Part 15 out of 29
handed her a card on which he had written "He didn't," and asked her to
sign her name below those words. Mrs. Cleveland protested that she
couldn't sign it unless she knew what it was he hadn't done; but he
insisted, and she promised to sign if he would tell her immediately
afterward all about it. She signed, and he handed her Mrs. Clemens's
note, which was very brief. It said:
"Don't wear your arctics in the White House."
Mrs. Cleveland summoned a messenger and had the card she had signed
mailed at once to Mrs. Clemens at Hartford.
He was not always so well provided against disaster. Once, without
consulting his engagements, he agreed to assist Mrs. Cleveland at a
dedication, only to find that he must write an apology later. In his
letter he said:
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.
He explained his position, and added:
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 the administration always busy
getting the family into trouble and the other half busy getting it
A "PLAYER" AND A MASTER OF ARTS
One morning early in January Clemens received the following note:
DALY'S THEATER, NEW YORK, January 2, 1888.
Mr. Augustin Daly will be very much pleased to have Mr. S. L.
Clemens meet Mr. Booth, Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Palmer and a few
friends at lunch on Friday next, January 6th (at one o'clock in
Delmonico's), to discuss the formation of a new club which it is
thought will claim your (sic) interest.
R. S. V. P.
There were already in New York a variety of literary and artistic
societies, such as The Kinsmen and Tile clubs, with which Clemens was
more or less associated. It was proposed now to form a more
comprehensive and pretentious organization--one that would include the
various associated arts. The conception of this new club, which was to
be called The Players, had grown out of a desire on the part of Edwin
Booth to confer some enduring benefit upon the members of his profession.
It had been discussed during a summer cruise on Mr. E. C. Benedict's
steam-yacht by a little party which, besides the owner, consisted of
Booth himself, Aldrich, Lawrence Barrett, William Bispham, and Laurence
Hutton. Booth's original idea had been to endow some sort of an actors'
home, but after due consideration this did not appear to be the best
plan. Some one proposed a club, and Aldrich, with never-failing
inspiration, suggested its name, The Players, which immediately impressed
Booth and the others. It was then decided that members of all the
kindred arts should be admitted, and this was the plan discussed and
perfected at the Daly luncheon. The guests became charter members, and
The Players became an incorporated fact early in January, 1888.
--[Besides Mr. Booth himself, the charter members were: Lawrence Barrett,
William Bispham, Samuel L. Clemens, Augustin Daly, Joseph F. Daly, John
Drew, Henry Edwards, Laurence Hutton, Joseph Jefferson, John A. Lane,
James Lewis, Brander Matthews, Stephen H. Olin, A. M. Palmer, and William
T. Sherman.]--Booth purchased the fine old brownstone residence at 16
Gramercy Park, and had expensive alterations made under the directions of
Stanford White to adapt it for club purposes. He bore the entire cost,
furnished it from garret to cellar, gave it his books and pictures, his
rare collections of every sort. Laurence Hutton, writing of it
And on the first Founder's Night, the 31st of December, 1888, he
transferred it all to the association, a munificent gift; absolutely
without parallel in its way. The pleasure it gave to Booth during the
few remaining years of his life was very great. He made it his home.
Next to his own immediate family it was his chief interest, care, and
consolation. He nursed and petted it, as it nursed and petted and
honored him. He died in it. And it is certainly his greatest monument.
There is no other club quite like The Players. The personality of Edwin
Booth pervades it, and there is a spirit in its atmosphere not found in
other large clubs--a spirit of unity, and ancient friendship, and
mellowness which usually come only of small membership and long
establishment. Mark Twain was always fond of The Players, and more than
once made it his home. It is a true home, and its members are a genuine
It was in June, 1888, that Yale College conferred upon Samuel Clemens the
degree of Master of Arts. It was his first honor of this kind, and he
was proud of it. To Charles Hopkins ("Charley") Clark, who had been
appointed to apprise him of the honor, he wrote:
I felt 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.
To which Clark answered:
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.
Clemens could not attend the alumni dinner, being at Elmira and unable to
get away, but in an address he made at Yale College later in the year he
thus freely expressed himself:
I was sincerely proud and grateful to be made a Master of Arts by
this great and venerable University, and I would have come last June
to testify this feeling, as I do now testify it, but that the sudden
and unexpected notice of the honor done me found me at a distance
from home and unable to discharge that duty and enjoy that
Along at first, say for the first month or so, I, did not quite know
hove to proceed because of my not knowing just what authorities and
privileges belonged to the title which had been granted me, but
after that I consulted some students of Trinity--in Hartford--and
they made everything clear to me. It was through them that I found
out that my title made me head of the Governing Body of the
University, and lodged in me very broad and severely responsible
I was told that it would be necessary to report to you at this time,
and of course I comply, though I would have preferred to put it off
till I could make a better showing; for indeed I have been so
pertinaciously hindered and obstructed at every turn by the faculty
that it would be difficult to prove that the University is really in
any better shape now than it was when I first took charge. By
advice, I turned my earliest attention to the Greek department. I
told the Greek professor I had concluded to drop the use of Greek-
written character because it is so hard to spell with, and so
impossible to read after you get it spelt. Let us draw the curtain
there. I saw by what followed that nothing but early neglect saved
him from being a very profane man. I ordered the professor of
mathematics to simplify the whole system, because the way it was I
couldn't understand it, and I didn't want things going on in the
college in what was practically a clandestine fashion. I told him
to drop the conundrum system; it was not suited to the dignity of a
college, which should deal in facts, not guesses and suppositions;
we didn't want any more cases of if A and B stand at opposite poles
of the earth's surface and C at the equator of Jupiter, at what
variations of angle will the left limb of the moon appear to these
different parties?--I said you just let that thing alone; it's
plenty time to get in a sweat about it when it happens; as like as
not it ain't going to do any harm, anyway. His reception of these
instructions bordered on insubordination, insomuch that I felt
obliged to take his number and report him. I found the astronomer
of the University gadding around after comets and other such odds
and ends--tramps and derelicts of the skies. I told him pretty
plainly that we couldn't have that. I told him it was no economy to
go on piling up and piling up raw material in the way of new stars
and comets and asteroids that we couldn't ever have any use for till
we had worked off the old stock. At bottom I don't really mind
comets so much, but somehow I have always been down on asteroids.
There is nothing mature about them; I wouldn't sit up nights the way
that man does if I could get a basketful of them. He said it was
the bast line of goods he had; he said he could trade them to
Rochester for comets, and trade the comets to Harvard for nebulae,
and trade the nebula to the Smithsonian for flint hatchets. I felt
obliged to stop this thing on the spot; I said we couldn't have the
University turned into an astronomical junk shop. And while I was
at it I thought I might as well make the reform complete; the
astronomer is extraordinarily mutinous, and so, with your approval,
I will transfer him to the law department and put one of the law
students in his place. A boy will be more biddable, more tractable,
also cheaper. It is true he cannot be intrusted with important work
at first, but he can comb the skies for nebulae till he gets his
hand in. I have other changes in mind, but as they are in the
nature of surprises I judge it politic to leave them unspecified at
Very likely it was in this new capacity, as the head of the governing
body, that he wrote one morning to Clark advising him as to the misuse of
a word in the Courant, though he thought it best to sign the
communication with the names of certain learned friends, to give it
weight with the public, as he afterward explained.
SIR,--The word "patricide" in your issue of this morning (telegrams)
was an error. You meant it to describe the slayer of a father; you
should have used "parricide" instead. Patricide merely means the
killing of an Irishman--any Irishman, male or female.
J. HAMMOND TRUMBULL.
N. J. BURTON.
J. H. TWICHELL.
NOTES AND LITERARY MATTERS
Clemens' note-books of this time are full of the vexations of his
business ventures, figures, suggestions, and a hundred imagined
combinations for betterment--these things intermingled with the usual
bits of philosophy and reflections, and amusing reminders.
Aldrich's man who painted the fat toads red, and naturalist chasing
and trying to catch them.
Man who lost his false teeth over Brooklyn Bridge when he was on his
way to propose to a widow.
One believes St. Simon and Benvenuto and partly believes the
Margravine of Bayreuth. There are things in the confession of
Rousseau which one must believe.
What is biography? Unadorned romance. What is romance? Adorned
biography. Adorn it less and it will be better than it is.
If God is what people say there can be none in the universe so
unhappy as he; for he sees unceasingly myriads of his creatures
suffering unspeakable miseries, and, besides this, foresees all they
are going to suffer during the remainder of their lives. One might
well say "as unhappy as God."
In spite of the financial complexities and the drain of the enterprises
already in hand he did not fail to conceive others. He was deeply
interested in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress at the moment, and from
photography and scenic effect he presaged a possibility to-day realized
in the moving picture.
Dress up some good actors as Apollyon, Greatheart, etc., & the other
Bunyan characters, take them to a wild gorge and photograph them--Valley
of the Shadow of Death; to other effective places & photo them along with
the scenery; to Paris, in their curious costumes, place them near the Arc
de l'Etoile & photo them with the crowd-Vanity Fair; to Cairo, Venice,
Jerusalem, & other places (twenty interesting cities) & always make them
conspicuous in the curious foreign crowds by their costume. Take them to
Zululand. It would take two or three years to do the photographing &
cost $10,000; but this stereopticon panorama of Bunyan's Pilgrim's
Progress could be exhibited in all countries at the same time & would
clear a fortune in a year. By & by I will do this.
If in 1891 I find myself not rich enough to carry out my scheme of
buying Christopher Columbus's bones & burying them under the Statue
of Liberty Enlightening the World I will give the idea to somebody
who is rich enough.
Incidentally he did an occasional piece of literary work. Early in the
year, with Brander Matthews, he instructed and entertained the public
with a copyright controversy in the Princeton Review. Matthews would
appear to have criticized the English copyright protection, or rather the
lack of it, comparing it unfavorably with American conditions. Clemens,
who had been amply protected in Great Britain, replied that America was
in no position to criticize England; that if American authors suffered in
England they had themselves to blame for not taking the proper trouble
and precautions required by the English law, that is to say, "previous
publication" on English soil. He declared that his own books had been as
safe in England as at home since he had undertaken to comply with English
requirements, and that Professor Matthews was altogether mistaken, both
as to premise and conclusion.
