Part 7 out of 16
of good-fellowship which would have made even an English family
surrender. Of course the Germans responded--then I got right up and they
had to respond to my salaams, too. So "that was done."
We walked up a gorge and saw a tumbling waterfall which was nothing to
Giessbach, but it made me resolve to drop you a line and urge you to go
and see Giessbach illuminated. Don't fail--but take a long day's rest,
first. I love you, sweetheart.
OVER THE GEMMI PASS.
4.30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, 1878.
Livy darling, Joe and I have had a most noble day. Started to climb (on
foot) at 8.30 this morning among the grandest peaks! Every half hour
carried us back a month in the season. We left them harvesting 2d crop
of hay. At 9 we were in July and found ripe strawberries; at 9.30 we
were in June and gathered flowers belonging to that month; at 10 we were
in May and gathered a flower which appeared in Heidelberg the 17th of
that month; also forget-me-nots, which disappeared from Heidelberg about
mid-May; at 11.30 we were in April (by the flowers;) at noon we had rain
and hail mixed, and wind and enveloping fogs, and considered it March; at
12.30 we had snowbanks above us and snowbanks below us, and considered it
February. Not good February, though, because in the midst of the wild
desolation the forget-me-not still bloomed, lovely as ever.
What a flower garden the Gemmi Pass is! After I had got my hands full
Joe made me a paper bag, which I pinned to my lapel and filled with
choice specimens. I gathered no flowers which I had ever gathered before
except 4 or 5 kinds. We took it leisurely and I picked all I wanted to.
I mailed my harvest to you a while ago. Don't send it to Mrs. Brooks
until you have looked it over, flower by flower. It will pay.
Among the clouds and everlasting snows I found a brave and bright little
forget-me-not growing in the very midst of a smashed and tumbled stone-
debris, just as cheerful as if the barren and awful domes and ramparts
that towered around were the blessed walls of heaven. I thought how
Lilly Warner would be touched by such a gracious surprise, if she,
instead of I, had seen it. So I plucked it, and have mailed it to her
with a note.
Our walk was 7 hours--the last 2 down a path as steep as a ladder,
almost, cut in the face of a mighty precipice. People are not allowed to
ride down it. This part of the day's work taxed our knees, I tell you.
We have been loafing about this village (Leukerbad) for an hour, now we
stay here over Sunday. Not tired at all. (Joe's hat fell over the
precipice--so he came here bareheaded.) I love you, my darling.
ST. NICHOLAS, Aug. 26th, '78.
Livy darling, we came through a-whooping today, 6 hours tramp up steep
hills and down steep hills, in mud and water shoe-deep, and in a steady
pouring rain which never moderated a moment. I was as chipper and fresh
as a lark all the way and arrived without the slightest sense of fatigue.
But we were soaked and my shoes full of water, so we ate at once,
stripped and went to bed for 2 1/2 hours while our traps were thoroughly
dried, and our boots greased in addition. Then we put our clothes on hot
and went to table d'hote.
Made some nice English friends and shall see them at Zermatt tomorrow.
Gathered a small bouquet of new flowers, but they got spoiled. I sent
you a safety-match box full of flowers last night from Leukerbad.
I have just telegraphed you to wire the family news to me at Riffel
tomorrow. I do hope you are all well and having as jolly a time as we
are, for I love you, sweetheart, and also, in a measure, the Bays.--
[Little Susy's word for "babies."]--Give my love to Clara Spaulding and
also to the cubs.
This, as far as it goes, is a truer and better account of the
excursion than Mark Twain gave in the book that he wrote later. A
Tramp Abroad has a quality of burlesque in it, which did not belong
to the journey at all, but was invented to satisfy the craving for
what the public conceived to be Mark Twain's humor. The serious
portions of the book are much more pleasing--more like himself.
The entire journey, as will be seen, lasted one week more than a
Twichell also made his reports home, some of which give us
interesting pictures of his walking partner. In one place he wrote:
"Mark is a queer fellow. There is nothing he so delights in as a
swift, strong stream. You can hardly get him to leave one when once
he is within the influence of its fascinations."
Twichell tells how at Kandersteg they were out together one evening
where a brook comes plunging down from Gasternthal and how he pushed
in a drift to see it go racing along the current. "When I got back
to the path Mark was running down stream after it as hard as he
could go, throwing up his hands and shouting in the wildest ecstasy,
and when a piece went over a fall and emerged to view in the foam
below he would jump up and down and yell. He said afterward that he
had not been so excited in three months."
In other places Twichell refers to his companion's consideration for
the feeling of others, and for animals. "When we are driving, his
concern is all about the horse. He can't bear to see the whip used,
or to see a horse pull hard."
After the walk over Gemmi Pass he wrote: "Mark to-day was immensely
absorbed in flowers. He scrambled around and gathered a great variety,
and manifested the intensest pleasure in them. He crowded a pocket of
his note-book with his specimens, and wanted more room."
Whereupon Twichell got out his needle and thread and some stiff paper he
had and contrived the little paper bag to hang to the front of his vest.
The tramp really ended at Lausanne, where Clemens joined his party, but a
short excursion to Chillon and Chamonix followed, the travelers finally
separating at Geneva, Twichell to set out for home by way of England,
Clemens to remain and try to write the story of their travels. He
hurried a good-by letter after his comrade:
To Rev. J. H. Twichell:
DEAR OLD JOE,--It is actually all over! I was so low-spirited at the
station yesterday, and this morning, when I woke, I couldn't seem to
accept the dismal truth that you were really gone, and the pleasant
tramping and talking at an end. Ah, my boy! it has been such a rich
holiday to me, and I feel under such deep and honest obligations to you
for coming. I am putting out of my mind all memory of the times when I
misbehaved toward you and hurt you: I am resolved to consider it
forgiven, and to store up and remember only the charming hours of the
journeys and the times when I was not unworthy to be with you and share a
companionship which to me stands first after Livy's. It is justifiable
to do this; for why should I let my small infirmities of disposition live
and grovel among my mental pictures of the eternal sublimities of the
Livy can't accept or endure the fact that you are gone. But you are,
and we cannot get around it. So take our love with you, and bear it also
over the sea to Harmony, and God bless you both.
From Switzerland the Clemens party worked down into Italy, sight-
seeing, a diversion in which Mark Twain found little enough of
interest. He had seen most of the sights ten years before, when his
mind was fresh. He unburdened himself to Twichell and to Howells,
after a period of suffering.
To J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
ROME, Nov. 3, '78.
DEAR JOE,--.....I have received your several letters, and we have
prodigiously enjoyed them. How I do admire a man who can sit down and
whale away with a pen just the same as if it was fishing--or something
else as full of pleasure and as void of labor. I can't do it; else, in
common decency, I would when I write to you. Joe, if I can make a book
out of the matter gathered in your company over here, the book is safe;
but I don't think I have gathered any matter before or since your visit
worth writing up. I do wish you were in Rome to do my sightseeing for
me. Rome interests me as much as East Hartford could, and no more. That
is, the Rome which the average tourist feels an interest in; but there
are other things here which stir me enough to make life worth living.
Livy and Clara Spaulding are having a royal time worshiping the old
Masters, and I as good a time gritting my ineffectual teeth over them.
A friend waits for me. A power of love to you all.
In his letter to Howells he said: "I wish I could give those sharp
satires on European life which you mention, but of course a man
can't write successful satire except he be in a calm, judicial good-
humor; whereas I hate travel, and I hate hotels, and I hate the
opera, and I hate the old masters. In truth, I don't ever seem to
be in a good-enough humor with anything to satirize it. No, I want
to stand up before it and curse it and foam at the mouth, or take a
club and pound it to rags and pulp. I have got in two or three
chapters about Wagner's operas, and managed to do it without showing
temper, but the strain of another such effort would burst me!"
From Italy the Clemens party went to Munich, where they had arranged
in advance for winter quarters. Clemens claims, in his report of
the matter to Howells, that he took the party through without the
aid of a courier, though thirty years later, in some comment which
he set down on being shown the letter, he wrote concerning this
paragraph: "Probably a lie." He wrote, also, that they acquired a
great affection for Fraulein Dahlweiner: "Acquired it at once and it
outlasted the winter we spent in her house."
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
No 1a, Karlstrasse, 2e Stock.
Care Fraulein Dahlweiner.
MUNICH, Nov. 17, 1878.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--We arrived here night before last, pretty well fagged:
an 8-hour pull from Rome to Florence; a rest there of a day and two
nights; then 5 1/2 hours to Bologna; one night's rest; then from noon to
10:30 p.m. carried us to Trent, in the Austrian Tyrol, where the
confounded hotel had not received our message, and so at that miserable
hour, in that snowy region, the tribe had to shiver together in fireless
rooms while beds were prepared and warmed, then up at 6 in the morning
and a noble view of snow-peaks glittering in the rich light of a full
moon while the hotel-devils lazily deranged a breakfast for us in the
dreary gloom of blinking candles; then a solid 12 hours pull through the
loveliest snow ranges and snow-draped forest--and at 7 p.m. we hauled up,
in drizzle and fog, at the domicile which had been engaged for us ten
months before. Munich did seem the horriblest place, the most desolate
place, the most unendurable place!--and the rooms were so small, the
conveniences so meagre, and the porcelain stoves so grim, ghastly,
dismal, intolerable! So Livy and Clara (Spaulding) sat down forlorn,
and cried, and I retired to a private, place to pray. By and by we all
retired to our narrow German beds; and when Livy and I finished talking
across the room, it was all decided that we would rest 24 hours then pay
whatever damages were required, and straightway fly to the south of
But you see, that was simply fatigue. Next morning the tribe fell in
love with the rooms, with the weather, with Munich, and head over heels
in love with Fraulein Dahlweiner. We got a larger parlor--an ample one
--threw two communicating bedrooms into one, for the children, and now we
are entirely comfortable. The only apprehension, at present, is that the
climate may not be just right for the children, in which case we shall
have to go to France, but it will be with the sincerest regret.
Now I brought the tribe through from Rome, myself. We never had so
little trouble before. The next time anybody has a courier to put out to
nurse, I shall not be in the market.
Last night the forlornities had all disappeared; so we gathered around
the lamp, after supper, with our beer and my pipe, and in a condition of
grateful snugness tackled the new magazines. I read your new story
aloud, amid thunders of applause, and we all agreed that Captain Jenness
and the old man with the accordion-hat are lovely people and most
skillfully drawn--and that cabin-boy, too, we like. Of course we are all
glad the girl is gone to Venice--for there is no place like Venice. Now
I easily understand that the old man couldn't go, because you have a
purpose in sending Lyddy by herself: but you could send the old man over
in another ship, and we particularly want him along. Suppose you don't
need him there? What of that? Can't you let him feed the doves? Can't
you let him fall in the canal occasionally? Can't you let his good-
natured purse be a daily prey to guides and beggar-boys? Can't you let
him find peace and rest and fellowship under Pere Jacopo's kindly wing?
