Part 27 out of 29
"Only one, and two nights."
"We'll never make it," he said. "It's an eternity."
"But we must on Clara's account," I told him, and I estimated that Clara
would be more than half-way across the ocean by now.
"It is a losing race," he said; "no ship can outsail death."
It has been written--I do not know with what proof--that certain great
dissenters have recanted with the approach of death--have become weak,
and afraid to ignore old traditions in the face of the great mystery.
I wish to write here that Mark Twain, as he neared the end, showed never
a single tremor of fear or even of reluctance. I have dwelt upon these
hours when suffering was upon him, and death the imminent shadow, in
order to show that at the end he was as he had always been, neither more
nor less, and never less than brave.
Once, during a moment when he was comfortable and quite himself, he said,
"When I seem to be dying I don't want to be stimulated back to life. I
want to be made comfortable to go."
There was not a vestige of hesitation; there was no grasping at straws,
no suggestion of dread.
Somehow those two days and nights went by. Once, when he was partially
relieved by the opiate, I slept, while Claude watched; and again, in the
fading end of the last night, when we had passed at length into the cold,
bracing northern air, and breath had come back to him, and with it sleep.
Relatives, physicians, and news-gatherers were at the dock to welcome
him. He was awake, and the northern air had brightened him, though it
was the chill, I suppose, that brought on the pains in his breast, which,
fortunately, he had escaped during the voyage. It was not a prolonged
attack, and it was, blessedly, the last one.
An invalid-carriage had been provided, and a compartment secured on the
afternoon express to Redding--the same train that had taken him there two
years before. Dr. Robert H. Halsey and Dr. Edward Quintard attended him,
and he made the journey really in cheerful comfort, for he could breathe
now, and in the relief came back old interests. Half reclining on the
couch, he looked through the afternoon papers. It happened curiously
that Charles Harvey Genung, who, something more than four years earlier,
had been so largely responsible for my association with Mark Twain, was
on the same train, in the same coach, bound for his country-place at New
Lounsbury was waiting with the carriage, and on that still, sweet April
evening we drove him to Stormfield much as we had driven him two years
before. Now and then he mentioned the apparent backwardness of the
season, for only a few of the trees were beginning to show their green.
As we drove into the lane that led to the Stormfield entrance, he said:
"Can we see where you have built your billiard-room?"
The gable showed above the trees, and I pointed it out to him.
"It looks quite imposing," he said.
I think it was the last outside interest he ever showed in anything.
He had been carried from the ship and from the train, but when we drew up
to Stormfield, where Mrs. Paine, with Katie Leary and others of the
household, was waiting to greet him, he stepped from the carriage alone
with something of his old lightness, and with all his old courtliness,
and offered each one his hand. Then, in the canvas chair which we had
brought, Claude and I carried him up-stairs to his room and delivered him
to the physicians, and to the comforts and blessed air of home. This was
Thursday evening, April 14, 1910.
THE RETURN TO THE INVISIBLE
There would be two days more before Ossip and Clara Gabrilowitsch could
arrive. Clemens remained fairly bright and comfortable during this
interval, though he clearly was not improving. The physicians denied him
the morphine, now, as he no longer suffered acutely. But he craved it,
and once, when I went in, he said, rather mournfully:
"They won't give me the subcutaneous any more."
It was Sunday morning when Clara came. He was cheerful and able to talk
quite freely. He did not dwell upon his condition, I think, but spoke
rather of his plans for the summer. At all events, he did not then
suggest that he counted the end so near; but a day later it became
evident to all that his stay was very brief. His breathing was becoming
heavier, though it seemed not to give him much discomfort. His
articulation also became affected. I think the last continuous talking
he did was to Dr. Halsey on the evening of April 17th--the day of Clara's
arrival. A mild opiate had been administered, and he said he wished to
talk himself to sleep. He recalled one of his old subjects, Dual
Personality, and discussed various instances that flitted through his
mind--Jekyll and Hyde phases in literature and fact. He became drowsier
as he talked. He said at last:
"This is a peculiar kind of disease. It does not invite you to read; it
does not invite you to be read to; it does not invite you to talk, nor to
enjoy any of the usual sick-room methods of treatment. What kind of a
disease is that? Some kinds of sicknesses have pleasant features about
them. You can read and smoke and have only to lie still."
And a little later he added:
"It is singular, very singular, the laws of mentality--vacuity. I put
out my hand to reach a book or newspaper which I have been reading most
glibly, and it isn't there, not a suggestion of it."
He coughed violently, and afterward commented:
"If one gets to meddling with a cough it very soon gets the upper hand
and is meddling with you. That is my opinion--of seventy-four years'
The news of his condition, everywhere published, brought great heaps of
letters, but he could not see them. A few messages were reported to him.
At intervals he read a little. Suetonius and Carlyle lay on the bed
beside him, and he would pick them up as the spirit moved him and read a
paragraph or a page. Sometimes, when I saw him thus-the high color still
in his face, and the clear light in his eyes--I said: "It is not reality.
He is not going to die." On Tuesday, the 19th, he asked me to tell Clara
to come and sing to him. It was a heavy requirement, but she somehow
found strength to sing some of the Scotch airs which he loved, and he
seemed soothed and comforted. When she came away he bade her good-by,
saying that he might not see her again.
But he lingered through the next day and the next. His mind was
wandering a little on Wednesday, and his speech became less and less
articulate; but there were intervals when he was quite clear, quite
vigorous, and he apparently suffered little. We did not know it, then,
but the mysterious messenger of his birth-year, so long anticipated by
him, appeared that night in the sky.--[The perihelion of Halley's Comet
for 1835 was November 16th; for 1910 it was April 20th.]
On Thursday morning, the 21st, his mind was generally clear, and it was
said by the nurses that he read a little from one of the volumes on his
bed, from the Suetonius, or from one of the volumes of Carlyle. Early in
the forenoon he sent word by Clara that he wished to see me, and when I
came in he spoke of two unfinished manuscripts which he wished me to
"throw away," as he briefly expressed it, for he had not many words left
now. I assured him that I would take care of them, and he pressed my
hand. It was his last word to me.
Once or twice that morning he tried to write some request which he could
not put into intelligible words.
And once he spoke to Gabrilowitsch, who, he said, could understand him
better than the others. Most of the time he dozed.
Somewhat after midday, when Clara was by him, he roused up and took her
hand, and seemed to speak with less effort.
"Good-by," he said, and Dr. Quintard, who was standing near, thought he
added: "If we meet"--but the words were very faint. He looked at her for
a little while, without speaking, then he sank into a doze, and from it
passed into a deeper slumber, and did not heed us any more.
Through that peaceful spring afternoon the life-wave ebbed lower and
lower. It was about half past six, and the sun lay just on the horizon
when Dr. Quintard noticed that the breathing, which had gradually become
more subdued, broke a little. There was no suggestion of any struggle.
The noble head turned a little to one side, there was a fluttering sigh,
and the breath that had been unceasing through seventy-four tumultuous
years had stopped forever.
He had entered into the estate envied so long. In his own words--the
words of one of his latest memoranda:
"He had arrived at the dignity of death--the only earthly dignity that is
not artificial--the only safe one. The others are traps that can beguile
"Death--the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose
peace and whose refuge are for all--the soiled and the pure--the rich and
the poor--the loved and the unloved."
THE LAST RITES
It is not often that a whole world mourns. Nations have often mourned a
hero--and races--but perhaps never before had the entire world really
united in tender sorrow for the death of any man.
In one of his aphorisms he wrote: "Let us endeavor so to live that when
we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." And it was thus that
Mark Twain himself had lived.
No man had ever so reached the heart of the world, and one may not even
attempt to explain just why. Let us only say that it was because he was
so limitlessly human that every other human heart, in whatever sphere or
circumstance, responded to his touch. From every remote corner of the
globe the cables of condolence swept in; every printed sheet in
Christendom was filled with lavish tribute; pulpits forgot his heresies
and paid him honor. No king ever died that received so rich a homage as
his. To quote or to individualize would be to cheapen this vast
We took him to New York to the Brick Church, and Dr. Henry van Dyke spoke
only a few simple words, and Joseph Twichell came from Hartford and
delivered brokenly a prayer from a heart wrung with double grief, for
Harmony, his wife, was nearing the journey's end, and a telegram that
summoned him to her death-bed came before the services ended.
Mark Twain, dressed in the white he loved so well, lay there with the
nobility of death upon him, while a multitude of those who loved him
passed by and looked at his face for the last time. The flowers, of
which so many had been sent, were banked around him; but on the casket
itself lay a single laurel wreath which Dan Beard and his wife had woven
from the laurel which grows on Stormfield hill. He was never more
beautiful than as he lay there, and it was an impressive scene to see
those thousands file by, regard him for a moment gravely, thoughtfully,
and pass on. All sorts were there, rich and poor; some crossed
themselves, some saluted, some paused a little to take a closer look; but
no one offered even to pick a flower. Howells came, and in his book he
I looked a moment at the face I knew so well; and it was patient
with the patience I had so often seen in it: something of a puzzle,
a great silent dignity, an assent to what must be from the depths of
a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the
unwise took for the whole of him.
That night we went with him to Elmira, and next day--a somber day of
rain--he lay in those stately parlors that had seen his wedding-day, and
where Susy had lain, and Mrs. Clemens, and Jean, while Dr. Eastman spoke
the words of peace which separate us from our mortal dead. Then in the
quiet, steady rain of that Sunday afternoon we laid him beside those
others, where he sleeps well, though some have wished that, like De Soto,
he might have been laid to rest in the bed of that great river which must
always be associated with his name.
MARK TWAIN'S RELIGION
There is such a finality about death; however interesting it may be as an
experience, one cannot discuss it afterward with one's friends. I have
thought it a great pity that Mark Twain could not discuss, with Howells
say, or with Twichell, the sensations and the particulars of the change,
supposing there be a recognizable change, in that transition of which we
have speculated so much, with such slender returns. No one ever debated
the undiscovered country more than he. In his whimsical, semi-serious
fashion he had considered all the possibilities of the future state--
orthodox and otherwise--and had drawn picturesquely original conclusions.
He had sent Captain Stormfield in a dream to report the aspects of the
early Christian heaven. He had examined the scientific aspects of the
more subtle philosophies. He had considered spiritualism,
transmigration, the various esoteric doctrines, and in the end he had
logically made up his mind that death concludes all, while with that less
logical hunger which survives in every human heart he had never ceased to
expect an existence beyond the grave. His disbelief and his pessimism
were identical in their structure. They were of his mind; never of his
Once a woman said to him:
"Mr. Clemens, you are not a pessimist, you only think you are." And she
might have added, with equal force and truth:
"You are not a disbeliever in immortality; you only think you are."