"You are the very wrong-headedest person in America," he said; "and you
are injudicious." And of the article: "I read it to the cat--well, I
never saw a cat carry on so before . . . . The American author can go
to Canada, spend three days there and come home with an English and
American copyright as strong as if it had been built out of railroad
Matthews replied that not every one could go to Canada, any more than to
Corinth. He said:
"It is not easy for a poor author who may chance to live in Florida or
Texas, those noted homes of literature, to go to Canada."
Clemens did not reply again; that is to say, he did not publish his
reply. It was a capable bomb which he prepared, well furnished with
amusing instance, sarcasm, and ridicule, but he did not use it. Perhaps
he was afraid it would destroy his opponent, which would not do. In his
heart he loved Matthews. He laid the deadly thing away and maintained a
Clemens often felt called upon to criticize American institutions, but he
was first to come to their defense, especially when the critic was an
alien. When Matthew Arnold offered some strictures on America. Clemens
covered a good many quires of paper with caustic replies. He even
defended American newspapers, which he had himself more than once
violently assailed for misreporting him and for other journalistic
shortcomings, and he bitterly denounced every shaky British institution,
touched upon every weak spot in hereditary rule. He did not print--not
then--[An article on the American press, probably the best of those
prepared at this time, was used, in part, in The American Claimant, as
the paper read before the Mechanics' Club, by "Parker," assistant editor
of the 'Democrat'.]--he was writing mainly for relief--without success,
however, for he only kindled the fires of his indignation. He was at
Quarry Farm and he plunged into his neglected story--A Yankee in King
Arthur's Court--and made his astonishing hero the mouthpiece of his
doctrines. He worked with an inspiration and energy born of his
ferocity. To Whitmore, near the end of the summer, he wrote:
I've got 16 working-days left yet, and in that time I will add another
120,000 words to my book if I have luck.
In his memoranda of this time he says:
There was never a throne which did not represent a crime. There is
no throne to-day which does not represent a crime ....
Show me a lord and I will show you a man whom you couldn't tell from a
journeyman shoemaker if he were stripped, and who, in all that is worth
being, is the shoemaker's inferior; and in the shoemaker I will show you
a dull animal, a poor-spirited insect; for there are enough of him to
rise and chuck the lords and royalties into the sea where they belong,
and he doesn't do it.
But his violence waned, maybe, for he did not finish the Yankee in the
sixteen days as planned. He brought the manuscript back to Hartford, but
found it hard work there, owing to many interruptions. He went over to
Twichell's and asked for a room where he might work in seclusion. They
gave him a big upper chamber, but some repairs were going on below. From
a letter written to Theodore Crane we gather that it was not altogether
Friday, October 5, 1888.
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 on to 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 positions 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 the 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 and said, "Why, Marie, you mustn't ask for things now.
The machine isn't done."
Neither the Yankee nor the machine was completed that fall, though
returns from both were beginning to be badly needed. The financial pinch
was not yet severe, but it was noticeable, and it did not relax.
A memorandum of this time tells of an anniversary given to Charles and
Susan Warner in their own home. The guests assembled at the Clemens
home, the Twichells among them, and slipped across to Warner's, entering
through a window. Dinner was then announced to the Warners, who were
sitting by their library fire. They came across the hall and opened the
dining-room door, to be confronted by a table fully spread and lighted
and an array of guests already seated.
INTRODUCING NYE AND RILEY AND OTHERS
It was the winter (1888-89) that the Bill Nye and James Whitcomb Riley
entertainment combination set out on its travels. Mark Twain introduced
them to their first Boston audience. Major J. B. Pond was exploiting Nye
and Riley, and Clemens went on to Boston especially to hear them. Pond
happened upon him in the lobby of the Parker House and insisted that
nothing would do but he must introduce them. In his book of memories
which he published later Pond wrote:
He replied that he believed I was his mortal enemy, and determined that
he should never have an evening's enjoyment in my presence. He
consented, however, and conducted his brother-humorist and the Hoosier
poet to the platform. Mark's presence was a surprise to the audience,
and when they recognized him the demonstration was tremendous. The
audience rose in a body, and men and women shouted at the very top of
their voices. Handkerchiefs waved, the organist even opened every forte
key and pedal in the great organ, and the noise went on unabated for
minutes. It took some time for the crowd to get down to listening, but
when they did subside, as Mark stepped to the front, the silence was as
impressive as the noise had been.
He presented the Nye-Riley pair as the Siamese Twins. "I saw them
first," he sand, "a great many years ago, when Mr. Barnum had them, and
they were just fresh from Siam. The ligature was their best hold then,
but literature became their best hold later, when one of them committed
an indiscretion, and they had to cut the old bond to accommodate the
He continued this comic fancy, and the audience was in a proper frame of
mind, when he had finished, to welcome the "Twins of Genius" who were to
It was a carnival of fun in every sense of the word. Bostonians will not
have another such treat in this generation.
Pond proposed to Clemens a regular tour with Nye and Riley. He wrote:
I will go partners with you, and I will buy Nye and Riley's time and
give an entertainment something like the one we gave in Boston. Let
it be announced that you will introduce the "Twins of Genius."
Ostensibly a pleasure trip for you. I will take one-third of the
profits and you two-thirds. I can tell you it will be the biggest
thing that can be brought before the American public.
But Clemens, badly as he was beginning to need the money, put this
temptation behind him. His chief diversion these days was in gratuitous
appearances. He had made up his mind not to read or lecture again for
pay, but he seemed to take a peculiar enjoyment in doing these things as
a benefaction. That he was beginning to need the money may have added a
zest to the joy of his giving. He did not respond to all invitations; he
could have been traveling constantly had he done so. He consulted with
Mrs. Clemens and gave himself to the cause that seemed most worthy. In
January Col. Richard Malcolm Johnston was billed to give a reading with
Thomas Nelson Page in Baltimore. Page's wife fell ill and died, and
Colonel Johnston, in extremity, wired Charles Dudley Warner to come in
Page's place. Warner, unable to go, handed the invitation to Clemens,
who promptly wired that he would come. They read to a packed house, and
when the audience was gone and the returns had been counted an equal
division of the profits was handed to each of the authors. Clemens
pushed his share over to Johnston, saying:
"That's yours, Colonel. I'm not reading for money these days."
Colonel Johnston, to whom the sum was important, tried to thank him, but
he only said:
"Never mind, Colonel, it only gave me pleasure to do you that little
favor. You can pass it on some day."
As a matter of fact, hard put to it as he was for funds, Clemens at this
time regarded himself as a potential multi-millionaire. The type-setting
machine which for years had been sapping his financial strength was
believed to be perfected, and ship-loads of money were waiting in the
offing. However, we shall come to this later.
Clemens read for the cadets at West Point and for a variety of
institutions and on many special occasions. He usually gave chapters
from his Yankee, now soon to be finished, chapters generally beginning
with the Yankee's impression of the curious country and its people,
ending with the battle of the Sun-belt, when the Yankee and his fifty-
four adherents were masters of England, with twenty-five thousand dead
men lying about them. He gave this at West Point, including the chapter
where the Yankee has organized a West Point of his own in King Arthur's
In April, '89, he made an address at a dinner given to a victorious
baseball team returning from a tour of the world by way of the Sandwich
Islands. He was on familiar ground there. His heart was in his words.
I have been in the Sandwich Islands-twenty-three years ago--that
peaceful land, that beautiful land, that far-off home of solitude,
and soft idleness, and repose, and dreams, where life is one long
slumberous Sabbath, the climate one long summer day, and the good
that die experience no change, for they but fall asleep in one
heaven and wake up in another. And these boys have played baseball
there!--baseball, which is the very symbol, the outward and visible
expression, of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the
living, tearing, booming nineteenth, the mightiest of all the
He told of the curious island habits for his hearers' amusement, but at
the close the poetry of his memories once more possessed him:
Ah, well, it is refreshment to the jaded, it is water to the
thirsty, to look upon men who have so lately breathed the soft air
of those Isles of the Blest and had before their eyes the
inextinguishable vision of their beauty. No alien land in all the
earth has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land
could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and
waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things
leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the
same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas
flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see
its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing
by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the
cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the
plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of
flowers that perished twenty years ago.
THE COMING OF KIPLING
It was the summer of 1889 that Mark Twain first met Rudyard Kipling.
Kipling was making his tour around the world, a young man wholly unheard
of outside of India. He was writing letters home to an Indian journal,
The Pioneer, and he came to Elmira especially to see Mark Twain. It was
night when he arrived, and next morning some one at the hotel directed
him to Quarry Farm. In a hired hack he made his way out through the
suburbs, among the buzzing planing-mills and sash factories, and toiled
up the long, dusty, roasting east hill, only to find that Mark Twain was
at General Langdon's, in the city he had just left behind. Mrs. Crane
and Susy Clemens were the only ones left at the farm, and they gave him a
seat on the veranda and brought him glasses of water or cool milk while
he refreshed them with his talk-talk which Mark Twain once said might be
likened to footprints, so strong and definite was the impression which it
left behind. He gave them his card, on which the address was Allahabad,
and Susy preserved it on that account, because to her India was a
fairyland, made up of magic, airy architecture, and dark mysteries.
Clemens once dictated a memory of Kipling's visit.
Kipling had written upon the card a compliment to me. This gave it
an additional value in Susy's eyes, since, as a distinction, it was
the next thing to being recognized by a denizen of the moon.
Kipling came down that afternoon and spent a couple of hours with
me, and at the end of that time I had surprised him as much as he
had surprised me--and the honors were easy. I believed that he knew
more than any person I had met before, and I knew that he knew that
I knew less than any person he had met before--though he did not say
it, and I was not expecting that he would. When he was gone Mrs.
Langdon wanted to know about my visitor. I said:
"He is a stranger to me, but he is a most remarkable man--and I am
the other one. Between us we cover all knowledge; he knows all that
can be known, and I know the rest."
He was a stranger to me and to all the world, and remained so for
twelve months, then he became suddenly known, and universally known.
From that day to this he has held this unique distinction--that of
being the only living person, not head of a nation, whose voice is
heard around the world the moment it drops a remark; the only such
voice in existence that does not go by slow ship and rail, but
always travels first-class--by cable.
