Part 10 out of 16
inasmuch as he was then, by his own confession, unable to earn the
sixty cents, this particular economy was wasted. Orion was a trial,
certainly, and the explosion that follows was not without excuse.
Furthermore, it was not as bad as it sounds. Mark Twain's rages
always had an element of humor in them, a fact which no one more
than Orion himself would appreciate. He preserved this letter,
quietly noting on the envelope, "Letter from Sam, about ma's nurse."
Letter to Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Iowa:
NOV. 29, '88.
Jesus Christ!--It is perilous to write such a man. You can go crazy on
less material than anybody that ever lived. What in hell has produced
all these maniacal imaginings? You told me you had hired an attendant
for ma. Now hire one instantly, and stop this nonsense of wearing Mollie
and yourself out trying to do that nursing yourselves. Hire the
attendant, and tell me her cost so that I can instruct Webster & Co. to
add it every month to what they already send. Don't fool away any more
time about this. And don't write me any more damned rot about "storms,"
and inability to pay trivial sums of money and--and--hell and damnation!
You see I've read only the first page of your letter; I wouldn't read the
rest for a million dollars.
P. S. Don't imagine that I have lost my temper, because I swear. I
swear all day, but I do not lose my temper. And don't imagine that I am
on my way to the poorhouse, for I am not; or that I am uneasy, for I am
not; or that I am uncomfortable or unhappy--for I never am. I don't know
what it is to be unhappy or uneasy; and I am not going to try to learn
how, at this late day.
Few men were ever interviewed oftener than Mark Twain, yet he never
welcomed interviewers and was seldom satisfied with them. "What I
say in an interview loses it character in print," he often remarked,
"all its life and personality. The reporter realizes this himself,
and tries to improve upon me, but he doesn't help matters any."
Edward W. Bok, before he became editor of the Ladies Home Journal,
was conducting a weekly syndicate column under the title of "Bok's
Literary Leaves." It usually consisted of news and gossip of
writers, comment, etc., literary odds and ends, and occasional
interviews with distinguished authors. He went up to Hartford one
day to interview Mark Twain. The result seemed satisfactory to Bok,
but wishing to be certain that it would be satisfactory to Clemens,
he sent him a copy for approval. The interview was not returned;
in the place of it came a letter-not altogether disappointing, as
the reader may believe.
To Edward W. Bok, in New York:
MY DEAR MR. BOK,--No, no. It is like most interviews, pure twaddle and
For several quite plain and simple reasons, an "interview" must, as a
rule, be an absurdity, and chiefly for this reason--It is an attempt to
use a boat on land or a wagon on water, to speak figuratively. Spoken
speech is one thing, written speech is quite another. Print is the
proper vehicle for the latter, but it isn't for the former. The moment
"talk" is put into print you recognize that it is not what it was when
you heard it; you perceive that an immense something has disappeared from
it. That is its soul. You have nothing but a dead carcass left on your
hands. Color, play of feature, the varying modulations of the voice, the
laugh, the smile, the informing inflections, everything that gave that
body warmth, grace, friendliness and charm and commended it to your
affections--or, at least, to your tolerance--is gone and nothing is left
but a pallid, stiff and repulsive cadaver.
Such is "talk" almost invariably, as you see it lying in state in an
"interview". The interviewer seldom tries to tell one how a thing was
said; he merely puts in the naked remark and stops there. When one
writes for print his methods are very different. He follows forms which
have but little resemblance to conversation, but they make the reader
understand what the writer is trying to convey. And when the writer is
making a story and finds it necessary to report some of the talk of his
characters observe how cautiously and anxiously he goes at that risky and
difficult thing. "If he had dared to say that thing in my presence,"
said Alfred, "taking a mock heroic attitude, and casting an arch glance
upon the company, blood would have flowed."
"If he had dared to say that thing in my presence," said Hawkwood, with
that in his eye which caused more than one heart in that guilty
assemblage to quake, "blood would have flowed."
"If he had dared to say that thing in my presence," said the paltry
blusterer, with valor on his tongue and pallor on his lips, "blood would
So painfully aware is the novelist that naked talk in print conveys no
meaning that he loads, and often overloads, almost every utterance of his
characters with explanations and interpretations. It is a loud
confession that print is a poor vehicle for "talk"; it is a recognition
that uninterpreted talk in print would result in confusion to the reader,
Now, in your interview, you have certainly been most accurate; you have
set down the sentences I uttered as I said them. But you have not a word
of explanation; what my manner was at several points is not indicated.
Therefore, no reader can possibly know where I was in earnest and where I
was joking; or whether I was joking altogether or in earnest altogether.
Such a report of a conversation has no value. It can convey many
meanings to the reader, but never the right one. To add interpretations
which would convey the right meaning is a something which would require
--what? An art so high and fine and difficult that no possessor of it
would ever be allowed to waste it on interviews.
No; spare the reader, and spare me; leave the whole interview out; it is
rubbish. I wouldn't talk in my sleep if I couldn't talk better than
If you wish to print anything print this letter; it may have some value,
for it may explain to a reader here and there why it is that in
interviews, as a rule, men seem to talk like anybody but themselves.
Very sincerely yours,
LETTERS, 1889. THE MACHINE. DEATH OF MR. CRANE.
CONCLUSION OF THE YANKEE
In January, 1889, Clemens believed, after his long seven years of
waiting, fruition had come in the matter of the type machine. Paige, the
inventor, seemed at last to have given it its finishing touches. The
mechanical marvel that had cost so much time, mental stress, and a
fortune in money, stood complete, responsive to the human will and touch
--the latest, and one of the greatest, wonders of the world. To George
Standring, a London printer and publisher, Clemens wrote: "The machine is
finished!" and added, "This is by far the most marvelous invention ever
contrived by man. And it is not a thing of rags and patches; it is made
of massive steel, and will last a century."
In his fever of enthusiasm on that day when he had actually seen it in
operation, he wrote a number of exuberant letters. They were more or
less duplicates, but as the one to his brother is of fuller detail and
more intimate than the others, it has been selected for preservation
To Orion Clemens, in Keokuk:
HARTFORD, Jan. 5, '89.
DEAR ORION,--At 12.20 this afternoon a line of movable types was spaced
and justified by machinery, for the first time in the history of the
world! And I was there to see. It was done automatically--instantly--
perfectly. This is indeed the first line of movable types that ever was
perfectly spaced and perfectly justified on this earth.
This was the last function that remained to be tested--and so by long
odds the most amazing and extraordinary invention ever born of the brain
of man stands completed and perfect. Livy is down stairs celebrating.
But it's a cunning devil, is that machine!--and knows more than any man
that ever lived. You shall see. We made the test in this way. We set
up a lot of random letters in a stick--three-fourths of a line; then
filled out the line with quads representing 14 spaces, each space to be
35/1000 of an inch thick. Then we threw aside the quads and put the
letters into the machine and formed them into 15 two-letter words,
leaving the words separated by two-inch vacancies. Then we started up
the machine slowly, by hand, and fastened our eyes on the space-selecting
pins. The first pin-block projected its third pin as the first word came
traveling along the race-way; second block did the same; but the third
block projected its second pin!
"Oh, hell! stop the machine--something wrong--it's going to set a
General consternation. "A foreign substance has got into the spacing
plates." This from the head mathematician.
"Yes, that is the trouble," assented the foreman.
Paige examined. "No--look in, and you can see that there's nothing of
the kind." Further examination. "Now I know what it is--what it must
be: one of those plates projects and binds. It's too bad--the first
testis a failure." A pause. "Well, boys, no use to cry. Get to work--
take the machine down.--No--Hold on! don't touch a thing! Go right
ahead! We are fools, the machine isn't. The machine knows what it's
about. There is a speck of dirt on one of those types, and the machine
is putting in a thinner space to allow for it!"
That was just it. The machine went right ahead, spaced the line,
justified it to a hair, and shoved it into the galley complete and
perfect! We took it out and examined it with a glass. You could not
tell by your eye that the third space was thinner than the others, but
the glass and the calipers showed the difference. Paige had always said
that the machine would measure invisible particles of dirt and allow for
them, but even he had forgotten that vast fact for the moment.
All the witnesses made written record of the immense historical birth--
the first justification of a line of movable type by machinery--and also
set down the hour and the minute. Nobody had drank anything, and yet
everybody seemed drunk. Well-dizzy, stupefied, stunned.
All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly
into commonplace contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle.
Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton gins, sewing machines,
Babbage calculators, jacquard looms, perfecting presses, Arkwright's
frames--all mere toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone
and far in the lead of human inventions.