(However, you are writing the book, not I--still, I am one of the people
you are writing it for, you understand.) I only want to insist, in a
friendly way, that the old man shall shed his sweet influence frequently
upon the page--that is all.
The first time we called at the convent, Pere Jacopo was absent; the next
(Just at this moment Miss Spaulding spoke up and said something about
Pere Jacopo--there is more in this acting of one mind upon another than
people think) time, he was there, and gave us preserved rose-leaves to
eat, and talked about you, and Mrs. Howells, and Winnie, and brought out
his photographs, and showed us a picture of "the library of your new
house," but not so--it was the study in your Cambridge house. He was
very sweet and good. He called on us next day; the day after that we
left Venice, after a pleasant sojourn Of 3 or 4 weeks. He expects to
spend this winter in Munich and will see us often, he said.
Pretty soon, I am going to write something, and when I finish it I shall
know whether to put it to itself or in the "Contributors' Club." That
"Contributors' Club" was a most happy idea. By the way, I think that the
man who wrote the paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 643 has said
a mighty sound and sensible thing. I wish his suggestion could be
It is lovely of you to keep that old pipe in such a place of honor.
While it occurs to me, I must tell you Susie's last. She is sorely
badgered with dreams; and her stock dream is that she is being eaten up
by bears. She is a grave and thoughtful child, as you will remember.
Last night she had the usual dream. This morning she stood apart (after
telling it,) for some time, looking vacantly at the floor, and absorbed
in meditation. At last she looked up, and with the pathos of one who
feels he has not been dealt by with even-handed fairness, said "But
Mamma, the trouble is, that I am never the bear, but always the person."
It would not have occurred to me that there might be an advantage, even
in a dream, in occasionally being the eater, instead of always the party
eaten, but I easily perceived that her point was well taken.
I'm sending to Heidelberg for your letter and Winnie's, and I do hope
they haven't been lost.
My wife and I send love to you all.
The Howells story, running at this time in the Atlantic, and so much
enjoyed by the Clemens party, was "The Lady of the Aroostook." The
suggestions made for enlarging the part of the "old man" are
Mark Twain's forty-third birthday came in Munich, and in his letter
conveying this fact to his mother we get a brief added outline of
the daily life in that old Bavarian city. Certainly, it would seem
to have been a quieter and more profitable existence than he had
known amid the confusion of things left behind in, America.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in America:
No. 1a Karlstrasse,
Dec. 1, MUNICH. 1878.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--I broke the back of life yesterday and
started down-hill toward old age. This fact has not produced any effect
upon me that I can detect.
I suppose we are located here for the winter. I have a pleasant work-
room a mile from here where I do my writing. The walk to and from that
place gives me what exercise I need, and all I take. We staid three
weeks in Venice, a week in Florence, a fortnight in Rome, and arrived
here a couple of weeks ago. Livy and Miss Spaulding are studying drawing
and German, and the children have a German day-governess. I cannot see
but that the children speak German as well as they do English.
Susie often translates Livy's orders to the servants. I cannot work and
study German at the same time: so I have dropped the latter, and do not
even read the language, except in the morning paper to get the news.
We have all pretty good health, latterly, and have seldom had to call the
doctor. The children have been in the open air pretty constantly for
months now. In Venice they were on the water in the gondola most of the
time, and were great friends with our gondolier; and in Rome and Florence
they had long daily tramps, for Rosa is a famous hand to smell out the
sights of a strange place. Here they wander less extensively.
The family all join in love to you all and to Orion and Mollie.
LETTERS 1879. RETURN TO AMERICA. THE GREAT GRANT REUNION
Life went on very well in Munich. Each day the family fell more in love
with Fraulein Dahlweiner and her house.
Mark Twain, however, did not settle down to his work readily. His
"pleasant work-room" provided exercise, but no inspiration. When he
discovered he could not find his Swiss note-book he was ready to give up
his travel-writing altogether. In the letter that follows we find him
much less enthusiastic concerning his own performances than over the
story by Howells, which he was following in the Atlantic.
The "detective" chapter mentioned in this letter was not included in
'A Tramp Abroad.' It was published separately, as 'The Stolen White
Elephant' in a volume bearing that title. The play, which he had now
found "dreadfully witless and flat," was no other than "Simon Wheeler,
Detective," which he had once regarded so highly. The "Stewart" referred
to was the millionaire merchant, A. T. Stewart, whose body was stolen in
the expectation of reward.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
MUNICH, Jan. 21, (1879)
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--It's no use, your letter miscarried in some way and is
lost. The consul has made a thorough search and says he has not been
able to trace it. It is unaccountable, for all the letters I did not
want arrived without a single grateful failure. Well, I have read-up,
now, as far as you have got, that is, to where there's a storm at sea
approaching,--and we three think you are clear, out-Howellsing Howells.
If your literature has not struck perfection now we are not able to see
what is lacking. It is all such truth--truth to the life; every where
your pen falls it leaves a photograph. I did imagine that everything had
been said about life at sea that could be said, but no matter, it was all
a failure and lies, nothing but lies with a thin varnish of fact,--only
you have stated it as it absolutely is. And only you see people and
their ways, and their insides and outsides as they are, and make them
talk as they do talk. I think you are the very greatest artist in these
tremendous mysteries that ever lived. There doesn't seem to be anything
that can be concealed from your awful all-seeing eye. It must be a
cheerful thing for one to live with you and be aware that you are going
up and down in him like another conscience all the time. Possibly you
will not be a fully accepted classic until you have been dead a hundred
years,--it is the fate of the Shakespeares and of all genuine prophets,
--but then your books will be as common as Bibles, I believe. You're not
a weed, but an oak; not a summer-house, but a cathedral. In that day I
shall still be in the Cyclopedias, too, thus: "Mark Twain; history and
occupation unknown--but he was personally acquainted with Howells."
There--I could sing your praises all day, and feel and believe every bit
My book is half finished; I wish to heaven it was done. I have given up
writing a detective novel--can't write a novel, for I lack the faculty;
but when the detectives were nosing around after Stewart's loud remains,
I threw a chapter into my present book in which I have very extravagantly
burlesqued the detective business--if it is possible to burlesque that
business extravagantly. You know I was going to send you that detective
play, so that you could re-write it. Well I didn't do it because I
couldn't find a single idea in it that could be useful to you. It was
dreadfully witless and flat. I knew it would sadden you and unfit you
I have always been sorry we threw up that play embodying Orion which you
began. It was a mistake to do that. Do keep that MS and tackle it
again. It will work out all right; you will see. I don't believe that
that character exists in literature in so well-developed a condition as
it exists in Orion's person. Now won't you put Orion in a story? Then
he will go handsomely into a play afterwards. How deliciously you could
paint him--it would make fascinating reading--the sort that makes a
reader laugh and cry at the same time, for Orion is as good and
ridiculous a soul as ever was.
Ah, to think of Bayard Taylor! It is too sad to talk about. I was so
glad there was not a single sting and so many good praiseful words in the
Atlantic's criticism of Deukalion.
Love to you all
We remain here till middle of March.
In 'A Tramp Abroad' there is an incident in which the author
describes himself as hunting for a lost sock in the dark, in a vast
hotel bedroom at Heilbronn. The account of the real incident, as
written to Twichell, seems even more amusing.
The "Yarn About the Limburger Cheese and the Box of Guns," like "The
Stolen White Elephant," did not find place in the travel-book, but
was published in the same volume with the elephant story, added to
the rambling notes of "An Idle Excursion."
With the discovery of the Swiss note-book, work with Mark Twain was
going better. His letter reflects his enthusiasm.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
MUNICH, Jan 26 '79.
DEAR OLD JOE,--Sunday. Your delicious letter arrived exactly at the
right time. It was laid by my plate as I was finishing breakfast at 12
noon. Livy and Clara, (Spaulding) arrived from church 5 minutes later;
I took a pipe and spread myself out on the sofa, and Livy sat by and
read, and I warmed to that butcher the moment he began to swear. There
is more than one way of praying, and I like the butcher's way because the
petitioner is so apt to be in earnest. I was peculiarly alive to his
performance just at this time, for another reason, to wit: Last night I
awoke at 3 this morning, and after raging to my self for 2 interminable
hours, I gave it up. I rose, assumed a catlike stealthiness, to keep
from waking Livy, and proceeded to dress in the pitch dark. Slowly but
surely I got on garment after garment--all down to one sock; I had one
slipper on and the other in my hand. Well, on my hands and knees I crept
softly around, pawing and feeling and scooping along the carpet, and
among chair-legs for that missing sock; I kept that up; and still kept it
up and kept it up. At first I only said to myself, "Blame that sock,"
but that soon ceased to answer; my expletives grew steadily stronger and
stronger,--and at last, when I found I was lost, I had to sit flat down
on the floor and take hold of something to keep from lifting the roof off
with the profane explosion that was trying to get out of me. I could see
the dim blur of the window, but of course it was in the wrong place and
could give me no information as to where I was. But I had one comfort
--I had not waked Livy; I believed I could find that sock in silence if
the night lasted long enough. So I started again and softly pawed all
over the place,--and sure enough at the end of half an hour I laid my
hand on the missing article. I rose joyfully up and butted the wash-bowl
and pitcher off the stand and simply raised----so to speak. Livy
screamed, then said, "Who is that? what is the matter?" I said "There
ain't anything the matter--I'm hunting for my sock." She said, "Are you
hunting for it with a club?"
I went in the parlor and lit the lamp, and gradually the fury subsided
and the ridiculous features of the thing began to suggest themselves.
So I lay on the sofa, with note-book and pencil, and transferred the
adventure to our big room in the hotel at Heilbronn, and got it on paper
a good deal to my satisfaction.
I found the Swiss note-book, some time ago. When it was first lost I was
glad of it, for I was getting an idea that I had lost my faculty of
writing sketches of travel; therefore the loss of that note-book would
render the writing of this one simply impossible, and let me gracefully
out; I was about to write to Bliss and propose some other book, when the
confounded thing turned up, and down went my heart into my boots. But
there was now no excuse, so I went solidly to work--tore up a great part
of the MS written in Heidelberg,--wrote and tore up,--continued to write
and tear up,--and at last, reward of patient and noble persistence, my
pen got the old swing again!
Since then I'm glad Providence knew better what to do with the Swiss
note-book than I did, for I like my work, now, exceedingly, and often
turn out over 30 MS pages a day and then quit sorry that Heaven makes the
days so short.