About a year after Kipling's visit in Elmira George Warner came into
our library one morning in Hartford with a small book in his hand
and asked me if I had ever heard of Rudyard Kipling. I said, "No."
He said I would hear of him very soon, and that the noise he was
going to make would be loud and continuous. The little book was the
Plain Tales, and he left it for me to read, saying it was charged
with a new and inspiriting fragrance, and would blow a refreshing
breath around the world that would revive the nations. A day or two
later he brought a copy of the London World which had a sketch of
Kipling in it, and a mention of the fact that he had traveled in the
United States. According to this sketch he had passed through
Elmira. This remark, with the additional fact that he hailed from
India, attracted my attention--also Susy's. She went to her room
and brought his card from its place in the frame of her mirror, and
the Quarry Farm visitor stood identified.
Kipling also has left an account of that visit. In his letter recording
it he says:
You are a contemptible lot over yonder. Some of you are
Commissioners and some are Lieutenant-Governors, and some have the
V. C., and a few are privileged to walk about the Mall arm in arm
with the Viceroy; but I have seen Mark Twain this golden morning,
have shaken his hand and smoked a cigar--no, two cigars--with him,
and talked with him for more than two hours! Understand clearly
that I do not despise you; indeed, I don't. I am only very sorry
for you, from the Viceroy downward.
A big, darkened drawing-room; a huge chair; a man with eyes, a mane
of grizzled hair, a brown mustache covering a mouth as delicate as a
woman's, a strong, square hand shaking mine, and the slowest,
calmest, levelest voice in all the world saying:
"Well, you think you owe me something, and you've come to tell me
so. That's what I call squaring a debt handsomely."
"Piff!" from a cob-pipe (I always said that a Missouri meerschaum
was the best smoking in the world), and behold! Mark Twain had
curled himself up in the big arm-chair, and I was smoking
reverently, as befits one in the presence of his superior.
The thing that struck me first was that he was an elderly man; yet,
after a minute's thought, I perceived that it was otherwise, and in
five minutes, the eyes looking at me, I saw that the gray hair was
an accident of the most trivial. He was quite young. I was shaking
his hand. I was smoking his cigar, and I was hearing him talk--this
man I had learned to love and admire fourteen thousand miles away.
Reading his books, I had striven to get an idea of his personality,
and all my preconceived notions were wrong and beneath the reality.
Blessed is the man who finds no disillusion when he is brought face
to face with a revered writer.
The meeting of those two men made the summer of '89 memorable in later
years. But it was recalled sadly, too. Theodore Crane, who had been
taken suddenly and dangerously ill the previous autumn, had a recurring
attack and died July 3d. It was the first death in the immediate
families for more than seventeen years, Mrs. Clemens, remembering that
earlier period of sorrow, was depressed with forebodings.
"THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER" ON THE STAGE
There was an unusual dramatic interest in the Clemens home that autumn.
Abby Sage Richardson had dramatized 'The Prince and the Pauper', and
Daniel Frohman had secured Elsie Leslie (Lyde) to take the double role of
the Prince and Tom Canty. The rehearsals were going on, and the Clemens
children were naturally a good deal excited over the outcome. Susy
Clemens was inspired to write a play of her own--a pretty Greek fancy,
called "The Triumph of Music," and when it was given on Thanksgiving
night, by herself, with Clara and Jean and Margaret Warner, it was really
a lovely performance, and carried one back to the days when emotions were
personified, and nymphs haunted the seclusions of Arcady. Clemens was
proud of Susy's achievement, and deeply moved by it. He insisted on
having the play repeated, and it was given again later in the year.
Pretty Elsie Leslie became a favorite of the Clemens household. She was
very young, and when she visited Hartford Jean and she were companions
and romped together in the hay-loft. She was also a favorite of William
Gillette. One day when Clemens and Gillette were together they decided
to give the little girl a surprise--a unique one. They agreed to
embroider a pair of slippers for her--to do the work themselves. Writing
to her of it, Mark Twain said:
Either one of us could have thought of a single slipper, but it took
both of us to think of two slippers. In fact, one of us did think
of one slipper, and then, quick as a flash, the other of the other
one. It shows how wonderful the human mind is....
Gillette embroidered his slipper with astonishing facility and
splendor, but I have been a long time pulling through with mine.
You see, it was my very first attempt at art, and I couldn't rightly
get the hang of it along at first. And then I was so busy that I
couldn't get a chance to work at it at home, and they wouldn't let
me embroider on the cars; they said it made the other passengers
afraid. They didn't like the light that flared into my eye when I
had an inspiration. And even the most fair-minded people doubted me
when I explained what it was I was making--especially brakemen.
Brakemen always swore at it and carried on, the way ignorant people
do about art. They wouldn't take my word that it was a slipper;
they said they believed it was a snow-shoe that had some kind of
He went on to explain and elucidate the pattern of the slipper, and how
Dr. Root had come in and insisted on taking a hand in it, and how
beautiful it was to see him sit there and tell Mrs. Clemens what had been
happening while they were away during the summer, holding the slipper up
toward the end of his nose, imagining the canvas was a "subject" with a
scalp-wound, working with a "lovely surgical stitch," never hesitating a
moment in his talk except to say "Ouch!" when he stuck himself with the
Take the slippers and wear them next your heart, Elsie dear; for
every stitch in them is a testimony of the affection which two of
your loyalest friends bear you. Every single stitch cost us blood.
I've got twice as many pores in me now as I used to have; and you
would never believe how many places you can stick a needle in
yourself until you go into the embroidery line and devote yourself
Do not wear these slippers in public, dear; it would only excite
envy; and, as like as not, somebody would try to shoot you.
Merely use them to assist you in remembering that among the many,
many people who think all the world of you is your friend,
The play of "The Prince and the Pauper," dramatized by Mrs. Richardson
and arranged for the stage by David Belasco, was produced at the Park
Theater, Philadelphia, on Christmas Eve. It was a success, but not a
lavish one. The play was well written and staged, and Elsie Leslie was
charming enough in her parts, but in the duality lay the difficulty. The
strongest scenes in the story had to be omitted when one performer played
both Tom Canty and the little Prince. The play came to New York--to the
Broadway Theater--and was well received. On the opening night there Mark
Twain made a speech, in which he said that the presentation of "The
Prince and the Pauper" realized a dream which fifteen years before had
possessed him all through a long down-town tramp, amid the crowds and
confusion of Broadway. In Elsie Leslie, he said, he had found the
embodiment of his dream, and to her he offered homage as the only prince
clothed in a divine right which was not rags and sham--the divine right
of an inborn supremacy in art.
It seems incredible to-day that, realizing the play's possibilities as
Mark Twain did, and as Belasco and Daniel Frohman must have done, they
did not complete their partial triumph by finding another child actress
to take the part of Tom Canty. Clemens urged and pleaded with them, but
perhaps the undertaking seemed too difficult--at all events they did not
find the little beggar king. Then legal complications developed. Edward
House, to whom Clemens had once given a permission to attempt a
dramatization of the play, suddenly appeared with a demand for
recognition, backed by a lawsuit against all those who had a proprietary
interest in the production. House, with his adopted Japanese daughter
Koto, during a period of rheumatism and financial depression, had made a
prolonged visit in the Clemens home and originally undertook the
dramatization as a sort of return for hospitality. He appears not to
have completed it and to have made no arrangement for its production or
to have taken any definite step until Mrs. Richardson's play was
profitably put on; whereupon his suit and injunction.
By the time a settlement of this claim had been reached the play had run
its course, and it was not revived in that form. It was brought out in
England, where it was fairly prosperous, though it seems not to have been
long continued. Variously reconstructed, it has occasionally been played
since, and always, when the parts of Tom Canty and the Prince were
separate, with great success. Why this beautiful drama should ever be
absent from the boards is one of the unexplainable things. It is a play
for all times and seasons, the difficulty of obtaining suitable "twin"
interpreters for the characters of the Prince and the Pauper being its
"A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT"
From every point of view it seemed necessary to make the 'Yankee in King
Arthur's Court' an important and pretentious publication. It was Mark
Twain's first book after a silence of five years; it was a book badly
needed by his publishing business with which to maintain its prestige and
profit; it was a book which was to come out of his maturity and present
his deductions, as to humanity at large and kings in particular, to a
waiting public. It was determined to spare no expense on the
manufacture, also that its illustrations must be of a sort to illuminate
and, indeed, to elaborate the text. Clemens had admired some pictures
made by Daniel Carter ("Dan") Beard for a Chinese story in the
Cosmopolitan, and made up his mind that Beard was the man for the Yankee.
The manuscript was sent to Beard, who met Clemens a little later in the
office of Webster & Co. to discuss the matter. Clemens said:
"Mr. Beard, I do not want to subject you to any undue suffering, but I
wish you would read the book before you make the pictures."
Beard replied that he had already read it twice.
"Very good," Clemens said; "but I wasn't led to suppose that that was the
usual custom among illustrators, judging from some results I have seen.
You know," he went on, "this Yankee of mine has neither the refinement
nor the weakness of a college education; he is a perfect ignoramus; he is
boss of a machine shop; he can build a locomotive or a Colt's revolver,
he can put up and run a telegraph line, but he's an ignoramus,
nevertheless. I am not going to tell you what to draw. If a man comes
to me and says, 'Mr. Clemens, I want you to write me a story,' I'll write
it for him; but if he undertakes to tell me what to write I'll say, 'Go
hire a typewriter.'"
To Hall a few days later he wrote:
Tell Beard to obey his own inspirations, 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 sha'n't have
any fear as to results.
Without going further it is proper to say here that the pictures in the
first edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court justified
the author's faith in the artist of his selection. They are far and away
Dan Beard's best work. The socialism of the text strongly appealed to
him. Beard himself had socialistic tendencies, and the work inspired him
to his highest flights of fancy and to the acme of his technic. Clemens
examined the pictures from time to time, and once was moved to write:
My pleasure in them is as strong and as fresh as ever. I do not
know of any quality they lack. Grace, dignity, poetry, spirit,
imagination, these enrich them and make them charming and beautiful;
and wherever humor appears it is high and fine--easy, unforced, kept
under, masterly, and delicious.
He went on to describe his appreciation in detail, and when the drawings
were complete he wrote again:
Hold me under permanent obligations. What luck it was to find you!