In two or three weeks we shall work the stiffness out of her joints and
have her performing as smoothly and softly as human muscles, and then we
shall speak out the big secret and let the world come and gaze.
Return me this letter when you have read it.
Judge of the elation which such a letter would produce in Keokuk!
Yet it was no greater than that which existed in Hartford--for a
Then further delays. Before the machine got "the stiffness out of
her joints" that "cunning devil" manifested a tendency to break the
types, and Paige, who was never happier than when he was pulling
things to pieces and making improvements, had the type-setter apart
again and the day of complete triumph was postponed.
There was sadness at the Elmira farm that spring. Theodore Crane,
who had long been in poor health, seemed to grow daily worse. In
February he had paid a visit to Hartford and saw the machine in
operation, but by the end of May his condition was very serious.
Remembering his keen sense of humor, Clemens reported to him
cheering and amusing incidents.
To Mrs. Theodore Crane. in Elmira, N. Y.:
HARTFORD, May 28, '89.
Susie dear, I want you to tell this to Theodore. You know how absent-
minded Twichell is, and how desolate his face is when he is in that
frame. At such times, he passes the word with a friend on the street and
is not aware of the meeting at all. Twice in a week, our Clara had this
latter experience with him within the past month. But the second
instance was too much for her, and she woke him up, in his tracks, with a
reproach. She said:
"Uncle Joe, why do you always look as if you were just going down into
the grave, when you meet a person on the street?"--and then went on to
reveal to him the funereal spectacle which he presented on such
occasions. Well, she has met Twichell three times since then, and would
swim the Connecticut to avoid meeting him the fourth. As soon as he
sights her, no matter how public the place nor how far off she is, he
makes a bound into the air, heaves arms and legs into all sorts of
frantic gestures of delight, and so comes prancing, skipping and
pirouetting for her like a drunken Indian entering heaven.
With a full invoice of love from us all to you and Theodore.
S. L. C.
The reference in the next to the "closing sentence" in a letter
written by Howells to Clemens about this time, refers to a heart-
broken utterance of the former concerning his daughter Winnie, who
had died some time before. She had been a gentle talented girl, but
never of robust health. Her death had followed a long period of
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Judy 13, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I came on from Elmira a day or two ago, where I left a
house of mourning. Mr. Crane died, after ten months of pain and two
whole days of dying, at the farm on the hill, the 3rd inst: A man who had
always hoped for a swift death. Mrs. Crane and Mrs. Clemens and the
children were in a gloom which brought back to me the days of nineteen
years ago, when Mr. Langdon died. It is heart-breaking to see Mrs.
Crane. Many a time, in the past ten days, the sight of her has reminded
me, with a pang, of the desolation which uttered itself in the closing
sentence of your last letter to me. I do see that there is an argument
against suicide: the grief of the worshipers left behind; the awful
famine in their hearts, these are too costly terms for the release.
I shall be here ten days yet, and all alone: nobody in the house but the
servants. Can't Mrs. Howells spare you to me? Can't you come and stay
with me? The house is cool and pleasant; your work will not be
interrupted; we will keep to ourselves and let the rest of the world do
the same; you can have your choice of three bedrooms, and you will find
the Children's schoolroom (which was built for my study,) the perfection
of a retired and silent den for work. There isn't a fly or a mosquito on
the estate. Come--say you will.
With kindest regards to Mrs. Howells, and Pilla and John,
Howells was more hopeful. He wrote: "I read something in a strange book,
The Physical Theory of Another Life, that consoles a little; namely, we
see and feel the power of Deity in such fullness that we ought to infer
the infinite justice and Goodness which we do not see or feel." And a
few days later, he wrote: "I would rather see and talk with you than any
other man in the world outside my own blood."
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court was brought to an end that
year and given to the artist and printer. Dan Beard was selected for the
drawings, and was given a free hand, as the next letter shows.
To Fred J. Hall, Manager Charles L. Webster & Co.:
[Charles L. Webster, owing to poor health, had by this time retired
from the firm.]
ELMIRA, July 20, '89.
DEAR MR. HALL,--Upon reflection--thus: tell Beard to obey his own
inspiration, and when he sees a picture in his mind put that picture on
paper, be it humorous or be it serious. I want his genius to be wholly
unhampered, I shan't have fears as to the result. They will be better
pictures than if I mixed in and tried to give him points on his own
Send this note and he'll understand.
S. L. C.
Clemens had made a good choice in selecting Beard for the
illustrations. He was well qualified for the work, and being of a
socialistic turn of mind put his whole soul into it. When the
drawings were completed, Clemens wrote: "Hold me under permanent
obligations. What luck it was to find you! There are hundreds of
artists that could illustrate any other book of mine, but there was
only one who could illustrate this one. Yes, it was a fortunate
hour that I went netting for lightning bugs and caught a meteor.
Clemens, of course, was anxious for Howells to read The Yankee, and
Mrs. Clemens particularly so. Her eyes were giving her trouble that
summer, so that she could not read the MS. for herself, and she had
grave doubts as to some of its chapters. It may be said here that
the book to-day might have been better if Mrs. Clemens had been able
to read it. Howells was a peerless critic, but the revolutionary
subject-matter of the book so delighted him that he was perhaps
somewhat blinded to its literary defects. However, this is
premature. Howells did not at once see the story. He had promised
to come to Hartford, but wrote that trivial matters had made his
visit impossible. From the next letter we get the situation at this
time. The "Mr. Church" mentioned was Frederick S. Church, the well-
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, July 24, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I, too, was as sorry as I could be; yes, and desperately
disappointed. I even did a heroic thing: shipped my book off to New York
lest I should forget hospitality and embitter your visit with it. Not
that I think you wouldn't like to read it, for I think you would; but not
on a holiday that's not the time. I see how you were situated--another
familiarity of Providence and wholly wanton intrusion--and of course we
could not help ourselves. Well, just think of it: a while ago, while
Providence's attention was absorbed in disordering some time-tables so as
to break up a trip of mine to Mr. Church's on the Hudson, that Johnstown
dam got loose. I swear I was afraid to pray, for fear I should laugh.
Well, I'm not going to despair; we'll manage a meet yet.
I expect to go to Hartford again in August and maybe remain till I have
to come back here and fetch the family. And, along there in August, some
time, you let on that you are going to Mexico, and I will let on that I
am going to Spitzbergen, and then under cover of this clever stratagem we
will glide from the trains at Worcester and have a time. I have noticed
that Providence is indifferent about Mexico and Spitzbergen.
Possibly Mark Twain was not particularly anxious that Howells should
see his MS., fearing that he might lay a ruthless hand on some of
his more violent fulminations and wild fancies. However this may
be, further postponement was soon at an end. Mrs. Clemens's eyes
troubled her and would not permit her to read, so she requested that
the Yankee be passed upon by soberminded critics, such as Howells
and Edmund Clarence Stedman. Howells wrote that even if he hadn't
wanted to read the book for its own sake, or for the author's sake,
he would still want to do it for Mrs. Clemens's. Whereupon the
proofs were started in his direction.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Aug. 24, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--If you should be moved to speak of my book in the Study,
I shall be glad and proud--and the sooner it gets in, the better for the
book; though I don't suppose you can get it in earlier than the November
number--why, no, you can't get it in till a month later than that. Well,
anyway I don't think I'll send out any other press copy--except perhaps
to Stedman. I'm not writing for those parties who miscall themselves
critics, and I don't care to have them paw the book at all. It's my
swan-song, my retirement from literature permanently, and I wish to pass
to the cemetery unclodded.
I judge that the proofs have begun to reach you about this time, as I had
some (though not revises,) this morning. I'm sure I'm going to be
charmed with Beard's pictures. Observe his nice take-off of Middle-Age
Howells's approval of the Yankee came almost in the form of exultant
shouts, one after reading each batch of proof. First he wrote:
"It's charming, original, wonderful! good in fancy and sound to the
core in morals." And again, "It's a mighty great book, and it makes
my heart burn with wrath. It seems God did not forget to put a soul
into you. He shuts most literary men off with a brain, merely."
Then, a few days later: "The book is glorious--simply noble; what
masses of virgin truth never touched in print before!" and, finally,
"Last night I read your last chapter. As Stedman says of the whole
book, it's titanic."
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Sept. 22, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--It is immensely good of you to grind through that stuff
for me; but it gives peace to Mrs. Clemens's soul; and I am as grateful
to you as a body can be. I am glad you approve of what I say about the
French Revolution. Few people will. It is odd that even to this day
Americans still observe that immortal benefaction through English and
other monarchical eyes, and have no shred of an opinion about it that
they didn't get at second-hand.
