Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by David Widger
MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1886-1900
ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE
LETTERS, 1886-87. JANE CLEMENS'S ROMANCE. UNMAILED LETTERS, ETC.
When Clemens had been platforming with Cable and returned to
Hartford for his Christmas vacation, the Warner and Clemens families
had joined in preparing for him a surprise performance of The Prince
and the Pauper. The Clemens household was always given to
theatricals, and it was about this time that scenery and a stage
were prepared--mainly by the sculptor Gerhardt--for these home
performances, after which productions of The Prince and the Pauper
were given with considerable regularity to audiences consisting of
parents and invited friends. The subject is a fascinating one, but
it has been dwelt upon elsewhere.--[In Mark Twain: A Biography,
chaps. cliff and clx.]--We get a glimpse of one of these occasions
as well as of Mark Twain's financial progress in the next brief
To W. D. Howells; in Boston:
Jan. 3, '86.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--The date set for the Prince and Pauper play is ten
days hence--Jan. 13. I hope you and Pilla can take a train that arrives
here during the day; the one that leaves Boston toward the end of the
afternoon would be a trifle late; the performance would have already
begun when you reached the house.
I'm out of the woods. On the last day of the year I had paid out
$182,000 on the Grant book and it was totally free from debt.
Mark Twain's mother was a woman of sturdy character and with a keen
sense of humor and tender sympathies. Her husband, John Marshall
Clemens, had been a man of high moral character, honored by all who
knew him, respected and apparently loved by his wife. No one would
ever have supposed that during all her years of marriage, and almost
to her death, she carried a secret romance that would only be told
at last in the weary disappointment of old age. It is a curious
story, and it came to light in this curious way:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, May 19, '86.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--..... Here's a secret. A most curious and pathetic
romance, which has just come to light. Read these things, but don't
mention them. Last fall, my old mother--then 82--took a notion to attend
a convention of old settlers of the Mississippi Valley in an Iowa town.
My brother's wife was astonished; and represented to her the hardships
and fatigues of such a trip, and said my mother might possibly not even
survive them; and said there could be no possible interest for her in
such a meeting and such a crowd. But my mother insisted, and persisted;
and finally gained her point. They started; and all the way my mother
was young again with excitement, interest, eagerness, anticipation. They
reached the town and the hotel. My mother strode with the same eagerness
in her eye and her step, to the counter, and said:
"Is Dr. Barrett of St. Louis, here?"
"No. He was here, but he returned to St. Louis this morning."
"Will he come again?"
My mother turned away, the fire all gone from her, and said, "Let us go
They went straight back to Keokuk. My mother sat silent and thinking for
many days--a thing which had never happened before. Then one day she
"I will tell you a secret. When I was eighteen, a young medical student
named Barrett lived in Columbia (Ky.) eighteen miles away; and he used to
ride over to see me. This continued for some time. I loved him with my
whole heart, and I knew that he felt the same toward me, though no words
had been spoken. He was too bashful to speak--he could not do it.
Everybody supposed we were engaged--took it for granted we were--but we
were not. By and by there was to be a party in a neighboring town, and
he wrote my uncle telling him his feelings, and asking him to drive me
over in his buggy and let him (Barrett) drive me back, so that he might
have that opportunity to propose. My uncle should have done as he was
asked, without explaining anything to me; but instead, he read me the
letter; and then, of course, I could not go--and did not. He (Barrett)
left the country presently, and I, to stop the clacking tongues, and to
show him that I did not care, married, in a pet. In all these sixty-four
years I have not seen him since. I saw in a paper that he was going to
attend that Old Settlers' Convention. Only three hours before we reached
that hotel, he had been standing there!"
Since then, her memory is wholly faded out and gone; and now she writes
letters to the school-mates who had been dead forty years, and wonders
why they neglect her and do not answer.
Think of her carrying that pathetic burden in her old heart sixty-four
years, and no human being ever suspecting it!
We do not get the idea from this letter that those two long ago
sweethearts quarreled, but Mark Twain once spoke of their having done so,
and there may have been a disagreement, assuming that there was a
subsequent meeting. It does not matter, now. In speaking of it, Mark
Twain once said: "It is as pathetic a romance as any that has crossed the
field of my personal experience in a long lifetime."--[When Mark Twain:
A Biography was written this letter had not come to light, and the matter
was stated there in accordance with Mark Twain's latest memory of it.]
Howells wrote: "After all, how poor and hackneyed all the inventions are
compared with the simple and stately facts. Who could have imagined such
a heart-break as that? Yet it went along with the fulfillment of
everyday duty and made no more noise than a grave under foot. I doubt if
fiction will ever get the knack of such things."
Jane Clemens now lived with her son Orion and his wife, in Keokuk, where
she was more contented than elsewhere. In these later days her memory
had become erratic, her realization of events about her uncertain, but
there were times when she was quite her former self, remembering clearly
and talking with her old-time gaiety of spirit. Mark Twain frequently
sent her playful letters to amuse her, letters full of such boyish gaiety
as had amused her long years before. The one that follows is a fair
example. It was written after a visit which Clemens and his family had
paid to Keokuk.
To Jane Clemens, in Keokuk:
ELMIRA, Aug. 7, '86.
DEAR MA,--I heard that Molly and Orion and Pamela had been sick, but I
see by your letter that they are much better now, or nearly well. When
we visited you a month ago, it seemed to us that your Keokuk weather was
pretty hot; Jean and Clara sat up in bed at Mrs. McElroy's and cried
about it, and so did I; but I judge by your letter that it has cooled
down, now, so that a person is comparatively comfortable, with his skin
off. Well it did need cooling; I remember that I burnt a hole in my
shirt, there, with some ice cream that fell on it; and Miss Jenkins told
me they never used a stove, but cooked their meals on a marble-topped
table in the drawing-room, just with the natural heat. If anybody else
had told me, I would not have believed it. I was told by the Bishop of
Keokuk that he did not allow crying at funerals, because it scalded the
furniture. If Miss Jenkins had told me that, I would have believed it.
This reminds me that you speak of Dr. Jenkins and his family as if they
were strangers to me. Indeed they are not. Don't you suppose I remember
gratefully how tender the doctor was with Jean when she hurt her arm, and
how quickly he got the pain out of the hurt, whereas I supposed it was
going to last at least an hour? No, I don't forget some things as easily
as I do others.
Yes, it was pretty hot weather. Now here, when a person is going to die,
he is always in a sweat about where he is going to; but in Keokuk of
course they don't care, because they are fixed for everything. It has
set me reflecting, it has taught me a lesson. By and by, when my health
fails, I am going to put all my affairs in order, and bid good-bye to my
friends here, and kill all the people I don't like, and go out to Keokuk
and prepare for death.
They are all well in this family, and we all send love.
Affly Your Son
The ways of city officials and corporations are often past
understanding, and Mark Twain sometimes found it necessary to write
picturesque letters of protest. The following to a Hartford
lighting company is a fair example of these documents.
To a gas and electric-lighting company, in Hartford:
GENTLEMEN,--There are but two places in our whole street where lights
could be of any value, by any accident, and you have measured and
appointed your intervals so ingeniously as to leave each of those places
in the centre of a couple of hundred yards of solid darkness. When I
noticed that you were setting one of your lights in such a way that I
could almost see how to get into my gate at night, I suspected that it
was a piece of carelessness on the part of the workmen, and would be
corrected as soon as you should go around inspecting and find it out.
My judgment was right; it is always right, when you axe concerned. For
fifteen years, in spite of my prayers and tears, you persistently kept a
gas lamp exactly half way between my gates, so that I couldn't find
either of them after dark; and then furnished such execrable gas that I
had to hang a danger signal on the lamp post to keep teams from running
into it, nights. Now I suppose your present idea is, to leave us a
little more in the dark.
Don't mind us--out our way; we possess but one vote apiece, and no rights
which you are in any way bound to respect. Please take your electric
light and go to--but never mind, it is not for me to suggest; you will
probably find the way; and any way you can reasonably count on divine
assistance if you lose your bearings.
S. L. CLEMENS.
[Etext Editor's Note: Twain wrote another note to Hartford Gas and
Electric, which he may not have mailed and which Paine does not
include in these volumes:
"Gentleman:--Someday you are going to move me almost to the point
of irritation with your God-damned chuckle headed fashion of
turning off your God-damned gas without giving notice to your
God-damned parishioners--and you did it again last night--"
Frequently Clemens did not send letters of this sort after they were
written. Sometimes he realized the uselessness of such protest,
sometimes the mere writing of them had furnished the necessary
relief, and he put, the letter away, or into the wastebasket, and
wrote something more temperate, or nothing at all. A few such
letters here follow.
Clemens was all the time receiving application from people who
wished him to recommend one article or another; books, plays,
tobacco, and what not. They were generally persistent people,
unable to accept a polite or kindly denial. Once he set down some
remarks on this particular phase of correspondence. He wrote:
No doubt Mr. Edison has been offered a large interest in many and many an
electrical project, for the use of his name to float it withal. And no
doubt all men who have achieved for their names, in any line of activity
whatever, a sure market value, have been familiar with this sort of
solicitation. Reputation is a hall-mark: it can remove doubt from pure
silver, and it can also make the plated article pass for pure.
And so, people without a hall-mark of their own are always trying to get
the loan of somebody else's.
As a rule, that kind of a person sees only one side of the case. He sees
that his invention or his painting or his book is--apparently--a trifle
better than you yourself can do, therefore why shouldn't you be willing
to put your hall-mark on it? You will be giving the purchaser his full
money's worth; so who is hurt, and where is the harm? Besides, are you
not helping a struggling fellow-craftsman, and is it not your duty to do
That side is plenty clear enough to him, but he can't and won't see the
other side, to-wit: that you are a rascal if you put your hall-mark upon
a thing which you did not produce yourself, howsoever good it may be.
How simple that is; and yet there are not two applicants in a hundred who
can, be made to see it.
