuous fragrance of innumerable
deciduous flowers rose upon the swooning atmosphere, far in the
empty sky a solitary oesophagus slept upon motionless wing;
everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and the peace of God.
The warm light and luxury of this paragraph are factitious. The careful
reader will, note that its various accessories are ridiculously
associated, and only the most careless reader will accept the oesophagus
as a bird. But it disturbed a great many admirers, and numerous letters
of inquiry came wanting to know what it was all about. Some suspected
the joke and taunted him with it; one such correspondent wrote:
MY DEAR MARK TWAIN,--Reading your "Double-Barrelled Detective Story"
in the January Harper's late one night I came to the paragraph where
you so beautifully describe "a crisp and spicy morning in early
October." I read along down the paragraph, conscious only of its
woozy sound, until I brought up with a start against your oesophagus
in the empty sky. Then I read the paragraph again. Oh, Mark Twain!
Mark Twain! How could you do it? Put a trap like that into the
midst of a tragical story? Do serenity and peace brood over you
after you have done such a thing?
Who lit the lilacs, and which end up do they hang? When did larches
begin to flame, and who set out the pomegranates in that canyon?
What are deciduous flowers, and do they always "bloom in the fall,
I have been making myself obnoxious to various people by demanding
their opinion of that paragraph without telling them the name of the
author. They say, "Very well done." "The alliteration is so
pretty." "What's an oesophagus, a bird?" "What's it all mean,
anyway?" I tell them it means Mark Twain, and that an oesophagus is
a kind of swallow. Am I right? Or is it a gull? Or a gullet?
Hereafter if you must write such things won't you please be so kind
as to label them?
Very sincerely yours,
ALLETTA F. DEAN.
Mark Twain to Miss Dean:
Don't you give that oesophagus away again or I'll never trust you
with another privacy!
So many wrote, that Clemens finally felt called upon to make public
confession, and as one searching letter had been mailed from Springfield,
Massachusetts, he made his reply through the Republican of that city.
After some opening comment he said:
I published a short story lately & it was in that that I put the
oesophagus. I will say privately that I expected it to bother some
people--in fact, that was the intention--but the harvest has been
larger than I was calculating upon. The oesophagus has gathered in
the guilty and the innocent alike, whereas I was only fishing for
the innocent--the innocent and confiding.
He quoted a letter from a schoolmaster in the Philippines who thought the
passage beautiful with the exception of the curious creature which "slept
upon motionless wings." Said Clemens:
Do you notice? Nothing in the paragraph disturbed him but that one
word. It shows that that paragraph was most ably constructed for
the deception it was intended to put upon the reader. It was my
intention that it should read plausibly, and it is now plain that it
does; it was my intention that it should be emotional and touching,
and you see yourself that it fetched this public instructor. Alas!
if I had but left that one treacherous word out I should have
scored, scored everywhere, and the paragraph would have slidden
through every reader's sensibilities like oil and left not a
The other sample inquiry is from a professor in a New England
university. It contains one naughty word (which I cannot bear to
suppress), but he is not in the theological department, so it is no
"DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--'Far in the empty sky a solitary oesophagus
slept upon motionless wing.'
"It is not often I get a chance to read much periodical literature,
but I have just gone through at this belated period, with much
gratification and edification, your 'Double-Barrelled Detective
"But what in hell is an oesophagus? I keep one myself, but it never
sleeps in the air or anywhere else. My profession is to deal with
words, and oesophagus interested me the moment I lighted upon it.
But, as a companion of my youth used to say, 'I'll be eternally, co-
eternally cussed' if I can make it out. Is it a joke or am I an
Between you and me, I was almost ashamed of having fooled that man,
but for pride's sake I was not going to say so. I wrote and told
him it was a joke--and that is what I am now saying to my
Springfield inquirer. And I told him to carefully read the whole
paragraph and he would find not a vestige of sense in any detail of
it. This also I recommend to my Springfield inquirer.
I have confessed. I am sorry--partially. I will not do so any
more--for the present. Don't ask me any more questions; let the
oesophagus have a rest--on his same old motionless wing.
He wrote Twichell that the story had been a six-day 'tour de force',
twenty-five thousand words, and he adds:
How long it takes a literary seed to sprout sometimes! This seed was
planted in your house many years ago when you sent me to bed with a
book not heard of by me until then--Sherlock Holmes . . . .
I've done a grist of writing here this summer, but not for
publication soon, if ever. I did write two satisfactory articles
for early print, but I've burned one of them & have buried the other
in my large box of posthumous stuff. I've got stacks of literary
remains piled up there.
Early in August Clemens went with H. H. Rogers in his yacht Kanawha on a
cruise to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Rogers had made up a party,
including ex-Speaker Reed, Dr. Rice, and Col. A. G. Paine. Young Harry
Rogers also made one of the party. Clemens kept a log of the cruise,
certain entries of which convey something of its spirit. On the 11th, at
Yarmouth, he wrote:
Fog-bound. The garrison went ashore. Officers visited the yacht in
the evening & said an anvil had been missed. Mr. Rogers paid for
August 13th. There is a fine picture-gallery here; the sheriff
photographed the garrison, with the exception of Harry (Rogers) and
August 14th. Upon complaint of Mr. Reed another dog was procured.