Nothing could have conveyed more truly his attitude toward life and
death. His belief in God, the Creator, was absolute; but it was a God
far removed from the Creator of his early teaching. Every man builds his
God according to his own capacities. Mark Twain's God was of colossal
proportions--so vast, indeed, that the constellated stars were but
molecules in His veins--a God as big as space itself.
Mark Twain had many moods, and he did not always approve of his own God;
but when he altered his conception, it was likely to be in the direction
of enlargement--a further removal from the human conception, and the
problem of what we call our lives.
In 1906 he wrote:--[See also 1870, chap. lxxviii; 1899, chap. ccv; and
various talks, 1906-07, etc.]
Let us now consider the real God, the genuine God, the great God,
the sublime and supreme God, the authentic Creator of the real
universe, whose remotenesses are visited by comets only comets unto
which incredible distant Neptune is merely an out post, a Sandy Hook
to homeward-bound specters of the deeps of space that have not
glimpsed it before for generations--a universe not made with hands
and suited to an astronomical nursery, but spread abroad through the
illimitable reaches of space by the flat of the real God just
mentioned, by comparison with whom the gods whose myriads infest the
feeble imaginations of men are as a swarm of gnats scattered and
lost in the infinitudes of the empty sky.
At an earlier period-the date is not exactly fixable, but the stationery
used and the handwriting suggest the early eighties--he set down a few
concisely written pages of conclusions--conclusions from which he did
not deviate materially in after years. The document follows:
I believe in God the Almighty.
I do not believe He has ever sent a message to man by anybody, or
delivered one to him by word of mouth, or made Himself visible to
mortal eyes at any time in any place.
I believe that the Old and New Testaments were imagined and written
by man, and that no line in them was authorized by God, much less
inspired by Him.
I think the goodness, the justice, and the mercy of God are
manifested in His works: I perceive that they are manifested toward
me in this life; the logical conclusion is that they will be
manifested toward me in the life to come, if there should be one.
I do not believe in special providences. I believe that the
universe is governed by strict and immutable laws: If one man's
family is swept away by a pestilence and another man's spared it is
only the law working: God is not interfering in that small matter,
either against the one man or in favor of the other.
I cannot see how eternal punishment hereafter could accomplish any
good end, therefore I am not able to believe in it. To chasten a
man in order to perfect him might be reasonable enough; to
annihilate him when he shall have proved himself incapable of
reaching perfection might be reasonable enough; but to roast him
forever for the mere satisfaction of seeing him roast would not be
reasonable--even the atrocious God imagined by the Jews would tire
of the spectacle eventually.
There may be a hereafter and there may not be. I am wholly
indifferent about it. If I am appointed to live again I feel sure
it will be for some more sane and useful purpose than to flounder
about for ages in a lake of fire and brimstone for having violated a
confusion of ill-defined and contradictory rules said (but not
evidenced) to be of divine institution. If annihilation is to
follow death I shall not be aware of the annihilation, and therefore
shall not care a straw about it.
I believe that the world's moral laws are the outcome of the world's
experience. It needed no God to come down out of heaven to tell men
that murder and theft and the other immoralities were bad, both for
the individual who commits them and for society which suffers from
If I break all these moral laws I cannot see how I injure God by it,
for He is beyond the reach of injury from me--I could as easily
injure a planet by throwing mud at it. It seems to me that my
misconduct could only injure me and other men. I cannot benefit God
by obeying these moral laws--I could as easily benefit the planet by
withholding my mud. (Let these sentences be read in the light of
the fact that I believe I have received moral laws only from man-
none whatever from God.) Consequently I do not see why I should be
either punished or rewarded hereafter for the deeds I do here.
If the tragedies of life shook his faith in the goodness and justice and
the mercy of God as manifested toward himself, he at any rate never
questioned that the wider scheme of the universe was attuned to the
immutable law which contemplates nothing less than absolute harmony. I
never knew him to refer to this particular document; but he never
destroyed it and never amended it, nor is it likely that he would have
done either had it been presented to him for consideration even during
the last year of his life.
He was never intentionally dogmatic. In a memorandum on a fly-leaf of
Moncure D. Conway's Sacred Anthology he wrote:
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly
teaches me to suspect that my own is also.
MARK TWAIN, 19th Cent. A.D.
And in another note:
I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or
to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his
hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion maybe. But
it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life hence it is a
valuable possession to him.
Mark Twain's religion was a faith too wide for doctrines--a benevolence
too limitless for creeds. From the beginning he strove against
oppression, sham, and evil in every form. He despised meanness; he
resented with every drop of blood in him anything that savored of
persecution or a curtailment of human liberties. It was a religion
identified with his daily life and his work. He lived as he wrote, and
he wrote as he believed. His favorite weapon was humor--good-humor--with
logic behind it. A sort of glorified truth it was truth wearing a smile
of gentleness, hence all the more quickly heeded.
"He will be remembered with the great humorists of all time," says
Howells, "with Cervantes, with Swift, or with any others worthy of his
company; none of them was his equal in humanity."
Mark Twain understood the needs of men because he was himself supremely
human. In one of his dictations he said:
I have found that there is no ingredient of the race which I do not
possess in either a small or a large way. When it is small, as compared
with the same ingredient in somebody else, there is still enough of it
for all the purposes of examination.
With his strength he had inherited the weaknesses of our kind. With him,
as with another, a myriad of dreams and schemes and purposes daily
flitted by. With him, as with another, the spirit of desire led him
often to a high mountain-top, and was not rudely put aside, but
lingeringly--and often invited to return. With him, as with another, a
crowd of jealousies and resentments, and wishes for the ill of others,
daily went seething and scorching along the highways of the soul. With
him, as with another, regret, remorse, and shame stood at the bedside
during long watches of the night; and in the end, with him, the better
thing triumphed--forgiveness and generosity and justice--in a word,
Humanity. Certain of his aphorisms and memoranda each in itself
constitutes an epitome of Mark Twain's creed. His paraphrase, "When in
doubt tell the truth," is one of these, and he embodied his whole
attitude toward Infinity when in one of his stray pencilings he wrote:
Why, even poor little ungodlike man holds himself responsible for the
welfare of his child to the extent of his ability. It is all that we
require of God.
Every life is a drama--a play in all its particulars; comedy, farce,
tragedy--all the elements are there. To examine in detail any life,
however conspicuous or obscure, is to become amazed not only at the
inevitable sequence of events, but at the interlinking of details, often
far removed, into a marvelously intricate pattern which no art can hope
to reproduce, and can only feebly imitate.
The biographer may reconstruct an episode, present a picture, or reflect
a mood by which the reader is enabled to feel something of the glow of
personality and know, perhaps, a little of the substance of the past. In
so far as the historian can accomplish this his work is a success. At
best his labor will be pathetically incomplete, for whatever its detail
and its resemblance to life, these will record mainly but an outward
expression, behind which was the mighty sweep and tumult of unwritten
thought, the overwhelming proportion of any life, which no other human
soul can ever really know.
Mark Twain's appearance on the stage of the world was a succession of
dramatic moments. He was always exactly in the setting. Whatever he
did, or whatever came to him, was timed for the instant of greatest
effect. At the end he was more widely observed and loved and honored
than ever before, and at the right moment and in the right manner he
How little one may tell of such a life as his! He traveled always such a
broad and brilliant highway, with plumes flying and crowds following
after. Such a whirling panorama of life, and death, and change! I have
written so much, and yet I have put so much aside--and often the best
things, it seemed afterward, perhaps because each in its way was best and
the variety infinite. One may only strive to be faithful--and I would
have made it better if I could.
LETTER FROM ORION CLEMENS TO MISS WOOD CONCERNING HENRY CLEMENS
(See Chapter xxvi)
KEOKUK, Iowa, October 3, 1858.
MISS WOOD,--My mother having sent me your kind letter, with a request
that myself and wife should write to you, I hasten to do so.
In my memory I can go away back to Henry's infancy; I see his large, blue
eyes intently regarding my father when he rebuked him for his credulity
in giving full faith to the boyish idea of planting his marbles,
expecting a crop therefrom; then comes back the recollection of the time
when, standing we three alone by our father's grave, I told them always
to remember that brothers should be kind to each other; afterward I see
Henry returning from school with his books for the last time. He must go
into my printing-office. He learned rapidly. A word of encouragement or
a word of discouragement told upon his organization electrically. I
could see the effects in his day's work. Sometimes I would say, "Henry!"
He would stand full front with his eyes upon mine--all attention. If I
commanded him to do something, without a word he was off instantly,
probably in a run. If a cat was to be drowned or shot Sam (though
unwilling yet firm) was selected for the work. If a stray kitten was to
be fed and taken care of Henry was expected to attend to it, and he would
faithfully do so. So they grew up, and many was the grave lecture
commenced by ma, to the effect that Sam was misleading and spoiling
Henry. But the lectures were never concluded, for Sam would reply with a
witticism, or dry, unexpected humor, that would drive the lecture clean
out of my mother's mind, and change it to a laugh. Those were happier
days. My mother was as lively as any girl of sixteen. She is not so
now. And sister Pamela I have described in describing Henry; for she was
his counterpart. The blow falls crushingly on her. But the boys grew
up--Sam a rugged, brave, quick-tempered, generous-hearted fellow, Henry
quiet, observing, thoughtful, leaning on Sam for protection; Sam and I
too leaning on him for knowledge picked up from conversation or books,
for Henry seemed never to forget anything, and devoted much of his
leisure hours to reading.
Henry is gone! His death was horrible! How I could have sat by him,
hung over him, watched day and night every change of expression, and
ministered to every want in my power that I could discover. This was
denied to me, but Sam, whose organization is such as to feel the utmost
extreme of every feeling, was there. Both his capacity of enjoyment and
his capacity of suffering are greater than mine; and knowing how it would
have affected me to see so sad a scene, I can somewhat appreciate Sam's
sufferings. In this time of great trouble, when my two brothers, whose
heartstrings have always been a part of my own, were suffering the utmost
stretch of mortal endurance, you were there, like a good angel, to aid
and console, and I bless and thank you for it with my whole heart. I
thank all who helped them then; I thank them for the flowers they sent to
Henry, for the tears that fell for their sufferings, and when he died,
and all of them for all the kind attentions they bestowed upon the poor
boys. We thank the physicians, and we shall always gratefully remember
the kindness of the gentleman who at so much expense to himself enabled
us to deposit Henry's remains by our father.