When one receives an application of this sort, his first emotion is an
indignant sense of insult; his first deed is the penning of a sharp
answer. He blames nobody but that other person. That person is a very
base being; he must be; he would degrade himself for money, otherwise it
would not occur to him that you would do such a thing. But all the same,
that application has done its work, and taken you down in your own
estimation. You recognize that everybody hasn't as high an opinion of
you as you have of yourself; and in spite of you there ensues an interval
during which you are not, in your own estimation as fine a bird as you
However, being old and experienced, you do not mail your sharp letter,
but leave it lying a day. That saves you. For by that time you have
begun to reflect that you are a person who deals in exaggerations--and
exaggerations are lies. You meant yours to be playful, and thought you
made them unmistakably so. But you couldn't make them playfulnesses to a
man who has no sense of the playful and can see nothing but the serious
side of things. You rattle on quite playfully, and with measureless
extravagance, about how you wept at the tomb of Adam; and all in good
time you find to your astonishment that no end of people took you at your
word and believed you. And presently they find out that you were not in
earnest. They have been deceived; therefore, (as they argue--and there
is a sort of argument in it,) you are a deceiver. If you will deceive in
one way, why shouldn't you in another? So they apply for the use of your
trade-mark. You are amazed and affronted. You retort that you are not
that kind of person. Then they are amazed and affronted; and wonder
By this time you have got your bearings. You realize that perhaps there
is a little blame on both sides. You are in the right frame, now. So
you write a letter void of offense, declining. You mail this one; you
pigeon-hole the other.
That is, being old and experienced, you do, but early in your career, you
don't: you mail the first one.
An enthusiast who had a new system of musical notation, wrote to me and
suggested that a magazine article from me, contrasting the absurdities of
the old system with the simplicities of his new one, would be sure to
make a "rousing hit." He shouted and shouted over the marvels wrought by
his system, and quoted the handsome compliments which had been paid it by
famous musical people; but he forgot to tell me what his notation was
like, or what its simplicities consisted in. So I could not have written
the article if I had wanted to--which I didn't; because I hate strangers
with axes to grind. I wrote him a courteous note explaining how busy I
was--I always explain how busy I am--and casually drooped this remark:
"I judge the X-X notation to be a rational mode of representing music, in
place of the prevailing fashion, which was the invention of an idiot."
Next mail he asked permission to print that meaningless remark.
I answered, no--courteously, but still, no; explaining that I could not
afford to be placed in the attitude of trying to influence people with a
mere worthless guess. What a scorcher I got, next mail! Such irony!
such sarcasm, such caustic praise of my superhonorable loyalty to the
public! And withal, such compassion for my stupidity, too, in not being
able to understand my own language. I cannot remember the words of this
letter broadside, but there was about a page used up in turning this idea
round and round and exposing it in different lights.
DEAR SIR,--What is the trouble with you? If it is your viscera, you
cannot have them taken out and reorganized a moment too soon. I mean,
if they are inside. But if you are composed of them, that is another
matter. Is it your brain? But it could not be your brain. Possibly it
is your skull: you want to look out for that. Some people, when they get
an idea, it pries the structure apart. Your system of notation has got
in there, and couldn't find room, without a doubt that is what the
trouble is. Your skull was not made to put ideas in, it was made to
throw potatoes at.
DEAR SIR,--Come, come--take a walk; you disturb the children.
There was a day, now happily nearly over, when certain newspapers made a
practice of inviting men distinguished in any walk of life to give their
time and effort without charge to express themselves on some subject of
the day, or perhaps they were asked to send their favorite passages in
prose or verse, with the reasons why. Such symposiums were "features"
that cost the newspapers only the writing of a number of letters,
stationery, and postage. To one such invitation Mark Twain wrote two
replies. They follow herewith:
DEAR SIR,--I have received your proposition--which you have imitated from
a pauper London periodical which had previously imitated the idea of this
sort of mendicancy from seventh-rate American journalism, where it
originated as a variation of the inexpensive "interview."
Why do you buy Associated Press dispatches? To make your paper the more
salable, you answer. But why don't you try to beg them? Why do you
discriminate? I can sell my stuff; why should I give it to you? Why
don't you ask me for a shirt? What is the difference between asking me
for the worth of a shirt and asking me for the shirt itself? Perhaps you
didn't know you were begging. I would not use that argument--it makes
the user a fool. The passage of poetry--or prose, if you will--which has
taken deepest root in my thought, and which I oftenest return to and
dwell upon with keenest no matter what, is this: That the proper place
for journalists who solicit literary charity is on the street corner with
their hats in their hands.
DEAR SIR,--Your favor of recent date is received, but I am obliged by
press of work to decline.
The manager of a traveling theatrical company wrote that he had
taken the liberty of dramatizing Tom Sawyer, and would like also the
use of the author's name--the idea being to convey to the public
that it was a Mark Twain play. In return for this slight favor the
manager sent an invitation for Mark Twain to come and see the play--
to be present on the opening night, as it were, at his (the
manager's) expense. He added that if the play should be a go in the
cities there might be some "arrangement" of profits. Apparently
these inducements did not appeal to Mark Twain. The long unmailed
reply is the more interesting, but probably the briefer one that
follows it was quite as effective.
HARTFORD, Sept. 8, '87.
DEAR SIR,--And so it has got around to you, at last; and you also have
"taken the liberty." You are No. 1365. When 1364 sweeter and better
people, including the author, have "tried" to dramatize Tom Sawyer and
did not arrive, what sort of show do you suppose you stand? That is a
book, dear sir, which cannot be dramatized. One might as well try to
dramatize any other hymn. Tom Sawyer is simply a hymn, put into prose
form to give it a worldly air.
Why the pale doubt that flitteth dim and nebulous athwart the forecastle
of your third sentence? Have no fears. Your piece will be a Go.
It will go out the back door on the first night. They've all done it
--the 1364. So will 1365. Not one of us ever thought of the simple
device of half-soling himself with a stove-lid. Ah, what suffering a
little hindsight would have saved us. Treasure this hint.
How kind of you to invite me to the funeral. Go to; I have attended a
thousand of them. I have seen Tom Sawyer's remains in all the different
kinds of dramatic shrouds there are. You cannot start anything fresh.
Are you serious when you propose to pay my expence--if that is the
Susquehannian way of spelling it? And can you be aware that I charge a
hundred dollars a mile when I travel for pleasure? Do you realize that
it is 432 miles to Susquehanna? Would it be handy for you to send me the
$43,200 first, so I could be counting it as I come along; because
railroading is pretty dreary to a sensitive nature when there's nothing
sordid to buck at for Zeitvertreib.
Now as I understand it, dear and magnanimous 1365, you are going to
recreate Tom Sawyer dramatically, and then do me the compliment to put me
in the bills as father of this shady offspring. Sir, do you know that
this kind of a compliment has destroyed people before now? Listen.
Twenty-four years ago, I was strangely handsome. The remains of it are
still visible through the rifts of time. I was so handsome that human
activities ceased as if spellbound when I came in view, and even
inanimate things stopped to look--like locomotives, and district
messenger boys and so-on. In San Francisco, in the rainy season I was
often mistaken for fair weather. Upon one occasion I was traveling in
the Sonora region, and stopped for an hour's nooning, to rest my horse
and myself. All the town came out to look. The tribes of Indians
gathered to look. A Piute squaw named her baby for me,--a voluntary
compliment which pleased me greatly. Other attentions were paid me.
Last of all arrived the president and faculty of Sonora University and
offered me the post of Professor of Moral Culture and the Dogmatic
Humanities; which I accepted gratefully, and entered at once upon my
duties. But my name had pleased the Indians, and in the deadly kindness
of their hearts they went on naming their babies after me. I tried to
stop it, but the Indians could not understand why I should object to so
manifest a compliment. The thing grew and grew and spread and spread and
became exceedingly embarrassing. The University stood it a couple of
years; but then for the sake of the college they felt obliged to call a
halt, although I had the sympathy of the whole faculty. The president
himself said to me, "I am as sorry as I can be for you, and would still
hold out if there were any hope ahead; but you see how it is: there are a
hundred and thirty-two of them already, and fourteen precincts to hear
from. The circumstance has brought your name into most wide and
unfortunate renown. It causes much comment--I believe that that is not
an over-statement. Some of this comment is palliative, but some of it
--by patrons at a distance, who only know the statistics without the
explanation,--is offensive, and in some cases even violent. Nine
students have been called home. The trustees of the college have been
growing more and more uneasy all these last months--steadily along with
the implacable increase in your census--and I will not conceal from you
that more than once they have touched upon the expediency of a change in
the Professorship of Moral Culture. The coarsely sarcastic editorial in
yesterday's Alta, headed Give the Moral Acrobat a Rest--has brought
things to a crisis, and I am charged with the unpleasant duty of
receiving your resignation."
I know you only mean me a kindness, dear 1365, but it is a most deadly
mistake. Please do not name your Injun for me. Truly Yours.
NEW YORK, Sept. 8. 1887.
DEAR SIR,--Necessarily I cannot assent to so strange a proposition. And
I think it but fair to warn you that if you put the piece on the stage,
you must take the legal consequences.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Before the days of international copyright no American author's
books were pirated more freely by Canadian publishers than those of
Mark Twain. It was always a sore point with him that these books,
cheaply printed, found their way into the United States, and were
sold in competition with his better editions. The law on the
subject seemed to be rather hazy, and its various interpretations
exasperating. In the next unmailed letter Mark Twain relieves
himself to a misguided official. The letter is worth reading today,
if for no other reason, to show the absurdity of copyright
conditions which prevailed at that time.
Unmailed Letter to H. C. Christiancy, on book Piracy:
HARTFORD, Dec. 18, '87.
H. C. CHRISTIANCY, ESQ.
DEAR SIR,--As I understand it, the position of the U. S. Government is
this: If a person be captured on the border with counterfeit bonds in his
hands--bonds of the N. Y. Central Railway, for instance--the procedure in
his case shall be as follows:
1. If the N. Y. C. have not previously filed in the several police
offices along the border, proof of ownership of the originals of the
bonds, the government officials must collect a duty on the counterfeits,
and then let them go ahead and circulate in this country.
2. But if there is proof already on file, then the N. Y. C. may pay the
duty and take the counterfeits.