Next to the 4th of July and its results, it was the noblest and the
holiest thing and the most precious that ever happened in this earth.
And its gracious work is not done yet--not anywhere in the remote
neighborhood of it.
Don't trouble to send me all the proofs; send me the pages with your
corrections on them, and waste-basket the rest. We issue the book
Dec. 10; consequently a notice that appears Dec. 20 will be just in good
I am waiting to see your Study set a fashion in criticism. When that
happens--as please God it must--consider that if you lived three
centuries you couldn't do a more valuable work for this country, or a
As a rule a critic's dissent merely enrages, and so does no good; but by
the new art which you use, your dissent must be as welcome as your
approval, and as valuable. I do not know what the secret of it is,
unless it is your attitude--man courteously reasoning with man and
brother, in place of the worn and wearisome critical attitude of all this
long time--superior being lecturing a boy.
Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over
again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and
they keep multiplying and multiplying; but now they can't ever be said.
And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell.
The type-setting machine began to loom large in the background.
Clemens believed it perfected by this time. Paige had got it
together again and it was running steadily--or approximately so
--setting type at a marvelous speed and with perfect accuracy. In
time an expert operator would be able to set as high as eight
thousand ems per hour, or about ten times as much as a good
compositor could set and distribute by hand. Those who saw it were
convinced--most of them--that the type-setting problem was solved by
this great mechanical miracle. If there were any who doubted, it
was because of its marvelously minute accuracy which the others only
admired. Such accuracy, it was sometimes whispered, required
absolutely perfect adjustment, and what would happen when the great
inventor--"the poet in steel," as Clemens once called him--was no
longer at hand to supervise and to correct the slightest variation.
But no such breath of doubt came to Mark Twain; he believed the
machine as reliable as a constellation.
But now there was need of capital to manufacture and market the
wonder. Clemens, casting about in his mind, remembered Senator
Jones, of Nevada, a man of great wealth, and his old friend, Joe
Goodman, of Nevada, in whom Jones had unlimited confidence. He
wrote to Goodman, and in this letter we get a pretty full exposition
of the whole matter as it stood in the fall of 1889. We note in
this communication that Clemens says that he has been at the machine
three years and seven months, but this was only the period during
which he had spent the regular monthly sum of three thousand
dollars. His interest in the invention had begun as far back as
To Joseph T. Goodman, in Nevada:
Private. HARTFORD, Oct. 7, '89.
DEAR JOE,-I had a letter from Aleck Badlam day before yesterday, and in
answering him I mentioned a matter which I asked him to consider a secret
except to you and John McComb,--[This is Col. McComb, of the Alta-
California, who had sent Mark Twain on the Quaker City excursion]--as I
am not ready yet to get into the newspapers.
I have come near writing you about this matter several times, but it
wasn't ripe, and I waited. It is ripe, now. It is a type-setting
machine which I undertook to build for the inventor(for a consideration).
I have been at it three years and seven months without losing a day, at a
cost of $3,000 a month, and in so private a way that Hartford has known
nothing about it. Indeed only a dozen men have known of the matter.
I have reported progress from time to time to the proprietors of the
N. Y. Sun, Herald, Times, World, Harper Brothers and John F. Trow; also
to the proprietors of the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. Three
years ago I asked all these people to squelch their frantic desire to
load up their offices with the Mergenthaler (N. Y. Tribune) machine, and
wait for mine and then choose between the two. They have waited--with no
very gaudy patience--but still they have waited; and I could prove to
them to-day that they have not lost anything by it. But I reserve the
proof for the present--except in the case of the N. Y. Herald; I sent an
invitation there the other day--a courtesy due a paper which ordered
$240,000 worth of our machines long ago when it was still in a crude
condition. The Herald has ordered its foreman to come up here next
Thursday; but that is the only invitation which will go out for some time
The machine was finished several weeks ago, and has been running ever
since in the machine shop. It is a magnificent creature of steel, all of
Pratt & Whitney's super-best workmanship, and as nicely adjusted and as
accurate as a watch. In construction it is as elaborate and complex as
that machine which it ranks next to, by every right--Man--and in
performance it is as simple and sure.
Anybody can set type on it who can read--and can do it after only 15
minutes' instruction. The operator does not need to leave his seat at
the keyboard; for the reason that he is not required to do anything but
strike the keys and set type--merely one function; the spacing,
justifying, emptying into the galley, and distributing of dead matter is
all done by the machine without anybody's help--four functions.
The ease with which a cub can learn is surprising. Day before yesterday
I saw our newest cub set, perfectly space and perfectly justify 2,150 ems
of solid nonpareil in an hour and distribute the like amount in the same
hour--and six hours previously he had never seen the machine or its
keyboard. It was a good hour's work for 3-year veterans on the other
type-setting machines to do. We have 3 cubs. The dean of the trio is a
school youth of 18. Yesterday morning he had been an apprentice on the
machine 16 working days (8-hour days); and we speeded him to see what he
could do in an hour. In the hour he set 5,900 ems solid nonpareil, and
the machine perfectly spaced and justified it, and of course distributed
the like amount in the same hour. Considering that a good fair
compositor sets 700 and distributes 700 in the one hour, this boy did the
work of about 8 x a compositors in that hour. This fact sends all other
type-setting machines a thousand miles to the rear, and the best of them
will never be heard of again after we publicly exhibit in New York.
We shall put on 3 more cubs. We have one school boy and two compositors,
now,--and we think of putting on a type writer, a stenographer, and
perhaps a shoemaker, to show that no special gifts or training are
required with this machine. We shall train these beginners two or three
months--or until some one of them gets up to 7,000 an hour--then we will
show up in New York and run the machine 24 hours a day 7 days in the
week, for several months--to prove that this is a machine which will
never get out of order or cause delay, and can stand anything an anvil
can stand. You know there is no other typesetting machine that can run
two hours on a stretch without causing trouble and delay with its
We own the whole field--every inch of it--and nothing can dislodge us.
Now then, above is my preachment, and here follows the reason and purpose
of it. I want you to run over here, roost over the machine a week and
satisfy yourself, and then go to John P. Jones or to whom you please, and
sell me a hundred thousand dollars' worth of this property and take ten
per cent in cash or the "property" for your trouble--the latter, if you
are wise, because the price I ask is a long way short of the value.
What I call "property" is this. A small part of my ownership consists of
a royalty of $500 on every machine marketed under the American patents.
My selling-terms are, a permanent royalty of one dollar on every
American-marketed machine for a thousand dollars cash to me in hand paid.
We shan't market any fewer than 5,000 machines in 15 years--a return of
fifteen thousand dollars for one thousand. A royalty is better than
stock, in one way--it must be paid, every six months, rain or shine; it
is a debt, and must be paid before dividends are declared. By and by,
when we become a stock company I shall buy these royalties back for stock
if I can get them for anything like reasonable terms.
I have never borrowed a penny to use on the machine, and never sold a
penny's worth of the property until the machine was entirely finished and
proven by the severest tests to be what she started out to be--perfect,
permanent, and occupying the position, as regards all kindred machines,
which the City of Paris occupies as regards the canvas-backs of the
It is my purpose to sell two hundred dollars of my royalties at the above
price during the next two months and keep the other $300.
Mrs. Clemens begs Mrs. Goodman to come with you, and asks pardon for not
writing the message herself--which would be a pathetically-welcome
spectacle to me; for I have been her amanuensis for 8 months, now, since
her eyes failed her. Yours as always
While this letter with its amazing contents is on its way to
astonish Joe Goodman, we will consider one of quite a different,
but equally characteristic sort. We may assume that Mark Twain's
sister Pamela had been visiting him in Hartford and was now making
a visit in Keokuk.
To Mrs. Moffett, in Keokuk:
HARTFORD, Oct 9, '89.
DEAR PAMELA,--An hour after you left I was suddenly struck with a
realizing sense of the utter chuckle-headedness of that notion of mine:
to send your trunk after you. Land! it was idiotic. None but a lunatic
would, separate himself from his baggage.
Well, I am soulfully glad the baggage fetcher saved me from consummating
my insane inspiration. I met him on the street in the afternoon and paid
him again. I shall pay him several times more, as opportunity offers.
I declined the invitation to banquet with the visiting South American
Congress, in a polite note explaining that I had to go to New York today.
I conveyed the note privately to Patrick; he got the envelope soiled,
and asked Livy to put on a clean one. That is why I am going to the
banquet; also why I have disinvited the boys I thought I was going to
punch billiards with, upstairs to-night.