With many kind wishes for your future welfare, I remain your earnest
MARK TWAIN'S BURLESQUE OF CAPTAIN ISAIAH SELLERS
(See Chapter xxvii)
The item which served as a text for the "Sergeant Fathom" communication
was as follows:
VICKSBURG, May 4, 1859.
My opinion for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans: The water is
higher this far up than it has been since 1815. My opinion is that the
water will be four feet deep in Canal Street before the first of next
June. Mrs. Turner's plantation at the head of Big Black Island is all
under water, and it has not been since 1815.
I. SELLERS.--[Captain Sellers, as
in this case, sometimes signed
his own name to his
Our friend Sergeant Fathom, one of the oldest cub pilots on the river,
and now on the Railroad Line steamer Trombone, sends us a rather bad
account concerning the state of the river. Sergeant Fathom is a "cub" of
much experience, and although we are loath to coincide in his view of the
matter, we give his note a place in our columns, only hoping that his
prophecy will not be verified in this instance. While introducing the
Sergeant, "we consider it but simple justice (we quote from a friend of
his) to remark that he is distinguished for being, in pilot phrase,
'close,' as well as superhumanly 'safe.'" It is a well-known fact that
he has made fourteen hundred and fifty trips in the New Orleans and St.
Louis trade without causing serious damage to a steamboat. This
astonishing success is attributed to the fact that he seldom runs his
boat after early candle-light. It is related of the Sergeant that upon
one occasion he actually ran the chute of Glasscock's Island, down-
stream, in the night, and at a time, too, when the river was scarcely
more than bank full. His method of accomplishing this feat proves what
we have just said of his "safeness"--he sounded the chute first, and then
built a fire at the head of the island to run by. As to the Sergeant's
"closeness," we have heard it whispered that he once went up to the right
of the "Old Hen,"--[Glasscock's Island and the "Old Hen" were
phenomenally safe places.]--but this is probably a pardonable little
exaggeration, prompted by the love and admiration in which he is held by
various ancient dames of his acquaintance (for albeit the Sergeant may
have already numbered the allotted years of man, still his form is erect,
his step is firm, his hair retains its sable hue, and, more than all, he
hath a winning way about him, an air of docility and sweetness, if you
will, and a smoothness of speech, together with an exhaustless fund of
funny sayings; and, lastly, an overflowing stream, without beginning, or
middle, or end, of astonishing reminiscences of the ancient Mississippi,
which, taken together, form a 'tout ensemble' which is sufficient excuse
for the tender epithet which is, by common consent, applied to him by all
those ancient dames aforesaid, of "che-arming creature!"). As the
Sergeant has been longer on the river, and is better acquainted with it
than any other "cub" extant, his remarks are entitled to far more
consideration, and are always read with the deepest interest by high and
low, rich and poor, from "Kiho" to Kamschatka, for let it be known that
his fame extends to the uttermost parts of the earth:
R.R. Steamer Trombone, VICKSBURG, May 8, 1859.
The river from New Orleans up to Natchez is higher than it has been since
the niggers were executed (which was in the fall of 1813) and my opinion
is that if the rise continues at this rate the water will be on the roof
of the St. Charles Hotel before the middle of January. The point at
Cairo, which has not even been moistened by the river since 1813, is now
entirely under water.
However, Mr. Editor, the inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley should not
act precipitately and sell their plantations at a sacrifice on account of
this prophecy of mine, for I shall proceed to convince them of a great
fact in regard to this matter, viz.: that the tendency of the Mississippi
is to rise less and less high every year (with an occasional variation of
the rule), that such has been the case for many centuries, and eventually
that it will cease to rise at all. Therefore, I would hint to the
planters, as we say in an innocent little parlor game commonly called
"draw," that if they can only "stand the rise" this time they may enjoy
the comfortable assurance that the old river's banks will never hold a
"full" again during their natural lives.
In the summer of 1763 I came down the river on the old first Jubilee.
She was new then, however; a singular sort of a single-engine boat, with
a Chinese captain and a Choctaw crew, forecastle on her stern, wheels in
the center, and the jackstaff "nowhere," for I steered her with a window-
shutter, and when we wanted to land we sent a line ashore and "rounded
her to" with a yoke of oxen.
Well, sir, we wooded off the top of the big bluff above Selmathe only dry
land visible--and waited there three weeks, swapping knives and playing
"seven up" with the Indians, waiting for the river to fall. Finally, it
fell about a hundred feet, and we went on. One day we rounded to, and I
got in a horse-trough, which my partner borrowed from the Indians up
there at Selma while they were at prayers, and went down to sound around
No. 8, and while I was gone my partner got aground on the hills at
Hickman. After three days' labor we finally succeeded in sparring her
off with a capstan bar, and went on to Memphis. By the time we got there
the river had subsided to such an extent that we were able to land where
the Gayoso House now stands. We finished loading at Memphis, and loaded
part of the stone for the present St. Louis Court House (which was then
in process of erection), to be taken up on our return trip.
You can form some conception, by these memoranda, of how high the
water was in 1763. In 1775 it did not rise so high by thirty feet;
in 1790 it missed the original mark at least sixty-five feet; in
1797, one hundred and fifty feet; and in 1806, nearly two hundred and
fifty feet. These were "high-water" years. The "high waters" since then
have been so insignificant that I have scarcely taken the trouble to
notice them. Thus, you will perceive that the planters need not feel
uneasy. The river may make an occasional spasmodic effort at a flood,
but the time is approaching when it will cease to rise altogether.
In conclusion, sir, I will condescend to hint at the foundation of these
arguments: When me and De Soto discovered the Mississippi I could stand
at Bolivar Landing (several miles above "Roaring Waters Bar") and pitch a
biscuit to the main shore on the other side, and in low water we waded
across at Donaldsonville. The gradual widening and deepening of the
river is the whole secret of the matter.
MARK TWAIN'S EMPIRE CITY HOAX
(See Chapter xli)
THE LATEST SENSATION
A Victim to Jeremy Diddling Trustees--He Cuts his Throat from Ear to
Ear, Scalps his Wife, and Dashes Out the Brains of Six Helpless
From Abram Curry, who arrived here yesterday afternoon from Carson, we
learn the following particulars concerning a bloody massacre which was
committed in Ormsby County night before last. It seems that during the
past six months a man named P. Hopkins, or Philip Hopkins, has been
residing with his family in the old log-house just at the edge of the
great pine forest which lies between Empire City and Dutch Nick's. The
family consisted of nine children--five girls and four boys--the oldest
of the group, Mary, being nineteen years old, and the youngest, Tommy,
about a year and a half. Twice in the past two months Mrs. Hopkins,
while visiting Carson, expressed fears concerning the sanity of her
husband, remarking that of late he had been subject to fits of violence,
and that during the prevalence of one of these he had threatened to take
her life. It was Mrs. Hopkins's misfortune to be given to exaggeration,
however, and but little attention was given to what she said.
About 10 o'clock on Monday evening Hopkins dashed into Carson on
horseback, with his throat cut from ear to ear, and bearing in his hand a
reeking scalp, from which the warm, smoking blood was still dripping, and
fell in a dying condition in front of the Magnolia saloon. Hopkins
expired, in the course of five minutes, without speaking. The long, red
hair of the scalp he bore marked it as that of Mrs. Hopkins. A number of
citizens, headed by Sheriff Gasherie, mounted at once and rode down to
Hopkins's house, where a ghastly scene met their eyes. The scalpless
corpse of Mrs. Hopkins lay across the threshold, with her head split open
and her right hand almost severed from the wrist. Near her lay the ax
with which the murderous deed had been committed. In one of the bedrooms
six of the children were found, one in bed and the others scattered about
the floor. They were all dead. Their brains had evidently been dashed
out with a club, and every mark about them seemed to have been made with
a blunt instrument. The children must have struggled hard for their
lives, as articles of clothing and broken furniture were strewn about the
room in the utmost confusion. Julia and Emma, aged respectively fourteen
and seventeen, were found in the kitchen, bruised and insensible, but it
is thought their recovery is possible. The eldest girl, Mary, must have
sought refuge, in her terror, in the garret, as her body was found there
frightfully mutilated, and the knife with which her wounds had been
inflicted still sticking in her side. The two girls Julia and Emma, who
had recovered sufficiently to be able to talk yesterday morning, declare
that their father knocked them down with a billet of wood and stamped on
them. They think they were the first attacked. They further state that
Hopkins had shown evidence of derangement all day, but had exhibited no
violence. He flew into a passion and attempted to murder them because
they advised him to go to bed and compose his mind.
Curry says Hopkins was about forty-two years of age, and a native of
western Pennsylvania; he was always affable and polite, and until very
recently no one had ever heard of his ill-treating his family. He had
been a heavy owner in the best mines of Virginia and Gold Hill, but when
the San Francisco papers exposed our game of cooking dividends in order
to bolster up our stocks he grew afraid and sold out, and invested an
immense amount in the Spring Valley Water Company, of San Francisco. He
was advised to do this by a relative of his, one of the editors of the
San Francisco Bulletin, who had suffered pecuniarily by the dividend-
cooking system as applied to the Daney Mining Company recently. Hopkins
had not long ceased to own in the various claims on the Comstock lead,
however, when several dividends were cooked on his newly acquired
property, their water totally dried up, and Spring Valley stock went down
to nothing. It is presumed that this misfortune drove him mad, and
resulted in his killing himself and the greater portion of his family.
The newspapers of San Francisco permitted this water company to go on
borrowing money and cooking dividends, under cover of which the cunning
financiers crept out of the tottering concern, leaving the crash to come
upon poor and unsuspecting stockholders, without offering to expose the
villainy at work. We hope the fearful massacre detailed above may prove
the saddest result of their silence.
NEWS-GATHERING WITH MARK TWAIN
Alfred Doten's son gives the following account of a reporting trip made
by his father and Mark Twain, when the two were on Comstock papers:
My father and Mark Twain were once detailed to go over to Como and write
up some new mines that had been discovered over there. My father was on
the Gold Hill News. He and Mark had not met before, but became promptly
acquainted, and were soon calling each other by their first names.