But in no case will the United States consent to go without its share of
the swag. It is delicious. The biggest and proudest government on earth
turned sneak-thief; collecting pennies on stolen property, and pocketing
them with a greasy and libidinous leer; going into partnership with
foreign thieves to rob its own children; and when the child escapes the
foreigner, descending to the abysmal baseness of hanging on and robbing
the infant all alone by itself! Dear sir, this is not any more
respectable than for a father to collect toll on the forced prostitution
of his own daughter; in fact it is the same thing. Upon these terms,
what is a U. S. custom house but a "fence?" That is all it is: a
legalized trader in stolen goods.
And this nasty law, this filthy law, this unspeakable law calls itself a
"regulation for the protection of owners of copyright!" Can sarcasm go
further than that? In what way does it protect them? Inspiration itself
could not furnish a rational answer to that question. Whom does it
protect, then? Nobody, as far as I can see, but the foreign thief-
sometimes--and his fellow-footpad the U. S. government, all the time.
What could the Central Company do with the counterfeit bonds after it had
bought them of the star spangled banner Master-thief? Sell them at a
dollar apiece and fetch down the market for the genuine hundred-dollar
bond? What could I do with that 20-cent copy of "Roughing It" which the
United States has collared on the border and is waiting to release to me
for cash in case I am willing to come down to its moral level and help
rob myself? Sell it at ten or fifteen cents--duty added--and destroy the
market for the original $3,50 book? Who ever did invent that law? I
would like to know the name of that immortal jackass.
Dear sir, I appreciate your courtesy in stretching your authority in the
desire to do me a kindness, and I sincerely thank you for it. But I have
no use for that book; and if I were even starving for it I would not pay
duty on in either to get it or suppress it. No doubt there are ways in
which I might consent to go into partnership with thieves and fences,
but this is not one of them. This one revolts the remains of my self-
respect; turns my stomach. I think I could companion with a highwayman
who carried a shot-gun and took many risks; yes, I think I should like
that if I were younger; but to go in with a big rich government that robs
paupers, and the widows and orphans of paupers and takes no risk--why the
thought just gags me.
Oh, no, I shall never pay any duties on pirated books of mine. I am much
too respectable for that--yet awhile. But here--one thing that grovels
me is this: as far as I can discover--while freely granting that the
U. S. copyright laws are far and away the most idiotic that exist
anywhere on the face of the earth--they don't authorize the government to
admit pirated books into this country, toll or no toll. And so I think
that that regulation is the invention of one of those people--as a rule,
early stricken of God, intellectually--the departmental interpreters of
the laws, in Washington. They can always be depended on to take any
reasonably good law and interpret the common sense all out of it. They
can be depended on, every time, to defeat a good law, and make it
inoperative--yes, and utterly grotesque, too, mere matter for laughter
and derision. Take some of the decisions of the Post-office Department,
for instance--though I do not mean to suggest that that asylum is any
worse than the others for the breeding and nourishing of incredible
lunatics--I merely instance it because it happens to be the first to come
into my mind. Take that case of a few years ago where the P. M. General
suddenly issued an edict requiring you to add the name of the State after
Boston, New York, Chicago, &c, in your superscriptions, on pain of having
your letter stopped and forwarded to the dead-letter office; yes, and I
believe he required the county, too. He made one little concession in
favor of New York: you could say "New York City," and stop there; but if
you left off the "city," you must add "N. Y." to your "New York." Why,
it threw the business of the whole country into chaos and brought
commerce almost to a stand-still. Now think of that! When that man goes
to--to--well, wherever he is going to--we shan't want the microscopic
details of his address. I guess we can find him.
Well, as I was saying, I believe that this whole paltry and ridiculous
swindle is a pure creation of one of those cabbages that used to be at
the head of one of those Retreats down there--Departments, you know--and
that you will find it so, if you will look into it. And moreover--but
land, I reckon we are both tired by this time.
MISCELLANEOUS LETTERS OF 1887. LITERARY ARTICLES. PEACEFUL DAYS AT THE
FARM. FAVORITE READING. APOLOGY TO MRS. CLEVELAND, ETC.
We have seen in the preceding chapter how unknown aspirants in one field
or another were always seeking to benefit by Mark Twain's reputation.
Once he remarked, "The symbol of the human race ought to be an ax; every
human being has one concealed about him somewhere." He declared when a
stranger called on him, or wrote to him, in nine cases out of ten he
could distinguish the gleam of the ax almost immediately. The following
letter is closely related to those of the foregoing chapter, only that
this one was mailed--not once, but many times, in some form adapted to
the specific applicant. It does not matter to whom it was originally
written, the name would not be recognized.
To Mrs. T. Concerning unearned credentials, etc.
MY DEAR MADAM,--It is an idea which many people have had, but it is of no
value. I have seen it tried out many and many a time. I have seen a
lady lecturer urged and urged upon the public in a lavishly complimentary
document signed by Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes and some others of
supreme celebrity, but--there was nothing in her and she failed. If
there had been any great merit in her she never would have needed those
men's help and (at her rather mature age,) would never have consented to
ask for it.
There is an unwritten law about human successes, and your sister must bow
to that law, she must submit to its requirements. In brief this law is:
1. No occupation without an apprenticeship.
2. No pay to the apprentice.
This law stands right in the way of the subaltern who wants to be a
General before he has smelt powder; and it stands (and should stand) in
everybody's way who applies for pay or position before he has served his
apprenticeship and proved himself. Your sister's course is perfectly
plain. Let her enclose this letter to Maj. J. B. Pond, and offer to
lecture a year for $10 a week and her expenses, the contract to be
annullable by him at any time, after a month's notice, but not annullable
by her at all. The second year, he to have her services, if he wants
them, at a trifle under the best price offered her by anybody else.
She can learn her trade in those two years, and then be entitled to
remuneration--but she can not learn it in any less time than that, unless
she is a human miracle.
Try it, and do not be afraid. It is the fair and right thing. If she
wins, she will win squarely and righteously, and never have to blush.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Howells wrote, in February, offering to get a publisher to take the
Library of Humor off Mark Twain's hands. Howells had been paid
twenty-six hundred dollars for the work on it, and his conscience
hurt him when he reflected that the book might never be used. In
this letter he also refers to one of the disastrous inventions in
which Clemens had invested--a method of casting brass dies for
stamping book-covers and wall-paper. Howells's purpose was to
introduce something of the matter into his next story. Mark Twain's
reply gives us a light on this particular invention.
HARTFORD, Feb. 15, '87.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I was in New York five days ago, and Webster mentioned the
Library, and proposed to publish it a year or a year and half hence.
I have written him your proposition to-day. (The Library is part of the
property of the C. L. W. & Co. firm.)
I don't remember what that technical phrase was, but I think you will
find it in any Cyclopedia under the head of "Brass." The thing I best
remember is, that the self-styled "inventor" had a very ingenious way of
keeping me from seeing him apply his invention: the first appointment was
spoiled by his burning down the man's shop in which it was to be done,
the night before; the second was spoiled by his burning down his own shop
the night before. He unquestionably did both of these things. He really
had no invention; the whole project was a blackmailing swindle, and cost
me several thousand dollars.
The slip you sent me from the May "Study" has delighted Mrs. Clemens and
me to the marrow. To think that thing might be possible to many; but to
be brave enough to say it is possible to you only, I certainly believe.
The longer I live the clearer I perceive how unmatchable, how
unapproachable, a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the
courage (to utter) his convictions." Haven't you had reviewers talk Alps
to you, and then print potato hills?
I haven't as good an opinion of my work as you hold of it, but I've
always done what I could to secure and enlarge my good opinion of it.
I've always said to myself, "Everybody reads it and that's something--it
surely isn't pernicious, or the most acceptable people would get pretty
tired of it." And when a critic said by implication that it wasn't high
and fine, through the remark "High and fine literature is wine" I
retorted (confidentially, to myself,) "yes, high and fine literature is
wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water."
You didn't tell me to return that proof-slip, so I have pasted it into my
private scrap-book. None will see it there. With a thousand thanks.
Our next letter is an unmailed answer, but it does not belong with
the others, having been withheld for reasons of quite a different
sort. Jeanette Gilder, then of the Critic, was one of Mark Twain's
valued friends. In the comment which he made, when it was shown to
him twenty-two years later, he tells us why he thinks this letter
was not sent. The name, "Rest-and-be-Thankful," was the official
title given to the summer place at Elmira, but it was more often
known as "Quarry Farm."
To Jeannette Gilder (not mailed):
HARTFORD, May 14, '87.
MY DEAR MISS GILDER,--We shall spend the summer at the same old place-the
remote farm called "Rest-and-be-Thankful," on top of the hills three
miles from Elmira, N. Y. Your other question is harder to answer. It is
my habit to keep four or five books in process of erection all the time,
and every summer add a few courses of bricks to two or three of them; but
I cannot forecast which of the two or three it is going to be. It takes
seven years to complete a book by this method, but still it is a good
method: gives the public a rest. I have been accused of "rushing into
print" prematurely, moved thereto by greediness for money; but in truth
I have never done that. Do you care for trifles of information? (Well,
then, "Tom Sawyer" and "The Prince and the Pauper" were each on the
stocks two or three years, and "Old Times on the Mississippi" eight.)
One of my unfinished books has been on the stocks sixteen years; another
seventeen. This latter book could have been finished in a day, at any
time during the past five years. But as in the first of these two
narratives all the action takes place in Noah's ark, and as in the other
the action takes place in heaven, there seemed to be no hurry, and so I
have not hurried. Tales of stirring adventure in those localities do not
need to be rushed to publication lest they get stale by waiting. In
twenty-one years, with all my time at my free disposal I have written and
completed only eleven books, whereas with half the labor that a
journalist does I could have written sixty in that time. I do not
greatly mind being accused of a proclivity for rushing into print, but
at the same time I don't believe that the charge is really well founded.
Suppose I did write eleven books, have you nothing to be grateful for?
Go to---remember the forty-nine which I didn't write.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Notes (added twenty-two years later):
Stormfield, April 30, 1909. It seems the letter was not sent. I
probably feared she might print it, and I couldn't find a way to say so
without running a risk of hurting her. No one would hurt Jeannette
Gilder purposely, and no one would want to run the risk of doing it
unintentionally. She is my neighbor, six miles away, now, and I must
ask her about this ancient letter.