There are hundreds of artists who 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. Live forever!
This was not too much praise. Beard realized the last shade of the
author's allegorical intent and portrayed it with a hundred accents which
the average reader would otherwise be likely to miss.
Clemens submitted his manuscript to Howells and to Stedman, and he read
portions of it, at least, to Mrs. Clemens, whose eyes were troubling her
so that she could not read for herself. Stedman suggested certain
eliminations, but, on the whole, would seem to have approved of the book.
Howells was enthusiastic. It appealed to him as it had appealed to
Beard. Its sociology and its socialism seemed to him the final word that
could be said on those subjects. When he had partly finished it he
It's a mighty great book and it makes my heart, burn with wrath. It
seems that God didn't forget to put a soul in you. He shuts most
literary men off with a brain, merely.
A few days later he wrote again:
The book is glorious-simply noble. What masses of virgin truth
never touched in print before!
And when he had finished it:
Last night I read your last chapter. As Stedman says of the whole
book, it's titanic.
Clemens declared, in one of his replies to Howells:
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 . . . . 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; 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.
In another letter of this time to Sylvester Baxter, apropos of the
tumbling Brazilian throne, he wrote:
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 the nation."
He was full of it, as he had been all along, and 'A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court' is nothing less than a brief for human rights and
human privileges. That is what it is, and it is a pity that it should be
more than that. It is a pity that he should have been beset by his old
demon of the burlesque, and that no one should have had the wisdom or the
strength to bring it under control.
There is nothing more charming in any of Mark Twain's work than his
introductory chapter, nothing more delightful than the armoring of the
Yankee and the outset and the wandering with Alisande. There is nothing
more powerful or inspiring than his splendid panoramic picture--of the
King learning mercy through his own degradation, his daily intercourse
with a band of manacled slaves; nothing more fiercely moving than that
fearful incident of the woman burned to warm those freezing chattels, or
than the great gallows scene, where the priest speaks for the young
mother about to pay the death penalty for having stolen a halfpenny's
worth, that her baby might have bread. Such things as these must save
the book from oblivion; but alas! its greater appeal is marred almost to
ruin by coarse and extravagant burlesque, which destroys illusion and
antagonizes the reader often at the very moment when the tale should fill
him with a holy fire of a righteous wrath against wrong. As an example
of Mark Twain at his literary worst and best the Yankee ranks supreme.
It is unnecessary to quote examples; one cannot pick up the volume and
read ten pages of it, or five pages, without finding them. In the midst
of some exalted passage, some towering sublimity, you are brought
suddenly to earth with a phrase which wholly destroys the illusion and
the diviner purpose. Howells must have observed these things, or was he
so dazzled by the splendor of its intent, its righteous charge upon the
ranks of oppression, that he regarded its offenses against art as
unimportant. This is hard to explain, for the very thing that would
sustain such a great message and make it permanent would be the care, the
restraint, the artistic worthiness of its construction. One must believe
in a story like that to be convinced of its logic. To lose faith in it--
in its narrative--is absolutely fatal to its purpose. The Yankee in King
Arthur's Court not only offended the English nation, but much of it
offended the better taste of Mark Twain's own countrymen, and in time it
must have offended even Mark Twain himself. Reading it, one can
visualize the author as a careering charger, with a bit in his teeth,
trampling the poetry and the tradition of the romantic days, the very
things which he himself in his happier moods cared for most. Howells
likened him to Cervantes, laughing Spain's chivalry away. The comparison
was hardly justified. It was proper enough to laugh chivalry out of
court when it was a reality; but Mark Twain, who loved Sir Thomas Malory
to the end of his days, the beauty and poetry of his chronicles; who had
written 'The Prince and the Pauper', and would one day write that divine
tale of the 'Maid of Orleans'; who was himself no more nor less than a
knight always ready to redress wrong, would seem to have been the last
person to wish to laugh it out of romance.
And yet, when all is said, one may still agree with Howells in ranking
the Yankee among Mark Twain's highest achievements in the way of "a
greatly imagined and symmetrically developed tale." It is of that class,
beyond doubt. Howells goes further:
Of all the fanciful schemes in fiction it pleases me most, and I
give myself with absolute delight to its notion of a keen East
Hartford Yankee finding himself, by a retroactionary spell, at the
court of King Arthur of Britain, and becoming part of the sixth
century with all the customs and ideas of the nineteenth in him and
about him. The field for humanizing satire which this scheme opens
Colossal it certainly is, as Howells and Stedman agreed: colossal in its
grotesqueness as in its sublimity. Howells, summarizing Mark Twain's
gifts (1901), has written:
He is apt to burlesque the lighter colloquiality, and it is only in
the more serious and most tragical junctures that his people utter
themselves with veracious simplicity and dignity. That great, burly
fancy of his is always tempting him to the exaggeration which is the
condition of so much of his personal humor, but which when it
invades the drama spoils the illusion. The illusion renews itself
in the great moments, but I wish it could be kept intact in the
small, and I blame him that he does not rule his fancy better.
All of which applies precisely to the writing of the Yankee in King
Arthur's Court. Intended as a fierce heart-cry against human injustice--
man's inhumanity to man--as such it will live and find readers; but, more
than any other of Mark Twain's pretentious works, it needs editing--
trimming by a fond but relentless hard.
THE "YANKEE" IN ENGLAND
The London publishers of the Yankee were keenly anxious to revise the
text for their English readers. Clemens wrote that he had already
revised the Yankee twice, that Stedman had critically read it, and that
Mrs. Clemens had made him strike out many passages and soften others. He
added that he had read chapters of it in public several times where
Englishmen were present and had profited by their suggestions. Then he
Now, mind you, I have taken all this pains because I wanted to say a
Yankee mechanic's say against monarchy and its several natural
props, and yet make a book which you would be willing to print
exactly as it comes to you, without altering a word.
We are spoken of (by Englishmen) as a thin-skinned people. It is
you who are thin-skinned. An Englishman may write with the most
brutal frankness about any man or institution among us and we
republish him without dreaming of altering a line or a word. But
England cannot stand that kind of a book written about herself. It
is England that is thin-skinned. It causeth me to smile when I read
the modifications of my language which have been made in my English
editions to fit them for the sensitive English palate.
Now, as I say, I have taken laborious pains to so trim this book of
offense that you'll not lack the nerve to print it just as it
stands. I am going to get the proofs to you just as early as I can.
I want you to read it carefully. If you can publish it without
altering a single word, go ahead. Otherwise, please hand it to
J. R. Osgood in time for him to have it published at my expense.
This is important, for the reason that the book was not written for
America; it was written for England. So many Englishmen have done
their sincerest best to teach us something for our betterment that
it seems to me high time that some of us should substantially
recognize the good intent by trying to pry up the English nation to
a little higher level of manhood in turn.
So the Yankee was published in England just as he had written it,--[The
preface was shortened and modified for both the American and English
editions. The reader will find it as originally written under Appendix
S, at the end of last volume.]--and the criticisms were as plentiful as
they were frank. It was referred to as a "lamentable failure" and as an
"audacious sacrilege" and in terms still less polite. Not all of the
English critics were violent. The Daily Telegraph gave it something more
than a column of careful review, which did not fail to point out the
book's sins with a good deal of justice and dignity; but the majority of
English papers joined in a sort of objurgatory chorus which, for a time
at least, spared neither the author nor his work. Strictures on the
Yankee extended to his earlier books. After all, Mark Twain's work was
not for the cultivated class.
These things must have begun to gravel Clemens a good deal at last, for
he wrote to Andrew Lang at considerable length, setting forth his case in
general terms--that is to say, his position as an author--inviting Lang
to stand as his advocate before the English public. In part he said:
The critic assumes every time that if a book doesn't meet the
cultivated-class standard it isn't valuable . . . The critic has
actually imposed upon the world the superstition that a painting by
Raphael is more valuable to the civilizations of the earth than is a
chromo; and the august opera more than the hurdy-gurdy and the
villagers' singing society; and the Latin classics than Kipling's
far-reaching bugle-note; and Jonathan Edwards than the Salvation
Army . . . . If a critic should start a religion it would not
have any object but to convert angels, and they wouldn't need it.
It is not that little minority who are already saved that are best
worth lifting up, I should think, but the mighty mass of the
uncultivated who are underneath! That mass will never see the old
masters--that sight is for the few; but the chromo-maker can lift
them all one step upward toward appreciation of art; they cannot
have the opera, but the hurdy-gurdy and the singing-class lift them
a little way toward that far height; they will never know Homer, but
the passing rhymester of their day leaves them higher than he found
them; they may never even hear of the Latin classics, but they will
strike step with Kipling's drum-beat and they will march; for all
Jonathan Edwards's help they would die in their slums, but the
Salvation Army will beguile some of them to a purer air and a
cleaner life .
. . . I have never tried, in even one single little instance, to
help cultivate the cultivated classes. I was not equipped for it
either by native gifts or training. And I never had any ambition in
that direction, but always hunted for bigger game--the masses. I
have seldom deliberately tried to instruct them, but I have done my
best to entertain them, for they can get instruction elsewhere . .
. . My audience is dumb; it has no voice in print, and so I cannot
know whether I have won its approval or only got its censure.
He closed by asking that Lang urge the critics to adopt a rule
recognizing the masses, and to formulate a standard whereby work done for
them might be judged. "No voice can reach further than yours in a case
of this kind," he said, "or carry greater weight of authority." There
was no humor in this letter, and the writer of it was clearly in earnest.
Lang's response was an article published in the Illustrated London News
on the art of Mark Twain. He began by gently ridiculing hyperculture--
the new culture--and ended with a eulogy on Huck Finn. It seems worth
while, however, to let Andrew Lang speak for himself.
I have been educated till I nearly dropped; I have lived with the
earliest apostles of culture, in the days when Chippendale was first
a name to conjure with, and Japanese art came in like a raging lion,
and Ronsard was the favorite poet, and Mr. William Morris was a
poet, too, and blue and green were the only wear, and the name of
Paradise was Camelot. To be sure, I cannot say that I took all this
quite seriously, but "we, too, have played" at it, and know all
about it. Generally speaking, I have kept up with culture. I can
talk (if desired) about Sainte-Beuve, and Merimee, and Felicien
Rops; I could rhyme "Ballades" when they were "in," and knew what a
"pantoom" was . . . . And yet I have not culture. My works are
but tinkling brass because I have not culture. For culture has got
into new regions where I cannot enter, and, what is perhaps worse,
I find myself delighting in a great many things which are under the
ban of culture.