Patrick is one of the injudiciousest people I ever struck. And I am the
The Yankee was now ready for publication, and advance sheets were
already in the reviewers' hands. Just at this moment the Brazilian
monarchy crumbled, and Clemens was moved to write Sylvester Baxter,
of the Boston Herald, a letter which is of special interest in its
prophecy of the new day, the dawn of which was even nearer than he
DEAR MR. BAXTER, Another throne has gone down, and I swim in oceans of
satisfaction. I wish I might live fifty years longer; I believe I should
see the thrones of Europe selling at auction for old iron. I believe I
should really see the end of what is surely the grotesquest of all the
swindles ever invented by man-monarchy. It is enough to make a graven
image laugh, to see apparently rational people, away down here in this
wholesome and merciless slaughter-day for shams, still mouthing empty
reverence for those moss-backed frauds and scoundrelisms, hereditary
kingship and so-called "nobility." It is enough to make the monarchs and
nobles themselves laugh--and in private they do; there can be no question
about that. I think there is only one funnier thing, and that is the
spectacle of these bastard Americans--these Hamersleys and Huntingtons
and such--offering cash, encumbered by themselves, for rotten carcases
and stolen titles. When our great brethren the disenslaved Brazilians
frame their Declaration of Independence, I hope they will insert this
missing link: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all monarchs
are usurpers, and descendants of usurpers; for the reason that no throne
was ever set up in this world by the will, freely exercised, of the only
body possessing the legitimate right to set it up--the numerical mass of
You already have the advance sheets of my forthcoming book in your hands.
If you will turn to about the five hundredth page, you will find a state
paper of my Connecticut Yankee in which he announces the dissolution of
King Arthur's monarchy and proclaims the English Republic. Compare it
with the state paper which announces the downfall of the Brazilian
monarchy and proclaims the Republic of the United States of Brazil, and
stand by to defend the Yankee from plagiarism. There is merely a
resemblance of ideas, nothing more. The Yankee's proclamation was
already in print a week ago. This is merely one of those odd
coincidences which are always turning up. Come, protect the Yank from
that cheapest and easiest of all charges--plagiarism. Otherwise, you
see, he will have to protect himself by charging approximate and
indefinite plagiarism upon the official servants of our majestic twin
down yonder, and then there might be war, or some similar annoyance.
Have you noticed the rumor that the Portuguese throne is unsteady, and
that the Portuguese slaves are getting restive? Also, that the head
slave-driver of Europe, Alexander III, has so reduced his usual monthly
order for chains that the Russian foundries are running on only half time
now? Also that other rumor that English nobility acquired an added
stench the other day--and had to ship it to India and the continent
because there wasn't any more room for it at home? Things are working.
By and by there is going to be an emigration, may be. Of course we shall
make no preparation; we never do. In a few years from now we shall have
nothing but played-out kings and dukes on the police, and driving the
horse-cars, and whitewashing fences, and in fact overcrowding all the
avenues of unskilled labor; and then we shall wish, when it is too late,
that we had taken common and reasonable precautions and drowned them at
There followed at this time a number of letters to Goodman, but as
there is much of a sameness in them, we need not print them all.
Clemens, in fact, kept the mails warm with letters bulging with
schemes for capitalization, and promising vast wealth to all
concerned. When the letters did not go fast enough he sent
telegrams. In one of the letters Goodman is promised "five hundred
thousand dollars out of the profits before we get anything
ourselves." One thing we gather from these letters is that Paige
has taken the machine apart again, never satisfied with its
perfection, or perhaps getting a hint that certain of its
perfections were not permanent. A letter at the end of November
seems worth preserving here.
To Joseph T. Goodman, in California:
HARTFORD, Nov. 29, '89.
DEAR JOE, Things are getting into better and more flexible shape every
day. Papers are now being drawn which will greatly simplify the raising
of capital; I shall be in supreme command; it will not be necessary for
the capitalist to arrive at terms with anybody but me. I don't want to
dicker with anybody but Jones. I know him; that is to say, I want to
dicker with you, and through you with Jones. Try to see if you can't be
here by the 15th of January.
The machine was as perfect as a watch when we took her apart the other
day; but when she goes together again the 15th of January we expect her
to be perfecter than a watch.
Joe, I want you to sell some royalties to the boys out there, if you can,
for I want to be financially strong when we go to New York. You know the
machine, and you appreciate its future enormous career better than any
man I know. At the lowest conceivable estimate (2,000 machines a year,)
we shall sell 34,000 in the life of the patent--17 years.
All the family send love to you--and they mean it, or they wouldn't say
The Yankee had come from the press, and Howells had praised it in
the "Editor's Study" in Harper's Magazine. He had given it his
highest commendation, and it seems that his opinion of it did not
change with time. "Of all fanciful schemes of fiction it pleases me
most," he in one place declared, and again referred to it as
"a greatly imagined and symmetrically developed tale."
In more than one letter to Goodman, Clemens had urged him to come
East without delay. "Take the train, Joe, and come along," he wrote
early in December. And we judge from the following that Joe had
decided to come.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Dec. 23, '89.
DEAR HOWELLS,--The magazine came last night, and the Study notice is just
great. The satisfaction it affords us could not be more prodigious if
the book deserved every word of it; and maybe it does; I hope it does,
though of course I can't realize it and believe it. But I am your
grateful servant, anyway and always.
I am going to read to the Cadets at West Point Jan. 11. I go from here
to New York the 9th, and up to the Point the 11th. Can't you go with me?
It's great fun. I'm going to read the passages in the "Yankee" in which
the Yankee's West Point cadets figure--and shall covertly work in a
lecture on aristocracy to those boys. I am to be the guest of the
Superintendent, but if you will go I will shake him and we will go to the
hotel. He is a splendid fellow, and I know him well enough to take that
And won't you give me a day or two's visit toward the end of January?
For two reasons: the machine will be at work again by that time, and we
want to hear the rest of the dream-story; Mrs. Clemens keeps speaking
about it and hankering for it. And we can have Joe Goodman on hand again
by that time, and I want you to get to know him thoroughly. It's well
worth it. I am going to run up and stay over night with you as soon as I
can get a chance.
We are in the full rush of the holidays now, and an awful rush it is,
too. You ought to have been here the other day, to make that day perfect
and complete. All alone I managed to inflict agonies on Mrs: Clemens,
whereas I was expecting nothing but praises. I made a party call the day
after the party--and called the lady down from breakfast to receive it.
I then left there and called on a new bride, who received me in her
dressing-gown; and as things went pretty well, I stayed to luncheon.
The error here was, that the appointed reception-hour was 3 in the
afternoon, and not at the bride's house but at her aunt's in another part
of the town. However, as I meant well, none of these disasters
The Yankee did not find a very hearty welcome in England. English
readers did not fancy any burlesque of their Arthurian tales, or
American strictures on their institutions. Mark Twain's publishers
had feared this, and asked that the story be especially edited for
the English edition. Clemens, however, would not listen to any
suggestions of the sort.
To Messrs. Chatto & Windus, in London, Eng.:
GENTLEMEN,--Concerning The Yankee, I have already revised the story
twice; and it has been read critically by W. D. Howells and Edmund
Clarence Stedman, and my wife has caused me to strike out several
passages that have been brought to her attention, and to soften others.
Furthermore, I have read chapters of the book in public where Englishmen
were present and have profited by their suggestions.
Now, mind you, I have taken all this pains because I wanted to say a
Yankee mechanic's say against monarchy and its several natural props,
and yet make a book which you would be willing to print exactly as it
comes to you, without altering a word.
We are spoken of (by Englishmen) as a thin-skinned people. It is you who
are thin-skinned. An Englishman may write with the most brutal frankness
about any man or institution among us and we republish him without
dreaming of altering a line or a word. But England cannot stand that
kind of a book written about herself. It is England that is thin-
skinned. It causeth me to smile when I read the modifications of my
language which have been made in my English editions to fit them for the
sensitive English palate.
Now, as I say, I have taken laborious pains to so trim this book of
offense that you might not lack the nerve to print it just as it stands.
I am going to get the proofs to you just as early as I can. I want you
to read it carefully. If you can publish it without altering a single
word, go ahead. Otherwise, please hand it to J. R. Osgood in time for
him to have it published at my expense.
This is important, for the reason that the book was not written for
America; it was written for England. So many Englishmen have done their
sincerest best to teach us something for our betterment that it seems to
me high time that some of us should substantially recognize the good
intent by trying to pry up the English nation to a little higher level of
manhood in turn.