He said he had been a sailor all his life, and considered it
dangerous to trust a ship to a dog-watch with only one dog in it.
Poker, for a change.
August 15th. To Rockland, Maine, in the afternoon, arriving about 6
P.M. In the night Dr. Rice baited the anchor with his winnings &
caught a whale 90 feet long. He said so himself. It is thought
that if there had been another witness like Dr. Rice the whale would
have been longer.
August 16th. We could have had a happy time in Bath but for the
interruptions caused by people who wanted Mr. Reed to explain votes
of the olden time or give back the money. Mr. Rogers recouped them.
Another anvil missed. The descendant of Captain Kidd is the only
person who does not blush for these incidents. Harry and Mr.
Clemens blush continually. It is believed that if the rest of the
garrison were like these two the yacht would be welcome everywhere
instead of being quarantined by the police in all the ports. Mr.
Clemens & Harry have attracted a great deal of attention, & men have
expressed a resolve to turn over a new leaf & copy after them from
Evening. Judge Cohen came over from another yacht to pay his
respects to Harry and Mr. Clemens, he having heard of their
reputation from the clergy of these coasts. He was invited by the
gang to play poker apparently as a courtesy & in a spirit of seeming
hospitality, he not knowing them & taking it all at par. Mr. Rogers
lent him clothes to go home in.
August 17th. The Reformed Statesman growling and complaining again--
not in a frank, straightforward way, but talking at the Commodore,
while letting on to be talking to himself. This time he was
dissatisfied about the anchor watch; said it was out of date,
untrustworthy, & for real efficiency didn't begin with the
Waterbury, & was going on to reiterate, as usual, that he had been a
pilot all his life & blamed if he ever saw, etc., etc., etc.
But he was not allowed to finish. We put him ashore at Portland.
That is to say, Reed landed at Portland, the rest of the party returning
with the yacht.
"We had a noble good time in the yacht," Clemens wrote Twichell on their
return. "We caught a Chinee missionary and drowned him."
Twichell had been invited to make one of the party, and this letter was
to make him feel sorry he had not accepted.
RIVERDALE--A YALE DEGREE
The Clemens household did not return to 14 West Tenth Street. They spent
a week in Elmira at the end of September, and after a brief stop in New
York took up their residence on the northern metropolitan boundary, at
Riverdale-on-the-Hudson, in the old Appleton home. They had permanently
concluded not to return to Hartford. They had put the property there
into an agent's hands for sale. Mrs. Clemens never felt that she had the
strength to enter the house again.
They had selected the Riverdale place with due consideration. They
decided that they must have easy access to the New York center, but they
wished also to have the advantage of space and spreading lawn and trees,
large rooms, and light. The Appleton homestead provided these things.
It was a house built in the first third of the last century by one of the
Morris family, so long prominent in New York history. On passing into
the Appleton ownership it had been enlarged and beautified and named
"Holbrook Hall." It overlooked the Hudson and the Palisades. It had
associations: the Roosevelt family had once lived there, Huxley, Darwin,
Tyndall, and others of their intellectual rank had been entertained there
during its occupation by the first Appleton, the founder of the
publishing firm. The great hall of the added wing was its chief feature.
Clemens once remembered:
"We drifted from room to room on our tour of inspection, always with a
growing doubt as to whether we wanted that house or not; but at last,
when we arrived in a dining-room that was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and
had two great fireplaces in it, that settled it."
There were pleasant neighbors at Riverdale, and had it not been for the
illnesses that seemed always ready to seize upon that household the home
there might have been ideal. They loved the place presently, so much so
that they contemplated buying it, but decided that it was too costly.
They began to prospect for other places along the Hudson shore. They
were anxious to have a home again--one that they could call their own.
Among the many pleasant neighbors at Riverdale were the Dodges, the
Quincy Adamses, and the Rev. Mr. Carstensen, a liberal-minded minister
with whom Clemens easily affiliated. Clemens and Carstensen visited back
and forth and exchanged views. Once Mr. Carstensen told him that he was
going to town to dine with a party which included the Reverend Gottheil,
a Catholic bishop, an Indian Buddhist, and a Chinese scholar of the
Confucian faith, after which they were all going to a Yiddish theater.
"Well, there's only one more thing you need to make the party complete--
that is, either Satan or me."
Howells often came to Riverdale. He was living in a New York apartment,
and it was handy and made an easy and pleasant outing for him. He says:
"I began to see them again on something like the sweet old terms. They
lived far more unpretentiously than they used, and I think with a notion
of economy, which they had never very successfully practised. I recall
that at the end of a certain year in Hartford, when they had been saving
and paying cash for everything, Clemens wrote, reminding me of their
avowed experiment, and asking me to guess how many bills they had at New-
Year's; he hastened to say that a horse-car would not have held them. At
Riverdale they kept no carriage, and there was a snowy night when I drove
up to their handsome old mansion in the station carryall, which was
crusted with mud, as from the going down of the Deluge after transporting
Noah and his family from the Ark to whatever point they decided to settle
provisionally. But the good talk, the rich talk, the talk that could
never suffer poverty of mind or soul was there, and we jubilantly found
ourselves again in our middle youth."