One of my discouragements had been the belief that my interest in this
tour had been so slender that I couldn't gouge matter enough out of it to
make a book. What a mistake. I've got 900 pages written (not a word in
it about the sea voyage) yet I stepped my foot out of Heidelberg for the
first time yesterday,--and then only to take our party of four on our
first pedestrian tour--to Heilbronn. I've got them dressed elaborately
in walking costume--knapsacks, canteens, field-glasses, leather leggings,
patent walking shoes, muslin folds around their hats, with long tails
hanging down behind, sun umbrellas, and Alpenstocks. They go all the way
to Wimpfen by rail-thence to Heilbronn in a chance vegetable cart drawn
by a donkey and a cow; I shall fetch them home on a raft; and if other
people shall perceive that that was no pedestrian excursion, they
themselves shall not be conscious of it.--This trip will take 100 pages
or more,--oh, goodness knows how many! for the mood is everything, not
the material, and I already seem to see 300 pages rising before me on
that trip. Then, I propose to leave Heidelberg for good. Don't you see,
the book (1800 MS pages,) may really be finished before I ever get to
But there's one thing; I want to tell Frank Bliss and his father to be
charitable toward me in,--that is, let me tear up all the MS I want to,
and give me time to write more. I shan't waste the time--I haven't the
slightest desire to loaf, but a consuming desire to work, ever since I
got back my swing. And you see this book is either going to be compared
with the Innocents Abroad, or contrasted with it, to my disadvantage.
I think I can make a book that will be no dead corpse of a thing and I
mean to do my level best to accomplish that.
My crude plans are crystalizing. As the thing stands now, I went to
Europe for three purposes. The first you know, and must keep secret,
even from the Blisses; the second is to study Art; and the third to
acquire a critical knowledge of the German language. My MS already shows
that the two latter objects are accomplished. It shows that I am moving
about as an Artist and a Philologist, and unaware that there is any
immodesty in assuming these titles. Having three definite objects has
had the effect of seeming to enlarge my domain and give me the freedom of
a loose costume. It is three strings to my bow, too.
Well, your butcher is magnificent. He won't stay out of my mind.--I keep
trying to think of some way of getting your account of him into my book
without his being offended--and yet confound him there isn't anything you
have said which he would see any offense in,--I'm only thinking of his
friends--they are the parties who busy themselves with seeing things for
people. But I'm bound to have him in. I'm putting in the yarn about the
Limburger cheese and the box of guns, too--mighty glad Howells declined
it. It seems to gather richness and flavor with age. I have very nearly
killed several companies with that narrative,--the American Artists Club,
here, for instance, and Smith and wife and Miss Griffith (they were here
in this house a week or two.) I've got other chapters that pretty nearly
destroyed the same parties, too.
O, Switzerland! the further it recedes into the enriching haze of time,
the more intolerably delicious the charm of it and the cheer of it and
the glory and majesty and solemnity and pathos of it grow. Those
mountains had a soul; they thought; they spoke,--one couldn't hear it
with the ears of the body, but what a voice it was!--and how real. Deep
down in my memory it is sounding yet. Alp calleth unto Alp!--that
stately old Scriptural wording is the right one for God's Alps and God's
ocean. How puny we were in that awful presence--and how painless it was
to be so; how fitting and right it seemed, and how stingless was the
sense of our unspeakable insignificance. And Lord how pervading were the
repose and peace and blessedness that poured out of the heart of the
invisible Great Spirit of the Mountains.
Now what is it? There are mountains and mountains and mountains in this
world--but only these take you by the heart-strings. I wonder what the
secret of it is. Well, time and time again it has seemed to me that I
must drop everything and flee to Switzerland once more. It is a longing
--a deep, strong, tugging longing--that is the word. We must go again,
Joe.--October days, let us get up at dawn and breakfast at the tower. I
should like that first rate.
Livy and all of us send deluges of love to you and Harmony and all the
children. I dreamed last night that I woke up in the library at home and
your children were frolicing around me and Julia was sitting in my lap;
you and Harmony and both families of Warners had finished their welcomes
and were filing out through the conservatory door, wrecking Patrick's
flower pots with their dress skirts as they went. Peace and plenty abide
with you all!
I want the Blisses to know their part of this letter, if possible. They
will see that my delay was not from choice.
Following the life of Mark Twain, whether through his letters or
along the sequence of detailed occurrence, we are never more than a
little while, or a little distance, from his brother Orion. In one
form or another Orion is ever present, his inquiries, his proposals,
his suggestions, his plans for improving his own fortunes, command
our attention. He was one of the most human creatures that ever
lived; indeed, his humanity excluded every form of artificiality--
everything that needs to be acquired. Talented, trusting, child-
like, carried away by the impulse of the moment, despite a keen
sense of humor he was never able to see that his latest plan or
project was not bound to succeed. Mark Twain loved him, pitied him
--also enjoyed him, especially with Howells. Orion's new plan to
lecture in the interest of religion found its way to Munich, with
the following result:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
MUNICH, Feb. 9. (1879)
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--I have just received this letter from Orion--take care
of it, for it is worth preserving. I got as far as 9 pages in my answer
to it, when Mrs. Clemens shut down on it, and said it was cruel, and made
me send the money and simply wish his lecture success. I said I couldn't
lose my 9 pages--so she said send them to you. But I will acknowledge
that I thought I was writing a very kind letter.
Now just look at this letter of Orion's. Did you ever see the
grotesquely absurd and the heart-breakingly pathetic more closely joined
together? Mrs. Clemens said "Raise his monthly pension." So I wrote to
Perkins to raise it a trifle.
Now only think of it! He still has 100 pages to write on his lecture,
yet in one inking of his pen he has already swooped around the United
States and invested the result!
You must put him in a book or a play right away. You are the only man
capable of doing it. You might die at any moment, and your very greatest
work would be lost to the world. I could write Orion's simple biography,
and make it effective, too, by merely stating the bald facts--and this I
will do if he dies before I do; but you must put him into romance. This
was the understanding you and I had the day I sailed.
Observe Orion's career--that is, a little of it: (1) He has belonged to
as many as five different religious denominations; last March he withdrew
from the deaconship in a Congregational Church and the Superintendency of
its Sunday School, in a speech in which he said that for many months (it
runs in my mind that he said 13 years,) he had been a confirmed infidel,
and so felt it to be his duty to retire from the flock.
2. After being a republican for years, he wanted me to buy him a
democratic newspaper. A few days before the Presidential election, he
came out in a speech and publicly went over to the democrats; he
prudently "hedged" by voting for 6 state republicans, also.
The new convert was made one of the secretaries of the democratic
meeting, and placed in the list of speakers. He wrote me jubilantly of
what a ten-strike he was going to make with that speech. All right--but
think of his innocent and pathetic candor in writing me something like
this, a week later:
"I was more diffident than I had expected to be, and this was increased
by the silence with which I was received when I came forward; so I seemed
unable to get the fire into my speech which I had calculated upon, and
presently they began to get up and go out; and in a few minutes they all
rose up and went away."
How could a man uncover such a sore as that and show it to another? Not
a word of complaint, you see--only a patient, sad surprise.
3. His next project was to write a burlesque upon Paradise Lost.
4. Then, learning that the Times was paying Harte $100 a column for
stories, he concluded to write some for the same price. I read his first
one and persuaded him not to write any more.
5. Then he read proof on the N. Y. Eve. Post at $10 a week and meekly
observed that the foreman swore at him and ordered him around "like a
6. Being discharged from that post, he wanted to try agriculture--was
sure he could make a fortune out of a chicken farm. I gave him $900 and
he went to a ten-house village a miles above Keokuk on the river bank--
this place was a railway station. He soon asked for money to buy a horse
and light wagon,--because the trains did not run at church time on Sunday
and his wife found it rather far to walk.
For a long time I answered demands for "loans" and by next mail always
received his check for the interest due me to date. In the most
guileless way he let it leak out that he did not underestimate the value
of his custom to me, since it was not likely that any other customer of
mine paid his interest quarterly, and this enabled me to use my capital
twice in 6 months instead of only once. But alas, when the debt at last
reached $1800 or $2500 (I have forgotten which) the interest ate too
formidably into his borrowings, and so he quietly ceased to pay it or
speak of it. At the end of two years I found that the chicken farm had
long ago been abandoned, and he had moved into Keokuk. Later in one of
his casual moments, he observed that there was no money in fattening a
chicken on 65 cents worth of corn and then selling it for 50.
7. Finally, if I would lend him $500 a year for two years, (this was 4
or 5 years ago,) he knew he could make a success as a lawyer, and would
prove it. This is the pension which we have just increased to $600. The
first year his legal business brought him $5. It also brought him an
unremunerative case where some villains were trying to chouse some negro
orphans out of $700. He still has this case. He has waggled it around
through various courts and made some booming speeches on it. The negro
children have grown up and married off, now, I believe, and their
litigated town-lot has been dug up and carted off by somebody--but Orion
still infests the courts with his documents and makes the welkin ring
with his venerable case. The second year, he didn't make anything. The
third he made $6, and I made Bliss put a case in his hands--about half an
hour's work. Orion charged $50 for it--Bliss paid him $15. Thus four or
five years of laving has brought him $26, but this will doubtless be
increased when he gets done lecturing and buys that "law library."
Meantime his office rent has been $60 a year, and he has stuck to that
lair day by day as patiently as a spider.
8. Then he by and by conceived the idea of lecturing around America as
"Mark Twain's Brother"--that to be on the bills. Subject of proposed
lecture, "On the, Formation of Character."
9. I protested, and he got on his warpaint, couched his lance, and ran a
bold tilt against total abstinence and the Red Ribbon fanatics. It
raised a fine row among the virtuous Keokukians.
10. I wrote to encourage him in his good work, but I had let a mail
intervene; so by the time my letter reached him he was already winning
laurels as a Red Ribbon Howler.
11. Afterward he took a rabid part in a prayer-meeting epidemic; dropped
that to travesty Jules Verne; dropped that, in the middle of the last
chapter, last March, to digest the matter of an infidel book which he
proposed to write; and now he comes to the surface to rescue our "noble
and beautiful religion" from the sacrilegious talons of Bob Ingersoll.
Now come! Don't fool away this treasure which Providence has laid at
your feet, but take it up and use it. One can let his imagination run
riot in portraying Orion, for there is nothing so extravagant as to be
out of character with him.
Well-good-bye, and a short life and a merry one be yours. Poor old
Methusaleh, how did he manage to stand it so long?
To Orion Clemens
(Unsent and inclosed with the foregoing, to W. D. Howells):
MUNICH, Feb. 9, (1879)
MY DEAR BRO.,--Yours has just arrived. I enclose a draft on Hartford for
$25. You will have abandoned the project you wanted it for, by the time
it arrives,--but no matter, apply it to your newer and present project,
whatever it is. You see I have an ineradicable faith in your
unsteadfastness,--but mind you, I didn't invent that faith, you conferred
it on me yourself. But fire away, fire away! I don't see why a
changeable man shouldn't get as much enjoyment out of his changes, and
transformations and transfigurations as a steadfast man gets out of
standing still and pegging at the same old monotonous thing all the time.