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The English nation, at least a considerable portion of it, did not wish
to be "pried up to a higher level of manhood" by a Connecticut Yankee.
The papers pretty generally denounced the book as coarse; in fact, a
vulgar travesty. Some of the critics concluded that England, after all,
had made a mistake in admiring Mark Twain. Clemens stood this for a time
and then seems to have decided that something should be done. One of the
foremost of English critics was his friend and admirer; he would state
the case to him fully and invite his assistance.
To Andrew Lang, in London:
[First page missing.]
They vote but do not print. The head tells you pretty promptly whether
the food is satisfactory or not; and everybody hears, and thinks the
whole man has spoken. It is a delusion. Only his taste and his smell
have been heard from--important, both, in a way, but these do not build
up the man; and preserve his life and fortify it.
The little child is permitted to label its drawings "This is a cow this
is a horse," and so on. This protects the child. It saves it from the
sorrow and wrong of hearing its cows and its horses criticized as
kangaroos and work benches. A man who is white-washing a fence is doing
a useful thing, so also is the man who is adorning a rich man's house
with costly frescoes; and all of us are sane enough to judge these
performances by standards proper to each. Now, then, to be fair, an
author ought to be allowed to put upon his book an explanatory line:
"This is written for the Head;" "This is written for the Belly and the
Members." And the critic ought to hold himself in honor bound to put
away from him his ancient habit of judging all books by one standard, and
thenceforth follow a fairer course.
The critic assumes, every time, that if a book doesn't meet the
cultivated-class standard, it isn't valuable. Let us apply his law all
around: for if it is sound in the case of novels, narratives, pictures,
and such things, it is certainly sound and applicable to all the steps
which lead up to culture and make culture possible. It condemns the
spelling book, for a spelling book is of no use to a person of culture;
it condemns all school books and all schools which lie between the
child's primer and Greek, and between the infant school and the
university; it condemns all the rounds of art which lie between the cheap
terra cotta groups and the Venus de Medici, and between the chromo and
the Transfiguration; it requires Whitcomb Riley to sing no more till he
can sing like Shakespeare, and it forbids all amateur music and will
grant its sanction to nothing below the "classic."
Is this an extravagant statement? No, it is a mere statement of fact.
It is the fact itself that is extravagant and grotesque. And what is the
result? This--and it is sufficiently curious: the critic has actually
imposed upon the world the superstition that a painting by Raphael is
more valuable to the civilizations of the earth than is a chromo; and the
august opera than the hurdy-gurdy and the villagers' singing society; and
Homer than the little everybody's-poet whose rhymes are in all mouths
today and will be in nobody's mouth next generation; and the Latin
classics than Kipling's far-reaching bugle-note; and Jonathan Edwards
than the Salvation Army; and the Venus de Medici than the plaster-cast
peddler; the superstition, in a word, that the vast and awful comet that
trails its cold lustre through the remote abysses of space once a century
and interests and instructs a cultivated handful of astronomers is worth
more to the world than the sun which warms and cheers all the nations
every day and makes the crops to grow.
If a critic should start a religion it would not have any object but to
convert angels: and they wouldn't need it. The thin top crust of
humanity--the cultivated--are worth pacifying, worth pleasing, worth
coddling, worth nourishing and preserving with dainties and delicacies,
it is true; but to be caterer to that little faction is no very dignified
or valuable occupation, it seems to me; it is merely feeding the over-
fed, and there must be small satisfaction in that. It is not that little
minority who are already saved that are best worth trying to uplift,
I should think, but the mighty mass of the uncultivated who are
underneath. That mass will never see the Old Masters--that sight is for
the few; but the chromo maker can lift them all one step upward toward
appreciation of art; they cannot have the opera, but the hurdy-gurdy and
the singing class lift them a little way toward that far light; they will
never know Homer, but the passing rhymester of their day leaves them
higher than he found them; they may never even hear of the Latin
classics, but they will strike step with Kipling's drum-beat, and they
will march; for all Jonathan Edwards's help they would die in their
slums, but the Salvation Army will beguile some of them up to pure air
and a cleaner life; they know no sculpture, the Venus is not even a name
to them, but they are a grade higher in the scale of civilization by the
ministrations of the plaster-cast than they were before it took its place
upon then mantel and made it beautiful to their unexacting eyes.
Indeed I have been misjudged, from the very first. I have never tried in
even one single instance, to help cultivate the cultivated classes.
I was not equipped for it, either by native gifts or training. And I
never had any ambition in that direction, but always hunted for bigger
game--the masses. I have seldom deliberately tried to instruct them,
but have done my best to entertain them. To simply amuse them would have
satisfied my dearest ambition at any time; for they could get instruction
elsewhere, and I had two chances to help to the teacher's one: for
amusement is a good preparation for study and a good healer of fatigue
after it. My audience is dumb, it has no voice in print, and so I cannot
know whether I have won its approbation or only got its censure.
Yes, you see, I have always catered for the Belly and the Members, but
have been served like the others--criticized from the culture-standard
--to my sorrow and pain; because, honestly, I never cared what became of
the cultured classes; they could go to the theatre and the opera--they
had no use for me and the melodeon.
And now at last I arrive at my object and tender my petition, making
supplication to this effect: that the critics adopt a rule recognizing
the Belly and the Members, and formulate a standard whereby work done for
them shall be judged. Help me, Mr. Lang; no voice can reach further than
yours in a case of this kind, or carry greater weight of authority.
Lang's reply was an article in the Illustrated London News on "The
Art of Mark Twain." Lang had no admiration to express for the
Yankee, which he confessed he had not cared to read, but he
glorified Huck Finn to the highest. "I can never forget, nor be
ungrateful for the exquisite pleasure with which I read Huckleberry
Finn for the first time, years ago," he wrote; "I read it again last
night, deserting Kenilworth for Huck. I never laid it down till I
had finished it."
Lang closed his article by referring to the story of Huck as the
"great American novel which had escaped the eyes of those who
watched to see this new planet swim into their ken."
LETTERS, 1890, CHIEFLY TO JOS. T. GOODMAN. THE GREAT MACHINE ENTERPRISE
Dr. John Brown's son, whom Mark Twain and his wife had known in 1873
as "Jock," sent copies of Dr. John Brown and His Sister Isabella, by
E. T. McLaren. It was a gift appreciated in the Clemens home.
To Mr. John Brown, in Edinburgh, Scotland:
HARTFORD, Feby 11, 1890.
DEAR MR. BROWN,--Both copies came, and we are reading and re-reading the
one, and lending the other, to old time adorers of "Rab and his Friends."
It is an exquisite book; the perfection of literary workmanship. It says
in every line, "Don't look at me, look at him"--and one tries to be good
and obey; but the charm of the painter is so strong that one can't keep
his entire attention on the developing portrait, but must steal side-
glimpses of the artist, and try to divine the trick of her felicitous
brush. In this book the doctor lives and moves just as he was. He was
the most extensive slave-holder of his time, and the kindest; and yet he
died without setting one of his bondmen free. We all send our very, very
S. L. CLEMENS.
If Mark Twain had been less interested in the type-setting machine
he might possibly have found a profit that winter in the old Sellers
play, which he had written with Howells seven years before. The
play had eventually been produced at the Lyceum Theatre in New York,
with A. P. Burbank in the leading role, and Clemens and Howells as
financial backers. But it was a losing investment, nor did it pay
any better when Clemens finally sent Burbank with it on the road.
Now, however, James A. Herne, a well-known actor and playwright,
became interested in the idea, after a discussion of the matter with
Howells, and there seemed a probability that with changes made under
Herne's advisement the play might be made sensible and successful.
But Mark Twain's greater interest was now all in the type-machine,
and certainly he had no money to put into any other venture. His
next letter to Goodman is illuminating--the urgency of his need for
funds opposed to that conscientiousness which was one of the most
positive forces of Mark Twain's body spiritual. The Mr. Arnot of
this letter was an Elmira capitalist.
To Jos. T. Goodman, in California:
HARTFORD, March 31, '90.
DEAR JOE,--If you were here, I should say, "Get you to Washington and beg
Senator Jones to take the chances and put up about ten or "--no, I
wouldn't. The money would burn a hole in my pocket and get away from me
if the furnisher of it were proceeding upon merely your judgment and mine
and without other evidence. It is too much of a responsibility.