I note with pride and pleasure that I told no untruths in my unsent
answer. I still have the habit of keeping unfinished books lying around
years and years, waiting. I have four or five novels on hand at present
in a half-finished condition, and it is more than three years since I
have looked at any of them. I have no intention of finishing them.
I could complete all of them in less than a year, if the impulse should
come powerfully upon me: Long, long ago money-necessity furnished that
impulse once, (" Following the Equator"), but mere desire for money has
never furnished it, so far as I remember. Not even money-necessity was
able to overcome me on a couple of occasions when perhaps I ought to have
allowed it to succeed. While I was a bankrupt and in debt two offers
were made me for weekly literary contributions to continue during a year,
and they would have made a debtless man of me, but I declined them, with
my wife's full approval, for I had known of no instance where a man had
pumped himself out once a week and failed to run "emptyings" before the
year was finished.
As to that "Noah's Ark" book, I began it in Edinburgh in 1873;--[This is
not quite correct. The "Noah's Ark" book was begun in Buffalo in 1870.]
I don't know where the manuscript is now. It was a Diary, which
professed to be the work of Shem, but wasn't. I began it again several
months ago, but only for recreation; I hadn't any intention of carrying
it to a finish
--or even to the end of the first chapter, in fact.
As to the book whose action "takes place in Heaven." That was a small
thing, ("Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven.") It lay in my pigeon-
holes 40 years, then I took it out and printed it in Harper's Monthly
S. L. C.
In the next letter we get a pretty and peaceful picture of "Rest-and-be-
Thankful." These were Mark Twain's balmy days. The financial drain of
the type-machine was heavy but not yet exhausting, and the prospect of
vast returns from it seemed to grow brighter each day. His publishing
business, though less profitable, was still prosperous, his family life
was ideal. How gratefully, then, he could enter into the peace of that
To Mrs. Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Ia.:
ON THE HILL NEAR ELMIRA, July 10, '87.
DEAR MOLLIE,--This is a superb Sunday for weather--very cloudy, and the
thermometer as low as 65. The city in the valley is purple with shade,
as seen from up here at the study. The Cranes are reading and loafing in
the canvas-curtained summer-house 50 yards away on a higher (the highest)
point; the cats are loafing over at "Ellerslie" which is the children's
estate and dwellinghouse in their own private grounds (by deed from Susie
Crane) a hundred yards from the study, amongst the clover and young oaks
and willows. Livy is down at the house, but I shall now go and bring her
up to the Cranes to help us occupy the lounges and hammocks--whence a
great panorama of distant hill and valley and city is seeable. The
children have gone on a lark through the neighboring hills and woods.
It is a perfect day indeed.
With love to you all.
Two days after this letter was written we get a hint of what was the
beginning of business trouble--that is to say, of the failing health of
Charles L. Webster. Webster was ambitious, nervous, and not robust.
He had overworked and was paying the penalty. His trouble was
neurasthenia, and he was presently obliged to retire altogether from the
business. The "Sam and Mary" mentioned were Samuel Moffet and his wife.
To Mrs. Pamela Moffett, in Fredonia, N. Y.
ELMIRA, July 12, '87
MY DEAR SISTER,--I had no idea that Charley's case was so serious.
I knew it was bad, and persistent, but I was not aware of the full size
of the matter.
I have just been writing to a friend in Hartford' who treated what I
imagine was a similar case surgically last fall, and produced a permanent
cure. If this is a like case, Charley must go to him.
If relief fails there, he must take the required rest, whether the
business can stand it or not.
It is most pleasant to hear such prosperous accounts of Sam and Mary,
I do not see how Sam could well be more advantageously fixed. He can
grow up with that paper, and achieve a successful life.
It is not all holiday here with Susie and Clara this time. They have to
put in some little time every day on their studies. Jean thinks she is
studying too, but I don't know what it is unless it is the horses; she
spends the day under their heels in the stables--and that is but a
continuation of her Hartford system of culture.
With love from us all to you all.
Mark Twain had a few books that he read regularly every year or two.
Among these were 'Pepys's Diary', Suetonius's 'Lives of the Twelve
Caesars', and Thomas Carlyle's 'French Revolution'. He had a passion for
history, biography, and personal memoirs of any sort. In his early life
he had cared very little for poetry, but along in the middle eighties he
somehow acquired a taste for Browning and became absorbed in it.
A Browning club assembled as often as once a week at the Clemens home in
Hartford to listen to his readings of the master. He was an impressive
reader, and he carefully prepared himself for these occasions, indicating
by graduated underscorings, the exact values he wished to give to words
and phrases. Those were memorable gatherings, and they must have
continued through at least two winters. It is one of the puzzling phases
of Mark Twain's character that, notwithstanding his passion for direct
and lucid expression, he should have found pleasure in the poems of
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Aug. 22, '87.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--How stunning are the changes which age makes in a man
while he sleeps. When I finished Carlyle's French Revolution in 1871,
I was a Girondin; every time I have read it since, I have read it
differently being influenced and changed, little by little, by life and
environment (and Taine and St. Simon): and now I lay the book down once
more, and recognize that I am a Sansculotte!--And not a pale,
characterless Sansculotte, but a Marat. Carlyle teaches no such gospel
so the change is in me--in my vision of the evidences.
People pretend that the Bible means the same to them at 50 that it did at
all former milestones in their journey. I wonder how they can lie so.
It comes of practice, no doubt. They would not say that of Dickens's or
Scott's books. Nothing remains the same. When a man goes back to look
at the house of his childhood, it has always shrunk: there is no instance
of such a house being as big as the picture in memory and imagination
call for. Shrunk how? Why, to its correct dimensions: the house hasn't
altered; this is the first time it has been in focus.
Well, that's loss. To have house and Bible shrink so, under the
disillusioning corrected angle, is loss-for a moment. But there are
compensations. You tilt the tube skyward and bring planets and comets
and corona flames a hundred and fifty thousand miles high into the field.
Which I see you have done, and found Tolstoi. I haven't got him in focus
yet, but I've got Browning . . . .
Mention has been made already of Mark Twain's tendency to
absentmindedness. He was always forgetting engagements, or getting
them wrong. Once he hurried to an afternoon party, and finding the
mistress of the house alone, sat down and talked to her comfortably
for an hour or two, not remembering his errand at all. It was only
when he reached home that he learned that the party had taken place
the week before. It was always dangerous for him to make
engagements, and he never seemed to profit by sorrowful experience.
We, however, may profit now by one of his amusing apologies.
To Mrs. Grover Cleveland, in Washington:
HARTFORD, Nov. 6, 1887.
MY DEAR MADAM,--I do not know how it is in the White House, but in this
house of ours whenever the minor half of the administration tries to run
itself without the help of the major half it gets aground. Last night
when I was offered the opportunity to assist you in the throwing open the
Warner brothers superb benefaction in Bridgeport to those fortunate
women, I naturally appreciated the honor done me, and promptly seized my
chance. I had an engagement, but the circumstances washed it out of my
mind. If I had only laid the matter before the major half of the
administration on the spot, there would have been no blunder; but I never
thought of that. So when I did lay it before her, later, I realized once
more that it will not do for the literary fraction of a combination to
try to manage affairs which properly belong in the office of the business
bulk of it. I suppose the President often acts just like that: goes and
makes an impossible promise, and you never find it out until it is next
to impossible to break it up and set things straight again. Well, that
is just our way, exactly-one half of the administration always busy
getting the family into trouble, and the other half busy getting it out
again. And so we do seem to be all pretty much alike, after all. The
fact is, I had forgotten that we were to have a dinner party on that
Bridgeport date--I thought it was the next day: which is a good deal of
an improvement for me, because I am more used to being behind a day or
two than ahead. But that is just the difference between one end of this
kind of an administration and the other end of it, as you have noticed,
yourself--the other end does not forget these things. Just so with a
funeral; if it is the man's funeral, he is most always there, of course-
but that is no credit to him, he wouldn't be there if you depended on
hint to remember about it; whereas, if on the other hand--but I seem to
have got off from my line of argument somehow; never mind about the
funeral. Of course I am not meaning to say anything against funerals--
that is, as occasions--mere occasions--for as diversions I don't think
they amount to much But as I was saying--if you are not busy I will look
back and see what it was I was saying.
I don't seem to find the place; but anyway she was as sorry as ever
anybody could be that I could not go to Bridgeport, but there was no help
for it. And I, I have been not only sorry but very sincerely ashamed of
having made an engagement to go without first making sure that I could
keep it, and I do not know how to apologize enough for my heedless breach
of good manners.
With the sincerest respect,
S. L. CLEMENS.
Samuel Clemens was one of the very few authors to copyright a book
in England before the enactment of the international copyright law.
As early as 1872 he copyrighted 'Roughing It' in England, and
piratical publishers there respected his rights. Finally, in 1887,
the inland revenue office assessed him with income tax, which he
very willingly paid, instructing his London publishers, Chatto &
Windus, to pay on the full amount he had received from them. But
when the receipt for his taxes came it was nearly a yard square with
due postage of considerable amount. Then he wrote:
To Mr. Chatto, of Chatto & Windus, in London:
HARTFORD, Dec. 5, '87.
MY DEAR CHATTO,--Look here, I don't mind paying the tax, but don't you
let the Inland Revenue Office send me any more receipts for it, for the
postage is something perfectly demoralizing. If they feel obliged to
print a receipt on a horse-blanket, why don't they hire a ship and send
it over at their own expense?
Wasn't it good that they caught me out with an old book instead of a new
one? The tax on a new book would bankrupt a body. It was my purpose to
go to England next May and stay the rest of the year, but I've found that
tax office out just in time. My new book would issue in March, and they
would tax the sale in both countries. Come, we must get up a compromise
somehow. You go and work in on the good side of those revenue people and
get them to take the profits and give me the tax. Then I will come over
and we will divide the swag and have a good time.
I wish you to thank Mr. Christmas for me; but we won't resist. The
country that allows me copyright has a right to tax me.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Another English tax assessment came that year, based on the report
that it was understood that he was going to become an English
resident, and had leased Buckenham Hall, Norwich, for a year.