That is to say, I don't see why a kaleidoscope shouldn't enjoy itself as
much as a telescope, nor a grindstone have as good a time as a whetstone,
nor a barometer as good a time as a yardstick. I don't feel like girding
at you any more about fickleness of purpose, because I recognize and
realize at last that it is incurable; but before I learned to accept this
truth, each new weekly project of yours possessed the power of throwing
me into the most exhausting and helpless convulsions of profanity. But
fire away, now! Your magic has lost its might. I am able to view your
inspirations dispassionately and judicially, now, and say "This one or
that one or the other one is not up to your average flight, or is above
it, or below it."
And so, without passion, or prejudice, or bias of any kind, I sit in
judgment upon your lecture project, and say it was up to your average,
it was indeed above it, for it had possibilities in it, and even
practical ones. While I was not sorry you abandoned it, I should not be
sorry if you had stuck to it and given it a trial. But on the whole you
did the wise thing to lay it aside, I think, because a lecture is a most
easy thing to fail in; and at your time of life, and in your own town,
such a failure would make a deep and cruel wound in your heart and in
your pride. It was decidedly unwise in you to think for a moment of
coming before a community who knew you, with such a course of lectures;
because Keokuk is not unaware that you have been a Swedenborgian, a
Presbyterian, a Congregationalist, and a Methodist (on probation), and
that just a year ago you were an infidel. If Keokuk had gone to your
lecture course, it would have gone to be amused, not instructed, for when
a man is known to have no settled convictions of his own he can't
convince other people. They would have gone to be amused and that would
have been a deep humiliation to you. It could have been safe for you to
appear only where you were unknown--then many of your hearers would think
you were in earnest. And they would be right. You are in earnest while
your convictions are new. But taking it by and large, you probably did
best to discard that project altogether. But I leave you to judge of
that, for you are the worst judge I know of.
That Mark Twain in many ways was hardly less child-like than his
brother is now and again revealed in his letters. He was of
steadfast purpose, and he possessed the driving power which Orion
Clemens lacked; but the importance to him of some of the smaller
matters of life, as shown in a letter like the following, bespeaks a
certain simplicity of nature which he never outgrew:
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
MUNICH, Feb. 24. (1879)
DEAR OLD JOE,--It was a mighty good letter, Joe--and that idea of yours
is a rattling good one. But I have not sot down here to answer your
letter,--for it is down at my study,--but only to impart some
For a months I had not shaved without crying. I'd spend 3/4 of an hour
whetting away on my hand--no use, couldn't get an edge. Tried a razor
strop-same result. So I sat down and put in an hour thinking out the
mystery. Then it seemed plain--to wit: my hand can't give a razor an
edge, it can only smooth and refine an edge that has already been given.
I judge that a razor fresh from the hone is this shape V--the long point
being the continuation of the edge--and that after much use the shape is
this V--the attenuated edge all worn off and gone. By George I knew that
was the explanation. And I knew that a freshly honed and freshly
strapped razor won't cut, but after strapping on the hand as a final
operation, it will cut.--So I sent out for an oil-stone; none to be had,
but messenger brought back a little piece of rock the size of a Safety-
match box--(it was bought in a shoemaker's shop) bad flaw in middle of
it, too, but I put 4 drops of fine Olive oil on it, picked out the razor
marked "Thursday" because it was never any account and would be no loss
if I spoiled it--gave it a brisk and reckless honing for 10 minutes, then
tried it on a hair--it wouldn't cut. Then I trotted it through a
vigorous 20-minute course on a razor-strap and tried it on a hair-it
wouldn't cut--tried it on my face--it made me cry--gave it a 5-minute
stropping on my hand, and my land, what an edge she had! We thought we
knew what sharp razors were when we were tramping in Switzerland, but it
was a mistake--they were dull beside this old Thursday razor of mine--
which I mean to name Thursday October Christian, in gratitude. I took my
whetstone, and in 20 minutes I put two more of my razors in splendid
condition--but I leave them in the box--I never use any but Thursday O.
C., and shan't till its edge is gone--and then I'll know how to restore
it without any delay.
We all go to Paris next Thursday--address, Monroe & Co., Bankers.
In Paris they found pleasant quarters at the Hotel Normandy, but it
was a chilly, rainy spring, and the travelers gained a rather poor
impression of the French capital. Mark Twain's work did not go
well, at first, because of the noises of the street. But then he
found a quieter corner in the hotel and made better progress. In a
brief note to Aldrich he said: "I sleep like a lamb and write like a
lion--I mean the kind of a lion that writes--if any such." He
expected to finish the book in six weeks; that is to say, before
returning to America. He was looking after its illustrations
himself, and a letter to Frank Bliss, of The American Publishing
Company, refers to the frontpiece, which, from time to time, has
caused question as to its origin. To Bliss he says: "It is a thing
which I manufactured by pasting a popular comic picture into the
middle of a celebrated Biblical one--shall attribute it to Titian.
It needs to be engraved by a master."
The weather continued bad in France and they left there in July to
find it little better in England. They had planned a journey to
Scotland to visit Doctor Brown, whose health was not very good. In
after years Mark Twain blamed himself harshly for not making the
trip, which he declared would have meant so much to Mrs. Clemens.
He had forgotten by that time the real reasons for not going--the
continued storms and uncertainty of trains (which made it barely
possible for them to reach Liverpool in time for their sailing-
date), and with characteristic self-reproach vowed that only
perversity and obstinacy on his part had prevented the journey to
Scotland. From Liverpool, on the eve of sailing, he sent Doctor
Brown a good-by word.
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
WASHINGTON HOTEL, LIME STREET, LIVERPOOL.
MY DEAR MR. BROWN,--During all the 15 months we have been spending on the
continent, we have been promising ourselves a sight of you as our latest
and most prized delight in a foreign land--but our hope has failed, our
plan has miscarried. One obstruction after another intruded itself, and
our short sojourn of three or four weeks on English soil was thus
frittered gradually away, and we were at last obliged to give up the idea
of seeing you at all. It is a great disappointment, for we wanted to
show you how much "Megalopis" has grown (she is 7 now) and what a fine
creature her sister is, and how prettily they both speak German. There
are six persons in my party, and they are as difficult to cart around as
nearly any other menagerie would be. My wife and Miss Spaulding are
along, and you may imagine how they take to heart this failure of our
long promised Edinburgh trip. We never even wrote you, because we were
always so sure, from day to day, that our affairs would finally so shape
themselves as to let us get to Scotland. But no,--everything went wrong
we had only flying trips here and there in place of the leisurely ones
which we had planned.
We arrived in Liverpool an hour ago very tired, and have halted at this
hotel (by the advice of misguided friends)--and if my instinct and
experience are worth anything, it is the very worst hotel on earth,
without any exception. We shall move to another hotel early in the
morning to spend to-morrow. We sail for America next day in the
We all join in the sincerest love to you, and in the kindest remembrance
to "Jock"--[Son of Doctor Brown.]--and your sister.
S. L. CLEMENS.
It was September 3, 1879, that Mark Twain returned to America by the
steamer Gallic. In the seventeen months of his absence he had taken
on a "traveled look" and had added gray hairs. A New York paper
said of his arrival that he looked older than when he went to
Germany, and that his hair had turned quite gray.
Mark Twain had not finished his book of travel in Paris--in fact,
it seemed to him far from complete--and he settled down rather
grimly to work on it at Quarry Farm. When, after a few days no word
of greeting came from Howells, Clemens wrote to ask if he were dead
or only sleeping. Howells hastily sent a line to say that he had
been sleeping "The sleep of a torpid conscience. I will feign that
I did not know where to write you; but I love you and all of yours,
and I am tremendously glad that you are home again. When and where
shall we meet? Have you come home with your pockets full of
Atlantic papers?" Clemens, toiling away at his book, was, as usual,
not without the prospect of other plans. Orion, as literary
material, never failed to excite him.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Sept. 15, 1879.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--When and where? Here on the farm would be an elegant
place to meet, but of course you cannot come so far. So we will say
Hartford or Belmont, about the beginning of November. The date of our
return to Hartford is uncertain, but will be three or four weeks hence,
I judge. I hope to finish my book here before migrating.
I think maybe I've got some Atlantic stuff in my head, but there's none
in MS, I believe.
Say--a friend of mine wants to write a play with me, I to furnish the
broad-comedy cuss. I don't know anything about his ability, but his
letter serves to remind me of our old projects. If you haven't used
Orion or Old Wakeman, don't you think you and I can get together and
grind out a play with one of those fellows in it? Orion is a field which
grows richer and richer the more he mulches it with each new top-dressing
of religion or other guano. Drop me an immediate line about this, won't
you? I imagine I see Orion on the stage, always gentle, always
melancholy, always changing his politics and religion, and trying to
reform the world, always inventing something, and losing a limb by a new
kind of explosion at the end of each of the four acts. Poor old chap,
he is good material. I can imagine his wife or his sweetheart
reluctantly adopting each of his new religious in turn, just in time to
see him waltz into the next one and leave her isolated once more.
(Mem. Orion's wife has followed him into the outer darkness, after 30
years' rabid membership in the Presbyterian Church.)
Well, with the sincerest and most abounding love to you and yours, from
all this family, I am,
The idea of the play interested Howells, but he had twinges of
conscience in the matter of using Orion as material. He wrote:
"More than once I have taken the skeleton of that comedy of ours and
viewed it with tears..... I really have a compunction or two about
helping to put your brother into drama. You can say that he is your
brother, to do what you like with him, but the alien hand might
inflict an incurable hurt on his tender heart."
As a matter of fact, Orion Clemens had a keen appreciation of his
own shortcomings, and would have enjoyed himself in a play as much
as any observer of it. Indeed, it is more than likely that he would
have been pleased at the thought of such distinguished
dramatization. From the next letter one might almost conclude that
he had received a hint of this plan, and was bent upon supplying
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Oct. 9 '79.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Since my return, the mail facilities have enabled Orion
to keep me informed as to his intentions. Twenty-eight days ago it was
his purpose to complete a work aimed at religion, the preface to which he
had already written. Afterward he began to sell off his furniture, with
the idea of hurrying to Leadville and tackling silver-mining--threw up
his law den and took in his sign. Then he wrote to Chicago and St. Louis
newspapers asking for a situation as "paragrapher"--enclosing a taste of
his quality in the shape of two stanzas of "humorous rhymes." By a later
mail on the same day he applied to New York and Hartford insurance
companies for copying to do.