Both Howells and Clemens were made doctors of letters by Yale that year
and went over in October to receive their degrees. It was Mark Twain's
second Yale degree, and it was the highest rank that an American
institution of learning could confer.
I want you to understand, old fellow, that it will be in its intention
the highest public compliment, and emphatically so in your case, for it
will be tendered you by a corporation of gentlemen, the majority of whom
do not at all agree with the views on important questions which you have
lately promulgated in speech and in writing, and with which you are
identified to the public mind. They grant, of course, your right to hold
and express those views, though for themselves they don't like 'em; but
in awarding you the proposed laurel they will make no count of that
whatever. Their action will appropriately signify simply and solely
their estimate of your merit and rank as a man of letters, and so, as I
say, the compliment of it will be of the pure, unadulterated quality.
Howells was not especially eager to go, and tried to conspire with
Clemens to arrange some excuse which would keep them at home.
I remember with satisfaction [he wrote] our joint success in keeping away
from the Concord Centennial in 1875, and I have been thinking we might
help each other in this matter of the Yale Anniversary. What are your
plans for getting left, or shall you trust to inspiration?
Their plans did not avail. Both Howells and Clemens went to New Haven to
receive their honors.
When they had returned, Howells wrote formally, as became the new rank:
DEAR SIR,--I have long been an admirer of your complete works,
several of which I have read, and I am with you shoulder to shoulder
in the cause of foreign missions. I would respectfully request a
personal interview, and if you will appoint some day and hour most
inconvenient to you I will call at your baronial hall. I cannot
doubt, from the account of your courtesy given me by the Twelve
Apostles, who once visited you in your Hartford home and were
mistaken for a syndicate of lightning-rod men, that our meeting will
be mutually agreeable.
W. D. HOWELLS.
MARK TWAIN IN POLITICS
There was a campaign for the mayoralty of New York City that fall, with
Seth Low on the Fusion ticket against Edward M. Shepard as the Tammany
candidate. Mark Twain entered the arena to try to defeat Tammany Hall.
He wrote and he spoke in favor of clean city government and police
reform. He was savagely in earnest and openly denounced the clan of
Croker, individually and collectively. He joined a society called 'The
Acorns'; and on the 17th of October, at a dinner given by the order at
the Waldorf-Astoria, delivered a fierce arraignment, in which he
characterized Croker as the Warren Hastings of New York. His speech was
really a set of extracts from Edmund Burke's great impeachment of
Hastings, substituting always the name of Croker, and paralleling his
career with that of the ancient boss of the East India Company.
It was not a humorous speech. It was too denunciatory for that. It
probably contained less comic phrasing than any former effort. There is
hardly even a suggestion of humor from beginning to end. It concluded
with this paraphrase of Burke's impeachment:
I impeach Richard Croker of high crimes and misdemeanors. I impeach
him in the name of the people, whose trust he has betrayed.
I impeach him in the name of all the people of America, whose
national character he has dishonored.
I impeach him in the name and by virtue of those eternal laws of
justice which he has violated.
I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has
cruelly outraged, injured, and oppressed, in both sexes, in every
age, rank, situation, and condition of life.
The Acorn speech was greatly relied upon for damage to the Tammany ranks,
and hundreds of thousands of copies of it were printed and circulated.--
[The "Edmund Burke on Croker and Tammany" speech had originally been
written as an article for the North American Review.]
Clemens was really heart and soul in the campaign. He even joined a
procession that marched up Broadway, and he made a speech to a great
assemblage at Broadway and Leonard Street, when, as he said, he had been
sick abed two days and, according to the doctor, should be in bed then.
But I would not stay at home for a nursery disease, and that's what
I've got. Now, don't let this leak out all over town, but I've been
doing some indiscreet eating--that's all. It wasn't drinking. If
it had been I shouldn't have said anything about it.
I ate a banana. I bought it just to clinch the Italian vote for
fusion, but I got hold of a Tammany banana by mistake. Just one
little nub of it on the end was nice and white. That was the
Shepard end. The other nine-tenths were rotten. Now that little
white end won't make the rest of the banana good. The nine-tenths
will make that little nub rotten, too.
We must get rid of the whole banana, and our Acorn Society is going
to do its share, for it is pledged to nothing but the support of
good government all over the United States. We will elect the
President next time.
It won't be I, for I have ruined my chances by joining the Acorns,
and there can be no office-holders among us.
There was a movement which Clemens early nipped in the bud--to name a
political party after him.
"I should be far from willing to have a political party named after me,"
he wrote, "and I would not be willing to belong to a party which allowed
its members to have political aspirations or push friends forward for
In other words, he was a knight-errant; his sole purpose for being in
politics at all--something he always detested--was to do what he could
for the betterment of his people.