They went to a little hotel at Carson, agreeing to do their work there
together next morning. When morning came they set out, and suddenly on a
corner Mark stopped and turned to my father, saying:
"By gracious, Alf! Isn't that a brewery?"
"It is, Mark. Let's go in."
They did so, and remained there all day, swapping yarns, sipping beer,
and lunching, going back to the hotel that night.
The next morning precisely the same thing occurred. When they were on
the same corner, Mark stopped as if he had never been there before, and
"Good gracious, Alf ! Isn't that a brewery?"
"It is, Mark. Let's go in."
So again they went in, and again stayed all day.
This happened again the next morning, and the next. Then my father
became uneasy. A letter had come from Gold Hill, asking him where his
report of the mines was. They agreed that next morning they would really
begin the story; that they would climb to the top of a hill that
overlooked the mines, and write it from there.
But the next morning, as before, Mark was surprised to discover the
brewery, and once more they went in. A few moments later, however, a man
who knew all about the mines--a mining engineer connected with them--came
in. He was a godsend. My father set down a valuable, informing story,
while Mark got a lot of entertaining mining yarns out of him.
Next day Virginia City and Gold Hill were gaining information from my
father's article, and entertainment from Mark's story of the mines.
FROM MARK TWAIN'S FIRST LECTURE, DELIVERED OCTOBER 2, 1866
(See Chapter liv)
HAWAIIAN IMPORTANCE TO AMERICA
After a full elucidation of the sugar industry of the Sandwich Islands,
its profits and possibilities, he said:
I have dwelt upon this subject to show you that these islands have a
genuine importance to America--an importance which is not generally
appreciated by our citizens. They pay revenues into the United States
Treasury now amounting to over a half a million a year.
I do not know what the sugar yield of the world is now, but ten years
ago, according to the Patent Office reports, it was 800,000 hogsheads.
The Sandwich Islands, properly cultivated by go-ahead Americans, are
capable of providing one-third as much themselves. With the Pacific
Railroad built, the great China Mail Line of steamers touching at
Honolulu--we could stock the islands with Americans and supply a third of
the civilized world with sugar--and with the silkiest, longest-stapled
cotton this side of the Sea Islands, and the very best quality of rice
.... The property has got to fall to some heir, and why not the United
NATIVE PASSION FOR FUNERALS
They are very fond of funerals. Big funerals are their main weakness.
Fine grave clothes, fine funeral appointments, and a long procession are
things they take a generous delight in. They are fond of their chief and
their king; they reverence them with a genuine reverence and love them
with a warm affection, and often look forward to the happiness they will
experience in burying them. They will beg, borrow, or steal money
enough, and flock from all the islands, to be present at a royal funeral
on Oahu. Years ago a Kanaka and his wife were condemned to be hanged for
murder. They received the sentence with manifest satisfaction because it
gave an opening for a funeral, you know. All they care for is a funeral.
It makes but little difference to them whose it is; they would as soon
attend their own funeral as anybody else's. This couple were people of
consequence, and had landed estates. They sold every foot of ground they
had and laid it out in fine clothes to be hung in. And the woman
appeared on the scaffold in a white satin dress and slippers and fathoms
of gaudy ribbon, and the man was arrayed in a gorgeous vest, blue claw-
hammer coat and brass buttons, and white kid gloves. As the noose was
adjusted around his neck, he blew his nose with a grand theatrical
flourish, so as to show his embroidered white handkerchief. I never,
never knew of a couple who enjoyed hanging more than they did.
VIEW FROM HALEAKALA
It is a solemn pleasure to stand upon the summit of the extinct crater of
Haleakala, ten thousand feet above the sea, and gaze down into its awful
crater, 27 miles in circumference and ago feet deep, and to picture to
yourself the seething world of fire that once swept up out of the
tremendous abyss ages ago.
The prodigious funnel is dead and silent now, and even has bushes growing
far down in its bottom, where the deep-sea line could hardly have reached
in the old times, when the place was filled with liquid lava. These
bushes look like parlor shrubs from the summit where you stand, and the
file of visitors moving through them on their mules is diminished to a
detachment of mice almost; and to them you, standing so high up against
the sun, ten thousand feet above their heads, look no larger than a
This in the morning; but at three or four in the afternoon a thousand
little patches of white clouds, like handfuls of wool, come drifting
noiselessly, one after another, into the crater, like a procession of
shrouded phantoms, and circle round and round the vast sides, and settle
gradually down and mingle together until the colossal basin is filled to
the brim with snowy fog and all its seared and desolate wonders are
hidden from sight.
And then you may turn your back to the crater and look far away upon the
broad valley below, with its sugar-houses glinting like white specks in
the distance, and the great sugar-fields diminished to green veils amid
the lighter-tinted verdure around them, and abroad upon the limitless
ocean. But I should not say you look down; you look up at these things.
You are ten thousand feet above them, but yet you seem to stand in a
basin, with the green islands here and there, and the valleys and the
wide ocean, and the remote snow-peak of Mauna Loa, all raised up before
and above you, and pictured out like a brightly tinted map hung at the
ceiling of a room.
You look up at everything; nothing is below you. It has a singular and
startling effect to see a miniature world thus seemingly hung in mid-air.
But soon the white clouds come trooping along in ghostly squadrons and
mingle together in heavy masses a quarter of a mile below you and shut
out everything-completely hide the sea and all the earth save the
pinnacle you stand on. As far as the eye can reach, it finds nothing to
rest upon but a boundless plain of clouds tumbled into all manner of
fantastic shapes-a billowy ocean of wool aflame with the gold and purple
and crimson splendors of the setting sun! And so firm does this grand
cloud pavement look that you can hardly persuade yourself that you could
not walk upon it; that if you stepped upon it you would plunge headlong
and astonish your friends at dinner ten thousand feet below.
Standing on that peak, with all the world shut out by that vast plain of
clouds, a feeling of loneliness comes over a man which suggests to his
mind the last man at the flood, perched high upon the last rock, with
nothing visible on any side but a mournful waste of waters, and the ark
departing dimly through the distant mists and leaving him to storm and
night and solitude and death!
NOTICE OF MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE
"THE TROUBLE IS OVER"
"The inimitable Mark Twain, delivered himself last night of his first
lecture on the Sandwich Islands, or anything else.
"Some time before the hour appointed to open his head the Academy of Music
(on Pine Street) was densely crowded with one of the most fashionable
audiences it was ever my privilege to witness during my long residence in
this city. The Elite of the town were there, and so was the Governor of
the State, occupying one of the boxes, whose rotund face was suffused
with a halo of mirth during the whole entertainment. The audience
promptly notified Mark by the usual sign--stamping--that the auspicious
hour had arrived, and presently the lecturer came sidling and swinging
out from the left of the stage. His very manner produced a generally
vociferous laugh from the assemblage. He opened with an apology, by
saying that he had partly succeeded in obtaining a band, but at the last
moment the party engaged backed out. He explained that he had hired a
man to play the trombone, but he, on learning that he was the only person
engaged, came at the last moment and informed him that he could not play.
This placed Mark in a bad predicament, and wishing to know his reasons
for deserting him at that critical moment, he replied, 'That he wasn't
going to make a fool of himself by sitting up there on the stage and
blowing his horn all by himself.' After the applause subsided, he
assumed a very grave countenance and commenced his remarks proper with
the following well-known sentence: 'When, in the course of human events,'
etc. He lectured fully an hour and a quarter, and his humorous sayings
were interspersed with geographical, agricultural, and statistical
remarks, sometimes branching off and reaching beyond, soaring, in the
very choicest language, up to the very pinnacle of descriptive power."
FROM "THE JUMPING FROG" BOOK (MARK TWAIN'S FIRST PUBLISHED VOLUME)
(See Chapters lviii and lix)
"Mark Twain" is too well known to the public to require a formal
introduction at my hands. By his story of the Frog he scaled the heights
of popularity at a single jump and won for himself the 'sobriquet' of The
Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope. He is also known to fame as The
Moralist of the Main; and it is not unlikely that as such he will go down
to posterity. It is in his secondary character, as humorist, however,
rather than in the primal one of moralist, that I aim to present him in
the present volume. And here a ready explanation will be found for the
somewhat fragmentary character of many of these sketches; for it was
necessary to snatch threads of humor wherever they could be found--very
often detaching them from serious articles and moral essays with which
they were woven and entangled. Originally written for newspaper
publication, many of the articles referred to events of the day, the
interest of which has now passed away, and contained local allusions,
which the general reader would fail to understand; in such cases excision
became imperative. Further than this, remark or comment is unnecessary.
Mark Twain never resorts to tricks of spelling nor rhetorical buffoonery
for the purpose of provoking a laugh; the vein of his humor runs too rich
and deep to make surface gliding necessary. But there are few who can
resist the quaint similes, keen satire, and hard, good sense which form
the staple of his writing.
FROM ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
"MORAL STATISTICIAN"--I don't want any of your statistics. I took your
whole batch and lit my pipe with it. I hate your kind of people. You
are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much
his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he
wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal
practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking
coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of
wine at dinner, etc., etc., etc. . . .
Of course you can save money by denying yourself all these vicious little
enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use
can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the
use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this
life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment, where is
the use in accumulating cash? It won't do for you to say that you can
use it to better purpose in furnishing good table, and in charities, and
in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people
who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you
stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and
hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor
wretch, seeing you in a good-humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you;
and in church you are always down on your knees, with your eyes buried in
the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give
the revenue-officers a true statement of your income. Now you all know
all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is the use
of your stringing out your miserable lives to a clean and withered old
age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless
to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be
always trying to seduce people into becoming as "ornery" and unlovable as
you are yourselves, by your ceaseless and villainous "moral statistics"?
Now, I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it, either;
but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming
petty vices whatever, and so I don't want to hear from you any more. I
think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week
about the degrading vice of smoking cigars and then came back, in my
absence, with your vile, reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried
off my beautiful parlor-stove.
FROM "A STRANGE DREAM"
(Example of Mark Twain's Early Descriptive Writing)
. . . In due time I stood, with my companion, on the wall of the vast
caldron which the natives, ages ago, named 'Hale mau mau'--the abyss
wherein they were wont to throw the remains of their chiefs, to the end
that vulgar feet might never tread above them. We stood there, at dead
of night, a mile above the level of the sea, and looked down a thousand
feet upon a boiling, surging, roaring ocean of fire!--shaded our eyes
from the blinding glare, and gazed far away over the crimson waves with a
vague notion that a supernatural fleet, manned by demons and freighted
with the damned, might presently sail up out of the remote distance;
started when tremendous thunder-bursts shook the earth, and followed with
fascinated eyes the grand jets of molten lava that sprang high up toward
the zenith and exploded in a world of fiery spray that lit up the somber
heavens with an infernal splendor.