Clemens wrote his publishers: "I will explain that all that about
Buckenham Hall was an English newspaper's mistake. I was not in
England, and if I had been I wouldn't have been at Buckenham Hall,
anyway, but at Buckingham Palace, or I would have endeavored to find
out the reason why." Clemens made literature out of this tax
experience. He wrote an open letter to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Such a letter has no place in this collection. It was published in
the "Drawer" of Harper's Magazine, December, 1887, and is now
included in the uniform edition of his works under the title of,
"A Petition to the Queen of England."
From the following letter, written at the end of the year, we gather
that the type-setter costs were beginning to make a difference in
the Clemens economies.
To Mrs. Moffett, in Fredonia:
HARTFORD, Dec. 18, '87.
DEAR PAMELA,--will you take this $15 and buy some candy or some other
trifle for yourself and Sam and his wife to remember that we remember
If we weren't a little crowded this year by the typesetter, I'd send a
check large enough to buy a family Bible or some other useful thing like
that. However we go on and on, but the type-setter goes on forever--at
$3,000 a month; which is much more satisfactory than was the case the
first seventeen months, when the bill only averaged $2,000, and promised
to take a thousand years. We'll be through, now, in 3 or 4 months, I
reckon, and then the strain will let up and we can breathe freely once
more, whether success ensues or failure.
Even with a type-setter on hand we ought not to be in the least scrimped-
but it would take a long letter to explain why and who is to blame.
All the family send love to all of you and best Christmas wishes for your
LETTERS,1888. A YALE DEGREE. WORK ON "THE YANKEE." ON INTERVIEWING,
Mark Twain received his first college degree when he was made Master
of Arts by Yale, in June, 1888. Editor of the Courant, Charles H.
Clarke, was selected to notify him of his new title. Clarke was an
old friend to whom Clemens could write familiarly.
To Charles H. Clarke, in Hartford:
ELMIRA, July 2, '88.
MY DEAR CHARLES,--Thanks for your thanks, and for your initiation
intentions. I shall be ready for you. I feel mighty proud of that
degree; in fact, I could squeeze the truth a little closer and say vain
of it. And why shouldn't I be?--I am the only literary animal of my
particular subspecies who has ever been given a degree by any College in
any age of the world, as far as I know.
S. L. Clemens M. A.
Reply: Charles H. Clarke to S. L Clemens:
MY DEAR FRIEND, You are "the only literary animal of your particular
subspecies" in existence and you've no cause for humility in the fact.
Yale has done herself at least as much credit as she has done you, and
"Don't you forget it."
C. H. C.
With the exception of his brief return to the river in 1882. Mark
Twain had been twenty-seven years away from pilots and piloting.
Nevertheless, he always kept a tender place in his heart for the old
times and for old river comrades. Major "Jack" Downing had been a
Mississippi pilot of early days, but had long since retired from the
river to a comfortable life ashore, in an Ohio town. Clemens had
not heard from him for years when a letter came which invited the
To Major "Jack" Downing, in Middleport Ohio:
ELMIRA, N. Y.[no month] 1888.
DEAR MAJOR,--And has it come to this that the dead rise up and speak?
For I supposed that you were dead, it has been so long since I heard your
And how young you've grown! I was a mere boy when I knew you on the
river, where you had been piloting for 35 years, and now you are only a
year and a half older than I am! I mean to go to Hot Springs myself and
get 30 or 40 years knocked off my age. It's manifestly the place that
Ponce de Leon was striking for, but the poor fellow lost the trail.
Possibly I may see you, for I shall be in St. Louis a day or two in
November. I propose to go down the river and "note the changes" once
more before I make the long crossing, and perhaps you can come there.
Will you? I want to see all the boys that are left alive.
And so Grant Marsh, too, is flourishing yet? A mighty good fellow, and
smart too. When we were taking that wood flat down to the Chambers,
which was aground, I soon saw that I was a perfect lubber at piloting
such a thing. I saw that I could never hit the Chambers with it, so I
resigned in Marsh's favor, and he accomplished the task to my admiration.
We should all have gone to the mischief if I had remained in authority.
I always had good judgement, more judgement than talent, in fact.
No; the nom de plume did not originate in that way. Capt. Sellers used
the signature, "Mark Twain," himself, when he used to write up the
antiquities in the way of river reminiscences for the New Orleans
Picayune. He hated me for burlesquing them in an article in the True
Delta; so four years later when he died, I robbed the corpse--that is I
confiscated the nom de plume. I have published this vital fact 3,000
times now. But no matter, it is good practice; it is about the only fact
that I can tell the same way every time. Very glad, indeed, to hear from
you Major, and shall be gladder still to see you in November.
S. L. CLEMENS.
He did not make the journey down the river planned for that year.
He had always hoped to make another steamboat trip with Bixby, but
one thing and another interfered and he did not go again.
Authors were always sending their books to Mark Twain to read, and
no busy man was ever more kindly disposed toward such offerings,
more generously considerate of the senders. Louis Pendleton was a
young unknown writer in 1888, but Clemens took time to read his
story carefully, and to write to him about it a letter that cost
precious time, thought, and effort. It must have rejoiced the young
man's heart to receive a letter like that, from one whom all young
authors held supreme.
To Louis Pendleton, in Georgia:
ELMIRA, N. Y., Aug. 4, '88.
MY DEAR SIR,--I found your letter an hour ago among some others which had
lain forgotten a couple of weeks, and I at once stole time enough to read
Ariadne. Stole is the right word, for the summer "Vacation" is the only
chance I get for work; so, no minute subtracted from work is borrowed, it
is stolen. But this time I do not repent. As a rule, people don't send
me books which I can thank them for, and so I say nothing--which looks
uncourteous. But I thank you. Ariadne is a beautiful and satisfying
story; and true, too--which is the best part of a story; or indeed of any
other thing. Even liars have to admit that, if they are intelligent
liars; I mean in their private [the word conscientious written but
erased] intervals. (I struck that word out because a man's private
thought can never be a lie; what he thinks, is to him the truth, always;
what he speaks--but these be platitudes.)
If you want me to pick some flaws--very well--but I do it unwillingly.
I notice one thing--which one may notice also in my books, and in all
books whether written by man or God: trifling carelessness of statement
or Expression. If I think that you meant that she took the lizard from
the water which she had drawn from the well, it is evidence--it is almost
proof--that your words were not as clear as they should have been. True,
it is only a trifling thing; but so is mist on a mirror. I would have
hung the pail on Ariadne's arm. You did not deceive me when you said
that she carried it under her arm, for I knew she didn't; still it was
not your right to mar my enjoyment of the graceful picture. If the pail
had been a portfolio, I wouldn't be making these remarks. The engraver
of a fine picture revises, and revises, and revises--and then revises,
and revises, and revises; and then repeats. And always the charm of that
picture grows, under his hand. It was good enough before--told its
story, and was beautiful. True: and a lovely girl is lovely, with
freckles; but she isn't at her level best with them.
This is not hypercriticism; you have had training enough to know that.
So much concerning exactness of statement. In that other not-small
matter--selection of the exact single word--you are hard to catch.
Still, I should hold that Mrs. Walker considered that there was no
occasion for concealment; that "motive" implied a deeper mental search
than she expended on the matter; that it doesn't reflect the attitude of
her mind with precision. Is this hypercriticism? I shan't dispute it.
I only say, that if Mrs. Walker didn't go so far as to have a motive, I
had to suggest that when a word is so near the right one that a body
can't quite tell whether it is or isn't, it's good politics to strike it
out and go for the Thesaurus. That's all. Motive may stand; but you
have allowed a snake to scream, and I will not concede that that was the
I do not apologize for saying these things, for they are not said in the
speck-hunting spirit, but in the spirit of want-to-help-if-I-can. They
would be useful to me if said to me once a month, they may be useful to
you, said once.
I save the other stories for my real vacation--which is nine months long,
to my sorrow. I thank you again.
S. L. CLEMENS.
In the next letter we get a sidelight on the type-setting machine,
the Frankenstein monster that was draining their substance and
holding out false hopes of relief and golden return. The program
here outlined was one that would continue for several years yet,
with the end always in sight, but never quite attained.
To Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Ia.:
Oct. 3, '88.
Saturday 29th, by a closely calculated estimate, there were 85 days' work
to do on the machine.
We can use 4 men, but not constantly. If they could work constantly it
would complete the machine in 21 days, of course. They will all be on
hand and under wages, and each will get in all the work there is
opportunity for, but by how much they can reduce the 85 days toward the
21 days, nobody can tell.
To-day I pay Pratt & Whitney $10,000. This squares back indebtedness and
everything to date. They began about May or April or March 1886--along
there somewhere, and have always kept from a dozen to two dozen master-
hands on the machine.
That outgo is done; 4 men for a month or two will close up that leak and
caulk it. Work on the patents is also kind of drawing toward a
Love to you both. All well here.
And give our love to Ma if she can get the idea.
Mark Twain that year was working pretty steadily on 'The Yankee at
King Arthur's Court', a book which he had begun two years before.
He had published nothing since the Huck Finn story, and his company
was badly in need of a new book by an author of distinction. Also
it was highly desirable to earn money for himself; wherefore he set
to work to finish the Yankee story. He had worked pretty steadily
that summer in his Elmira study, but on his return to Hartford found
a good deal of confusion in the house, so went over to Twichell's,
where carpenter work was in progress. He seems to have worked there
successfully, though what improvement of conditions he found in that
numerous, lively household, over those at home it would be difficult
To Theodore W. Crane, at Quarry Farm, Elmira, N. Y.
Friday, Oct.,5, '88.
DEAR THEO,--I am here in Twichell's house at work, with the noise of the
children and an army of carpenters to help. Of course they don't help,
but neither do they hinder. It's like a boiler-factory for racket, and
in nailing a wooden ceiling onto the room under me the hammering tickles
my feet amazingly sometimes, and jars my table a good deal; but I never
am conscious of the racket at all, and I move my feet into position of
relief without knowing when I do it. I began here Monday morning, and
have done eighty pages since. I was so tired last night that I thought I
would lie abed and rest, to-day; but I couldn't resist. I mean to try to
knock off tomorrow, but it's doubtful if I do. I want to finish the day
the machine finishes, and a week ago the closest calculations for that
indicated Oct. 22--but experience teaches me that their calculations will
miss fire, as usual.