He had his reward, for when Election Day came, and the returns were in,
the Fusion ticket had triumphed and Tammany had fallen. Clemens received
his share of the credit. One paper celebrated him in verse:
Who killed Croker?
I, said Mark Twain,
I killed Croker,
I, the jolly joker!
Among Samuel Clemens's literary remains there is an outline plan for a
"Casting-Vote party," whose main object was "to compel the two great
parties to nominate their best man always." It was to be an organization
of an infinite number of clubs throughout the nation, no member of which
should seek or accept a nomination for office in any political
appointment, but in each case should cast its vote as a unit for the
candidate of one of the two great political parties, requiring that the
man be of clean record and honest purpose.
From constable up to President [runs his final clause] there is no
office for which the two great parties cannot furnish able, clean,
and acceptable men. Whenever the balance of power shall be lodged
in a permanent third party, with no candidate of its own and no
function but to cast its whole vote for the best man put forward by
the Republicans and Democrats, these two parties will select the
best man they have in their ranks. Good and clean government will
follow, let its party complexion be what it may, and the country
will be quite content.
It was a Utopian idea, very likely, as human nature is made; full of that
native optimism which was always overflowing and drowning his gloomier
logic. Clearly he forgot his despair of humanity when he formulated that
document, and there is a world of unselfish hope in these closing lines:
If in the hands of men who regard their citizenship as a high trust
this scheme shall fail upon trial a better must be sought, a better
must be invented; for it cannot be well or safe to let the present
political conditions continue indefinitely. They can be improved,
and American citizenship should arouse up from its disheartenment
and see that it is done.
Had this document been put into type and circulated it might have founded
a true Mark Twain party.
Clemens made not many more speeches that autumn, closing the year at last
with the "Founder's Night" speech at The Players, the short address
which, ending on the stroke of midnight, dedicates each passing year to
the memory of Edwin Booth, and pledges each new year in a loving-cup
passed in his honor.
NEW INTERESTS AND INVESTMENTS
The spirit which a year earlier had prompted Mark Twain to prepare his
"Salutation from the Nineteenth to the Twentieth Century" inspired him
now to conceive the "Stupendous International Procession," a gruesome
pageant described in a document (unpublished) of twenty-two typewritten
pages which begin:
THE STUPENDOUS PROCESSION
At the appointed hour it moved across the world in following order:
The Twentieth Century
A fair young creature, drunk and disorderly, borne in the arms of
Satan. Banner with motto, "Get What You Can, Keep What You Get."
Guard of Honor--Monarchs, Presidents, Tammany Bosses, Burglars, Land
Thieves, Convicts, etc., appropriately clothed and bearing the
symbols of their several trades.
A majestic matron in flowing robes drenched with blood. On her head
a golden crown of thorns; impaled on its spines the bleeding heads
of patriots who died for their countries Boers, Boxers, Filipinos;
in one hand a slung-shot, in the other a Bible, open at the text "Do
unto others," etc. Protruding from pocket bottle labeled "We bring
you the blessings of civilization." Necklace-handcuffs and a
Supporters--At one elbow Slaughter, at the other Hypocrisy.
Banner with motto--"Love Your Neighbor's Goods as Yourself."
Ensign--The Black Flag.
Guard of Honor--Missionaries and German, French, Russian, and
British soldiers laden with loot.
And so on, with a section for each nation of the earth, headed each by
the black flag, each bearing horrid emblems, instruments of torture,
mutilated prisoners, broken hearts, floats piled with bloody corpses. At
the end of all, banners inscribed:
"All White Men are Born Free and Equal."
"Christ died to make men holy,
Christ died to make men free."
with the American flag furled and draped in crepe, and the shade of
Lincoln towering vast and dim toward the sky, brooding with sorrowful
aspect over the far-reaching pageant. With much more of the same sort.
It is a fearful document, too fearful, we may believe, for Mrs. Clemens
ever to consent to its publication.
Advancing years did little toward destroying Mark Twain's interest in
human affairs. At no time in his life was he more variously concerned
and employed than in his sixty-seventh year--matters social, literary,
political, religious, financial, scientific. He was always alive, young,
actively cultivating or devising interests--valuable and otherwise,
though never less than important to him.
He had plenty of money again, for one thing, and he liked to find
dazzlingly new ways for investing it. As in the old days, he was always
putting "twenty-five or forty thousand dollars," as he said, into
something that promised multiplied returns. Howells tells how he found
him looking wonderfully well, and when he asked the name of his elixir he
learned that it was plasmon.
I did not immediately understand that plasmon was one of the
investments which he had made from "the substance of things hoped
for," and in the destiny of a disastrous disappointment. But after
paying off the creditors of his late publishing firm he had to do
something with his money, and it was not his fault if he did not
make a fortune out of plasmon.