However, it would take too long to detail all his projects. They
comprise a removal to south-west Missouri; application for a reporter's
berth on a Keokuk paper; application for a compositor's berth on a St.
Louis paper; a re-hanging of his attorney's sign, "though it only creaks
and catches no flies;" but last night's letter informs me that he has
retackled the religious question, hired a distant den to write in,
applied to my mother for $50 to re-buy his furniture, which has advanced
in value since the sale--purposes buying $25 worth of books necessary to
his labors which he had previously been borrowing, and his first chapter
is already on its way to me for my decision as to whether it has enough
ungodliness in it or not. Poor Orion!
Your letter struck me while I was meditating a project to beguile you,
and John Hay and Joe Twichell, into a descent upon Chicago which I dream
of making, to witness the re-union of the great Commanders of the Western
Army Corps on the 9th of next month. My sluggish soul needs a fierce
upstirring, and if it would not get it when Grant enters the meeting
place I must doubtless "lay" for the final resurrection. Can you and Hay
go? At the same time, confound it, I doubt if I can go myself, for this
book isn't done yet. But I would give a heap to be there. I mean to
heave some holiness into the Hartford primaries when I go back; and if
there was a solitary office in the land which majestic ignorance and
incapacity, coupled with purity of heart, could fill, I would run for it.
This naturally reminds me of Bret Harte--but let him pass.
We propose to leave here for New York Oct. 21, reaching Hartford 24th or
25th. If, upon reflection, you Howellses find, you can stop over here on
your way, I wish you would do it, and telegraph me. Getting pretty
hungry to see you. I had an idea that this was your shortest way home,
but like as not my geography is crippled again--it usually is.
The "Reunion of the Great Commanders," mentioned in the foregoing,
was a welcome to General Grant after his journey around the world.
Grant's trip had been one continuous ovation--a triumphal march.
In '79 most of his old commanders were still alive, and they had
planned to assemble in Chicago to do him honor. A Presidential year
was coming on, but if there was anything political in the project
there were no surface indications. Mark Twain, once a Confederate
soldier, had long since been completely "desouthernized"--at least
to the point where he felt that the sight of old comrades paying
tribute to the Union commander would stir his blood as perhaps it
had not been stirred, even in that earlier time, when that same
commander had chased him through the Missouri swamps. Grant,
indeed, had long since become a hero to Mark Twain, though it is
highly unlikely that Clemens favored the idea of a third term. Some
days following the preceding letter an invitation came for him to be
present at the Chicago reunion; but by this time he had decided not
to go. The letter he wrote has been preserved.
To Gen. William E. Strong, in Chicago:
FARMINGTON AVENUE, HARTFORD.
Oct. 28, 1879.
GEN. WM. E. STRONG, CH'M,
AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE:
I have been hoping during several weeks that it might be my good fortune
to receive an invitation to be present on that great occasion in Chicago;
but now that my desire is accomplished my business matters have so shaped
themselves as to bar me from being so far from home in the first half of
November. It is with supreme regret that I lost this chance, for I have
not had a thorough stirring up for some years, and I judged that if I
could be in the banqueting hall and see and hear the veterans of the Army
of the Tennessee at the moment that their old commander entered the room,
or rose in his place to speak, my system would get the kind of upheaval
it needs. General Grant's progress across the continent is of the
marvelous nature of the returning Napoleon's progress from Grenoble to
Paris; and as the crowning spectacle in the one case was the meeting with
the Old Guard, so, likewise, the crowning spectacle in the other will be
our great captain's meeting with his Old Guard--and that is the very
climax which I wanted to witness.
Besides, I wanted to see the General again, any way, and renew the
acquaintance. He would remember me, because I was the person who did not
ask him for an office. However, I consume your time, and also wander
from the point--which is, to thank you for the courtesy of your
invitation, and yield up my seat at the table to some other guest who may
possibly grace it better, but will certainly not appreciate its
privileges more, than I should.
With great respect,
I am, Gentlemen,
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
Private:--I beg to apologize for my delay, gentlemen, but the card of
invitation went to Elmira, N. Y. and hence has only just now reached me.
This letter was not sent. He reconsidered and sent an acceptance,
agreeing to speak, as the committee had requested. Certainly there
was something picturesque in the idea of the Missouri private who
had been chased for a rainy fortnight through the swamps of Ralls
County being selected now to join in welcome to his ancient enemy.
The great reunion was to be something more than a mere banquet. It
would continue for several days, with processions, great
assemblages, and much oratory.
Mark Twain arrived in Chicago in good season to see it all. Three
letters to Mrs. Clemens intimately present his experiences: his
enthusiastic enjoyment and his own personal triumph.
The first was probably written after the morning of his arrival.
The Doctor Jackson in it was Dr. A. Reeves Jackson, the guide-
dismaying "Doctor" of Innocents Abroad.
To Mrs. Clemens, in Hartford:
PALMER HOUSE, CHICAGO, Nov. 11.
Livy darling, I am getting a trifle leg-weary. Dr. Jackson called and
dragged me out of bed at noon, yesterday, and then went off. I went down
stairs and was introduced to some scores of people, and among them an
elderly German gentleman named Raster, who said his wife owed her life to
me--hurt in Chicago fire and lay menaced with death a long time, but the
Innocents Abroad kept her mind in a cheerful attitude, and so, with the
doctor's help for the body she pulled through.... They drove me to Dr.
Jackson's and I had an hour's visit with Mrs. Jackson. Started to walk
down Michigan Avenue, got a few steps on my way and met an erect,
soldierly looking young gentleman who offered his hand; said, "Mr.
Clemens, I believe--I wish to introduce myself--you were pointed out to
me yesterday as I was driving down street--my name is Grant."
"Col. Fred Grant?"
"Yes. My house is not ten steps away, and I would like you to come and
have a talk and a pipe, and let me introduce my wife."
So we turned back and entered the house next to Jackson's and talked
something more than an hour and smoked many pipes and had a sociable good
time. His wife is very gentle and intelligent and pretty, and they have
a cunning little girl nearly as big as Bay but only three years old.
They wanted me to come in and spend an evening, after the banquet, with
them and Gen. Grant, after this grand pow-wow is over, but I said I was
going home Friday. Then they asked me to come Friday afternoon, when
they and the general will receive a few friends, and I said I would.
Col. Grant said he and Gen. Sherman used the Innocents Abroad as their
guide book when they were on their travels.
I stepped in next door and took Dr. Jackson to the hotel and we played
billiards from 7 to 11.30 P.M. and then went to a beer-mill to meet some
twenty Chicago journalists--talked, sang songs and made speeches till 6
o'clock this morning. Nobody got in the least degree "under the
influence," and we had a pleasant time. Read awhile in bed, slept till
11, shaved, went to breakfast at noon, and by mistake got into the
servants' hall. I remained there and breakfasted with twenty or thirty
male and female servants, though I had a table to myself.
A temporary structure, clothed and canopied with flags, has been erected
at the hotel front, and connected with the second-story windows of a
drawing-room. It was for Gen. Grant to stand on and review the
procession. Sixteen persons, besides reporters, had tickets for this
place, and a seventeenth was issued for me. I was there, looking down on
the packed and struggling crowd when Gen. Grant came forward and was
saluted by the cheers of the multitude and the waving of ladies'
handkerchiefs--for the windows and roofs of all neighboring buildings
were massed full of life. Gen. Grant bowed to the people two or three
times, then approached my side of the platform and the mayor pulled me
forward and introduced me. It was dreadfully conspicuous. The General
said a word or so--I replied, and then said, "But I'll step back,
General, I don't want to interrupt your speech."
"But I'm not going to make any--stay where you are--I'll get you to make
it for me."
General Sherman came on the platform wearing the uniform of a full
General, and you should have heard the cheers. Gen. Logan was going to
introduce me, but I didn't want any more conspicuousness.
When the head of the procession passed it was grand to see Sheridan, in
his military cloak and his plumed chapeau, sitting as erect and rigid as
a statue on his immense black horse--by far the most martial figure I
ever saw. And the crowd roared again.
It was chilly, and Gen. Deems lent me his overcoat until night. He came
a few minutes ago--5.45 P.M., and got it, but brought Gen. Willard, who
lent me his for the rest of my stay, and will get another for himself
when he goes home to dinner. Mine is much too heavy for this warm
I have a seat on the stage at Haverley's Theatre, tonight, where the Army
of the Tennessee will receive Gen. Grant, and where Gen. Sherman will
make a speech. At midnight I am to attend a meeting of the Owl Club.
I love you ever so much, my darling, and am hoping to
get a word from you yet.
Following the procession, which he describes, came the grand
ceremonies of welcome at Haverley's Theatre. The next letter is
written the following morning, or at least soiree time the following
day, after a night of ratification.
To Mrs. Clemens, in Hartford:
CHICAGO, Nov. 12, '79.
Livy darling, it was a great time. There were perhaps thirty people on
the stage of the theatre, and I think I never sat elbow-to-elbow with so
many historic names before. Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Schofield, Pope,
Logan, Augur, and so on. What an iron man Grant is! He sat facing the
house, with his right leg crossed over his left and his right boot-sole
tilted up at an angle, and his left hand and arm reposing on the arm of
his chair--you note that position? Well, when glowing references were
made to other grandees on the stage, those grandees always showed a
trifle of nervous consciousness--and as these references came frequently,
the nervous change of position and attitude were also frequent. But
Grant!--he was under a tremendous and ceaseless bombardment of praise and
gratulation, but as true as I'm sitting here he never moved a muscle of
his body for a single instant, during 30 minutes! You could have played
him on a stranger for an effigy. Perhaps he never would have moved, but
at last a speaker made such a particularly ripping and blood-stirring
remark about him that the audience rose and roared and yelled and stamped
and clapped an entire minute--Grant sitting as serene as ever--when Gen.
Sherman stepped to him, laid his hand affectionately on his shoulder,
bent respectfully down and whispered in his ear. Gen. Grant got up and
bowed, and the storm of applause swelled into a hurricane. He sat down,
took about the same position and froze to it till by and by there was
another of those deafening and protracted roars, when Sherman made him
get up and bow again. He broke up his attitude once more--the extent of
something more than a hair's breadth--to indicate me to Sherman when the
house was keeping up a determined and persistent call for me, and poor
bewildered Sherman, (who did not know me), was peering abroad over the
packed audience for me, not knowing I was only three feet from him and
most conspicuously located, (Gen. Sherman was Chairman.)
One of the most illustrious individuals on that stage was "Ole Abe," the
historic war eagle. He stood on his perch--the old savage-eyed rascal--
three or four feet behind Gen. Sherman, and as he had been in nearly
every battle that was mentioned by the orators his soul was probably
stirred pretty often, though he was too proud to let on.