"What is your little bonfire of Vesuvius to this?"
My ejaculation roused my companion from his reverie, and we fell into a
conversation appropriate to the occasion and the surroundings. We came
at last to speak of the ancient custom of casting the bodies of dead
chieftains into this fearful caldron; and my comrade, who is of the blood
royal, mentioned that the founder of his race, old King Kamehameha the
First--that invincible old pagan Alexander--had found other sepulture
than the burning depths of the 'Hale mau mau'. I grew interested at
once; I knew that the mystery of what became of the corpse of the warrior
king hail never been fathomed; I was aware that there was a legend
connected with this matter; and I felt as if there could be no more
fitting time to listen to it than the present. The descendant of the
The dead king was brought in royal state down the long, winding road that
descends from the rim of the crater to the scorched and chasm-riven plain
that lies between the 'Hale mau mau' and those beetling walls yonder in
the distance. The guards were set and the troops of mourners began the
weird wail for the departed. In the middle of the night came a sound of
innumerable voices in the air and the rush of invisible wings; the
funeral torches wavered, burned blue, and went out. The mourners and
watchers fell to the ground paralyzed by fright, and many minutes elapsed
before any one dared to move or speak; for they believed that the phantom
messengers of the dread Goddess of Fire had been in their midst. When at
last a torch was lighted the bier was vacant--the dead monarch had been
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD
(See Chapter lx)
NEW YORK "HERALD" EDITORIAL ON THE RETURN OF THE "QUAKER CITY"
PILGRIMAGE, NOVEMBER 19, 1867
In yesterday's Herald we published a most amusing letter from the pen of
that most amusing American genius, Mark Twain, giving an account of that
most amusing of all modern pilgrimages--the pilgrimage of the 'Quaker
City'. It has been amusing all through, this Quaker City affair. It
might have become more serious than amusing if the ship had been sold at
Jaffa, Alexandria, or Yalta, in the Black Sea, as it appears might have
happened. In such a case the passengers would have been more effectually
sold than the ship. The descendants of the Puritan pilgrims have,
naturally enough, some of them, an affection for ships; but if all that
is said about this religious cruise be true they have also a singularly
sharp eye to business. It was scarcely wise on the part of the pilgrims,
although it was well for the public, that so strange a genius as Mark
Twain should have found admission into the sacred circle. We are not
aware whether Mr. Twain intends giving us a book on this pilgrimage, but
we do know that a book written from his own peculiar standpoint, giving
an account of the characters and events on board ship and of the scenes
which the pilgrims witnessed, would command an almost unprecedented sale.
There are varieties of genius peculiar to America. Of one of these
varieties Mark Twain is a striking specimen. For the development of his
peculiar genius he has never had a more fitting opportunity. Besides,
there are some things which he knows, and which the world ought to know,
about this last edition of the Mayflower.
MARK TWAIN AT THE CORRESPONDENTS CLUB, WASHINGTON
(See Chapter lxiii)
A EULOGY OF THE FAIR SEX
The Washington Correspondents Club held its anniversary on Saturday
night. Mr. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, responded to the toast,
"Woman, the pride of the professions and the jewel of ours." He said:
Mr. President,--I do not know why I should have been singled out to
receive the greatest distinction of the evening--for so the office of
replying to the toast to woman has been regarded in every age.
[Applause.] I do not know why I have received this distinction, unless it
be that I am a trifle less homely than the other members of the club.
But, be this as it may, Mr. President, I am proud of the position, and
you could not have chosen any one who would have accepted it more gladly,
or labored with a heartier good--will to do the subject justice, than I.
Because, Sir, I love the sex. [Laughter.] I love all the women, sir,
irrespective of age or color. [Laughter.]
Human intelligence cannot estimate what we owe to woman, sir. She sews
on our buttons [laughter]; she mends our clothes [laughter]; she ropes us
in at the church fairs; she confides in us; she tells us whatever she can
find out about the private affairs of the neighbors; she gives good
advice, and plenty of it; she gives us a piece of her mind sometimes--
and sometimes all of it; she soothes our aching brows; she bears our
children. (Ours as a general thing.)--[this last sentence appears in
Twain's published speeches and may have been added later. D.W.]
In all relations of life, sir, it is but just and a graceful tribute to
woman to say of her that she is a brick. [Great laughter.]
Wheresoever you place woman, sir--in whatsoever position or estate--she
is an ornament to that place she occupies, and a treasure to the world.
[Here Mr. Twain paused, looked inquiringly at his hearers, and remarked
that the applause should come in at this point. It came in. Mr. Twain
resumed his eulogy.] Look at the noble names of history! Look at
Cleopatra! Look at Desdemona! Look at Florence Nightingale! Look at
Joan of Arc! Look at Lucretia Borgia! [Disapprobation expressed.
"Well," said Mr. Twain, scratching his head, doubtfully, "suppose we let
Lucretia slide."] Look at Joyce Heth! Look at Mother Eve! I repeat,
sir, look at the illustrious names of history! Look at the Widow
Machree! Look at Lucy Stone! Look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton! Look at
George Francis Train! [Great laughter.] And, sir, I say with bowed head
and deepest veneration, look at the mother of Washington! She raised a
boy that could not lie--could not lie. [Applause.] But he never had any
chance. It might have been different with him if he had belonged to a
newspaper correspondents' club. [Laughter, groans, hisses, cries of "put
him out." Mark looked around placidly upon his excited audience, and
I repeat, sir, that in whatsoever position you place a woman she is an
ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart she has
few equals and no superior [laughter]; as a cousin she is convenient; as
a wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper she is precious; as a
wet nurse she has no equal among men! [Laughter.]
What, sir, would the people of this earth be without woman? They would
be scarce, sir. (Mighty scarce.)--[another line added later in the
published 'Speeches'. D.W.] Then let us cherish her, let us protect her,
let us give her our support, our encouragement, our sympathy--ourselves,
if we get a chance. [Laughter.]
But, jesting aside, Mr. President, woman is lovable, gracious, kind of
heart, beautiful; worthy of all respect, of all esteem, of all deference.
Not any here will refuse to drink her health right cordially, for each
and every one of us has personally known, loved, and honored the very
best one of them all--his own mother! [Applause.]
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR LECTURE OF JULY 2, 1868
(See Chapter lxvi)
THE PUBLIC TO MARK TWAIN-CORRESPONDENCE
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
MR. MARK TWAIN--DEAR SIR,--Hearing that you are about to sail for New
York in the P. M. S. S. Company's steamer of the 6th July, to publish a
book, and learning with the deepest concern that you propose to read a
chapter or two of that book in public before you go, we take this method
of expressing our cordial desire that you will not. We beg and implore
you do not. There is a limit to human endurance.
We are your personal friends. We have your welfare at heart. We desire
to see you prosper. And it is upon these accounts, and upon these only,
that we urge you to desist from the new atrocity you contemplate. Yours
60 names including: Bret Harte, Maj.-Gen. Ord, Maj.-Gen. Halleck,
The Orphan Asylum, and various Benevolent Societies, Citizens on
Foot and Horseback, and 1500 in the Steerage.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th
TO THE 1,500 AND OTHERS,--It seems to me that your course is entirely
unprecedented. Heretofore, when lecturers, singers, actors, and other
frauds have said they were about to leave town, you have always been the
very first people to come out in a card beseeching them to hold on for
just one night more, and inflict just one more performance on the public,
but as soon as I want to take a farewell benefit you come after me, with
a card signed by the whole community and the board of aldermen, praying
me not to do it. But it isn't of any use. You cannot move me from my
fell purpose. I will torment the people if I want to. I have a better
right to do it than these strange lecturers and orators that come here
from abroad. It only costs the public a dollar apiece, and if they can't
stand it what do they stay here for? Am I to go away and let them have
peace and quiet for a year and a half, and then come back and only
lecture them twice? What do you take me for?
No, gentlemen, ask of me anything else and I will do it cheerfully; but
do not ask me not to afflict the people. I wish to tell them all I know
about VENICE. I wish to tell them about the City of the Sea--that most
venerable, most brilliant, and proudest Republic the world has ever seen.
I wish to hint at what it achieved in twelve hundred years, and what it
lost in two hundred. I wish to furnish a deal of pleasant information,
somewhat highly spiced, but still palatable, digestible, and eminently
fitted for the intellectual stomach. My last lecture was not as fine as
I thought it was, but I have submitted this discourse to several able
critics, and they have pronounced it good. Now, therefore, why should I
Let me talk only just this once, and I will sail positively on the 6th of
July, and stay away until I return from China--two years.
Yours truly, MARK TWAIN.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
MR. MARK TWAIN,--Learning with profound regret that you have concluded to
postpone your departure until the 6th July, and learning also, with
unspeakable grief, that you propose to read from your forthcoming book,
or lecture again before you go, at the New Mercantile Library, we hasten
to beg of you that you will not do it. Curb this spirit of lawless
violence, and emigrate at once. Have the vessel's bill for your passage
sent to us. We will pay it.
Pacific Board of Brokers [and
other financial and social
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
MR. MARK TWAIN--DEAR SIR,--Will you start now, without any unnecessary
Proprietors of the Alta,
Bulletin, Times, Call, Examiner
[and other San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
MR. MARK TWAIN--DEAR SIR,--Do not delay your departure. You can come
back and lecture another time. In the language of the worldly--you can
"cut and come again."
SAN FRANCISCO, June 3oth.
MR. MARK TWAIN--DEAR SIR,--You had better go.
THE CHIEF OF POLICE.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
GENTLEMEN,--Restrain your emotions; you observe that they cannot avail.
NEW MERCANTILE LIBRARY
Thursday Evening, July 2, 1868
One Night Only
The Oldest of the Republics
PAST AND PRESENT
Box-Office open Wednesday and Thursday
No extra charge for reserved seats
ADMISSION . . . . . . . . . . . ONE DOLLAR
Doors open at 7 Orgies to commence at 8 P. M.
The public displays and ceremonies projected to give fitting eclat
to this occasion have been unavoidably delayed until the 4th. The
lecture will be delivered certainly on the 2d, and the event will be
celebrated two days afterward by a discharge of artillery on the
4th, a procession of citizens, the reading of the Declaration of
Independence, and by a gorgeous display of fireworks from Russian
Hill in the evening, which I have ordered at my sole expense, the
cost amounting to eighty thousand dollars.