It was just at this period (the beginning of 1902) that he was promoting
with his capital and enthusiasm the plasmon interests in America,
investing in it one of the "usual amounts," promising to make Howells
over again body and soul with the life-giving albuminate. Once he wrote
him explicit instructions:
Yes--take it as a medicine--there is nothing better, nothing surer
of desired results. If you wish to be elaborate--which isn't
necessary--put a couple of heaping teaspoonfuls of the powder in an
inch of milk & stir until it is a paste; put in some more milk and
stir the paste to a thin gruel; then fill up the glass and drink.
Or, stir it into your soup.
Or, into your oatmeal.
Or, use any method you like, so's you get it down--that is the only
He put another "usual sum" about this time in a patent cash register
which was acknowledged to be "a promise rather than a performance," and
remains so until this day.
He capitalized a patent spiral hat-pin, warranted to hold the hat on in
any weather, and he had a number of the pins handsomely made to present
to visitors of the sex naturally requiring that sort of adornment and
protection. It was a pretty and ingenious device and apparently
effective enough, though it failed to secure his invested thousands.
He invested a lesser sum in shares of the Booklover's Library, which was
going to revolutionize the reading world, and which at least paid a few
dividends. Even the old Tennessee land will-o'-the-wisp-long since
repudiated and forgotten--when it appeared again in the form of a
possible equity in some overlooked fragment, kindled a gentle interest,
and was added to his list of ventures.
He made one substantial investment at this period. They became more and
more in love with the Hudson environment, its beauty and its easy access
to New York. Their house was what they liked it to be--a gathering--
place for friends and the world's notables, who could reach it easily and
quickly from New York. They had a steady procession of company when Mrs.
Clemens's health would permit, and during a single week in the early part
of this year entertained guests at no less than seventeen out of their
twenty-one meals, and for three out of the seven nights--not an unusual
week. Their plan for buying a home on the Hudson ended with the purchase
of what was known as Hillcrest, or the Casey place, at Tarrytown,
overlooking that beautiful stretch of river, the Tappan Zee, close to the
Washington Irving home. The beauty of its outlook and surroundings
appealed to them all. The house was handsome and finely placed, and they
planned to make certain changes that would adapt it to their needs. The
price, which was less than fifty thousand dollars, made it an attractive
purchase; and without doubt it would have made them a suitable and happy
home had it been written in the future that they should so inherit it.
Clemens was writing pretty steadily these days. The human race was
furnishing him with ever so many inspiring subjects, and he found time to
touch more or less on most of them. He wreaked his indignation upon the
things which exasperated him often--even usually--without the expectation
of print; and he delivered himself even more inclusively at such times as
he walked the floor between the luncheon or dinner courses, amplifying on
the poverty of an invention that had produced mankind as a supreme
handiwork. In a letter to Howells he wrote:
Your comments on that idiot's "Ideals" letter reminds me that I preached
a good sermon to my family yesterday on his particular layer of the human
race, that grotesquest of all the inventions of the Creator. It was a
good sermon, but coldly received, & it seemed best not to try to take up
He once told Howells, with the wild joy of his boyish heart, how Mrs.
Clemens found some compensation, when kept to her room by illness, in the
reflection that now she would not hear so much about the "damned human
Yet he was always the first man to champion that race, and the more
unpromising the specimen the surer it was of his protection, and he never
invited, never expected gratitude.
One wonders how he found time to do all the things that he did. Besides
his legitimate literary labors and his preachments, he was always writing
letters to this one and that, long letters on a variety of subjects,
carefully and picturesquely phrased, and to people of every sort. He
even formed a curious society, whose members were young girls--one in
each country of the earth. They were supposed to write to him at
intervals on some subject likely to be of mutual interest, to which
letters he agreed to reply. He furnished each member with a typewritten
copy of the constitution and by-laws of the juggernaut Club, as he called
it, and he apprised each of her election, usually after this fashion:
I have a club--a private club, which is all my own. I appoint the
members myself, & they can't help themselves, because I don't allow
them to vote on their own appointment & I don't allow them to
resign! They are all friends whom I have never seen (save one), but
who have written friendly letters to me. By the laws of my club
there can be only one member in each country, & there can be no male
member but myself. Some day I may admit males, but I don't know-
they are capricious & inharmonious, & their ways provoke me a good
deal. It is a matter, which the club shall decide. I have made
four appointments in the past three or four months: You as a member
for Scotland--oh, this good while!; a young citizeness of Joan of
Arc's home region as a member for France; a Mohammedan girl as
member for Bengal; & a dear & bright young niece of mine as member
for the United States--for I do not represent a country myself, but
am merely member-at-large for the human race. You must not try to
resign, for the laws of the club do not allow that. You must
console yourself by remembering that you are in the best company;
that nobody knows of your membership except yourself; that no member
knows another's name, but only her country; that no taxes are levied
and no meetings held (but how dearly I should like to attend one!).
One of my members is a princess of a royal house, another is the
daughter of a village bookseller on the continent of Europe, for the
only qualification for membership is intellect & the spirit of good-
will; other distinctions, hereditary or acquired, do not count. May
I send you the constitution & laws of the club? I shall be so glad
if I may.