He confesses that this is a dreadful position; one that makes a man feel
like one of those Liberal politicians who are always "sitting on the
fence," and who follow their party, if follow it they do, with the
reluctant acquiescence of the prophet's donkey. He further confesses
that he has tried Hartmann and prefers Plato, that he is shaky about
Blake, though stalwart concerning Rudyard Kipling.
This is not the worst of it. Culture has hardly a new idol but I
long to hurl things at it. Culture can scarcely burn anything, but
I am impelled to sacrifice to that same. I am coming to suspect
that the majority of culture's modern disciples are a mere crowd of
very slimly educated people who have no natural taste or impulses;
who do not really know the best things in literature; who have a
feverish desire to admire the newest thing, to follow the latest
artistic fashion; who prate about "style," without the faintest
acquaintance with the ancient examples of style in Greek, French, or
English; who talk about the classics and--criticize the classical
critics and poets, without being able to read a line of them in the
original. Nothing of the natural man is left in these people; their
intellectual equipment is made up of ignorant vanity and eager
desire for novelty, and a yearning to be in the fashion. Take, for
example--and we have been a long time in coming to him--Mark Twain.
[Here follow some observations concerning the Yankee, which Lang
confesses that he has not read, and has abstained from reading
because----]. Here Mark Twain is not, and cannot be, at the proper
point of view. He has not the knowledge which would enable him to
be a sound critic of the ideals of the Middle Ages. An Arthurian
Knight in New York or in Washington would find as much to blame, and
justly, as a Yankee at Camelot.
Of Mark Twain's work in general he speaks with another conclusion:
Mark Twain is a benefactor beyond most modern writers, and the
cultured who do not laugh are merely to be pitied. But his art is
not only that of the maker of the scarce article--mirth. I have no
hesitation in saying that Mark Twain is one among the greatest
contemporary makers of fiction . . . . I can never forget or be
ungrateful for the exquisite pleasure with which I read Huckleberry
Finn for the first time years ago. I read it again last night,
deserting Kenilworth for Huck. I never laid it down till I had
finished it. I perused several passages more than once, and rose
from it with a higher opinion of its merits than ever.
What is it that we want in a novel? We want a vivid and original
picture of life; we want character naturally displayed in action;
and if we get the excitement of adventure into the bargain, and that
adventure possible and plausible, I so far differ from the newest
school of criticism as to think that we have additional cause for
gratitude. If, moreover, there is an unstrained sense of humor in
the narrator we have a masterpiece, and Huckleberry Finn is, nothing
He reviews Huck sympathetically in detail, and closes:
There are defects of taste, or passages that to us seem deficient in
taste, but the book remains a nearly flawless gem of romance and of
humor. The world appreciates it, no doubt, but "cultured critics"
are probably unaware of its singular value. The great American
novel has escaped the eyes of those who watch to see this new planet
swim into their ken. And will Mark Twain never write such another?
One is enough for him to live by, and for our gratitude, but not
enough for our desire.
In the brief column and a half which it occupies, this comment of Andrew
Lang's constitutes as thoughtful and fair an estimate of Mark Twain's
work as was ever written.
W. T. Stead, of the Review of Reviews, was about the only prominent
English editor to approve of the Yankee and to exploit its merits. Stead
brought down obloquy upon himself by so doing, and his separation from
his business partner would seem to have been at least remotely connected
with this heresy.
The Yankee in King Arthur's Court was dramatized in America by Howard
Taylor, one of the Enterprise compositors, whom Clemens had known in the
old Comstock days. Taylor had become a playwright of considerable
success, with a number of well-known actors and actresses starring in his
plays. The Yankee, however, did not find a manager, or at least it seems
not to have reached the point of production.
A SUMMER AT ONTEORA
With the exception of one article--" A Majestic Literary Fossil"--
[Harper's Magazine, February, 1890. Included in the "Complete Works."]--
Clemens was writing nothing of importance at this time. This article
grew out of a curious old medical work containing absurd prescriptions
which, with Theodore Crane, he had often laughed over at the farm. A
sequel to Huckleberry Finn--Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians--
was begun, and a number of its chapters were set in type on the new Paige
compositor, which had cost such a gallant sum, and was then thought to be
complete. There seems to have been a plan to syndicate the story, but at
the end of Chapter IX Huck and Tom had got themselves into a predicament
from which it seemed impossible to extricate them, and the plot was
suspended for further inspiration, which apparently never came.
Clemens, in fact, was troubled with rheumatism in his arm and shoulder,
which made writing difficult. Mrs. Clemens, too, had twinges of the
malady. They planned to go abroad for the summer of 1890, to take the
waters of some of the German baths, but they were obliged to give up the
idea. There were too many business complications; also the health of
Clemens's mother had become very feeble. They went to Tannersville in
the Catskills, instead--to the Onteora Club, where Mrs. Candace Wheeler
had gathered a congenial colony in a number of picturesque cottages, with
a comfortable hotel for the more transient visitor. The Clemenses
secured a cottage for the season. Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge, Laurence
Hutton, Carroll Beckwith, the painter; Brander Matthews, Dr. Heber
Newton, Mrs. Custer, and Dora Wheeler were among those who welcomed Mark
Twain and his family at a generous home-made banquet.
It was the beginning of a happy summer. There was a constant visiting
from one cottage to another, with frequent assemblings at the Bear and
Fox Inn, their general headquarters. There were pantomimes and charades,
in which Mark Twain and his daughters always had star parts. Susy
Clemens, who was now eighteen, brilliant and charming, was beginning to
rival her father as a leader of entertainment. Her sister Clara gave
impersonations of Modjeska and Ada Rehan. When Fourth of July came there
were burlesque races, of which Mark Twain was starter, and many of that
lighthearted company took part. Sometimes, in the evening, they gathered
in one of the cottages and told stories by the firelight, and once he
told the story of the Golden Arm, so long remembered, and brought them up
with the same old jump at the sudden climax. Brander Matthews remembers
that Clemens was obliged frequently to go to New York on business
connected with the machine and the publishing, and that during one of
these absences a professional entertainer came along, and in the course
of his program told a Mark Twain story, at which Mrs. Clemens and the
girls laughed without recognizing its authorship. Matthews also
remembers Jean, as a little girl of ten, allowed to ride a pony and to go
barefoot, to her great delight, full of health and happiness, a favorite
of the colony.
Clemens would seem to have forgiven Brander Matthews for his copyright
articles, for he walked over to the Matthews cottage one morning and
asked to be taught piquet, the card game most in vogue there that season.
At odd times he sat to Carroll Beckwith for his portrait, and smoked a
cob pipe meantime, so Beckwith painted him in that way.
It was a season that closed sadly. Clemens was called to Keokuk in
August, to his mother's bedside, for it was believed that her end was
near. She rallied, and he returned to Onteora. But on the 27th of
October came the close of that long, active life, and the woman who two
generations before had followed John Clemens into the wilderness, and
along the path of vicissitude, was borne by her children to Hannibal and
laid to rest at his side. She was in her eighty-eighth year.
The Clemens family were back in Hartford by this time, and it was only a
little later that Mrs. Clemens was summoned to the death-bed of her own
mother, in Elmira. Clemens accompanied her, but Jean being taken
suddenly ill he returned to Hartford. Watching by the little girl's
bedside on the night of the 27th of November, he wrote Mrs. Clemens a
birthday letter, telling of Jean's improved condition and sending other
good news and as many loving messages as he could devise. But it proved
a sad birthday for Mrs. Clemens, for on that day her mother's gentle and
beautiful soul went out from among them. The foreboding she had felt at
the passing of Theodore Crane had been justified. She had a dread that
the harvest of death was not yet ended. Matters in general were going
badly with them, and an anxiety began to grow to get away from America,
and so perhaps leave sorrow and ill-luck behind. Clemens, near the end
of December, writing to his publishing manager, Hall, said:
Merry Christmas to you, and I wish to God I could have one myself
before I die.
The house was emptier that winter than before, for Susy was at Bryn Mawr.
Clemens planned some literary work, but the beginning, after his long
idleness, was hard. A diversion was another portrait of himself, this
time undertaken by Charles Noel Flagg. Clemens rather enjoyed portrait-
sittings. He could talk and smoke, and he could incidentally acquire
information. He liked to discuss any man's profession with him, and in
his talks with Flagg he made a sincere effort to get that insight which
would enable him to appreciate the old masters. Flagg found him a
tractable sitter, and a most interesting one. Once he paid him a
compliment, then apologized for having said the obvious thing.
"Never mind the apology," said Clemens. "The compliment that helps us on
our way is not the one that is shut up in the mind, but the one that is
When Flagg's portrait was about completed, Mrs. Clemens and Mrs. Crane
came to the studio to look at it. Mrs. Clemens complained only that the
necktie was crooked.
"But it's always crooked," said Flagg, "and I have a great fancy for the
line it makes."
She straightened it on Clemens himself, but it immediately became crooked
again. Clemens said:
"If you were to make that necktie straight people would say; ' Good
portrait, but there is something the matter with it. I don't know where
The tie was left unchanged.
The reader may have realized that by the beginning of 1891 Mark Twain's
finances were in a critical condition. The publishing business had
managed to weather along. It was still profitable, and could have been
made much more so if the capital necessary to its growth had not been
continuously and relentlessly absorbed by that gigantic vampire of
inventions--that remorseless Frankenstein monster--the machine.
The beginning of this vast tragedy (for it was no less than that) dated
as far back as 1880, when Clemens one day had taken a minor and purely
speculative interest in patent rights, which was to do away with setting
type by hand. In some memoranda which he made more than ten years later,
when the catastrophe was still a little longer postponed, he gave some
account of the matter.
This episode has now spread itself over more than one-fifth of my
life, a considerable stretch of time, as I am now 55 years old.
Ten or eleven years ago Dwight Buell, a jeweler, called at our house
and was shown up to the billiard-room-which was my study; and the
game got more study than the other sciences. He wanted me to take
some stock in a type-setting machine. He said it was at the Colt's
Arms factory, and was about finished. I took $2,000 of the stock.