Read Logan's bosh, and try to imagine a burly and magnificent Indian, in
General's uniform, striking a heroic attitude and getting that stuff off
in the style of a declaiming school-boy.
Please put the enclosed scraps in the drawer and I will scrap-book them.
I only staid at the Owl Club till 3 this morning and drank little or
nothing. Went to sleep without whisky. Ich liebe dish.
But it is in the third letter that we get the climax. On the same
day he wrote a letter to Howells, which, in part, is very similar in
substance and need not be included here.
A paragraph, however, must not be omitted.
"Imagine what it was like to see a bullet-shredded old battle-flag
reverently unfolded to the gaze of a thousand middle-aged soldiers,
most of whom hadn't seen it since they saw it advancing over
victorious fields, when they were in their prime. And imagine what
it was like when Grant, their first commander, stepped into view
while they were still going mad over the flag, and then right in the
midst of it all somebody struck up, 'When we were marching through
Georgia.' Well, you should have heard the thousand voices lift that
chorus and seen the tears stream down. If I live a hundred years I
shan't ever forget these things, nor be able to talk about them ....
Grand times, my boy, grand times!"
At the great banquet Mark Twain's speech had been put last on the
program, to hold the house. He had been invited to respond to the
toast of "The Ladies," but had replied that he had already responded
to that toast more than once. There was one class of the community,
he said, commonly overlooked on these occasions--the babies--he
would respond to that toast. In his letter to Howells he had not
been willing to speak freely of his personal triumph, but to Mrs.
Clemens he must tell it all, and with that child-like ingenuousness
which never failed him to his last day.
To Mrs. Clemens, in Hartford:
CHICAGO, Nov. 14 '79.
A little after 5 in the morning.
I've just come to my room, Livy darling, I guess this was the memorable
night of my life. By George, I never was so stirred since I was born.
I heard four speeches which I can never forget. One by Emory Storrs, one
by Gen. Vilas (O, wasn't it wonderful!) one by Gen. Logan (mighty
stirring), one by somebody whose name escapes me, and one by that
splendid old soul, Col. Bob Ingersoll,--oh, it was just the supremest
combination of English words that was ever put together since the world
began. My soul, how handsome he looked, as he stood on that table, in
the midst of those 500 shouting men, and poured the molten silver from
his lips! Lord, what an organ is human speech when it is played by a
master! All these speeches may look dull in print, but how the lightning
glared around them when they were uttered, and how the crowd roared in
response! It was a great night, a memorable night. I am so richly
repaid for my journey--and how I did wish with all my whole heart that
you were there to be lifted into the very seventh heaven of enthusiasm,
as I was. The army songs, the military music, the crashing applause--
Lord bless me, it was unspeakable.
Out of compliment they placed me last in the list--No. 15--I was to "hold
the crowd"--and bless my life I was in awful terror when No. 14. rose,
at a o'clock this morning and killed all the enthusiasm by delivering the
flattest, insipidest, silliest of all responses to "Woman" that ever a
weary multitude listened to. Then Gen. Sherman (Chairman) announced my
toast, and the crowd gave me a good round of applause as I mounted on top
of the dinner table, but it was only on account of my name, nothing more
--they were all tired and wretched. They let my first sentence go in.
silence, till I paused and added "we stand on common ground"--then they
burst forth like a hurricane and I saw that I had them! From that time
on, I stopped at the end of each sentence, and let the tornado of
applause and laughter sweep around me--and when I closed with "And if the
child is but the prophecy of the man, there are mighty few who will doubt
that he succeeded," I say it who oughtn't to say it, the house came down
with a crash. For two hours and a half, now, I've been shaking hands and
listening to congratulations. Gen. Sherman said, "Lord bless you, my
boy, I don't know how you do it--it's a secret that's beyond me--but it
was great--give me your hand again."
And do you know, Gen. Grant sat through fourteen speeches like a graven
image, but I fetched him! I broke him up, utterly! He told me he
laughed till the tears came and every bone in his body ached. (And do
you know, the biggest part of the success of the speech lay in the fact
that the audience saw that for once in his life he had been knocked out
of his iron serenity.)
Bless your soul, 'twas immense. I never was so proud in my life. Lots
and lots of people--hundreds I might say--told me my speech was the
triumph of the evening--which was a lie. Ladies, Tom, Dick and Harry-
even the policemen--captured me in the halls and shook hands, and scores
of army officers said "We shall always be grateful to you for coming."
General Pope came to bunt me up--I was afraid to speak to him on that
theatre stage last night, thinking it might be presumptuous to tackle a
man so high up in military history. Gen. Schofield, and other historic
men, paid their compliments. Sheridan was ill and could not come, but
I'm to go with a General of his staff and see him before I go to Col.
Grant's. Gen. Augur--well, I've talked with them all, received
invitations from them all--from people living everywhere--and as I said
before, it's a memorable night. I wouldn't have missed it for anything
in the world.
But my sakes, you should have heard Ingersoll's speech on that table!
Half an hour ago he ran across me in the crowded halls and put his arms
about me and said "Mark, if I live a hundred years, I'll always be
grateful for your speech--Lord what a supreme thing it was." But I told
him it wasn't any use to talk, he had walked off with the honors of that
occasion by something of a majority. Bully boy is Ingersoll--traveled
with him in the cars the other day, and you can make up your mind we had
a good time.
Of course I forgot to go and pay for my hotel car and so secure it, but
the army officers told me an hour ago to rest easy, they would go at
once, at this unholy hour of the night and compel the railways to do
their duty by me, and said "You don't need to request the Army of the
Tennessee to do your desires--you can command its services."
Well, I bummed around that banquet hall from 8 in the evening till 2 in
the morning, talking with people and listening to speeches, and I never
ate a single bite or took a sup of anything but ice water, so if I seem
excited now, it is the intoxication of supreme enthusiasm. By George, it
was a grand night, a historical night.
And now it is a quarter past 6 A.M.--so good bye and God bless you and
the Bays,--[Family word for babies]--my darlings
Show it to Joe if you want to--I saw some of his friends here.
Mark Twain's admiration for Robert Ingersoll was very great, and we may
believe that he was deeply impressed by the Chicago speech, when we find
him, a few days later, writing to Ingersoll for a perfect copy to read to
a young girls' club in Hartford. Ingersoll sent the speech, also some of
his books, and the next letter is Mark Twain's acknowledgment.
To Col. Robert G. Ingersoll:
HARTFORD, Dec. 14.
MY DEAR INGERSOLL,--Thank you most heartily for the books--I am devouring
them--they have found a hungry place, and they content it and satisfy it
to a miracle. I wish I could hear you speak these splendid chapters
before a great audience--to read them by myself and hear the boom of the
applause only in the ear of my imagination, leaves a something wanting--
and there is also a still greater lack, your manner, and voice, and
The Chicago speech arrived an hour too late, but I was all right anyway,
for I found that my memory had been able to correct all the errors.
I read it to the Saturday Club (of young girls) and told them to remember
that it was doubtful if its superior existed in our language.
S. L. CLEMENS.
The reader may remember Mark Twain's Whittier dinner speech of 1877,
and its disastrous effects. Now, in 1879, there was to be another
Atlantic gathering: a breakfast to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, to
which Clemens was invited. He was not eager to accept; it would
naturally recall memories of two years before, but being urged by
both Howells and Warner, he agreed to attend if they would permit
him to speak. Mark Twain never lacked courage and he wanted to
redeem himself. To Howells he wrote:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Nov. 28, 1879.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--If anybody talks, there, I shall claim the right to say
a word myself, and be heard among the very earliest--else it would be
confoundedly awkward for me--and for the rest, too. But you may read
what I say, beforehand, and strike out whatever you choose.
Of course I thought it wisest not to be there at all; but Warner took the
opposite view, and most strenuously.
Speaking of Johnny's conclusion to become an outlaw, reminds me of
Susie's newest and very earnest longing--to have crooked teeth and
I would like to look into a child's head, once, and see what its
S. L. CLEMENS.
The matter turned out well. Clemens, once more introduced by
Howells--this time conservatively, it may be said--delivered a
delicate and fitting tribute to Doctor Holmes, full of graceful
humor and grateful acknowledgment, the kind of speech he should have
given at the Whittier dinner of two years before. No reference was
made to his former disaster, and this time he came away covered with
glory, and fully restored in his self-respect.
LETTERS OF 1880, CHIEFLY TO HOWELLS. "THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER." MARK
TWAIN MUGWUMP SOCIETY
The book of travel,--[A Tramp Abroad.]--which Mark Twain had hoped to
finish in Paris, and later in Elmira, for some reason would not come to
an end. In December, in Hartford, he was still working on it, and he
would seem to have finished it, at last, rather by a decree than by any
natural process of authorship. This was early in January, 1880. To
Howells he reports his difficulties, and his drastic method of ending
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Jan. 8, '80.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Am waiting for Patrick to come with the carriage.
Mrs. Clemens and I are starting (without the children) to stay
indefinitely in Elmira. The wear and tear of settling the house broke
her down, and she has been growing weaker and weaker for a fortnight.
All that time--in fact ever since I saw you--I have been fighting a life-
and-death battle with this infernal book and hoping to get done some day.
I required 300 pages of MS, and I have written near 600 since I saw you--
and tore it all up except 288. This I was about to tear up yesterday and
begin again, when Mrs. Perkins came up to the billiard room and said,
"You will never get any woman to do the thing necessary to save her life
by mere persuasion; you see you have wasted your words for three weeks;
it is time to use force; she must have a change; take her home and leave
the children here."
I said, "If there is one death that is painfuller than another, may I get
it if I don't do that thing."
So I took the 288 pages to Bliss and told him that was the very last line
I should ever write on this book. (A book which required 2600 pages of
MS, and I have written nearer four thousand, first and last.)
I am as soary (and flighty) as a rocket, to-day, with the unutterable joy
of getting that Old Man of the Sea off my back, where he has been
roosting for more than a year and a half. Next time I make a contract
before writing the book, may I suffer the righteous penalty and be burnt,
like the injudicious believer.
I am mighty glad you are done your book (this is from a man who, above
all others, feels how much that sentence means) and am also mighty glad
you have begun the next (this is also from a man who knows the felicity
of that, and means straightway to enjoy it.) The Undiscovered starts off
delightfully--I have read it aloud to Mrs. C. and we vastly enjoyed it.
Well, time's about up--must drop a line to Aldrich.