It was just one of his many fancies, and most of the active memberships
would not long be maintained; though some continued faithful in their
reports, as he did in his replies, to the end.
One of the more fantastic of his conceptions was a plan to advertise for
ante-mortem obituaries of himself--in order, as he said, that he might
look them over and enjoy them and make certain corrections in the matter
of detail. Some of them he thought might be appropriate to read from the
I will correct them--not the facts, but the verdicts--striking out
such clauses as could have a deleterious influence on the other
side, and replacing them with clauses of a more judicious character.
He was much taken with the new idea, and his request for such obituaries,
with an offer of a prize for the best--a portrait of himself drawn by his
own hand--really appeared in Harper's Weekly later in the year.
Naturally he got a shower of responses--serious, playful, burlesque.
Some of them were quite worth while.
The obvious "Death loves a shining Mark" was of course numerously
duplicated, and some varied it "Death loves an Easy Mark," and there was
"Mark, the perfect man."
The two that follow gave him especial pleasure.
OBITUARY FOR "MARK TWAIN"
Worthy of his portrait, a place on his monument, as well as a place
among his "perennial-consolation heirlooms":
"Got up; washed; went to bed."
The subject's own words (see Innocents Abroad). Can't go back on
your own words, Mark Twain. There's nothing "to strike out";
nothing "to replace." What more could be said of any one?
"Got up!"--Think of the fullness of meaning! The possibilities of
life, its achievements--physical, intellectual, spiritual. Got up
to the top!--the climax of human aspiration on earth!
"Washed"--Every whit clean; purified--body, soul, thoughts,
"Went to bed"--Work all done--to rest, to sleep. The culmination of
the day well spent!
God looks after the awakening.
Mrs. S. A. OREN-HAYNES.
Mark Twain was the only man who ever lived, so far as we know, whose
lies were so innocent, and withal so helpful, as to make them worth
more than a whole lot of fossilized priests' eternal truths.
D. H. KENNER.
YACHTING AND THEOLOGY
Clemens made fewer speeches during the Riverdale period. He was as
frequently demanded, but he had a better excuse for refusing, especially
the evening functions. He attended a good many luncheons with friendly
spirits like Howells, Matthews, James L. Ford, and Hamlin Garland. At
the end of February he came down to the Mayor's dinner given to Prince
Henry of Prussia, but he did not speak. Clemens used to say afterward
that he had not been asked to speak, and that it was probably because of
his supposed breach of etiquette at the Kaiser's dinner in Berlin; but
the fact that Prince Henry sought him out, and was most cordially and
humanly attentive during a considerable portion of the evening, is
against the supposition.
Clemens attended a Yale alumni dinner that winter and incidentally
visited Twichell in Hartford. The old question of moral responsibility
came up and Twichell lent his visitor a copy of Jonathan Edwards's
'Freedom of the Will' for train perusal. Clemens found it absorbing.
Later he wrote Twichell his views.
DEAR JOE,--(After compliments.)--[Meaning "What a good time you gave
me; what a happiness it was to be under your roof again," etc. See
opening sentence of all translations of letters passing between Lord
Roberts and Indian princes and rulers.]--From Bridgeport to New
York, thence to home, & continuously until near midnight I wallowed
& reeked with Jonathan in his insane debauch; rose immensely
refreshed & fine at ten this morning, but with a strange & haunting
sense of having been on a three days' tear with a drunken lunatic.
It is years since I have known these sensations. All through the
book is the glare of a resplendent intellect gone mad--a marvelous
spectacle. No, not all through the book
--the drunk does not come on till the last third, where what I take
to be Calvinism & its God begins to show up & shine red & hideous in
the glow from the fires of hell, their only right and proper
Jonathan seems to hold (as against the Armenian position) that the
man (or his soul or his will) never creates an impulse itself, but
is moved to action by an impulse back of it. That's sound!
Also, that of two or more things offered it, it infallibly chooses
the one which for the moment is most pleasing to ITSELF. Perfectly
correct! An immense admission for a man not otherwise sane.
Up to that point he could have written Chapters III & IV of my
suppressed Gospel. But there we seem to separate. He seems to
concede the indisputable & unshaken dominion of Motive & Necessity
(call them what he may, these are exterior forces & not under the
man's authority, guidance, or even suggestion); then he suddenly
flies the logical track & (to all seeming) makes the man & not those
exterior forces responsible to God for the man's thoughts, words, &
acts. It is frank insanity.
I think that when he concedes the autocratic dominion of Motive and
Necessity he grants a third position of mine--that a man's mind is a
mere machine--an automatic machine--which is handled entirely from
the outside, the man himself furnishing it absolutely nothing; not
an ounce of its fuel, & not so much as a bare suggestion to that
exterior engineer as to what the machine shall do nor how it shall
do it nor when.
After that concession it was time for him to get alarmed & shirk--
for he was pointed straight for the only rational & possible next
station on that piece of road--the irresponsibility of man to God.
And so he shirked. Shirked, and arrived at this handsome result:
Man is commanded to do so & so.