I was always taking little chances like that, and almost always
losing by it, too. Some time afterward I was invited to go down to
the factory and see the machine. I went, promising myself nothing,
for I knew all about type-setting by practical experience, and held
the settled and solidified opinion that a successful type-setting
machine was an impossibility, for the reason that a machine cannot
be made to think, and the thing that sets movable type must think or
retire defeated. So, the performance I witnessed did most
thoroughly amaze me. Here was a machine that was really setting
type, and doing it with swiftness and accuracy, too. Moreover, it
was distributing its case at the same time. The distribution was
automatic; the machine fed itself from a galley of dead matter and
without human help or suggestion, for it began its work of its own
accord when the type channels needed filling, and stopped of its own
accord when they were full enough. The machine was almost a
complete compositor; it lacked but one feature--it did not "justify"
the lines. This was done by the operator's assistant.
I saw the operator set at the rate of 3,000 ems an hour, which,
counting distribution, was but little short of four casemen's work.
William Hamersley was there. He said he was already a considerable
owner, and was going to take as much more of the stock as he could
afford. Wherefore, I set down my name for an additional $3,000. It
is here that the music begins.
It was the so-called Farnham machine that he saw, invented by James W.
Paige, and if they had placed it on the market then, without waiting for
the inventor to devise improvements, the story might have been a
different one. But Paige was never content short of absolute perfection
--a machine that was not only partly human, but entirely so. Clemens'
used to say later that the Paige type-setter would do everything that a
human being could do except drink and swear and go on a strike. He might
properly have omitted the last item, but of that later. Paige was a
small, bright-eyed, alert, smartly dressed man, with a crystal-clear
mind, but a dreamer and a visionary. Clemens says of him: "He is a poet;
a most great and genuine poet, whose sublime creations are written in
It is easy to see now that Mark Twain and Paige did not make a good
business combination. When Paige declared that, wonderful as the machine
was, he could do vastly greater things with it, make it worth many more
and much larger fortunes by adding this attachment and that, Clemens was
just the man to enter into his dreams and to furnish the money to realize
them. Paige did not require much money at first, and on the capital
already invested he tinkered along with his improvements for something
like four or five years; Hamersley and Clemens meantime capitalizing the
company and getting ready to place the perfected invention on the market.
By the time the Grant episode had ended Clemens had no reason to believe
but that incalculable wealth lay just ahead, when the newspapers should
be apprised of the fact that their types were no longer to be set by
hand. Several contracts had been made with Paige, and several new
attachments had been added to the machine. It seemed to require only one
thing more, the justifier, which would save the labor of the extra man.
Paige could be satisfied with nothing short of that, even though the
extra man's wage was unimportant. He must have his machine do it all,
and meantime five precious years had slipped away. Clemens, in his
End of 1885. Paige arrives at my house unheralded. I had seen
little or nothing of him for a year or two. He said:
"What will you complete the machine for?"
"What will it cost?"
"Twenty thousand dollars; certainly not over $30,000."
"What will you give?"
"I'll give you half."
Clemens was "flush" at this time. His reading tour with Cable, the great
sale of Huck Finn, the prospect of the Grant book, were rosy realities.
"I'll do it, but the limit must be $30,000."
They agreed to allow Hamersley a tenth interest for the money he had
already invested and for legal advice.
Hamersley consented readily enough, and when in February, 1886, the new
contract was drawn they believed themselves heir to the millions of the
By this time F. G. Whitmore had come into Clemens's business affairs, and
he did not altogether approve of the new contract. Among other things,
it required that Clemens should not only complete the machine, but
promote it, capitalize it commercially. Whitmore said:
"Mr. Clemens, that clause can bankrupt you."
Clemens answered: "Never mind that, Whitmore; I've considered that. I
can get a thousand men worth a million apiece to go in with me if I can
get a perfect machine."
He immediately began to calculate the number of millions he would be
worth presently when the machine was completed and announced to the
waiting world. He covered pages with figures that never ran short of
millions, and frequently approached the billion mark. Colonel Sellers in
his happiest moments never dreamed more lavishly. He obtained a list of
all the newspapers in the United States and in Europe, and he counted up
the machines that would be required by each. To his nephew, Sam Moffett,
visiting him one day, he declared that it would take ten men to count the
profits from the typesetter. He realized clearly enough that a machine
which would set and distribute type and do the work of half a dozen men
or more would revolutionize type composition. The fact that other
inventors besides Paige were working quite as diligently and perhaps
toward more simple conclusions did not disturb him. Rumors came of the
Rogers machine and the Thorne machine and the Mergenthaler linotype, but
Mark Twain only smiled. When the promoters of the Mergenthaler offered
to exchange half their interests for a half interest in the Paige patent,
to obtain thereby a wider insurance of success, it only confirmed his
trust, and he let the golden opportunity go by.
Clemens thinks the thirty thousand dollars lasted about a year. Then
Paige confessed that the machine was still incomplete, but he said that
four thousand dollars more would finish it, and that with ten thousand
dollars he could finish it and give a big exhibition in New York. He had
discarded the old machine altogether, it seems, and at Pratt & Whitney's
shops was building a new one from the ground up--a machine of twenty
thousand minutely exact parts, each of which must be made by expert hand
workmanship after elaborate drawings and patterns even more expensive.
It was an undertaking for a millionaire.
Paige offered to borrow from Clemens the amount needed, offering the
machine as security. Clemens supplied the four thousand dollars, and
continued to advance money from time to time at the rate of three to four
thousand dollars a month, until he had something like eighty thousand
dollars invested, with the machine still unfinished. This would be early
in 1888, by which time other machines had reached a state of completion
and were being placed on the market. The Mergenthaler, in particular,
was attracting wide attention. Paige laughed at it, and Clemens, too,
regarded it as a joke. The moment their machine was complete all other
machines would disappear. Even the fact that the Tribune had ordered
twenty-three of the linotypes, and other journals were only waiting to
see the paper in its new dress before ordering, did not disturb them.
Those linotypes would all go into the scrap-heap presently. It was too
bad people would waste their money so. In January, 1888, Paige promised
that the machine would be done by the 1st of April. On the 1st of April
he promised it for September, but in October he acknowledged there were
still eighty-five days' work to be done on it. In November Clemens wrote
The machine is apparently almost done--but I take no privileges on that
account; it must be done before I spend a cent that can be avoided. I
have kept this family on very short commons for two years and they must
go on scrimping until the machine is finished, no matter how long that
By the end of '88 the income from the books and the business and Mrs.
Clemens's Elmira investments no longer satisfied the demands of the type-
setter, in addition to the household expense, reduced though the latter
was; and Clemens began by selling and hypothecating his marketable
securities. The whole household interest by this time centered in the
machine. What the Tennessee land had been to John and Jane Clemens and
their children, the machine had now become to Samuel Clemens and his
family. "When the machine is finished everything will be all right
again" afforded the comfort of that long-ago sentence, "When the
Tennessee land is sold."
They would have everything they wanted then. Mrs. Clemens planned
benefactions, as was her wont. Once she said to her sister:
"How strange it will seem to have unlimited means, to be able to do
whatever you want to do, to give whatever you want to give without
counting the cost."
Straight along through another year the three thousand dollars and more a
month continued, and then on the 5th of January, 1889, there came what
seemed the end--the machine and justifier were complete! In his notebook
on that day Mark Twain set down this memorandum:
Saturday, January 5, 1889-12.20 P.M. At this moment I have seen a
line of movable type spaced and justified by machinery! This is the
first time in the history of the world that this amazing thing has
ever been done. Present:
J. W. Paige, the inventor;
Charles Davis, | Mathematical assistants
Earll | & mechanical
Graham | experts
Bates, foreman, and S. L. Clemens.
This record is made immediately after the prodigious event.
Two days later he made another note:
Monday, January 7--4.45 P.m. The first proper name ever set by this
new keyboard was William Shakspeare. I set it at the above hour; &
I perceive, now that I see the name written, that I either mis-
spelled it then or I've misspelled it now.
The space-bar did its duty by the electric connections & steam &
separated the two words preparatory to the reception of the space.
It seemed to him that his troubles were at an end. He wrote overflowing
letters, such as long ago he had written about his first mining claims,
to Orion and to other members of the family and to friends in America and
Europe. One of these letters, written to George Standring, a London
printer and publisher, also an author, will serve as an example.
The machine is finished! An hour and forty minutes ago a line of
movable type was spaced and justified by machinery for the first
time in the history of the world. And I was there to see.
That was the final function. I had before seen the machine set
type, automatically, and distribute type, and automatically
distribute its eleven different thicknesses of spaces. So now I
have seen the machine, operated by one individual, do the whole
thing, and do it a deal better than any man at the case can do it.
This is by far and away 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.
She will do the work of six men, and do it better than any six men
that ever stood at a case.
The death-warrant of all other type-setting machines in this world
was signed at 12.20 this afternoon, when that first line was shot
through this machine and came out perfectly spaced and justified.
And automatically, mind you.
There was a speck of invisible dirt on one of those nonpareil types.
Well, the machine allowed for that by inserting of its own accord a
space which was the 5-1,000 of an inch thinner than it would have
used if the dirt had been absent. But when I send you the details
you will see that that's nothing for this machine to do; you'll see
that it knows more and has got more brains than all the printers in
the world put together.
His letter to Orion was more technical, also more jubilant. At the end
All the witnesses made written record of the immense historical
birth--the first justification of a line of movable type by
machinery--& also set down the hour and the minute. Nobody had
drank anything, & yet everybody seemed drunk. Well-dizzy,
All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty
nearly into commonplaces contrasted with this awful mechanical
miracle. Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton-gins, sewing-
machines, Babbage calculators, jacquard looms, perfecting presses,
all mere toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone and
far in the land of human inventions.
In one paragraph of Orion's letter he refers to the machine as a "cunning
devil, knowing more than any man that ever lived." That was a profound
truth, though not as he intended it. That creation of James Paige's
brain reflected all the ingenuity and elusiveness of its creator, and
added something on its own account. It was discovered presently that it
had a habit of breaking the types. Paige said it was a trifling thing:
he could fix it, but it meant taking down the machine, and that deadly
expense of three thousand or four thousand dollars a month for the band
of workmen and experts in Pratt & Whitney's machine shops did not cease.