But I am in as close a place to-day as ever I was; $3,000 due for the
last month's machine-expenses, and the purse empty. I notified Mr. Arnot
a month ago that I should want $5,000 to-day, and his check arrived last
night; but I sent it back to him, because when he bought of me on the 9th
of December I said that I would not draw upon him for 3 months, and that
before that date Senator Jones would have examined the machine and
approved, or done the other thing. If Jones should arrive here a week or
ten days from now (as he expects to do,) and should not approve, and
shouldn't buy any royalties, my deal with Arnot would not be
symmetrically square, and then how could I refund? The surest way was to
return his check.
I have talked with the madam, and here is the result. I will go down to
the factory and notify Paige that I will scrape together $6,000 to meet
the March and April expenses, and will retire on the 30th of April and
return the assignment to him if in the meantime I have not found
It is very rough; for the machine does at last seem perfect, and just a
bird to go! I think she's going to be good for 8,000 ems an hour in the
hands of a good ordinary man after a solid year's practice. I may be in
error, but I most solidly believe it.
There's an improved Mergenthaler in New York; Paige and Davis and I
watched it two whole afternoons.
With the love of us all,
Arnot wrote Clemens urging him to accept the check for five thousand
dollars in this moment of need. Clemens was probably as sorely
tempted to compromise with his conscience as he had ever been in his
life, but his resolution field firm.
To M. H. Arnot, in Elmira, N. Y.:
MR. M. H. ARNOT
DEAR SIR,--No--no, I could not think of taking it, with you unsatisfied;
and you ought not to be satisfied until you have made personal
examination of the machine and had a consensus of testimony of
disinterested people, besides. My own perfect knowledge of what is
required of such a machine, and my perfect knowledge of the fact that
this is the only machine that can meet that requirement, make it
difficult for me to realize that a doubt is possible to less well-posted
men; and so I would have taken your money without thinking, and thus
would have done a great wrong to you and a great one to myself. And now
that I go back over the ground, I remember that where I said I could get
along 3 months without drawing on you, that delay contemplated a visit
from you to the machine in the interval, and your satisfaction with its
character and prospects. I had forgotten all that. But I remember it
now; and the fact that it was not "so nominated in the bond" does not
alter the case or justify me in making my call so prematurely. I do not
know that you regarded all that as a part of the bargain--for you were
thoroughly and magnanimously unexacting--but I so regarded it,
notwithstanding I have so easily managed to forget all about it.
You so gratified me, and did me so much honor in bonding yourself to me
in a large sum, upon no evidence but my word and with no protection but
my honor, that my pride in that is much stronger than my desire to reap a
money advantage from it.
With the sincerest appreciation I am Truly yours
S L. CLEMENS.
P. S. I have written a good many words and yet I seem to have failed to
say the main thing in exact enough language--which is, that the
transaction between us is not complete and binding until you shall have
convinced yourself that the machine's character and prospects are
I ought to explain that the grippe delayed us some weeks, and that we
have since been waiting for Mr. Jones. When he was ready, we were not;
and now we have been ready more than a month, while he has been kept in
Washington by the Silver bill. He said the other day that to venture out
of the Capitol for a day at this time could easily chance to hurt him if
the bill came up for action, meantime, although it couldn't hurt the
bill, which would pass anyway. Mrs. Jones said she would send me two or
three days' notice, right after the passage of the bill, and that they
would follow as soon as I should return word that their coming would not
inconvenience us. I suppose I ought to go to New York without waiting
for Mr. Jones, but it would not be wise to go there without money.
The bill is still pending.
The Mergenthaler machine, like the Paige, was also at this time in
the middle stages of experimental development. It was a slower
machine, but it was simpler, less expensive, occupied less room.
There was not so much about it to get out of order; it was not so
delicate, not so human. These were immense advantages.
But no one at this time could say with certainty which typesetter
would reap the harvest of millions. It was only sure that at least
one of them would, and the Mergenthaler people were willing to trade
stock for stock with the Paige company in order to insure financial
success for both, whichever won. Clemens, with a faith that never
faltered, declined this offer, a decision that was to cost him
Winter and spring had gone and summer had come, but still there had
been no financial conclusion with Jones, Mackay, and the other rich
Californians who were to put up the necessary million for the
machine's manufacture. Goodman was spending a large part of his
time traveling back and forth between California and Washington,
trying to keep business going at both ends. Paige spent most of his
time working out improvements for the type-setter, delicate
attachments which complicated its construction more and more.
To Joe T. Goodman, in Washington:
HARTFORD, June 22, '90.
DEAR JOE,--I have been sitting by the machine 2 hours, this afternoon,
and my admiration of it towers higher than ever. There is no sort of
mistake about it, it is the Big Bonanza. In the 2 hours, the time lost
by type-breakage was 3 minutes.
This machine is totally without a rival. Rivalry with it is impossible.
Last Friday, Fred Whitmore (it was the 28th day of his apprenticeship on
the machine) stacked up 49,700 ems of solid nonpareil in 8 hours, and the
type-breaking delay was only 6 minutes for the day.
I claim yet, as I have always claimed, that the machine's market (abroad
and here together,) is today worth $150,000,000 without saying anything
about the doubling and trebling of this sum that will follow within the
life of the patents. Now here is a queer fact: I am one of the
wealthiest grandees in America--one of the Vanderbilt gang, in fact--and
yet if you asked me to lend you a couple of dollars I should have to ask
you to take my note instead.
It makes me cheerful to sit by the machine: come up with Mrs. Goodman and
refresh yourself with a draught of the same.
The machine was still breaking the types now and then, and no doubt
Paige was itching to take it to pieces, and only restrained by force
from doing so. He was never thoroughly happy unless he was taking
the machine apart or setting it up again. Finally, he was allowed
to go at it--a disasterous permission, for it was just then that
Jones decided to steal a day or two from the Silver Bill and watch
the type-setter in operation. Paige already had it in parts when
this word came from Goodman, and Jones's visit had to be called off.
His enthusiasm would seem to have weakened from that day. In July,
Goodman wrote that both Mackay and Jones had become somewhat
diffident in the matter of huge capitalization. He thought it
partly due, at least, to "the fatal delays that have sicklied over
the bloom of original enthusiasm." Clemens himself went down to
Washington and perhaps warmed Jones with his eloquence; at least,
Jones seemed to have agreed to make some effort in the matter a
qualified promise, the careful word of a wary politician and
capitalist. How many Washington trips were made is not certain, but
certainly more than one. Jones would seem to have suggested forms
of contracts, but if he came to the point of signing any there is no
evidence of it to-day.
Any one who has read Mark Twain's, "A Connecticut Yankee in King
Arthur's Court," has a pretty good idea of his opinion of kings in
general, and tyrants in particular. Rule by "divine right," however
liberal, was distasteful to him; where it meant oppression it
stirred him to violence. In his article, "The Czar's Soliloquy," he
gave himself loose rein concerning atrocities charged to the master
of Russia, and in a letter which he wrote during the summer of 1890,
he offered a hint as to remedies. The letter was written by
editorial request, but was never mailed. Perhaps it seemed too
openly revolutionary at the moment.
Yet scarcely more than a quarter of a century was needed to make it
"timely." Clemens and his family were spending some weeks in the
Catskills when it was written.
An unpublished letter on the Czar.
TO THE EDITOR OF FREE RUSSIA,--I thank you for the compliment of your
invitation to say something, but when I ponder the bottom paragraph on
your first page, and then study your statement on your third page, of the
objects of the several Russian liberation-parties, I do not quite know
how to proceed. Let me quote here the paragraph referred to:
"But men's hearts are so made that the sight of one voluntary victim for
a noble idea stirs them more deeply than the sight of a crowd submitting
to a dire fate they cannot escape. Besides, foreigners could not see so
clearly as the Russians how much the Government was responsible for the
grinding poverty of the masses; nor could they very well realize the
moral wretchedness imposed by that Government upon the whole of educated
Russia. But the atrocities committed upon the defenceless prisoners are
there in all their baseness, concrete and palpable, admitting of no
excuse, no doubt or hesitation, crying out to the heart of humanity
against Russian tyranny. And the Tzar's Government, stupidly confident
in its apparently unassailable position, instead of taking warning from
the first rebukes, seems to mock this humanitarian age by the aggravation
of brutalities. Not satisfied with slowly killing its prisoners, and
with burying the flower of our young generation in the Siberian desserts,
the Government of Alexander III. resolved to break their spirit by
deliberately submitting them to a regime of unheard-of brutality and
When one reads that paragraph in the glare of George Kennan's
revelations, and considers how much it means; considers that all earthly
figures fail to typify the Czar's government, and that one must descend
into hell to find its counterpart, one turns hopefully to your statement
of the objects of the several liberation-parties--and is disappointed.
Apparently none of them can bear to think of losing the present hell
entirely, they merely want the temperature cooled down a little.