It has been ordained from the beginning of time that some men
sha'n't & others can't.
These are to blame: let them be damned.
I enjoy the Colonel very much, & shall enjoy the rest of him with an
Joe, the whole tribe shout love to you & yours!
Clemens was moved to set down some theology of his own, and did so in a
manuscript which he entitled, "If I Could Be There." It is in the
dialogue form he often adopted for polemic writing. It is a colloquy
between the Master of the Universe and a Stranger. It begins:
If I could be there, hidden under the steps of the throne, I should hear
conversations like this:
A STRANGER. Lord, there is one who needs to be punished, and has been
overlooked. It is in the record. I have found it.
LORD. By searching?
S. Yes, Lord.
L. Who is it? What is it?
S. A man.
S. He died in sin. Sin committed by his great-grandfather.
L. When was this?
S. Eleven million years ago.
L. Do you know what a microbe is?
S. Yes, Lord. It is a creature too small to be detected by my eye.
L. He commits depredations upon your blood?
S. Yes, Lord.
L. I give you leave to subject him to a billion years of misery for this
offense. Go! Work your will upon him.
S. But, Lord, I have nothing against him; I am indifferent to him.
S. He is so infinitely small and contemptible. I am to him as is a
mountain-range to a grain of sand.
L. What am I to man?
L. Am I not, to a man, as is a billion solar systems to a grain of sand?
S. It is true, Lord.
L. Some microbes are larger than others. Does man regard the
S. No, Lord. To him there is no difference of consequence. To him they
are all microbes, all infinitely little and equally inconsequential.
L. To me there is no difference of consequence between a man & a
microbe. Man looks down upon the speck at his feet called a microbe from
an altitude of a thousand miles, so to speak, and regards him with
indifference; I look down upon the specks called a man and a microbe from
an altitude of a billion leagues, so to speak, and to me they are of a
size. To me both are inconsequential. Man kills the microbes when he
S. Yes, Lord.
L. Then what? Does he keep him in mind years and years and go on
contriving miseries for him?
S. No, Lord.
L. Does he forget him?
S. Yes, Lord.
S. He cares nothing more about him.
L. Employs himself with more important matters?
S. Yes, Lord.
L. Apparently man is quite a rational and dignified person, and can
divorce his mind from uninteresting trivialities. Why does he affront me
with the fancy that I interest Myself in trivialities--like men and
L. Is it true the human race thinks the universe was created for its
S. Yes, Lord.
L. The human race is modest. Speaking as a member of it, what do you
think the other animals are for?
S. To furnish food and labor for man.
L. What is the sea for?
S. To furnish food for man. Fishes.
L. And the air?
S. To furnish sustenance for man. Birds and breath.
L. How many men are there?
S. Fifteen hundred millions.
L. (Referring to notes.) Take your pencil and set down some statistics.
In a healthy man's lower intestine 28,000,000 microbes are born daily and
die daily. In the rest of a man's body 122,000,000 microbes are born
daily and die daily. The two sums aggregate-what?
S. About 150,000,000.
L. In ten days the aggregate reaches what?
S. Fifteen hundred millions.
L. It is for one person. What would it be for the whole human
S. Alas, Lord, it is beyond the power of figures to set down that
multitude. It is billions of billions multiplied by billions of
billions, and these multiplied again and again by billions of billions.
The figures would stretch across the universe and hang over into space on
L. To what intent are these uncountable microbes introduced into the
S. That they may eat.
L. Now then, according to man's own reasoning, what is man for?
L. What is he for?
S. To-to-furnish food for microbes.
L. Manifestly. A child could see it. Now then, with this common-sense
light to aid your perceptions, what are the air, the land, and the ocean
S. To furnish food for man so that he may nourish, support, and multiply
and replenish the microbes.
L. Manifestly. Does one build a boarding-house for the sake of the
boarding-house itself or for the sake of the boarders?
S. Certainly for the sake of the boarders.
L. Man's a boarding-house.
S. I perceive it, Lord.
L. He is a boarding-house. He was never intended for anything else. If
he had had less vanity and a clearer insight into the great truths that
lie embedded in statistics he would have found it out early. As concerns
the man who has gone unpunished eleven million years, is it your belief
that in life he did his duty by his microbes?
S. Undoubtedly, Lord. He could not help it.
L. Then why punish him? He had no other duty to perform.
Whatever else may be said of this kind of doctrine, it is at least
original and has a conclusive sound. Mark Twain had very little use for
orthodoxy and conservatism. When it was announced that Dr. Jacques Loeb,
of the University of California, had demonstrated the creation of life by
chemical agencies he was deeply interested. When a newspaper writer
commented that a "consensus of opinion among biologists" would probably
rate Dr. Loeb as a man of lively imagination rather than an inerrant
investigator of natural phenomena, he felt called to chaff the consensus
I wish I could be as young as that again. Although I seem so old
now I was once as young as that. I remember, as if it were but
thirty or forty years ago, how a paralyzing consensus of opinion
accumulated from experts a-setting around about brother experts who
had patiently and laboriously cold-chiseled their way into one or
another of nature's safe-deposit vaults and were reporting that they
had found something valuable was plenty for me. It settled it.