The other day the children were projecting a purchase, Livy and I to
furnish the money--a dollar and a half. Jean discouraged the idea. She
said: "We haven't got any money. Children, if you would think, you would
remember the machine isn't done."
It's billiards to-night. I wish you were here.
With love to you both
S. L. C.
P. S. I got it all wrong. It wasn't the children, it was Marie. She
wanted a box of blacking, for the children's shoes. Jean reproved her-
"Why, Marie, you mustn't ask for things now. The machine isn't done."
S. L. C.
The letter that follows is to another of his old pilot friends, one
who was also a schoolmate, Will Bowen, of Hannibal. There is today
no means of knowing the occasion upon which this letter was written,
but it does not matter; it is the letter itself that is of chief
To Will Bowen, in Hannibal, Mo.:
HARTFORD, Nov 4, '88.
DEAR WILL,--I received your letter yesterday evening, just as I was
starting out of town to attend a wedding, and so my mind was privately
busy, all the evening, in the midst of the maelstrom of chat and chaff
and laughter, with the sort of reflections which create themselves,
examine themselves, and continue themselves, unaffected by surroundings
--unaffected, that is understood, by the surroundings, but not
uninfluenced by them. Here was the near presence of the two supreme
events of life: marriage, which is the beginning of life, and death which
is the end of it. I found myself seeking chances to shirk into corners
where I might think, undisturbed; and the most I got out of my thought,
was this: both marriage and death ought to be welcome: the one promises
happiness, doubtless the other assures it. A long procession of people
filed through my mind--people whom you and I knew so many years ago--so
many centuries ago, it seems like-and these ancient dead marched to the
soft marriage music of a band concealed in some remote room of the house;
and the contented music and the dreaming shades seemed in right accord
with each other, and fitting. Nobody else knew that a procession of the
dead was passing though this noisy swarm of the living, but there it was,
and to me there was nothing uncanny about it; Rio, they were welcome
faces to me. I would have liked to bring up every creature we knew in
those days--even the dumb animals--it would be bathing in the fabled
Fountain of Youth.
We all feel your deep trouble with you; and we would hope, if we might,
but your words deny us that privilege. To die one's self is a thing that
must be easy, and of light consequence, but to lose a part of one's self
--well, we know how deep that pang goes, we who have suffered that
disaster, received that wound which cannot heal.
Sincerely your friend
S. L. CLEMENS.
His next is of quite a different nature. Evidently the typesetting
conditions had alarmed Orion, and he was undertaking some economies
with a view of retrenchment. Orion was always reducing economy to
science. Once, at an earlier date, he recorded that he had figured
his personal living expenses down to sixty cents a week, but
inasmuch as he was then, by his own confession, unable to earn the
sixty cents, this particular economy was wasted. Orion was a trial,
certainly, and the explosion that follows was not without excuse.
Furthermore, it was not as bad as it sounds. Mark Twain's rages
always had an element of humor in them, a fact which no one more
than Orion himself would appreciate. He preserved this letter,
quietly noting on the envelope, "Letter from Sam, about ma's nurse."
Letter to Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Iowa:
NOV. 29, '88.
Jesus Christ!--It is perilous to write such a man. You can go crazy on
less material than anybody that ever lived. What in hell has produced
all these maniacal imaginings? You told me you had hired an attendant
for ma. Now hire one instantly, and stop this nonsense of wearing Mollie
and yourself out trying to do that nursing yourselves. Hire the
attendant, and tell me her cost so that I can instruct Webster & Co. to
add it every month to what they already send. Don't fool away any more
time about this. And don't write me any more damned rot about "storms,"
and inability to pay trivial sums of money and--and--hell and damnation!
You see I've read only the first page of your letter; I wouldn't read the
rest for a million dollars.
P. S. Don't imagine that I have lost my temper, because I swear. I
swear all day, but I do not lose my temper. And don't imagine that I am
on my way to the poorhouse, for I am not; or that I am uneasy, for I am
not; or that I am uncomfortable or unhappy--for I never am. I don't know
what it is to be unhappy or uneasy; and I am not going to try to learn
how, at this late day.
Few men were ever interviewed oftener than Mark Twain, yet he never
welcomed interviewers and was seldom satisfied with them. "What I
say in an interview loses it character in print," he often remarked,
"all its life and personality. The reporter realizes this himself,
and tries to improve upon me, but he doesn't help matters any."
Edward W. Bok, before he became editor of the Ladies Home Journal,
was conducting a weekly syndicate column under the title of "Bok's
Literary Leaves." It usually consisted of news and gossip of
writers, comment, etc., literary odds and ends, and occasional
interviews with distinguished authors. He went up to Hartford one
day to interview Mark Twain. The result seemed satisfactory to Bok,
but wishing to be certain that it would be satisfactory to Clemens,
he sent him a copy for approval. The interview was not returned;
in the place of it came a letter-not altogether disappointing, as
the reader may believe.
To Edward W. Bok, in New York:
MY DEAR MR. BOK,--No, no. It is like most interviews, pure twaddle and
For several quite plain and simple reasons, an "interview" must, as a
rule, be an absurdity, and chiefly for this reason--It is an attempt to
use a boat on land or a wagon on water, to speak figuratively. Spoken
speech is one thing, written speech is quite another. Print is the
proper vehicle for the latter, but it isn't for the former. The moment
"talk" is put into print you recognize that it is not what it was when
you heard it; you perceive that an immense something has disappeared from
it. That is its soul. You have nothing but a dead carcass left on your
hands. Color, play of feature, the varying modulations of the voice, the
laugh, the smile, the informing inflections, everything that gave that
body warmth, grace, friendliness and charm and commended it to your
affections--or, at least, to your tolerance--is gone and nothing is left
but a pallid, stiff and repulsive cadaver.
Such is "talk" almost invariably, as you see it lying in state in an
"interview". The interviewer seldom tries to tell one how a thing was
said; he merely puts in the naked remark and stops there. When one
writes for print his methods are very different. He follows forms which
have but little resemblance to conversation, but they make the reader
understand what the writer is trying to convey. And when the writer is
making a story and finds it necessary to report some of the talk of his
characters observe how cautiously and anxiously he goes at that risky and
difficult thing. "If he had dared to say that thing in my presence,"
said Alfred, "taking a mock heroic attitude, and casting an arch glance
upon the company, blood would have flowed."
"If he had dared to say that thing in my presence," said Hawkwood, with
that in his eye which caused more than one heart in that guilty
assemblage to quake, "blood would have flowed."
"If he had dared to say that thing in my presence," said the paltry
blusterer, with valor on his tongue and pallor on his lips, "blood would
So painfully aware is the novelist that naked talk in print conveys no
meaning that he loads, and often overloads, almost every utterance of his
characters with explanations and interpretations. It is a loud
confession that print is a poor vehicle for "talk"; it is a recognition
that uninterpreted talk in print would result in confusion to the reader,
Now, in your interview, you have certainly been most accurate; you have
set down the sentences I uttered as I said them. But you have not a word
of explanation; what my manner was at several points is not indicated.
Therefore, no reader can possibly know where I was in earnest and where I
was joking; or whether I was joking altogether or in earnest altogether.
Such a report of a conversation has no value. It can convey many
meanings to the reader, but never the right one. To add interpretations
which would convey the right meaning is a something which would require
--what? An art so high and fine and difficult that no possessor of it
would ever be allowed to waste it on interviews.
No; spare the reader, and spare me; leave the whole interview out; it is
rubbish. I wouldn't talk in my sleep if I couldn't talk better than
If you wish to print anything print this letter; it may have some value,
for it may explain to a reader here and there why it is that in
interviews, as a rule, men seem to talk like anybody but themselves.
Very sincerely yours,
LETTERS, 1889. THE MACHINE. DEATH OF MR. CRANE.
CONCLUSION OF THE YANKEE
In January, 1889, Clemens believed, after his long seven years of
waiting, fruition had come in the matter of the type machine. Paige, the
inventor, seemed at last to have given it its finishing touches. The
mechanical marvel that had cost so much time, mental stress, and a
fortune in money, stood complete, responsive to the human will and touch
--the latest, and one of the greatest, wonders of the world. To George
Standring, a London printer and publisher, Clemens wrote: "The machine is
finished!" and added, "This is by far the most marvelous invention ever
contrived by man. And it is not a thing of rags and patches; it is made
of massive steel, and will last a century."
In his fever of enthusiasm on that day when he had actually seen it in
operation, he wrote a number of exuberant letters. They were more or
less duplicates, but as the one to his brother is of fuller detail and
more intimate than the others, it has been selected for preservation
To Orion Clemens, in Keokuk:
HARTFORD, Jan. 5, '89.
DEAR ORION,--At 12.20 this afternoon a line of movable types was spaced
and justified by machinery, for the first time in the history of the
world! And I was there to see. It was done automatically--instantly--
perfectly. This is indeed the first line of movable types that ever was
perfectly spaced and perfectly justified on this earth.
This was the last function that remained to be tested--and so by long
odds the most amazing and extraordinary invention ever born of the brain
of man stands completed and perfect. Livy is down stairs celebrating.
But it's a cunning devil, is that machine!--and knows more than any man
that ever lived. You shall see. We made the test in this way. We set
up a lot of random letters in a stick--three-fourths of a line; then
filled out the line with quads representing 14 spaces, each space to be
35/1000 of an inch thick. Then we threw aside the quads and put the
letters into the machine and formed them into 15 two-letter words,
leaving the words separated by two-inch vacancies. Then we started up
the machine slowly, by hand, and fastened our eyes on the space-selecting
pins. The first pin-block projected its third pin as the first word came
traveling along the race-way; second block did the same; but the third
block projected its second pin!
"Oh, hell! stop the machine--something wrong--it's going to set a
General consternation. "A foreign substance has got into the spacing
plates." This from the head mathematician.
"Yes, that is the trouble," assented the foreman.
Paige examined. "No--look in, and you can see that there's nothing of
the kind." Further examination. "Now I know what it is--what it must
be: one of those plates projects and binds. It's too bad--the first
testis a failure." A pause. "Well, boys, no use to cry. Get to work--
take the machine down.--No--Hold on! don't touch a thing! Go right
ahead! We are fools, the machine isn't. The machine knows what it's
about. There is a speck of dirt on one of those types, and the machine
is putting in a thinner space to allow for it!"