AT NEW MERCANTILE LIBRARY
Thursday Evening, July 2, 1868
MARK TWAIN'S CHAMPIONSHIP OF THOMAS K. BEECHER
(See Chapter lxxiv)
There was a religious turmoil in Elmira in 1869; a disturbance among the
ministers, due to the success of Thomas K. Beecher in a series of
meetings he was conducting in the Opera House. Mr. Beecher's teachings
had never been very orthodox or doctrinal, but up to this time they had
been seemingly unobjectionable to his brother clergymen, who fraternized
with him and joined with him in the Monday meetings of the Ministerial
Union of Elmira, when each Monday a sermon was read by one of the
members. The situation presently changed. Mr. Beecher was preaching his
doubtful theology to large and nightly increasing audiences, and it was
time to check the exodus. The Ministerial Union of Elmira not only
declined to recognize and abet the Opera House gatherings, but they
requested him to withdraw from their Monday meetings, on the ground that
his teachings were pernicious. Mr. Beecher said nothing of the matter,
and it was not made public until a notice of it appeared in a religious
paper. Naturally such a course did not meet with the approval of the
Langdon family, and awoke the scorn of a man who so detested bigotry in
any form as Mark Twain. He was a stranger in the place, and not
justified to speak over his own signature, but he wrote an article and
read it to members of the Langdon family and to Dr. and Mrs. Taylor,
their intimate friends, who were spending an evening in the Langdon home.
It was universally approved, and the next morning appeared in the Elmira
Advertiser, over the signature of "S'cat." It created a stir, of course.
The article follows:
MR. BEECHER AND THE CLERGY
"The Ministerial Union of Elmira, N. Y., at a recent meeting passed
resolutions disapproving the teachings of Rev. T. K. Beecher, declining
to co-operate with him in his Sunday evening services at the Opera House,
and requesting him to withdraw from their Monday morning meeting. This
has resulted in his withdrawal, and thus the pastors are relieved from
further responsibility as to his action."--N. Y. Evangelist.
Poor Beecher! All this time he could do whatever he pleased that was
wrong, and then be perfectly serene and comfortable over it, because the
Ministerial Union of Elmira was responsible to God for it. He could lie
if he wanted to, and those ministers had to answer for it; he could
promote discord in the church of Christ, and those parties had to make it
right with the Deity as best they could; he could teach false doctrines
to empty opera houses, and those sorrowing lambs of the Ministerial Union
had to get out their sackcloth and ashes and stand responsible for it.
He had such a comfortable thing of it! But he went too far. In an evil
hour he slaughtered the simple geese that laid the golden egg of
responsibility for him, and now they will uncover their customary
complacency, and lift up their customary cackle in his behalf no more.
And so, at last, he finds himself in the novel position of being
responsible to God for his acts, instead of to the Ministerial Union of
Elmira. To say that this is appalling is to state it with a degree of
mildness which amounts to insipidity.
We cannot justly estimate this calamity, without first reviewing certain
facts that conspired to bring it about. Mr. Beecher was and is in the
habit of preaching to a full congregation in the Independent
Congregational Church, in this city. The meeting-house was not large
enough to accommodate all the people who desired admittance. Mr. Beecher
regularly attended the meetings of the Ministerial Union of Elmira every
Monday morning, and they received him into their fellowship, and never
objected to the doctrines which he taught in his church. So, in an
unfortunate moment, he conceived the strange idea that they would connive
at the teaching of the same doctrines in the same way in a larger house.
Therefore he secured the Opera House and proceeded to preach there every
Sunday evening to assemblages comprising from a thousand to fifteen
hundred persons. He felt warranted in this course by a passage of
Scripture which says, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel
unto every creature." Opera-houses were not ruled out specifically in
this passage, and so he considered it proper to regard opera-houses as a
part of "all the world." He looked upon the people who assembled there
as coming under the head of "every creature." These ideas were as absurd
as they were farfetched, but still they were the honest ebullitions of a
diseased mind. His great mistake was in supposing that when he had the
Saviour's indorsement of his conduct he had all that was necessary. He
overlooked the fact that there might possibly be a conflict of opinion
between the Saviour and the Ministerial Union of Elmira. And there was.
Wherefore, blind and foolish Mr. Beecher went to his destruction. The
Ministerial Union withdrew their approbation, and left him dangling in
the air, with no other support than the countenance and approval of the
gospel of Christ.
Mr. Beecher invited his brother ministers to join forces with him and
help him conduct the Opera House meetings. They declined with great
unanimity. In this they were wrong. Since they did not approve of those
meetings, it was a duty they owed to their consciences and their God to
contrive their discontinuance. They knew this. They felt it. Yet they
turned coldly away and refused to help at those meetings, when they well
knew that their help, earnestly and persistently given, was able to kill
any great religious enterprise that ever was conceived of.
The ministers refused, and the calamitous meetings at the Opera House
continued; and not only continued, but grew in interest and importance,
and sapped of their congregations churches where the Gospel was preached
with that sweet monotonous tranquillity and that impenetrable profundity
which stir up such consternation in the strongholds of sin. It is a pity
to have to record here that one clergyman refused to preach at the Opera
House at Mr. Beecher's request, even when that incendiary was sick and
disabled; and if that man's conscience justifies him in that refusal I do
not. Under the plea of charity for a sick brother he could have preached
to that Opera House multitude a sermon that would have done incalculable
damage to the Opera House experiment. And he need not have been
particular about the sermon he chose, either. He could have relied on
any he had in his barrel.
The Opera House meetings went on; other congregations were thin, and grew
thinner, but the Opera House assemblages were vast. Every Sunday night,
in spite of sense and reason, multitudes passed by the churches where
they might have been saved, and marched deliberately to the Opera House
to be damned. The community talked, talked, talked. Everybody discussed
the fact that the Ministerial Union disapproved of the Opera House
meetings; also the fact that they disapproved of the teachings put forth
there. And everybody wondered how the Ministerial Union could tell
whether to approve or disapprove of those teachings, seeing that those
clergymen had never attended an Opera House meeting, and therefore didn't
know what was taught there. Everybody wondered over that curious
question, and they had to take it out in wondering.
Mr. Beecher asked the Ministerial Union to state their objections to the
Opera House matter. They could not--at least they did not. He said to
them that if they would come squarely out and tell him that they desired
the discontinuance of those meetings he would discontinue them. They
declined to do that. Why should they have declined? They had no right
to decline, and no excuse to decline, if they honestly believed that
those meetings interfered in the slightest degree with the best interests
of religion. (That is a proposition which the profoundest head among
them cannot get around.)
But the Opera House meetings went on. That was the mischief of it. And
so, one Monday morning, when Mr. B. appeared at the usual Ministers'
meeting, his brother clergymen desired him to come there no more. He
asked why. They gave no reason. They simply declined to have his
company longer. Mr. B. said he could not accept of this execution
without a trial, and since he loved them and had nothing against them he
must insist upon meeting with them in the future just the same as ever.
And so, after that, they met in secret, and thus got rid of this man's
The Ministerial Union had ruled out Beecher--a point gained. He would
get up an excitement about it in public. But that was a miscalculation.
He never mentioned it. They waited and waited for the grand crash, but
it never came. After all their labor-pains, their ministerial mountain
had brought forth only a mouse--and a still-born one at that. Beecher
had not told on them; Beecher malignantly persisted in not telling on
them. The opportunity was slipping away. Alas, for the humiliation of
it, they had to come out and tell it themselves! And after all, their
bombshell did not hurt anybody when they did explode it. They had ceased
to be responsible to God for Beecher, and yet nobody seemed paralyzed
about it. Somehow, it was not even of sufficient importance, apparently,
to get into the papers, though even the poor little facts that Smith has
bought a trotting team and Alderman Jones's child has the measles are
chronicled there with avidity. Something must be done. As the
Ministerial Union had told about their desolating action, when nobody
else considered it of enough importance to tell, they would also publish
it, now that the reporters failed to see anything in it important enough
to print. And so they startled the entire religious world no doubt by
solemnly printing in the Evangelist the paragraph which heads this
article. They have got their excommunication-bull started at last. It
is going along quite lively now, and making considerable stir, let us
hope. They even know it in Podunk, wherever that may be. It excited a
two-line paragraph there. Happy, happy world, that knows at last that a
little congress of congregationless clergymen of whom it had never heard
before have crushed a famous Beecher, and reduced his audiences from
fifteen hundred down to fourteen hundred and seventy-five at one fell
blow! Happy, happy world, that knows at last that these obscure
innocents are no longer responsible for the blemishless teachings, the
power, the pathos, the logic, and the other and manifold intellectual
pyrotechnics that seduce, but to damn, the Opera House assemblages every
Sunday night in Elmira! And miserable, O thrice miserable Beecher! For
the Ministerial Union of Elmira will never, no, never more be responsible
to God for his shortcomings. (Excuse these tears.)
(For the protection of a man who is uniformly charged with all the
newspaper deviltry that sees the light in Elmira journals, I take this
opportunity of stating, under oath, duly subscribed before a magistrate,
that Mr. Beecher did not write this article. And further still, that he
did not inspire it. And further still, the Ministerial Union of Elmira
did not write it. And finally, the Ministerial Union did not ask me to
write it. No, I have taken up this cudgel in defense of the Ministerial
Union of Elmira solely from a love of justice. Without solicitation, I
have constituted myself the champion of the Ministerial Union of Elmira,
and it shall be a labor of love with me to conduct their side of a
quarrel in print for them whenever they desire me to do it; or if they
are busy, and have not the time to ask me, I will cheerfully do it
anyhow. In closing this I must remark that if any question the right of
the clergymen of Elmira to turn Mr. Beecher out of the Ministerial Union,
to such I answer that Mr. Beecher recreated that institution after it had
been dead for many years, and invited those gentlemen to come into it,
which they did, and so of course they have a right to turn him out if
they want to. The difference between Beecher and the man who put an
adder in his bosom is, that Beecher put in more adders than he did, and
consequently had a proportionately livelier time of it when they got
THE INDIGNITY PUT UPON THE REMAINS OF GEORGE HOLLAND BY THE
REV. MR. SABINE
(See Chapter lxxvii)
What a ludicrous satire it was upon Christian charity!--even upon the
vague, theoretical idea of it which doubtless this small saint mouths
from his own pulpit every Sunday. Contemplate this freak of nature, and
think what a Cardiff giant of self-righteousness is crowded into his
pigmy skin. If we probe, and dissect; and lay open this diseased, this
cancerous piety of his, we are forced to the conviction that it is the
production of an impression on his part that his guild do about all the
good that is done on the earth, and hence are better than common clay--
hence are competent to say to such as George Holland, "You are unworthy;
you are a play-actor, and consequently a sinner; I cannot take the
responsibility of recommending you to the mercy of Heaven." It must have
had its origin in that impression, else he would have thought, "We are
all instruments for the carrying out of God's purposes; it is not for me
to pass judgment upon your appointed share of the work, or to praise or
to revile it; I have divine authority for it that we are all sinners, and
therefore it is not for me to discriminate and say we will supplicate for
this sinner, for he was a merchant prince or a banker, but we will
beseech no forgiveness for this other one, for he was a play-actor."