But it isn't so now-no. Because in the drift of the years I by and
by found out that a Consensus examines a new thing with its feelings
rather oftener than with its mind.
There was that primitive steam-engine-ages back, in Greek times: a
Consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester's
steam-engine 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was
Fulton's steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including
the great Napoleon, made fun of it. There was Priestley, with his
oxygen: a Consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out,
banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and
things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship
And so on through a dozen pages or more of lively satire, ending with an
extract from Adam's Diary.
Then there was a Consensus about it. It was the very first one. It
sat six days and nights. It was then delivered of the verdict that
a world could not be made out of nothing; that such small things as
sun and moon and stars might, maybe, but it would take years and
years if there was considerable many of them. Then the Consensus
got up and looked out of the window, and there was the whole outfit,
spinning and sparkling in space! You never saw such a disappointed
He was writing much at this time, mainly for his own amusement, though
now and then he offered one of his reflections for print. That beautiful
fairy tale, "The Five Boons of Life," of which the most precious is
"Death," was written at this period. Maeterlinck's lovely story of the
bee interested him; he wrote about that. Somebody proposed a Martyrs'
Day; he wrote a paper ridiculing the suggestion. In his note-book, too,
there is a memorandum for a love-story of the Quarternary Epoch which
would begin, "On a soft October afternoon 2,000,000 years ago." John
Fiske's Discovery of America, Volume I, he said, was to furnish the
animals and scenery, civilization and conversation to be the same as to-
day; but apparently this idea was carried no further. He ranged through
every subject from protoplasm to infinity, exalting, condemning,
ridiculing, explaining; his brain was always busy--a dynamo that rested
neither night nor day.
In April Clemens received notice of another yachting trip on the Kanawha,
which this time would sail for the Bahama and West India islands. The
guests were to be about the same.--[The invited ones of the party were
Hon. T. B. Reed, A. G. Paine, Laurence Hutton, Dr. C. C. Rice, W. T.
Foote, and S. L. Clemens. "Owners of the yacht," Mr. Rogers called them,
signing himself as "Their Guest."]
He sent this telegram:
H. H. ROGERS,
Can't get away this week. I have company here from tonight till middle
of next week. Will Kanawha be sailing after that & can I go as Sunday-
school superintendent at half rate? Answer and prepay.
The sailing date was conveniently arranged and there followed a happy
cruise among those balmy islands. Mark Twain was particularly fond of
"Tom" Reed, who had been known as "Czar" Reed in Congress, but was
delightfully human in his personal life. They argued politics a good
deal, and Reed, with all his training and intimate practical knowledge of
the subject, confessed that he "couldn't argue with a man like that."
"Do you believe the things you say?" he asked once, in his thin, falsetto
"Yes," said Clemens. "Some of them."
"Well, you want to look out. If you go on this way, by and by you'll get
to believing nearly everything you say."
Draw poker appears to have been their favorite diversion. Clemens in his
notes reports that off the coast of Florida Reed won twenty-three pots in
succession. It was said afterward that they made no stops at any harbor;
that when the chief officer approached the poker-table and told them they
were about to enter some important port he received peremptory orders to
"sail on and not interrupt the game." This, however, may be regarded as
more or less founded on fiction.
MARK TWAIN AND THE PHILIPPINES
Among the completed manuscripts of the early part of 1902 was a North
American Review article (published in April)--"Does the Race of Man Love
a Lord?"--a most interesting treatise on snobbery as a universal
weakness. There were also some papers on the Philippine situation. In
one of these Clemens wrote:
We have bought some islands from a party who did not own them; with
real smartness and a good counterfeit of disinterested friendliness
we coaxed a confiding weak nation into a trap and closed it upon
them; we went back on an honored guest of the Stars and Stripes when
we had no further use for him and chased him to the mountains; we
are as indisputably in possession of a wide-spreading archipelago as
if it were our property; we have pacified some thousands of the
islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their
villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors;
furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable
patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent
Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have
acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves
of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our
protecting flag over that swag.
And so, by these Providences of God--the phrase is the government's,
not mine--we are a World Power; and are glad and proud, and have a
back seat in the family. With tacks in it. At least we are letting
on to be glad and proud; it is the best way. Indeed, it is the only
way. We must maintain our dignity, for people are looking. We are
a World Power; we cannot get out of it now, and we must make the
best of it.
And again he wrote:
I am not finding fault with this use of our flag, for in order not
to seem eccentric I have swung around now and joined the nation in
the conviction that nothing can sully a flag. I was not properly
reared, and had the illusion that a flag was a thing which must be
sacredly guarded against shameful uses and unclean contacts lest it
suffer pollution; and so when it was sent out to the Philippines to
float over a wanton war and a robbing expedition I supposed it was
polluted, and in an ignorant moment I said so. But I stand
corrected. I concede and acknowledge that it was only the
government that sent it on such an errand that was polluted. Let us