In a letter which Mark Twain wrote to his brother Orion at this
period we get the first hint of a venture which was to play an
increasingly important part in the Hartford home and fortunes during
the next ten or a dozen years. This was the type-setting machine
investment, which, in the end, all but wrecked Mark Twain's
finances. There is but a brief mention of it in the letter to
Orion, and the letter itself is not worth preserving, but as
references to the "machine" appear with increasing frequency, it
seems proper to record here its first mention. In the same letter
he suggests to his brother that he undertake an absolutely truthful
autobiography, a confession in which nothing is to be withheld. He
cites the value of Casanova's memories, and the confessions of
Rousseau. Of course, any literary suggestion from "Brother Sam" was
gospel to Orion, who began at once piling up manuscript at a great
Meantime, Mark Twain himself, having got 'A Tramp Abroad' on the
presses, was at work with enthusiasm on a story begun nearly three
years before at Quarry Farm-a story for children-its name, as he
called. it then, "The Little Prince and The Little Pauper." He was
presently writing to Howells his delight in the new work.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Mch. 11, '80.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--.....I take so much pleasure in my story that I am loth
to hurry, not wanting to get it done. Did I ever tell you the plot of
it? It begins at 9 a.m., Jan. 27, 1547, seventeen and a half hours
before Henry VIII's death, by the swapping of clothes and place, between
the prince of Wales and a pauper boy of the same age and countenance (and
half as much learning and still more genius and imagination) and after
that, the rightful small King has a rough time among tramps and ruffians
in the country parts of Kent, whilst the small bogus King has a gilded
and worshipped and dreary and restrained and cussed time of it on the
throne--and this all goes on for three weeks--till the midst of the
coronation grandeurs in Westminster Abbey, Feb. 20, when the ragged true
King forces his way in but cannot prove his genuineness--until the bogus
King, by a remembered incident of the first day is able to prove it for
him--whereupon clothes are changed and the coronation proceeds under the
new and rightful conditions.
My idea is to afford a realizing sense of the exceeding severity of the
laws of that day by inflicting some of their penalties upon the King
himself and allowing him a chance to see the rest of them applied to
others--all of which is to account for certain mildnesses which
distinguished Edward VI's reign from those that preceded and followed it.
Imagine this fact--I have even fascinated Mrs. Clemens with this yarn for
youth. My stuff generally gets considerable damning with faint praise
out of her, but this time it is all the other way. She is become the
horseleech's daughter and my mill doesn't grind fast enough to suit her.
This is no mean triumph, my dear sir.
Last night, for the first time in ages, we went to the theatre--to see
Yorick's Love. The magnificence of it is beyond praise. The language is
so beautiful, the passion so fine, the plot so ingenious, the whole thing
so stirring, so charming, so pathetic! But I will clip from the Courant
--it says it right.
And what a good company it is, and how like live people they all acted!
The "thee's" and the "thou's" had a pleasant sound, since it is the
language of the Prince and the Pauper. You've done the country a service
in that admirable work....
The play, "Yorick's Love," mentioned in this letter, was one which
Howells had done for Lawrence Barrett.
Onion Clemens, meantime, was forwarding his manuscript, and for once
seems to have won his brother's approval, so much so that Mark Twain
was willing, indeed anxious, that Howells should run the
"autobiography" in the Atlantic. We may imagine how Onion prized
the words of commendation which follow:
To Orion Clemens:
May 6, '80.
MY DEAR BROTHER,--It is a model autobiography.
Continue to develop your character in the same gradual inconspicuous and
apparently unconscious way. The reader, up to this time, may have his
doubts, perhaps, but he can't say decidedly, "This writer is not such a
simpleton as he has been letting on to be." Keep him in that state of
mind. If, when you shall have finished, the reader shall say, "The man
is an ass, but I really don't know whether he knows it or not," your work
will be a triumph.
Stop re-writing. I saw places in your last batch where re-writing had
done formidable injury. Do not try to find those places, else you will
mar them further by trying to better them. It is perilous to revise a
book while it is under way. All of us have injured our books in that
Keep in mind what I told you--when you recollect something which belonged
in an earlier chapter, do not go back, but jam it in where you are.
Discursiveness does not hurt an autobiography in the least.
I have penciled the MS here and there, but have not needed to make any
criticisms or to knock out anything.
The elder Bliss has heart disease badly, and thenceforth his life hangs
upon a thread.
But Howells could not bring himself to print so frank a confession
as Orion had been willing to make. "It wrung my heart," he said,
"and I felt haggard after I had finished it. The writer's soul is
laid bare; it is shocking." Howells added that the best touches in
it were those which made one acquainted with the writer's brother;
that is to say, Mark Twain, and that these would prove valuable
material hereafter--a true prophecy, for Mark Twain's early
biography would have lacked most of its vital incident, and at least
half of its background, without those faithful chapters, fortunately
preserved. Had Onion continued, as he began, the work might have
proved an important contribution to literature, but he went trailing
off into by-paths of theology and discussion where the interest was
lost. There were, perhaps, as many as two thousand pages of it,
which few could undertake to read.
Mark Twain's mind was always busy with plans and inventions, many of
them of serious intent, some semi-serious, others of a purely
whimsical character. Once he proposed a "Modest Club," of which the
first and main qualification for membership was modesty. "At
present," he wrote, "I am the only member; and as the modesty
required must be of a quite aggravated type, the enterprise did seem
for a time doomed to stop dead still with myself, for lack of
further material; but upon reflection I have come to the conclusion
that you are eligible. Therefore, I have held a meeting and voted
to offer you the distinction of membership. I do not know that we
can find any others, though I have had some thought of Hay, Warner,
Twichell, Aldrich, Osgood, Fields, Higginson, and a few more--
together with Mrs. Howells, Mrs. Clemens, and certain others of the
Howells replied that the only reason he had for not joining the
Modest Club was that he was too modest--too modest to confess his
modesty. "If I could get over this difficulty I should like to
join, for I approve highly of the Club and its object.... It ought
to be given an annual dinner at the public expense. If you think I
am not too modest you may put my name down and I will try to think
the same of you. Mrs. Howells applauded the notion of the club from
the very first. She said that she knew one thing: that she was
modest enough, anyway. Her manner of saying it implied that the
other persons you had named were not, and created a painful
impression in my mind. I have sent your letter and the rules to
Hay, but I doubt his modesty. He will think he has a right to
belong to it as much as you or I; whereas, other people ought only
to be admitted on sufferance."
Our next letter to Howells is, in the main, pure foolery, but we get
in it a hint what was to become in time one of Mask Twain's
strongest interests, the matter of copyright. He had both a
personal and general interest in the subject. His own books were
constantly pirated in Canada, and the rights of foreign authors were
not respected in America. We have already seen how he had drawn a
petition which Holmes, Lowell, Longfellow, and others were to sign,
and while nothing had come of this plan he had never ceased to
formulate others. Yet he hesitated when he found that the proposed
protection was likely to work a hardship to readers of the poorer
class. Once he wrote: "My notions have mightily changed lately....
I can buy a lot of the copyright classics, in paper, at from three
to thirty cents apiece. These things must find their way into the
very kitchens and hovels of the country..... And even if the treaty
will kill Canadian piracy, and thus save me an average of $5,000 a
year, I am down on it anyway, and I'd like cussed well to write an
article opposing the treaty."
To W. D. Howells, in Belmont, Mass.:
Thursday, June 6th, 1880.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--There you stick, at Belmont, and now I'm going to
Washington for a few days; and of course, between you and Providence that
visit is going to get mixed, and you'll have been here and gone again
just about the time I get back. Bother it all, I wanted to astonish you
with a chapter or two from Orion's latest book--not the seventeen which
he has begun in the last four months, but the one which he began last
Last night, when I went to bed, Mrs. Clemens said, "George didn't take
the cat down to the cellar--Rosa says he has left it shut up in the
conservatory." So I went down to attend to Abner (the cat.) About 3 in
the morning Mrs. C. woke me and said, "I do believe I hear that cat in
the drawing-room--what did you do with him?" I answered up with the
confidence of a man who has managed to do the right thing for once, and
said "I opened the conservatory doors, took the library off the alarm,
and spread everything open, so that there wasn't any obstruction between
him and the cellar." Language wasn't capable of conveying this woman's
disgust. But the sense of what she said, was, "He couldn't have done any
harm in the conservatory--so you must go and make the entire house free
to him and the burglars, imagining that he will prefer the coal-bins to
the drawing-room. If you had had Mr. Howells to help you, I should have
admired but not been astonished, because I should know that together you
would be equal to it; but how you managed to contrive such a stately
blunder all by yourself, is what I cannot understand."
So, you see, even she knows how to appreciate our gifts.
Brisk times here.--Saturday, these things happened: Our neighbor Chas.
Smith was stricken with heart disease, and came near joining the
majority; my publisher, Bliss, ditto, ditto; a neighbor's child died;
neighbor Whitmore's sixth child added to his five other cases of measles;
neighbor Niles sent for, and responded; Susie Warner down, abed; Mrs.
George Warner threatened with death during several hours; her son Frank,
whilst imitating the marvels in Barnum's circus bills, thrown from his
aged horse and brought home insensible: Warner's friend Max Yortzburgh,
shot in the back by a locomotive and broken into 32 distinct pieces and
his life threatened; and Mrs. Clemens, after writing all these cheerful
things to Clara Spaulding, taken at midnight, and if the doctor had not
been pretty prompt the contemplated Clemens would have called before his
apartments were ready.
However, everybody is all right, now, except Yortzburg, and he is
mending--that is, he is being mended. I knocked off, during these
stirring times, and don't intend to go to work again till we go away for
the Summer, 3 or 6 weeks hence. So I am writing to you not because I
have anything to say, but because you don't have to answer and I need
something to do this afternoon.....
I have a letter from a Congressman this morning, and he says Congress
couldn't be persuaded to bother about Canadian pirates at a time like
this when all legislation must have a political and Presidential bearing,
else Congress won't look at it. So have changed my mind and my course;
I go north, to kill a pirate. I must procure repose some way, else I
cannot get down to work again.
Pray offer my most sincere and respectful approval to the President--is
approval the proper word? I find it is the one I most value here in the
household and seldomest get.
With our affection to you both.
It was always dangerous to send strangers with letters of
introduction to Mark Twain. They were so apt to arrive at the wrong
time, or to find him in the wrong mood. Howells was willing to risk
it, and that the result was only amusing instead of tragic is the
best proof of their friendship.
To W. D. Howells, in Belmont, Mass.:
June 9, '80.
Well, old practical joker, the corpse of Mr. X----has been here, and I
have bedded it and fed it, and put down my work during 24 hours and tried
my level best to make it do something, or say something, or appreciate
something--but no, it was worse than Lazarus. A kind-hearted, well-
meaning corpse was the Boston young man, but lawsy bless me, horribly
dull company. Now, old man, unless you have great confidence in Mr. X's
judgment, you ought to make him submit his article to you before he
prints it. For only think how true I was to you: Every hour that he was
here I was saying, gloatingly, "O G-- d--- you, when you are in bed and
your light out, I will fix you" (meaning to kill him)...., but then the
thought would follow--" No, Howells sent him--he shall be spared, he
shall be respected he shall travel hell-wards by his own route."