It surely requires the furthest possible reach of self-righteousness to
enable a man to lift his scornful nose in the air and turn his back upon
so poor and pitiable a thing as a dead stranger come to beg the last
kindness that humanity can do in its behalf. This creature has violated
the letter of the Gospel, and judged George Holland--not George Holland,
either, but his profession through him. Then it is, in a measure, fair
that we judge this creature's guild through him. In effect he has said,
"We are the salt of the earth; we do all the good work that is done; to
learn how to be good and do good men must come to us; actors and such are
obstacles to moral progress." Pray look at the thing reasonably a
moment, laying aside all biases of education and custom. If a common
public impression is fair evidence of a thing then this minister's
legitimate, recognized, and acceptable business is to tell people calmly,
coldly, and in stiff, written sentences, from the pulpit, to go and do
right, be just, be merciful, be charitable. And his congregation forget
it all between church and home. But for fifty years it was George
Holland's business on the stage to make his audience go and do right, and
be just, merciful, and charitable--because by his living, breathing,
feeling pictures he showed them what it was to do these things, and how
to do them, and how instant and ample was the reward! Is it not a
singular teacher of men, this reverend gentleman who is so poorly
informed himself as to put the whole stage under ban, and say, "I do not
think it teaches moral lessons"? Where was ever a sermon preached that
could make filial ingratitude so hateful to men as the sinful play of
"King Lear"? Or where was there ever a sermon that could so convince men
of the wrong and the cruelty of harboring a pampered and unanalyzed
jealousy as the sinful play of "Othello"? And where are there ten
preachers who can stand in the pulpit preaching heroism, unselfish
devotion, and lofty patriotism, and hold their own against any one of
five hundred William Tells that can be raised upon five hundred stages in
the land at a day's notice? It is almost fair and just to aver (although
it is profanity) that nine-tenths of all the kindness and forbearance and
Christian charity and generosity in the hearts of the American people
today got there by being filtered down from their fountain-head, the
gospel of Christ, through dramas and tragedies and comedies on the stage,
and through the despised novel and the Christmas story, and through the
thousand and one lessons, suggestions, and narratives of generous deeds
that stir the pulses, and exalt and augment the nobility of the nation
day by day from the teeming columns of ten thousand newspapers, and not
from the drowsy pulpit.
All that is great and good in our particular civilization came straight
from the hand of Jesus Christ, and many creatures, and of divers sorts,
were doubtless appointed to disseminate it; and let us believe that this
seed and the result are the main thing, and not the cut of the sower's
garment; and that whosoever, in his way and according to his opportunity,
sows the one and produces the other, has done high service and worthy.
And further, let us try with all our strength to believe that whenever
old simple-hearted George Holland sowed this seed, and reared his crop of
broader charities and better impulses in men's hearts, it was just as
acceptable before the Throne as if the seed had been scattered in vapid
platitudes from the pulpit of the ineffable Sabine himself.
Am I saying that the pulpit does not do its share toward disseminating
the marrow, the meat of the gospel of Christ? (For we are not talking of
ceremonies and wire-drawn creeds now, but the living heart and soul of
what is pretty often only a specter.)
No, I am not saying that. The pulpit teaches assemblages of people twice
a week nearly two hours altogether--and does what it can in that time.
The theater teaches large audiences seven times a week--28 or 30 hours
altogether--and the novels and newspapers plead, and argue, and
illustrate, stir, move, thrill, thunder, urge, persuade, and supplicate,
at the feet of millions and millions of people every single day, and all
day long and far into the night; and so these vast agencies till nine-
tenths of the vineyard, and the pulpit tills the other tenth. Yet now
and then some complacent blind idiot says, "You unanointed are coarse
clay and useless; you are not as we, the regenerators of the world; go,
bury yourselves elsewhere, for we cannot take the responsibility of
recommending idlers and sinners to the yearning mercy of Heaven." How
does a soul like that stay in a carcass without getting mixed with the
secretions and sweated out through the pores? Think of this insect
condemning the whole theatrical service as a disseminator of bad morals
because it has Black Crooks in it; forgetting that if that were
sufficient ground people would condemn the pulpit because it had Crooks
and Kallochs and Sabines in it!
No, I am not trying to rob the pulpit of any atom of its full share and
credit in the work of disseminating the meat and marrow of the gospel of
Christ; but I am trying to get a moment's hearing for worthy agencies in
the same work, that with overwrought modesty seldom or never claim a
recognition of their great services. I am aware that the pulpit does its
excellent one-tenth (and credits itself with it now and then, though most
of the time a press of business causes it to forget it); I am aware that
in its honest and well-meaning way it bores the people with uninflammable
truisms about doing good; bores them with correct compositions on
charity; bores them, chloroforms them, stupefies them with argumentative
mercy without a flaw in the grammar or an emotion which the minister
could put in in the right place if he turned his back and took his finger
off the manuscript. And in doing these things the pulpit is doing its
duty, and let us believe that it is likewise doing its best, and doing it
in the most harmless and respectable way. And so I have said, and shall
keep on saying, let us give the pulpit its full share of credit in
elevating and ennobling the people; but when a pulpit takes to itself
authority to pass judgment upon the work and worth of just as legitimate
an instrument of God as itself, who spent a long life preaching from the
stage the selfsame gospel without the alteration of a single sentiment or
a single axiom of right, it is fair and just that somebody who believes
that actors were made for a high and good purpose, and that they
accomplish the object of their creation and accomplish it well, should
protest. And having protested, it is also fair and just--being driven to
it, as it were--to whisper to the Sabine pattern of clergyman, under the
breath, a simple, instructive truth, and say, "Ministers are not the only
servants of God upon earth, nor his most efficient ones, either, by a
very, very long distance!" Sensible ministers already know this, and it
may do the other kind good to find it out.
But to cease teaching and go back to the beginning again, was it not
pitiable--that spectacle? Honored and honorable old George Holland,
whose theatrical ministry had for fifty years softened hard hearts, bred
generosity in cold ones, kindled emotion in dead ones, uplifted base
ones, broadened bigoted ones, and made many and many a stricken one glad
and filled it brimful of gratitude, figuratively spit upon in his
unoffending coffin by this crawling, slimy, sanctimonious, self-righteous
A SUBSTITUTE FOR RULOFF HAVE WE A SIDNEY CARTON AMONG US?
(See Chapter lxxxii)
To EDITOR of 'Tribune'.
SIR,--I believe in capital punishment. I believe that when a murder has
been done it should be answered for with blood. I have all my life been
taught to feel this way, and the fetters of education are strong. The
fact that the death--law is rendered almost inoperative by its very
severity does not alter my belief in its righteousness. The fact that in
England the proportion of executions to condemnations is one to sixteen,
and in this country only one to twenty-two, and in France only one to
thirty-eight, does not shake my steadfast confidence in the propriety of
retaining the death-penalty. It is better to hang one murderer in
sixteen, twenty-two, thirty-eight than not to hang any at all.
Feeling as I do, I am not sorry that Ruloff is to be hanged, but I am
sincerely sorry that he himself has made it necessary that his vast
capabilities for usefulness should be lost to the world. In this, mine
and the public's is a common regret. For it is plain that in the person
of Ruloff one of the most marvelous of intellects that any age has
produced is about to be sacrificed, and that, too, while half the mystery
of its strange powers is yet a secret. Here is a man who has never
entered the doors of a college or a university, and yet by the sheer
might of his innate gifts has made himself such a colossus in abstruse
learning that the ablest of our scholars are but pigmies in his presence.
By the evidence of Professor Mather, Mr. Surbridge, Mr. Richmond, and
other men qualified to testify, this man is as familiar with the broad
domain of philology as common men are with the passing events of the day.
His memory has such a limitless grasp that he is able to quote sentence
after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter, from a
gnarled and knotty ancient literature that ordinary scholars are capable
of achieving little more than a bowing acquaintance with. But his memory
is the least of his great endowments. By the testimony of the gentlemen
above referred to he is able to critically analyze the works of the old
masters of literature, and while pointing out the beauties of the
originals with a pure and discriminating taste is as quick to detect the
defects of the accepted translations; and in the latter case, if
exceptions be taken to his judgment, he straightway opens up the quarries
of his exhaustless knowledge, and builds a very Chinese wall of evidence
around his position. Every learned man who enters Ruloff's presence
leaves it amazed and confounded by his prodigious capabilities and
attainments. One scholar said he did not believe that in matters of
subtle analysis, vast knowledge in his peculiar field of research,
comprehensive grasp of subject, and serene kingship over its limitless
and bewildering details, any land or any era of modern times had given
birth to Ruloff's intellectual equal. What miracles this murderer might
have wrought, and what luster he might have shed upon his country, if he
had not put a forfeit upon his life so foolishly! But what if the law
could be satisfied, and the gifted criminal still be saved. If a life be
offered up on the gallows to atone for the murder Ruloff did, will that
suffice? If so, give me the proofs, for in all earnestness and truth I
aver that in such a case I will instantly bring forward a man who, in the
interests of learning and science, will take Ruloff's crime upon himself,
and submit to be hanged in Ruloff's place. I can, and will do this
thing; and I propose this matter, and make this offer in good faith. You
know me, and know my address.
April 29, 1871.
ADDRESS AT A DINNER GIVEN BY THE SAVAGE CLUB, LONDON, SEPTEMBER 28, 1872
(See Chapter lxxxvii)
Reported by Moncure D. Conway in the Cincinnati Commercial
It affords me sincere pleasure to meet this distinguished club, a club
which has extended its hospitalities and its cordial welcome to so many
of my countrymen. I hope [and here the speaker's voice became low and
fluttering] you will excuse these clothes. I am going to the theater;
that will explain these clothes. I have other clothes than these.