I now perceive why all men are the deadly and uncompromising enemies of
the rattlesnake: it is merely because the rattlesnake has not speech.
Monarchy has speech, and by it has been able to persuade men that it
differs somehow from the rattlesnake, has something valuable about it
somewhere, something worth preserving, something even good and high and
fine, when properly "modified," something entitling it to protection from
the club of the first comer who catches it out of its hole. It seems a
most strange delusion and not reconcilable with our superstition that man
is a reasoning being. If a house is afire, we reason confidently that it
is the first comer's plain duty to put the fire out in any way he can--
drown it with water, blow it up with dynamite, use any and all means to
stop the spread of the fire and save the rest of the city. What is the
Czar of Russia but a house afire in the midst of a city of eighty
millions of inhabitants? Yet instead of extinguishing him, together with
his nest and system, the liberation-parties are all anxious to merely
cool him down a little and keep him.
It seems to me that this is illogical--idiotic, in fact. Suppose you had
this granite-hearted, bloody-jawed maniac of Russia loose in your house,
chasing the helpless women and little children--your own. What would you
do with him, supposing you had a shotgun? Well, he is loose in your
house-Russia. And with your shotgun in your hand, you stand trying to
think up ways to "modify" him.
Do these liberation-parties think that they can succeed in a project
which has been attempted a million times in the history of the world and
has never in one single instance been successful--the "modification" of a
despotism by other means than bloodshed? They seem to think they can.
My privilege to write these sanguinary sentences in soft security was
bought for me by rivers of blood poured upon many fields, in many lands,
but I possess not one single little paltry right or privilege that come
to me as a result of petition, persuasion, agitation for reform, or any
kindred method of procedure. When we consider that not even the most
responsible English monarch ever yielded back a stolen public right until
it was wrenched from them by bloody violence, is it rational to suppose
that gentler methods can win privileges in Russia?
Of course I know that the properest way to demolish the Russian throne
would be by revolution. But it is not possible to get up a revolution
there; so the only thing left to do, apparently, is to keep the throne
vacant by dynamite until a day when candidates shall decline with thanks.
Then organize the Republic. And on the whole this method has some large
advantages; for whereas a revolution destroys some lives which cannot
well be spared, the dynamite way doesn't. Consider this: the
conspirators against the Czar's life are caught in every rank of life,
from the low to the high. And consider: if so many take an active part,
where the peril is so dire, is this not evidence that the sympathizers
who keep still and do not show their hands, are countless for multitudes?
Can you break the hearts of thousands of families with the awful Siberian
exodus every year for generations and not eventually cover all Russia
from limit to limit with bereaved fathers and mothers and brothers and
sisters who secretly hate the perpetrator of this prodigious crime and
hunger and thirst for his life? Do you not believe that if your wife or
your child or your father was exiled to the mines of Siberia for some
trivial utterances wrung from a smarting spirit by the Czar's intolerable
tyranny, and you got a chance to kill him and did not do it, that you
would always be ashamed to be in your own society the rest of your life?
Suppose that that refined and lovely Russian lady who was lately stripped
bare before a brutal soldiery and whipped to death by the Czar's hand in
the person of the Czar's creature had been your wife, or your daughter or
your sister, and to-day the Czar should pass within reach of your hand,
how would you feel--and what would you do? Consider, that all over vast
Russia, from boundary to boundary, a myriad of eyes filled with tears
when that piteous news came, and through those tears that myriad of eyes
saw, not that poor lady, but lost darlings of their own whose fate her
fate brought back with new access of grief out of a black and bitter past
never to be forgotten or forgiven.
If I am a Swinburnian--and clear to the marrow I am--I hold human nature
in sufficient honor to believe there are eighty million mute Russians
that are of the same stripe, and only one Russian family that isn't.
Type-setter matters were going badly. Clemens still had faith in
Jones, and he had lost no grain of faith in the machine. The money
situation, however, was troublesome. With an expensive
establishment, and work of one sort or another still to be done on
the machine, his income would not reach. Perhaps Goodman had
already given up hope, for he does not seem to have returned from
California after the next letter was written--a colorless letter--
in which we feel a note of resignation. The last few lines are
To Joe T. Goodman, in California:
DEAR JOE,--...... I wish you could get a day off and make those two or
three Californians buy those privileges, for I'm going to need money
I don't know where the Senator is; but out on the Coast I reckon.
I guess we've got a perfect machine at last. We never break a type, now,
and the new device for enabling the operator to touch the last letters
and justify the line simultaneously works, to a charm.
With love to you both,
The year closed gloomily enough. The type-setter seemed to be
perfected, but capital for its manufacture was not forthcoming.
The publishing business of Charles L. Webster & Co. was returning
little or no profit. Clemens's mother had died in Keokuk at the end
of October, and his wife's mother, in Elmira a month later. Mark
Twain, writing a short business letter to his publishing manager,
Fred J. Ball, closed it: "Merry Xmas to you!--and I wish to God I
could have one myself before I die."
LETTERS, 1891, TO HOWELLS, MRS. CLEMENS AND OTHERS.
RETURN TO LITERATURE. AMERICAN CLAIMANT. LEAVING HARTFORD.
EUROPE. DOWN THE RHINE
Clemens was still not without hope in the machine, at the beginning of
the new year (1891) but it was a hope no longer active, and it presently
became a moribund. Jones, on about the middle of February, backed out
altogether, laying the blame chiefly on Mackay and the others, who, he
said, had decided not to invest. Jones "let his victim down easy" with
friendly words, but it was the end, for the present, at least, of machine
It was also the end of Mark Twain's capital. His publishing business was
not good. It was already in debt and needing more money. There was just
one thing for him to do and he did it at once, not stopping to cry over
spilt milk, but with good courage and the old enthusiasm that never
failed him, he returned to the trade of authorship. He dug out half-
finished articles and stories, finished them and sold them, and within a
week after the Jones collapse he was at work on a novel based an the old
Sellers idea, which eight years before he and Howells had worked into a
play. The brief letter in which he reported this news to Howells bears
no marks of depression, though the writer of it was in his fifty-sixth
year; he was by no means well, and his financial prospects were anything
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Feb. 24, '91
DEAR HOWELLS,--Mrs. Clemens has been sick abed for near two weeks, but is
up and around the room now, and gaining. I don't know whether she has
written Mrs. Howells or not--I only know she was going to--and will yet,
if she hasn't. We are promising ourselves a whole world of pleasure in
the visit, and you mustn't dream of disappointing us.
Does this item stir an interest in you? Began a novel four days ago, and
this moment finished chapter four. Title of the book
"Colonel Mulberry Sellers.
Great Earldom of Rossmore'
Peerage of Great Britain."
Probably Mark Twain did not return to literary work reluctantly. He had
always enjoyed writing and felt now that he was equipped better than ever
for authorship, at least so far as material was concerned. There exists
a fragmentary copy of a letter to some unknown correspondent, in which he
recites his qualifications. It bears evidence of having been written
just at this time and is of unusual interest at this point.
Fragment of Letter to -------, 1891:
. . . . I confine myself to life with which I am familiar when
pretending to portray life. But I confined myself to the boy-life out on
the Mississippi because that had a peculiar charm for me, and not because
I was not familiar with other phases of life. I was a soldier two weeks
once in the beginning of the war, and was hunted like a rat the whole
time. Familiar? My splendid Kipling himself hasn't a more burnt-in,
hard-baked, and unforgetable familiarity with that death-on-the-pale-
horse-with-hell-following-after, which is a raw soldier's first fortnight
in the field--and which, without any doubt, is the most tremendous
fortnight and the vividest he is ever going to see.
Yes, and I have shoveled silver tailings in a quartz-mill a couple of
weeks, and acquired the last possibilities of culture in that direction.
And I've done "pocket-mining" during three months in the one little patch
of ground in the whole globe where Nature conceals gold in pockets--or
did before we robbed all of those pockets and exhausted, obliterated,
annihilated the most curious freak Nature ever indulged in. There are
not thirty men left alive who, being told there was a pocket hidden on
the broad slope of a mountain, would know how to go and find it, or have
even the faintest idea of how to set about it; but I am one of the
possible 20 or 30 who possess the secret, and I could go and put my hand
on that hidden treasure with a most deadly precision.
And I've been a prospector, and know pay rock from poor when I find it--
just with a touch of the tongue. And I've been a silver miner and know
how to dig and shovel and drill and put in a blast. And so I know the
mines and the miners interiorly as well as Bret Harte knows them
And I was a newspaper reporter four years in cities, and so saw the
inside of many things; and was reporter in a legislature two sessions
and the same in Congress one session, and thus learned to know personally
three sample bodies of the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and
the cowardliest hearts that God makes.