That was just it. The machine went right ahead, spaced the line,
justified it to a hair, and shoved it into the galley complete and
perfect! We took it out and examined it with a glass. You could not
tell by your eye that the third space was thinner than the others, but
the glass and the calipers showed the difference. Paige had always said
that the machine would measure invisible particles of dirt and allow for
them, but even he had forgotten that vast fact for the moment.
All the witnesses made written record of the immense historical birth--
the first justification of a line of movable type by machinery--and also
set down the hour and the minute. Nobody had drank anything, and yet
everybody seemed drunk. Well-dizzy, stupefied, stunned.
All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly
into commonplace contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle.
Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton gins, sewing machines,
Babbage calculators, jacquard looms, perfecting presses, Arkwright's
frames--all mere toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone
and far in the lead of human inventions.
In two or three weeks we shall work the stiffness out of her joints and
have her performing as smoothly and softly as human muscles, and then we
shall speak out the big secret and let the world come and gaze.
Return me this letter when you have read it.
Judge of the elation which such a letter would produce in Keokuk!
Yet it was no greater than that which existed in Hartford--for a
Then further delays. Before the machine got "the stiffness out of
her joints" that "cunning devil" manifested a tendency to break the
types, and Paige, who was never happier than when he was pulling
things to pieces and making improvements, had the type-setter apart
again and the day of complete triumph was postponed.
There was sadness at the Elmira farm that spring. Theodore Crane,
who had long been in poor health, seemed to grow daily worse. In
February he had paid a visit to Hartford and saw the machine in
operation, but by the end of May his condition was very serious.
Remembering his keen sense of humor, Clemens reported to him
cheering and amusing incidents.
To Mrs. Theodore Crane. in Elmira, N. Y.:
HARTFORD, May 28, '89.
Susie dear, I want you to tell this to Theodore. You know how absent-
minded Twichell is, and how desolate his face is when he is in that
frame. At such times, he passes the word with a friend on the street and
is not aware of the meeting at all. Twice in a week, our Clara had this
latter experience with him within the past month. But the second
instance was too much for her, and she woke him up, in his tracks, with a
reproach. She said:
"Uncle Joe, why do you always look as if you were just going down into
the grave, when you meet a person on the street?"--and then went on to
reveal to him the funereal spectacle which he presented on such
occasions. Well, she has met Twichell three times since then, and would
swim the Connecticut to avoid meeting him the fourth. As soon as he
sights her, no matter how public the place nor how far off she is, he
makes a bound into the air, heaves arms and legs into all sorts of
frantic gestures of delight, and so comes prancing, skipping and
pirouetting for her like a drunken Indian entering heaven.
With a full invoice of love from us all to you and Theodore.
S. L. C.
The reference in the next to the "closing sentence" in a letter
written by Howells to Clemens about this time, refers to a heart-
broken utterance of the former concerning his daughter Winnie, who
had died some time before. She had been a gentle talented girl, but
never of robust health. Her death had followed a long period of
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Judy 13, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I came on from Elmira a day or two ago, where I left a
house of mourning. Mr. Crane died, after ten months of pain and two
whole days of dying, at the farm on the hill, the 3rd inst: A man who had
always hoped for a swift death. Mrs. Crane and Mrs. Clemens and the
children were in a gloom which brought back to me the days of nineteen
years ago, when Mr. Langdon died. It is heart-breaking to see Mrs.
Crane. Many a time, in the past ten days, the sight of her has reminded
me, with a pang, of the desolation which uttered itself in the closing
sentence of your last letter to me. I do see that there is an argument
against suicide: the grief of the worshipers left behind; the awful
famine in their hearts, these are too costly terms for the release.
I shall be here ten days yet, and all alone: nobody in the house but the
servants. Can't Mrs. Howells spare you to me? Can't you come and stay
with me? The house is cool and pleasant; your work will not be
interrupted; we will keep to ourselves and let the rest of the world do
the same; you can have your choice of three bedrooms, and you will find
the Children's schoolroom (which was built for my study,) the perfection
of a retired and silent den for work. There isn't a fly or a mosquito on
the estate. Come--say you will.
With kindest regards to Mrs. Howells, and Pilla and John,
Howells was more hopeful. He wrote: "I read something in a strange book,
The Physical Theory of Another Life, that consoles a little; namely, we
see and feel the power of Deity in such fullness that we ought to infer
the infinite justice and Goodness which we do not see or feel." And a
few days later, he wrote: "I would rather see and talk with you than any
other man in the world outside my own blood."
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court was brought to an end that
year and given to the artist and printer. Dan Beard was selected for the
drawings, and was given a free hand, as the next letter shows.
To Fred J. Hall, Manager Charles L. Webster & Co.:
[Charles L. Webster, owing to poor health, had by this time retired
from the firm.]
ELMIRA, July 20, '89.
DEAR MR. HALL,--Upon reflection--thus: tell Beard to obey his own
inspiration, and when he sees a picture in his mind put that picture on
paper, be it humorous or be it serious. I want his genius to be wholly
unhampered, I shan't have fears as to the result. They will be better
pictures than if I mixed in and tried to give him points on his own
Send this note and he'll understand.
S. L. C.
Clemens had made a good choice in selecting Beard for the
illustrations. He was well qualified for the work, and being of a
socialistic turn of mind put his whole soul into it. When the
drawings were completed, Clemens wrote: "Hold me under permanent
obligations. What luck it was to find you! There are hundreds of
artists that could illustrate any other book of mine, but there was
only one who could illustrate this one. Yes, it was a fortunate
hour that I went netting for lightning bugs and caught a meteor.
Clemens, of course, was anxious for Howells to read The Yankee, and
Mrs. Clemens particularly so. Her eyes were giving her trouble that
summer, so that she could not read the MS. for herself, and she had
grave doubts as to some of its chapters. It may be said here that
the book to-day might have been better if Mrs. Clemens had been able
to read it. Howells was a peerless critic, but the revolutionary
subject-matter of the book so delighted him that he was perhaps
somewhat blinded to its literary defects. However, this is
premature. Howells did not at once see the story. He had promised
to come to Hartford, but wrote that trivial matters had made his
visit impossible. From the next letter we get the situation at this
time. The "Mr. Church" mentioned was Frederick S. Church, the well-
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, July 24, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I, too, was as sorry as I could be; yes, and desperately
disappointed. I even did a heroic thing: shipped my book off to New York
lest I should forget hospitality and embitter your visit with it. Not
that I think you wouldn't like to read it, for I think you would; but not
on a holiday that's not the time. I see how you were situated--another
familiarity of Providence and wholly wanton intrusion--and of course we
could not help ourselves. Well, just think of it: a while ago, while
Providence's attention was absorbed in disordering some time-tables so as
to break up a trip of mine to Mr. Church's on the Hudson, that Johnstown
dam got loose. I swear I was afraid to pray, for fear I should laugh.
Well, I'm not going to despair; we'll manage a meet yet.
I expect to go to Hartford again in August and maybe remain till I have
to come back here and fetch the family. And, along there in August, some
time, you let on that you are going to Mexico, and I will let on that I
am going to Spitzbergen, and then under cover of this clever stratagem we
will glide from the trains at Worcester and have a time. I have noticed
that Providence is indifferent about Mexico and Spitzbergen.
Possibly Mark Twain was not particularly anxious that Howells should
see his MS., fearing that he might lay a ruthless hand on some of
his more violent fulminations and wild fancies. However this may
be, further postponement was soon at an end. Mrs. Clemens's eyes
troubled her and would not permit her to read, so she requested that
the Yankee be passed upon by soberminded critics, such as Howells
and Edmund Clarence Stedman. Howells wrote that even if he hadn't
wanted to read the book for its own sake, or for the author's sake,
he would still want to do it for Mrs. Clemens's. Whereupon the
proofs were started in his direction.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Aug. 24, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--If you should be moved to speak of my book in the Study,
I shall be glad and proud--and the sooner it gets in, the better for the
book; though I don't suppose you can get it in earlier than the November
number--why, no, you can't get it in till a month later than that. Well,
anyway I don't think I'll send out any other press copy--except perhaps
to Stedman. I'm not writing for those parties who miscall themselves
critics, and I don't care to have them paw the book at all. It's my
swan-song, my retirement from literature permanently, and I wish to pass
to the cemetery unclodded.
I judge that the proofs have begun to reach you about this time, as I had
some (though not revises,) this morning. I'm sure I'm going to be
charmed with Beard's pictures. Observe his nice take-off of Middle-Age
Howells's approval of the Yankee came almost in the form of exultant
shouts, one after reading each batch of proof. First he wrote:
"It's charming, original, wonderful! good in fancy and sound to the
core in morals." And again, "It's a mighty great book, and it makes
my heart burn with wrath. It seems God did not forget to put a soul
into you. He shuts most literary men off with a brain, merely."
Then, a few days later: "The book is glorious--simply noble; what
masses of virgin truth never touched in print before!" and, finally,
"Last night I read your last chapter. As Stedman says of the whole
book, it's titanic."
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Sept. 22, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--It is immensely good of you to grind through that stuff
for me; but it gives peace to Mrs. Clemens's soul; and I am as grateful
to you as a body can be. I am glad you approve of what I say about the
French Revolution. Few people will. It is odd that even to this day
Americans still observe that immortal benefaction through English and
other monarchical eyes, and have no shred of an opinion about it that
they didn't get at second-hand.
Next to the 4th of July and its results, it was the noblest and the
holiest thing and the most precious that ever happened in this earth.
And its gracious work is not done yet--not anywhere in the remote
neighborhood of it.
Don't trouble to send me all the proofs; send me the pages with your
corrections on them, and waste-basket the rest. We issue the book
Dec. 10; consequently a notice that appears Dec. 20 will be just in good
I am waiting to see your Study set a fashion in criticism. When that
happens--as please God it must--consider that if you lived three
centuries you couldn't do a more valuable work for this country, or a
As a rule a critic's dissent merely enrages, and so does no good; but by
the new art which you use, your dissent must be as welcome as your
approval, and as valuable. I do not know what the secret of it is,
unless it is your attitude--man courteously reasoning with man and
brother, in place of the worn and wearisome critical attitude of all this
long time--superior being lecturing a boy.
Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over
again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and
they keep multiplying and multiplying; but now they can't ever be said.
And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell.
The type-setting machine began to loom large in the background.
Clemens believed it perfected by this time. Paige had got it
together again and it was running steadily--or approximately so
--setting type at a marvelous speed and with perfect accuracy. In
time an expert operator would be able to set as high as eight
thousand ems per hour, or about ten times as much as a good
compositor could set and distribute by hand. Those who saw it were
convinced--most of them--that the type-setting problem was solved by
this great mechanical miracle. If there were any who doubted, it
was because of its marvelously minute accuracy which the others only
admired. Such accuracy, it was sometimes whispered, required
absolutely perfect adjustment, and what would happen when the great
inventor--"the poet in steel," as Clemens once called him--was no
longer at hand to supervise and to correct the slightest variation.
But no such breath of doubt came to Mark Twain; he believed the
machine as reliable as a constellation.
But now there was need of capital to manufacture and market the
wonder. Clemens, casting about in his mind, remembered Senator
Jones, of Nevada, a man of great wealth, and his old friend, Joe
Goodman, of Nevada, in whom Jones had unlimited confidence. He
wrote to Goodman, and in this letter we get a pretty full exposition
of the whole matter as it stood in the fall of 1889. We note in
this communication that Clemens says that he has been at the machine
three years and seven months, but this was only the period during
which he had spent the regular monthly sum of three thousand
dollars. His interest in the invention had begun as far back as
To Joseph T. Goodman, in Nevada:
Private. HARTFORD, Oct. 7, '89.
DEAR JOE,-I had a letter from Aleck Badlam day before yesterday, and in
answering him I mentioned a matter which I asked him to consider a secret
except to you and John McComb,--[This is Col. McComb, of the Alta-
California, who had sent Mark Twain on the Quaker City excursion]--as I
am not ready yet to get into the newspapers.
I have come near writing you about this matter several times, but it
wasn't ripe, and I waited. It is ripe, now. It is a type-setting
machine which I undertook to build for the inventor(for a consideration).
I have been at it three years and seven months without losing a day, at a
cost of $3,000 a month, and in so private a way that Hartford has known
nothing about it. Indeed only a dozen men have known of the matter.
I have reported progress from time to time to the proprietors of the
N. Y. Sun, Herald, Times, World, Harper Brothers and John F. Trow; also
to the proprietors of the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. Three
years ago I asked all these people to squelch their frantic desire to
load up their offices with the Mergenthaler (N. Y. Tribune) machine, and
wait for mine and then choose between the two. They have waited--with no
very gaudy patience--but still they have waited; and I could prove to
them to-day that they have not lost anything by it. But I reserve the
proof for the present--except in the case of the N. Y. Herald; I sent an
invitation there the other day--a courtesy due a paper which ordered
$240,000 worth of our machines long ago when it was still in a crude
condition. The Herald has ordered its foreman to come up here next
Thursday; but that is the only invitation which will go out for some time
The machine was finished several weeks ago, and has been running ever
since in the machine shop. It is a magnificent creature of steel, all of
Pratt & Whitney's super-best workmanship, and as nicely adjusted and as
accurate as a watch. In construction it is as elaborate and complex as
that machine which it ranks next to, by every right--Man--and in
performance it is as simple and sure.
Anybody can set type on it who can read--and can do it after only 15
minutes' instruction. The operator does not need to leave his seat at
the keyboard; for the reason that he is not required to do anything but
strike the keys and set type--merely one function; the spacing,
justifying, emptying into the galley, and distributing of dead matter is
all done by the machine without anybody's help--four functions.
The ease with which a cub can learn is surprising. Day before yesterday
I saw our newest cub set, perfectly space and perfectly justify 2,150 ems
of solid nonpareil in an hour and distribute the like amount in the same
hour--and six hours previously he had never seen the machine or its
keyboard. It was a good hour's work for 3-year veterans on the other
type-setting machines to do. We have 3 cubs. The dean of the trio is a
school youth of 18. Yesterday morning he had been an apprentice on the
machine 16 working days (8-hour days); and we speeded him to see what he
could do in an hour. In the hour he set 5,900 ems solid nonpareil, and
the machine perfectly spaced and justified it, and of course distributed
the like amount in the same hour. Considering that a good fair
compositor sets 700 and distributes 700 in the one hour, this boy did the
work of about 8 x a compositors in that hour. This fact sends all other
type-setting machines a thousand miles to the rear, and the best of them
will never be heard of again after we publicly exhibit in New York.
We shall put on 3 more cubs. We have one school boy and two compositors,
now,--and we think of putting on a type writer, a stenographer, and
perhaps a shoemaker, to show that no special gifts or training are
required with this machine. We shall train these beginners two or three
months--or until some one of them gets up to 7,000 an hour--then we will
show up in New York and run the machine 24 hours a day 7 days in the
week, for several months--to prove that this is a machine which will
never get out of order or cause delay, and can stand anything an anvil
can stand. You know there is no other typesetting machine that can run
two hours on a stretch without causing trouble and delay with its
We own the whole field--every inch of it--and nothing can dislodge us.
Now then, above is my preachment, and here follows the reason and purpose
of it. I want you to run over here, roost over the machine a week and
satisfy yourself, and then go to John P. Jones or to whom you please, and
sell me a hundred thousand dollars' worth of this property and take ten
per cent in cash or the "property" for your trouble--the latter, if you
are wise, because the price I ask is a long way short of the value.
What I call "property" is this. A small part of my ownership consists of
a royalty of $500 on every machine marketed under the American patents.
My selling-terms are, a permanent royalty of one dollar on every
American-marketed machine for a thousand dollars cash to me in hand paid.
We shan't market any fewer than 5,000 machines in 15 years--a return of
fifteen thousand dollars for one thousand. A royalty is better than
stock, in one way--it must be paid, every six months, rain or shine; it
is a debt, and must be paid before dividends are declared. By and by,
when we become a stock company I shall buy these royalties back for stock
if I can get them for anything like reasonable terms.
I have never borrowed a penny to use on the machine, and never sold a
penny's worth of the property until the machine was entirely finished and
proven by the severest tests to be what she started out to be--perfect,
permanent, and occupying the position, as regards all kindred machines,
which the City of Paris occupies as regards the canvas-backs of the
It is my purpose to sell two hundred dollars of my royalties at the above
price during the next two months and keep the other $300.
Mrs. Clemens begs Mrs. Goodman to come with you, and asks pardon for not
writing the message herself--which would be a pathetically-welcome
spectacle to me; for I have been her amanuensis for 8 months, now, since
her eyes failed her. Yours as always
While this letter with its amazing contents is on its way to
astonish Joe Goodman, we will consider one of quite a different,
but equally characteristic sort. We may assume that Mark Twain's
sister Pamela had been visiting him in Hartford and was now making
a visit in Keokuk.
To Mrs. Moffett, in Keokuk:
HARTFORD, Oct 9, '89.
DEAR PAMELA,--An hour after you left I was suddenly struck with a
realizing sense of the utter chuckle-headedness of that notion of mine:
to send your trunk after you. Land! it was idiotic. None but a lunatic
would, separate himself from his baggage.
Well, I am soulfully glad the baggage fetcher saved me from consummating
my insane inspiration. I met him on the street in the afternoon and paid
him again. I shall pay him several times more, as opportunity offers.
I declined the invitation to banquet with the visiting South American
Congress, in a polite note explaining that I had to go to New York today.
I conveyed the note privately to Patrick; he got the envelope soiled,
and asked Livy to put on a clean one. That is why I am going to the
banquet; also why I have disinvited the boys I thought I was going to
punch billiards with, upstairs to-night.
Patrick is one of the injudiciousest people I ever struck. And I am the
The Yankee was now ready for publication, and advance sheets were
already in the reviewers' hands. Just at this moment the Brazilian
monarchy crumbled, and Clemens was moved to write Sylvester Baxter,
of the Boston Herald, a letter which is of special interest in its
prophecy of the new day, the dawn of which was even nearer than he
DEAR MR. BAXTER, Another throne has gone down, and I swim in oceans of
satisfaction. I wish I might live fifty years longer; I believe I should
see the thrones of Europe selling at auction for old iron. I believe I
should really see the end of what is surely the grotesquest of all the
swindles ever invented by man-monarchy. It is enough to make a graven
image laugh, to see apparently rational people, away down here in this
wholesome and merciless slaughter-day for shams, still mouthing empty
reverence for those moss-backed frauds and scoundrelisms, hereditary
kingship and so-called "nobility." It is enough to make the monarchs and
nobles themselves laugh--and in private they do; there can be no question
about that. I think there is only one funnier thing, and that is the
spectacle of these bastard Americans--these Hamersleys and Huntingtons
and such--offering cash, encumbered by themselves, for rotten carcases
and stolen titles. When our great brethren the disenslaved Brazilians
frame their Declaration of Independence, I hope they will insert this
missing link: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all monarchs
are usurpers, and descendants of usurpers; for the reason that no throne
was ever set up in this world by the will, freely exercised, of the only
body possessing the legitimate right to set it up--the numerical mass of
You already have the advance sheets of my forthcoming book in your hands.
If you will turn to about the five hundredth page, you will find a state
paper of my Connecticut Yankee in which he announces the dissolution of
King Arthur's monarchy and proclaims the English Republic. Compare it
with the state paper which announces the downfall of the Brazilian
monarchy and proclaims the Republic of the United States of Brazil, and
stand by to defend the Yankee from plagiarism. There is merely a
resemblance of ideas, nothing more. The Yankee's proclamation was
already in print a week ago. This is merely one of those odd
coincidences which are always turning up. Come, protect the Yank from
that cheapest and easiest of all charges--plagiarism. Otherwise, you
see, he will have to protect himself by charging approximate and
indefinite plagiarism upon the official servants of our majestic twin
down yonder, and then there might be war, or some similar annoyance.
Have you noticed the rumor that the Portuguese throne is unsteady, and
that the Portuguese slaves are getting restive? Also, that the head