Judging human nature by what I have seen of it, I suppose that the
customary thing for a stranger to do when he stands here is to make a pun
on the name of this club, under the impression, of course, that he is the
first man that that idea has occurred to. It is a credit to our human
nature, not a blemish upon it; for it shows that underlying all our
depravity (and God knows and you know we are depraved enough) and all our
sophistication, and untarnished by them, there is a sweet germ of
innocence and simplicity still. When a stranger says to me, with a glow
of inspiration in his eye, some gentle, innocuous little thing about
"Twain and one flesh" and all that sort of thing, I don't try to crush
that man into the earth--no. I feel like saying, "Let me take you by the
hand, sir; let me embrace you; I have not heard that pun for weeks." We
will deal in palpable puns. We will call parties named King "your
Majesty" and we will say to the Smiths that we think we have heard that
name before somewhere. Such is human nature. We cannot alter this. It
is God that made us so for some good and wise purpose. Let us not
repine. But though I may seem strange, may seem eccentric, I mean to
refrain from punning upon the name of this club, though I could make a
very good one if I had time to think about it--a week.
I cannot express to you what entire enjoyment I find in this first visit
to this prodigious metropolis of yours. Its wonders seem to me to be
limitless. I go about as in a dream--as in a realm of enchantment--where
many things are rare and beautiful, and all things are strange and
marvelous. Hour after hour I stand--I stand spellbound, as it were-and
gaze upon the statuary in Leicester Square. [Leicester Square being a
horrible chaos, with the relic of an equestrian statue in the center, the
king being headless and limbless, and the horse in little better
condition.] I visit the mortuary effigies of noble old Henry VIII., and
Judge Jeffreys, and the preserved gorilla, and try to make up my mind
which of my ancestors I admire the most. I go to that matchless Hyde
Park and drive all around it, and then I start to enter it at the Marble
Arch--and am induced to "change my mind." [Cabs are not permitted in
Hyde Park--nothing less aristocratic than a private carriage.] It is a
great benefaction--is Hyde Park. There, in his hansom cab, the invalid
can go--the poor, sad child of misfortune--and insert his nose between
the railings, and breathe the pure, health-giving air of the country and
of heaven. And if he is a swell invalid who isn't obliged to depend upon
parks for his country air he can drive inside--if he owns his vehicle.
I drive round and round Hyde Park and the more I see of the edges of it
the more grateful I am that the margin is extensive.
And I have been to the Zoological Gardens. What a wonderful place that
is! I have never seen such a curious and interesting variety of wild-
animals in any garden before--except Mabille. I never believed before
there were so many different kinds of animals in the world as you can
find there--and I don't believe it yet. I have been to the British
Museum. I would advise you to drop in there some time when you have
nothing to do for--five minutes--if you have never been there. It seems
to me the noblest monument this nation has, yet erected to her greatness.
I say to her, our greatness--as a nation. True, she has built other
monuments, and stately ones, as well; but these she has uplifted in honor
of two or three colossal demigods who have stalked across the world's
stage, destroying tyrants and delivering nations, and whose prodigies
will still live in the memories of men ages after their monuments shall
have crumbled to dust--I refer to the Wellington and Nelson monuments,
and--the Albert memorial. [Sarcasm. The Albert memorial is the finest
monument in the world, and celebrates the existence of as commonplace a
person as good luck ever lifted out of obscurity.]
The Library at the British Museum I find particularly astounding. I have
read there hours together, and hardly made an impression on it. I revere
that library. It is the author's friend. I don't care how mean a book
is, it always takes one copy. [A copy of every book printed in Great
Britain must by law be sent to the British Museum, a law much complained
of by publishers.] And then every day that author goes there to gaze at
that book, and is encouraged to go on in the good work. And what a
touching sight it is of a Saturday afternoon to see the poor, careworn
clergymen gathered together in that vast reading-room cabbaging sermons
for Sunday! You will pardon my referring to these things. Everything in
this monster city interests me, and I cannot keep from talking, even at
the risk of being instructive. People here seem always to express
distances by parables. To a stranger it is just a little confusing to be
so parabolic--so to speak. I collar a citizen, and I think I am going to
get some valuable information out of him. I ask him how far it is to
Birmingham, and he says it is twenty-one shillings and sixpence. Now we
know that doesn't help a man who is trying to learn. I find myself down-
town somewhere, and I want to get some sort of idea where I am--being
usually lost when alone--and I stop a citizen and say, "How far is it to
Charing Cross?" "Shilling fare in a cab," and off he goes. I suppose if
I were to ask a Londoner how far it is from the sublime to the ridiculous
he would try to express it in a coin. But I am trespassing upon your
time with these geological statistics and historical reflections. I will
not longer keep you from your orgies. 'Tis a real pleasure for me to be
here, and I thank you for it. The name of the Savage Club is associated
in my mind with the kindly interest and the friendly offices which you
lavished upon an old friend of mine who came among you a stranger, and
you opened your English hearts to him and gave him a welcome and a home--
Artemus Ward. Asking that you will join me, I give you his Memory.
LETTER WRITTEN TO MRS. CLEMENS FROM BOSTON, NOVEMBER, 1874, PROPHESYING A
MONARCHY IN SIXTY-ONE YEARS
(See Chapter xcvii)
BOSTON, November 16, 1935.
DEAR LIVY,--You observe I still call this beloved old place by the name
it had when I was young. Limerick! It is enough to make a body sick.
The gentlemen-in-waiting stare to see me sit here telegraphing this
letter to you, and no doubt they are smiling in their sleeves. But let
them! The slow old fashions are good enough for me, thank God, and I
will none other. When I see one of these modern fools sit absorbed,
holding the end of a telegraph wire in his hand, and reflect that a
thousand miles away there is another fool hitched to the other end of it,
it makes me frantic with rage; and then I am more implacably fixed and
resolved than ever to continue taking twenty minutes to telegraph you
what I might communicate in ten seconds by the new way if I would so
debase myself. And when I see a whole silent, solemn drawing-room full
of idiots sitting with their hands on each other's foreheads "communing"
I tug the white hairs from my head and curse till my asthma brings me the
blessed relief of suffocation. In our old day such a gathering talked
pure drivel and "rot," mostly, but better that, a thousand times, than
these dreary conversational funerals that oppress our spirits in this mad
It is sixty years since I was here before. I walked hither then with my
precious old friend. It seems incredible now that we did it in two days,
but such is my recollection. I no longer mention that we walked back in
a single day, it makes me so furious to see doubt in the face of the
hearer. Men were men in those old times. Think of one of the puerile
organisms in this effeminate age attempting such a feat.
My air-ship was delayed by a collision with a fellow from China loaded
with the usual cargo of jabbering, copper-colored missionaries, and so I
was nearly an hour on my journey. But by the goodness of God thirteen of
the missionaries were crippled and several killed, so I was content to
lose the time. I love to lose time anyway because it brings soothing
reminiscences of the creeping railroad days of old, now lost to us
Our game was neatly played, and successfully. None expected us, of
course. You should have seen the guards at the ducal palace stare when I
said, "Announce his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin and the Right
Honorable the Earl of Hartford." Arrived within, we were all eyes to see
the Duke of Cambridge and his Duchess, wondering if we might remember
their faces and they ours. In a moment they came tottering in; he, bent
and withered and bald; she, blooming with wholesome old age. He peered
through his glasses a moment, then screeched in a reedy voice, "Come to
my arms! Away with titles--I'll know ye by no names but Twain and
Twichell!" Then fell he on our necks and jammed his trumpet in his ear,
the which we filled with shoutings to this effect: "God bless you, old
Howells, what is left of you!"
We talked late that night--none of your silent idiot "communings" for us
--of the olden time. We rolled a stream of ancient anecdotes over our
tongues and drank till the Lord Archbishop grew so mellow in the mellow
past that Dublin ceased to be Dublin to him, and resumed its sweeter,
forgotten name of New York. In truth he almost got back into his ancient
religion, too, good Jesuit as he has always been since O'Mulligan the
First established that faith in the empire.
And we canvassed everybody. Bailey Aldrich, Marquis of Ponkapog, came
in, got nobly drunk, and told us all about how poor Osgood lost his
earldom and was hanged for conspiring against the second Emperor; but he
didn't mention how near he himself came to being hanged, too, for
engaging in the same enterprise. He was as chaffy as he was sixty years
ago, too, and swore the Archbishop and I never walked to Boston; but
there was never a day that Ponkapog wouldn't lie, so be it by the grace
of God he got the opportunity.
The Lord High Admiral came in, a hale gentleman close upon seventy and
bronzed by the suns and storms of many climes and scarred by the wounds
got in many battles, and I told him how I had seen him sit in a high-
chair and eat fruit and cakes and answer to the name of Johnny. His
granddaughter (the eldest) is but lately married to the youngest of the
Grand Dukes, and so who knows but a day may come when the blood of the
Howellses may reign in the land? I must not forget to say, while I think
of it, that your new false teeth are done, my dear, and your wig. Keep
your head well bundled with a shawl till the latter comes, and so cheat
your persecuting neuralgias and rheumatisms. Would you believe it?--the
Duchess of Cambridge is deafer than you--deafer than her husband. They
call her to breakfast with a salvo of artillery; and usually when it
thunders she looks up expectantly and says, "Come in." But she has
become subdued and gentle with age and never destroys the furniture now,
except when uncommonly vexed. God knows, my dear, it would be a happy
thing if you and old Lady Harmony would imitate this spirit. But indeed
the older you grow the less secure becomes the furniture. When I throw
chairs through the window I have sufficient reason to back it. But you--
you are but a creature of passion.
The monument to the author of 'Gloverson and His Silent Partners' is
finished.--[Ralph Keeler. See chap. lxxxiii.]--It is the stateliest
and the costliest ever erected to the memory of any man. This noble
classic has now been translated into all the languages of the earth and
is adored by all nations and known to all creatures. Yet I have
conversed as familiarly with the author of it as I do with my own great-
I wish you could see old Cambridge and Ponkapog. I love them as dearly
as ever, but privately, my dear, they are not much improvement on idiots.
It is melancholy to hear them jabber over the same pointless anecdotes
three and four times of an evening, forgetting that they had jabbered