In February the machine was again setting and justifying type "to a
hair," and Whitmore's son, Fred, was running it at a rate of six thousand
ems an hour, a rate of composition hitherto unknown in the history of the
world. His speed was increased to eight thousand ems an hour by the end
of the year, and the machine was believed to have a capacity of eleven
thousand. No type-setter invented to this day could match it for
accuracy and precision when it was in perfect order, but its point of
perfection was apparently a vanishing point. It would be just reached,
when it would suddenly disappear, and Paige would discover other needed
corrections. Once, when it was apparently complete as to every detail;
and running like a human thing, with such important customers as the New
York Herald and other great papers ready to place their orders, Paige
suddenly discovered that it required some kind of an air-blast, and it
was all taken down again and the air-blast, which required months to
invent and perfect, was added.
But what is the use of remembering all these bitter details? The steady
expense went on through another year, apparently increasing instead of
diminishing, until, by the beginning of 1890, Clemens was finding it
almost impossible to raise funds to continue the work. Still he
struggled on. It was the old mining fascination--"a foot farther into
the ledge and we shall strike the vein of gold."
He sent for Joe Goodman to come and help him organize a capital-stock
company, in which Senator Jones and John Mackay, old Comstock friends,
were to be represented. He never for a moment lost faith in the final
outcome, and he believed that if they could build their own factory the
delays and imperfections of construction would be avoided. Pratt &
Whitney had been obliged to make all the parts by hand. With their own
factory the new company would have vast and perfect machinery dedicated
entirely to the production of type-setters.
Nothing short of two million dollars capitalization was considered, and
Goodman made at least three trips from California to the East and labored
with Jones and Mackay all that winter and at intervals during the
following year, through which that "cunning devil," the machine, consumed
its monthly four thousand dollars--money that was the final gleanings and
sweepings of every nook and corner of the strong-box and bank-account and
savings of the Clemens family resources. With all of Mark Twain's fame
and honors his life at this period was far from an enviable one. It was,
in fact, a fevered delirium, often a veritable nightmare.
Reporters who approached him for interviews, little guessing what he was
passing through, reported that Mark Twain's success in life had made him
crusty and sour.
Goodman remembers that when they were in Washington, conferring with
Jones, and had rooms at the Arlington, opening together, often in the
night he would awaken to see a light burning in the next room and to hear
Mark Twain's voice calling:
"Joe, are you awake?"
"Yes, Mark, what is it?"
"Oh, nothing, only I can't sleep. Won't you talk awhile? I know it's
wrong to disturb you, but I am so d--d miserable that I can't help it."
Whereupon he would get up and talk and talk, and pace the floor and curse
the delays until he had refreshed himself, and then perhaps wallow in
millions until breakfast-time.
Jones and Mackay, deeply interested, were willing to put up a reasonable
amount of money, but they were unable to see a profit in investing so
large a capital in a plant for constructing the machines.
Clemens prepared estimates showing that the American business alone would
earn thirty-five million dollars a year, and the European business twenty
million dollars more. These dazzled, but they did not convince the
capitalists. Jones was sincerely anxious to see the machine succeed, and
made an engagement to come out to see it work, but a day or two before he
was to come Paige was seized with an inspiration. The type-setter was
all in parts when the day came, and Jones's visit had to be postponed.
Goodman wrote that the fatal delay had "sicklied over the bloom" of
Jones's original enthusiasm.
Yet Clemens seems never to have been openly violent with Paige. In the
memorandum which he completed about this time he wrote:
Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he
knows perfectly well that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut
out all human succor and watch that trap until he died.
He was grabbing at straws now. He offered a twentieth or a hundredth or
a thousandth part of the enterprise for varying sums, ranging from one
thousand to one hundred thousand dollars. He tried to capitalize his
advance (machine) royalties, and did dispose of a few of these; but when
the money came in for them he was beset by doubts as to the final
outcome, and though at his wit's ends for further funds, he returned the
checks to the friends who had sent them. One five-thousand-dollar check
from a friend named Arnot, in Elmira, went back by the next mail. He was
willing to sacrifice his own last penny, but he could not take money from
those who were blindly backing his judgment only and not their own. He
still had faith in Jones, faith which lasted up to the 13th of February,
1891. Then came a final letter, in which Jones said that he had
canvassed the situation thoroughly with such men as Mackay, Don Cameron,
Whitney, and others, with the result that they would have nothing to do
with the machine. Whitney and Cameron, he said, were large stockholders
in the Mergenthaler. Jones put it more kindly and more politely than
that, and closed by saying that there could be no doubt as to the
machine's future an ambiguous statement. A letter from young Hall came
about the same time, urging a heavy increase of capital in the business.
The Library of American Literature, its leading feature, was handled on
the instalment plan. The collections from this source were deferred
driblets, while the bills for manufacture and promotion must be paid down
in cash. Clemens realized that for the present at least the dream was
ended. The family securities were exhausted. The book trade was dull;
his book royalties were insufficient even to the demands of the
household. He signed further notes to keep business going, left the
matter of the machine in abeyance, and turned once more to the trade of
authorship. He had spent in the neighborhood of one hundred and ninety
thousand dollars on the typesetter--money that would better have been
thrown into the Connecticut River, for then the agony had been more
quickly over. As it was, it had shadowed many precious years.
"THE CLAIMANT"--LEAVING HARTFORD
For the first time in twenty years Mark Twain was altogether dependent on
literature. He did not feel mentally unequal to the new problem; in
fact, with his added store of experience, he may have felt himself more
fully equipped for authorship than ever before. It had been his habit to
write within his knowledge and observation. To a correspondent of this
time he reviewed his stock in trade
. . . I confine myself to life with which I am familiar when
pretending to portray life. But I confined myself to the boy-life
out on the Mississippi because that had a peculiar charm for me, and
not because I was not familiar with other phases of life. I was a
soldier two weeks once in the beginning of the war, and was hunted
like a rat the whole time. Familiar? My splendid Kipling himself
hasn't a more burnt-in, hard-baked, and unforgetable familiarity
with that death-on-the-pale-horse-with-hell-following-after, which
is a raw soldier's first fortnight in the field--and which, without
any doubt, is the most tremendous fortnight and the vividest he is
ever going to see.
Yes, and I have shoveled silver tailings in a quartz-mill a couple
of weeks, and acquired the last possibilities of culture in that
direction. And I've done "pocket-mining" during three months in the
one little patch of ground in the whole globe where Nature conceals
gold in pockets--or did before we robbed all of those pockets and
exhausted, obliterated, annihilated the most curious freak Nature
ever indulged in. There are not thirty men left alive who, being
told there was a pocket hidden on the broad slope of a mountain,
would know how to go and find it, or have even the faintest idea of
how to set about it; but I am one of the possible 20 or 30 who
possess the secret, and I could go and put my hand on that hidden
treasure with a most deadly precision.
And I've been a prospector, and know pay rock from poor when I find
it--just with a touch of the tongue. And I've been a silver miner
and know how to dig and shovel and drill and put in a blast. And so
I know the mines and the miners interiorly as well as Bret Harte
knows them exteriorly.
And I was a newspaper reporter four years in cities, and so saw the
inside of many things; and was reporter in a legislature two
sessions and the same in Congress one session, and thus learned to
know personally three sample bodies of the smallest minds and the
selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes.
And I was some years a Mississippi pilot, and familiarly knew all
the different kinds of steamboatmen--a race apart, and not like
And I was for some years a traveling "jour" printer, and wandered
from city to city--and so I know that sect familiarly.
And I was a lecturer on the public platform a number of seasons and
was a responder to toasts at all the different kinds of banquets--
and so I know a great many secrets about audiences--secrets not to
be got out of books, but only acquirable by experience.
And I watched over one dear project of mine for years, spent a
fortune on it, and failed to make it go--and the history of that
would make a large book in which a million men would see themselves
as in a mirror; and they would testify and say, Verily, this is not
imagination; this fellow has been there--and after would they cast
dust upon their heads, cursing and blaspheming.
And I am a publisher, and did pay to one author's widow (General
Grant's) the largest copyright checks this world has seen-
aggregating more than L80,000 in the first year.
And I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.
Now then: as the most valuable capital or culture or education
usable in the building of novels is personal experience I ought to
be well equipped for that trade.
I surely have the equipment, a wide culture, and all of it real,
none of it artificial, for I don't know anything about books.
This generous bill of literary particulars was fully warranted. Mark
Twain's equipment was equal to his occasions. It is true that he was no
longer young, and that his health was not perfect, but his resolution and
his energy had not waned.
His need was imminent and he lost no time. He dug out from his
pigeonholes such materials as he had in stock, selecting a few completed
manuscripts for immediate disposal--among them his old article entitled,
"Mental Telegraphy," written in 1878, when he had hesitated to offer it,
in the fear that it would not be accepted by the public otherwise than as
a joke. He added to it now a supplement and sent it to Mr. Alden, of
Psychic interest had progressed in twelve years; also Mark Twain had come
to be rather more seriously regarded. The article was accepted promptly!
--[The publication of this article created a good deal of a stir and
resulted in the first general recognition of what later became known as
Telepathy. A good many readers insisted on regarding the whole matter as
one of Mark Twain's jokes, but its serious acceptance was much wider.]--
The old sketch, "Luck," also found its way to Harper's Magazine, and
other manuscripts were looked over and furbished up with a view to their
disposal. Even the history game was dragged from the dust of its
retirement, and Hall was instructed to investigate its chance of profit.
Then Mark Twain went to work in earnest. Within a week after the
collapse of the Jones bubble he was hard at work on a new book--the
transmigration of the old "Claimant" play into a novel.
Ever since the appearance of the Yankee there had been what was evidently
a concerted movement to induce him to write a novel with the theories of
Henry George as the central idea. Letters from every direction had urged
him to undertake such a story, and these had suggested a more serious
purpose for the Claimant book. A motif in which there is a young lord
who renounces his heritage and class to come to America and labor with
his hands; who attends socialistic meetings at which men inspired by
readings of 'Progress and Poverty' and 'Looking Backward' address their
brothers of toil, could have in it something worth while. Clemens
inserted portions of some of his discarded essays in these addresses, and
had he developed this element further, and abandoned Colonel Sellers's
materialization lunacies to the oblivion they had earned, the result
might have been more fortunate.