Breakfast is frozen by this time, and Mrs. Clemens correspondingly hot.
"I did not expect you to ask that man to live with you," Howells
answered. "What I was afraid of was that you would turn him out of
doors, on sight, and so I tried to put in a good word for him.
After this when I want you to board people, I'll ask you. I am
sorry for your suffering. I suppose I have mostly lost my smell for
bores; but yours is preternaturally keen. I shall begin to be
afraid I bore you. (How does that make you feel?)"
In a letter to Twichell--a remarkable letter--when baby Jean Clemens
was about a month old, we get a happy hint of conditions at Quarry
Farm, and in the background a glimpse of Mark Twain's unfailing
To Rev. Twichell, in Hartford:
QUARRY FARM, Aug. 29 ['80].
DEAR OLD JOE,--Concerning Jean Clemens, if anybody said he "didn't see no
pints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog," I should think
he was convicting himself of being a pretty poor sort of observer....
I will not go into details; it is not necessary; you will soon be in
Hartford, where I have already hired a hall; the admission fee will be
but a trifle.
It is curious to note the change in the stock-quotation of the Affection
Board brought about by throwing this new security on the market. Four
weeks ago the children still put Mamma at the head of the list right
along, where she had always been. But now:
Motley [a cat]
That is the way it stands, now Mamma is become No. 2; I have dropped from
No. 4., and am become No. 5. Some time ago it used to be nip and tuck
between me and the cats, but after the cats "developed" I didn't stand
any more show.
I've got a swollen ear; so I take advantage of it to lie abed most of the
day, and read and smoke and scribble and have a good time. Last evening
Livy said with deep concern, "O dear, I believe an abscess is forming in
I responded as the poet would have done if he had had a cold in the
"Tis said that abscess conquers love,
But O believe it not."
This made a coolness.
Been reading Daniel Webster's Private Correspondence. Have read a
hundred of his diffuse, conceited, "eloquent," bathotic (or bathostic)
letters written in that dim (no, vanished) Past when he was a student;
and Lord, to think that this boy who is so real to me now, and so booming
with fresh young blood and bountiful life, and sappy cynicisms about
girls, has since climbed the Alps of fame and stood against the sun one
brief tremendous moment with the world's eyes upon him, and then--f-z-t-!
where is he? Why the only long thing, the only real thing about the
whole shadowy business is the sense of the lagging dull and hoary lapse
of time that has drifted by since then; a vast empty level, it seems,
with a formless spectre glimpsed fitfully through the smoke and mist that
lie along its remote verge.
Well, we are all getting along here first-rate; Livy gains strength
daily, and sits up a deal; the baby is five weeks old and--but no more of
this; somebody may be reading this letter 80 years hence. And so, my
friend (you pitying snob, I mean, who are holding this yellow paper in
your hand in 1960,) save yourself the trouble of looking further; I know
how pathetically trivial our small concerns will seem to you, and I will
not let your eye profane them. No, I keep my news; you keep your
compassion. Suffice it you to know, scoffer and ribald, that the little
child is old and blind, now, and once more toothless; and the rest of us
are shadows, these many, many years. Yes, and your time cometh!
At the Farm that year Mark Twain was working on The Prince and the
Pauper, and, according to a letter to Aldrich, brought it to an end
September 19th. It is a pleasant letter, worth preserving. The
book by Aldrich here mentioned was 'The Stillwater Tragedy.'
To T. B. Aldrich, in Ponkapog, Mass.:
ELMIRA, Sept. 15, '80.
MY DEAR ALDRICH,--Thank you ever so much for the book--I had already
finished it, and prodigiously enjoyed it, in the periodical of the
notorious Howells, but it hits Mrs. Clemens just right, for she is having
a reading holiday, now, for the first time in same months; so between-
times, when the new baby is asleep and strengthening up for another
attempt to take possession of this place, she is going to read it.
Her strong friendship for you makes her think she is going to like it.
I finished a story yesterday, myself. I counted up and found it between
sixty and eighty thousand words--about the size of your book. It is for
boys and girls--been at work at it several years, off and on.
I hope Howells is enjoying his journey to the Pacific. He wrote me that
you and Osgood were going, also, but I doubted it, believing he was in
liquor when he wrote it. In my opinion, this universal applause over his
book is going to land that man in a Retreat inside of two months.
I notice the papers say mighty fine things about your book, too.
You ought to try to get into the same establishment with Howells.
But applause does not affect me--I am always calm--this is because I am
used to it.
Well, good-bye, my boy, and good luck to you. Mrs. Clemens asks me to
send her warmest regards to you and Mrs. Aldrich--which I do, and add
While Mark Twain was a journalist in San Francisco, there was a
middle-aged man named Soule, who had a desk near him on the Morning
Call. Soule was in those days highly considered as a poet by his
associates, most of whom were younger and less gracefully poetic.
But Soule's gift had never been an important one. Now, in his old
age, he found his fame still local, and he yearned for wider
recognition. He wished to have a volume of poems issued by a
publisher of recognized standing. Because Mark Twain had been one
of Soule's admirers and a warm friend in the old days, it was
natural that Soule should turn to him now, and equally natural that
Clemens should turn to Howells.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
Sunday, Oct. 2 '80.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Here's a letter which I wrote you to San Francisco the
second time you didn't go there.... I told Soule he needn't write you,
but simply send the MS. to you. O dear, dear, it is dreadful to be an
unrecognized poet. How wise it was in Charles Warren Stoddard to take in
his sign and go for some other calling while still young.
I'm laying for that Encyclopedical Scotchman--and he'll need to lock the
door behind him, when he comes in; otherwise when he hears my proposed
tariff his skin will probably crawl away with him. He is accustomed to
seeing the publisher impoverish the author--that spectacle must be
getting stale to him--if he contracts with the undersigned he will
experience a change in that programme that will make the enamel peel off
his teeth for very surprise--and joy. No, that last is what Mrs. Clemens
thinks--but it's not so. The proposed work is growing, mightily, in my
estimation, day by day; and I'm not going to throw it away for any mere
trifle. If I make a contract with the canny Scot, I will then tell him
the plan which you and I have devised (that of taking in the humor of all
countries)--otherwise I'll keep it to myself, I think. Why should we
assist our fellowman for mere love of God?
One wishes that Howells might have found value enough in the verses
of Frank Soule to recommend them to Osgood. To Clemens he wrote:
"You have touched me in regard to him, and I will deal gently with
his poetry. Poor old fellow! I can imagine him, and how he must
have to struggle not to be hard or sour."
The verdict, however, was inevitable. Soule's graceful verses
proved to be not poetry at all. No publisher of standing could
afford to give them his imprint.
The "Encyclopedical Scotchman" mentioned in the preceding letter was
the publisher Gebbie, who had a plan to engage Howells and Clemens
to prepare some sort of anthology of the world's literature. The
idea came to nothing, though the other plan mentioned--for a library
of humor--in time grew into a book.
Mark Twain's contracts with Bliss for the publication of his books
on the subscription plan had been made on a royalty basis, beginning
with 5 per cent. on 'The Innocents Abroad' increasing to 7 � per
cent. on 'Roughing It,' and to 10 per cent. on later books. Bliss
had held that these later percentages fairly represented one half
the profits. Clemens, however, had never been fully satisfied, and
his brother Onion had more than once urged him to demand a specific
contract on the half-profit basis. The agreement for the
publication of 'A Tramp Abroad' was made on these terms. Bliss died
before Clemens received his first statement of sales. Whatever may
have been the facts under earlier conditions, the statement proved
to Mark Twain's satisfaction; at least, that the half-profit
arrangement was to his advantage. It produced another result; it
gave Samuel Clemens an excuse to place his brother Onion in a
position of independence.
To Onion Clemens, in Keokuk, Iowa:
Sunday, Oct 24 '80.
MY DEAR BRO.,--Bliss is dead. The aspect of the balance-sheet is
enlightening. It reveals the fact, through my present contract, (which
is for half the profits on the book above actual cost of paper, printing
and binding,) that I have lost considerably by all this nonsense--sixty
thousand dollars, I should say--and if Bliss were alive I would stay with
the concern and get it all back; for on each new book I would require a
portion of that back pay; but as it is (this in the very strictest
confidence,) I shall probably go to a new publisher 6 or 8 months hence,
for I am afraid Frank, with his poor health, will lack push and drive.
Out of the suspicions you bred in me years ago, has grown this result,
--to wit, that I shall within the twelvemonth get $40,000 out of this
"Tramp" instead Of $20,000. Twenty thousand dollars, after taxes and
other expenses are stripped away, is worth to the investor about $75 a
month--so I shall tell Mr. Perkins to make your check that amount per
month, hereafter, while our income is able to afford it. This ends the
loan business; and hereafter you can reflect that you are living not on
borrowed money but on money which you have squarely earned, and which has
no taint or savor of charity about it--and you can also reflect that the
money you have been receiving of me all these years is interest charged
against the heavy bill which the next publisher will have to stand who
gets a book of mine.
Jean got the stockings and is much obliged; Mollie wants to know whom she
most resembles, but I can't tell; she has blue eyes and brown hair, and
three chins, and is very fat and happy; and at one time or another she
has resembled all the different Clemenses and Langdons, in turn, that
have ever lived.
Livy is too much beaten out with the baby, nights, to write, these times;
and I don't know of anything urgent to say, except that a basket full of
letters has accumulated in the 7 days that I have been whooping and
cursing over a cold in the head--and I must attack the pile this very
With love from us
On the completion of The Prince and Pauper story, Clemens had
naturally sent it to Howells for consideration. Howells wrote:
"I have read the two P's and I like it immensely, it begins well and
it ends well." He pointed out some things that might be changed or
omitted, and added: "It is such a book as I would expect from you,
knowing what a bottom of fury there is to your fun." Clemens had
thought somewhat of publishing the story anonymously, in the fear
that it would not be accepted seriously over his own signature.
The "bull story" referred to in the next letter is the one later
used in the Joan of Arc book, the story told Joan by "Uncle Laxart,"
how he rode a bull to a funeral.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
Xmas Eve, 1880.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--I was prodigiously delighted with what you said about
the book--so, on the whole, I've concluded to publish intrepidly, instead
of concealing the authorship. I shall leave out that bull story.
I wish you had gone to New York. The company was small, and we had a
first-rate time. Smith's an enjoyable fellow. I liked Barrett, too.
And the oysters were as good as the rest of the company. It was worth
going there to learn how to cook them.
Next day I attended to business--which was, to introduce Twichell to Gen.
Grant and procure a private talk in the interest of the Chinese