But his faith in the new Sellers had never died, and the temptation to
use scenes from the abandoned play proved to be too strong to be
resisted. The result was incongruous enough. The author, however,
admired it amazingly at the time. He sent Howells stirring reports of
his progress. He wrote Hall that the book would be ready soon and that
there must be seventy-five thousand orders by the date of issue, "not a
single one short of that." Then suddenly, at the end of February, the
rheumatism came back into his shoulder and right arm and he could hardly
hold the pen. He conceived the idea of dictating into a phonograph, and
wrote Howells to test this invention and find out as to terms for three
months, with cylinders enough to carry one hundred and seventy-five
I don't want to erase any of them. My right arm is nearly disabled
by rheumatism, but I am bound to write this book (and sell 100,000
copies of it-no, I mean 1,000,000--next fall). I feel sure I can
dictate the book into a phonograph if I don't have to yell. I write
2,000 words a day. I think I can dictate twice as many.
But mind, if this is going to be too much trouble to you--go ahead
and do it all the same.
Howells replied encouragingly. He had talked a letter into a phonograph
and the phonograph man had talked his answer into it, after which the
cylinder had been taken to a typewriter in the-next room and correctly
written out. If a man had the "cheek" to dictate his story into a
phonograph, Howells said, all the rest seemed perfectly easy.
Clemens ordered a phonograph and gave it a pretty fair trial. It was
only a partial success. He said he couldn't write literature with it
because it hadn't any ideas or gift for elaboration, but was just as
matter-of-fact, compressive and unresponsive, grave and unsmiling as the
devil--a poor audience.
I filled four dozen cylinders in two sittings, then I found I could have
said it about as easy with the pen, and said it a deal better. Then I
He did not immediately give it up. To relieve his aching arm he
alternated the phonograph with the pen, and the work progressed rapidly.
Early in May he was arranging for its serial disposition, and it was
eventually sold for twelve thousand dollars to the McClure Syndicate, who
placed it with a number of papers in America and with the Idler Magazine
in England. W. M. Laffan, of the Sun, an old and tried friend, combined
with McClure in the arrangement. Laffan also proposed to join with
McClure in paying Mark Twain a thousand dollars each for a series of six
European letters. This was toward the end of May, 1891, when Clemens had
already decided upon a long European sojourn.
There were several reasons why this was desirable. Neither Clemens nor
his wife was in good health. Both of them were troubled with rheumatism,
and a council of physicians had agreed that Mrs. Clemens had some
disturbance of the heart. The death of Charles L. Webster in April--the
fourth death among relatives in two years--had renewed her forebodings.
Susy, who had been at Bryn Mawr, had returned far from well. The
European baths and the change of travel it was believed would be
beneficial to the family health. Furthermore, the maintenance of the
Hartford home was far too costly for their present and prospective
income. The house with its associations of seventeen incomparable years
must be closed. A great period had ended.
They arranged to sail on the 6th of June by the French line.--[On the
Gascogne.]--Mrs. Crane was to accompany them, and came over in April to
help in breaking the news to the servants. John and Ellen O'Neill (the
gardener and his wife) were to remain in charge; places were found for
George and Patrick. Katie Leary was retained to accompany the family.
It was a sad dissolution.
The day came for departure and the carriage was at the door. Mrs.
Clemens did not come immediately. She was looking into the rooms,
bidding a kind of silent good-by to the home she had made and to all its
memories. Following the others she entered the carriage, and Patrick
McAleer drove them together for the last time. They were going on a long
journey. They did not guess how long, or that the place would never be
home to them again.
A EUROPEAN SUMMER
They landed at Havre and went directly to Paris, where they remained
about a week. From Paris Clemens wrote to Hall that a deal by which he
had hoped to sell out his interest in the type-setter to the Mallorys, of
the Churchman, had fallen through.
"Therefore," he said, "you will have to modify your instalment system to
meet the emergency of a constipated purse; for if you should need to
borrow any more money I would not know how or where to raise it."
The Clemens party went to Geneva, then rested for a time at the baths of
Aix; from Aix to Bayreuth to attend the Wagner festival, and from
Bayreuth to Marienbad for further additions of health. Clemens began
writing his newspaper letters at Aix, the first of which consists of
observations at that "paradise of rheumatics." This letter is really a
careful and faithful description of Aix-les-Bains, with no particular
drift of humor in it. He tells how in his own case the baths at first
developed plenty of pain, but that the subsequent ones removed almost all
"I've got back the use of my arm the last few days, and I am going away
now," he says, and concludes by describing the beautiful drives and
scenery about Aix--the pleasures to be found paddling on little Lake
Bourget and the happy excursions to Annecy.
At the end of an hour you come to Annecy and rattle through its old
crooked lanes, built solidly up with curious old houses that are a
dream of the Middle Ages, and presently you come to the main object
of your trip--Lake Annecy. It is a revelation. It is a miracle.
It brings the tears to a body's eyes. It is so enchanting. That is
to say, it affects you just as all other things that you instantly
recognize as perfect affect you--perfect music, perfect eloquence,
perfect art, perfect joy, perfect grief.
He was getting back into his old descriptive swing, but his dislike for
travel was against him, and he found writing the letters hard. From
Bayreuth he wrote "At the Shrine of St. Wagner," one of the best
descriptions of that great musical festival that has been put into words.
He paid full tribute to the performance, also to the Wagner devotion,
confessing its genuineness.
This opera of "Tristan and Isolde" last night broke the hearts of
all witnesses who were of the faith, and I know of some, and have
heard of many, who could not sleep after it, but cried the night
away. I feel strongly out of place here. Sometimes I feel like the
one sane person in the community of the mad; sometimes I feel like
the one blind man where all others see; the one groping savage in
the college of the learned, and always during service I feel like a
heretic in heaven.
He tells how he really enjoyed two of the operas, and rejoiced in
supposing that his musical regeneration was accomplished and perfected;
but alas! he was informed by experts that those particular events were
not real music at all. Then he says:
Well, I ought to have recognized the sign the old, sure sign that
has never failed me in matters of art. Whenever I enjoy anything in
art it means that it is mighty poor. The private knowledge of this
fact has saved me from going to pieces with enthusiasm in front of
many and many a chromo. However, my base instinct does bring me
profit sometimes; I was the only man out of 3,200 who got his money
back on those two operas.
His third letter was from Marienbad, in Bohemia, another "health-
factory," as he calls it, and is of the same general character as those
preceding. In his fourth letter he told how he himself took charge of
the family fortunes and became courier from Aix to Bayreuth. It is a
very delightful letter, most of it, and probably not greatly burlesqued
or exaggerated in its details. It is included now in the "Complete
Works," as fresh and delightful as ever. They returned to Germany at the
end of August, to Nuremberg, which he notes as the "city of exquisite
glimpses," and to Heidelberg, where they had their old apartment of
thirteen years before, Room 40 at the Schloss Hotel, with its wonderful
prospect of wood and hill, and the haze-haunted valley of the Rhine.
They remained less than a week in that beautiful place, and then were off
for Switzerland, Lucerne, Brienz, Interlaken, finally resting at the
Hotel Beau Rivage, Ouchy, Lausanne, on beautiful Lake Leman.
Clemens had agreed to write six of the newspaper letters, and he had by
this time finished five of them, the fifth being dated from Interlaken,
its subject, "Switzerland, the Cradle of Liberty." He wrote to Hall that
it was his intention to write another book of travel and to take a year
or two to collect the material. The Century editors were after him for a
series after the style of Innocents Abroad. He considered this
suggestion, but declined by cable, explaining to Hall that he intended to
write for serial publication no more than the six newspaper letters. He
To write a book of travel would be less trouble than to write six
detached chapters. Each of these letters requires the same variety
of treatment and subject that one puts into a book; but in the book
each chapter doesn't have to be rounded and complete in itself.
He suggested that the six letters be gathered into a small volume which
would contain about thirty-five or forty thousand words, to be sold as
low as twenty-five cents, but this idea appears to have been dropped.
At Ouchy Clemens conceived the idea of taking a little trip on his own
account, an excursion that would be a rest after the strenuous three
months' travel and sightseeing--one that he could turn into literature.
He engaged Joseph Very, a courier used during their earlier European
travels, and highly recommended in the Tramp Abroad. He sent Joseph over
to Lake Bourget to engage a boat and a boatman for a ten days' trip down
the river Rhone. For five dollars Joseph bought a safe, flat-bottom
craft; also he engaged the owner as pilot. A few days later--September
19--Clemens followed. They stopped overnight on an island in Lake
Bourget, and in his notes Clemens tells how he slept in the old castle of
Chatillon, in the room where a pope was born. They started on their
drift next morning. To Mrs. Clemens, in some good-by memoranda, he said:
The lake is as smooth as glass; a brilliant sun is shining.
Our boat is so comfortable and shady with its awning.
11.20. We have crossed the lake and are entering the canal. Shall
presently be in the Rhone.
Noon. Nearly down to the Rhone, passing the village of Chanaz.
Sunday, 3.15 P.M. We have been in the Rhone three hours. It
is unimaginably still & reposeful & cool & soft & breezy. No rowing
or work of any kind to do--we merely float with the current we glide
noiseless and swift--as fast as a London cab-horse rips along--8
miles an hour--the swiftest current I've ever boated in. We have the
entire river to ourselves nowhere a boat of any kind.
Pleasant it must have been in the warm September days to go swinging down
that swift, gray stream which comes racing out of Switzerland into
France, fed from a thousand glaciers. He sent almost daily memoranda of
his progress. Half-way to Arles he wrote:
It's too delicious, floating with the swift current under the
awning these superb, sunshiny days in deep peace and quietness.
Some of these curious old historical towns strangely persuade me,
but it is so lovely afloat that I don't stop, but view them from the
outside and sail on. We get abundance of grapes and peaches for
next to nothing. My, but that inn was suffocating with garlic where
we stayed last night! I had to hold my nose as we went up-stairs or
I believe I should have fainted.
Little bit of a room, rude board floor unswept, 2 chairs, unpainted
white pine table--void the furniture! Had a good firm bed, solid as
a rock, & you could have brained an ox with the bolster.
These six hours have been entirely delightful. I want to do all the
rivers of Europe in an open boat in summer weather.