And I was some years a Mississippi pilot, and familiarly knew all the
different kinds of steam-boatmen--a race apart, and not like other folk.
And I was for some years a traveling "jour" printer, and wandered from
city to city--and so I know that sect familiarly.
And I was a lecturer on the public platform a number of seasons and was a
responder to toasts at all the different kinds of banquets--and so I know
a great many secrets about audiences--secrets not to be got out of books,
but only acquirable by experience.
And I watched over one dear project of mine for years, spent a fortune on
it, and failed to make it go--and the history of that would make a large
book in which a million men would see themselves as in a mirror; and they
would testify and say, Verily, this is not imagination; this fellow has
been there--and after would cast dust upon their heads, cursing and
And I am a publisher, and did pay to one author's widow (General Grant's)
the largest copyright checks this world has seen--aggregating more than
L80,000 in the first year.
And I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.
Now then; as the most valuable capital or culture or education usable in
the building of novels is personal experience I ought to be well equipped
for that trade.
I surely have the equipment, a wide culture, and all of it real, none of
it artificial, for I don't know anything about books.
Clemens for several years had been bothered by rheumatism in his
shoulder. The return now to the steady use of the pen aggravated
his trouble, and at times he was nearly disabled. The phonograph
for commercial dictation had been tried experimentally, and Mark
Twain was always ready for any innovation.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Feb. 28, '91.
DEAR HOWELLS,--Won't you drop-in at the Boylston Building (New England
Phonograph Co) and talk into a phonograph in an ordinary conversation-
voice and see if another person (who didn't hear you do it) can take the
words from the thing without difficulty and repeat them to you. If the
experiment is satisfactory (also make somebody put in a message which you
don't hear, and see if afterward you can get it out without difficulty)
won't you then ask them on what terms they will rent me a phonograph for
3 months and furnish me cylinders enough to carry 75,000 words. 175
cylinders, ain't it?
I don't want to erase any of them. My right arm is nearly disabled by
rheumatism, but I am bound to write this book (and sell 100,000 copies of
it--no, I mean a million--next fall) I feel sure I can dictate the book
into a phonograph if I don't have to yell. I write 2,000 words a day; I
think I can dictate twice as many.
But mind, if this is going to be too much trouble to you--go ahead and do
it, all the same.
Howells, always willing to help, visited the phonograph place, and a
few days later reported results. He wrote: "I talked your letter
into a fonograf in my usual tone at my usual gait of speech. Then
the fonograf man talked his answer in at his wonted swing and swell.
Then we took the cylinder to a type-writer in the next room, and she
put the hooks into her ears and wrote the whole out. I send you the
result. There is a mistake of one word. I think that if you have
the cheek to dictate the story into the fonograf, all the rest is
perfectly easy. It wouldn't fatigue me to talk for an hour as I
Clemens did not find the phonograph entirely satisfactory, at least
not for a time, and he appears never to have used it steadily. His
early experience with it, however, seems interesting.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Apl. 4, '91.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I'm ashamed. It happened in this way. I was proposing to
acknowledge the receipt of the play and the little book per phonograph,
so that you could see that the instrument is good enough for mere letter-
writing; then I meant to add the fact that you can't write literature
with it, because it hasn't any ideas and it hasn't any gift for
elaboration, or smartness of talk, or vigor of action, or felicity of
expression, but is just matter-of-fact, compressive, unornamental, and as
grave and unsmiling as the devil.
I filled four dozen cylinders in two sittings, then found I could have
said about as much with the pen and said it a deal better. Then I
I believe it could teach one to dictate literature to a phonographer--and
some time I will experiment in that line.
The little book is charmingly written, and it interested me. But it
flies too high for me. Its concretest things are filmy abstractions to
me, and when I lay my grip on one of them and open my hand, I feel as
embarrassed as I use to feel when I thought I had caught a fly. I'm
going to try to mail it back to you to-day--I mean I am going to charge
my memory. Charging my memory is one of my chief industries ....
With our loves and our kindest regards distributed among you according to
P. S.--I'm sending that ancient "Mental Telegraphy" article to Harper's
--with a modest postscript. Probably read it to you years ago.
S. L. C.
The "little book" mentioned in this letter was by Swedenborg, an
author in whom the Boston literary set was always deeply interested.
"Mental Telegraphy" appeared in Harper's Magazine, and is now
included in the Uniform Edition of Mark Twain's books. It was
written in 1878.
Joe Goodman had long since returned to California, it being clear
that nothing could be gained by remaining in Washington. On receipt
of the news of the type-setter's collapse he sent a consoling word.
Perhaps he thought Clemens would rage over the unhappy circumstance,
and possibly hold him in some measure to blame. But it was
generally the smaller annoyances of life that made Mark Twain rage;
the larger catastrophes were likely to stir only his philosophy.
The Library of American Literature, mentioned in the following
letter, was a work in many volumes, edited by Edmund Clarence
Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson.
To Joe T. Goodman:
April [?] 1891.
DEAR JOE, Well, it's all right, anyway. Diplomacy couldn't have saved
it--diplomacy of mine--at that late day. I hadn't any diplomacy in
stock, anyway. In order to meet Jones's requirements I had to surrender
the old contract (a contract which made me boss of the situation and gave
me the whip-hand of Paige) and allow the new one to be drafted and put in
its place. I was running an immense risk, but it was justified by
Jones's promises--promises made to me not merely once but every time I
tallied with him. When February arrived, I saw signs which were mighty
plain reading. Signs which meant that Paige was hoping and praying that
Jones would go back on me--which would leave Paige boss, and me robbed
and out in the cold. His prayers were answered, and I am out in the
cold. If I ever get back my nine-twentieths interest, it will be by law-
suit--which will be instituted in the indefinite future, when the time
I am at work again--on a book. Not with a great deal of spirit, but with
enough--yes, plenty. And I am pushing my publishing house. It has
turned the corner after cleaning $50,000 a year for three consecutive
years, and piling every cent of it into one book--Library of American
Literature--and from next January onward it will resume dividends. But
I've got to earn $50,000 for it between now and then--which I will do if
I keep my health. This additional capital is needed for that same book,
because its prosperity is growing so great and exacting.
It is dreadful to think of you in ill health--I can't realize it; you are
always to me the same that you were in those days when matchless health.
and glowing spirits and delight in life were commonplaces with us. Lord
save us all from old age and broken health and a hope-tree that has lost
the faculty of putting out blossoms.
With love to you both from us all.
Mark Twain's residence in Hartford was drawing rapidly to a close.
Mrs. Clemens was poorly, and his own health was uncertain. They
believed that some of the European baths would help them.
Furthermore, Mark Twain could no longer afford the luxury of his
Hartford home. In Europe life could be simpler and vastly cheaper.
He was offered a thousand dollars apiece for six European letters,
by the McClure syndicate and W. M. Laffan, of the Sun. This would
at least give him a start on the other side. The family began
immediately their sad arrangements for departure.
To Fred J. Hall (manager Chas. L. Webster & Co.), N. Y.:
HARTFORD, Apl. 14, '91.
DEAR MR. HALL,--Privately--keep it to yourself--as you, are already
aware, we are going to Europe in June, for an indefinite stay. We shall
sell the horses and shut up the house. We wish to provide a place for
our coachman, who has been with us a 21 years, and is sober, active,
diligent, and unusually bright and capable. You spoke of hiring a
colored man as engineer and helper in the packing room. Patrick would
soon learn that trade and be very valuable. We will cease to need him by
the middle or end of June. Have you made irrevocable arrangements with
the colored man, or would you prefer to have Patrick, if he thinks he
would like to try?
I have not said anything to him about it yet.
S. L. C.
It was to be a complete breaking up of their beautiful
establishment. Patrick McAleer, George the butler, and others of
their household help had been like members of the family. We may
guess at the heartbreak of it all, even though the letters remain
Howells, strangely enough, seems to have been about the last one to
be told of their European plans; in fact, he first got wind of it
from the papers, and wrote for information. Likely enough Clemens
had not until then had the courage to confess.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, May 20, '91.
DEAR HOWELLS,--For her health's sake Mrs. Clemens must try baths
somewhere, and this it is that has determined us to go to Europe.
The water required seems to be provided at a little obscure and little-
visited nook up in the hills back of the Rhine somewhere and you get to
it by Rhine traffic-boat and country stage-coach. Come, get "sick or
sorry enough" and join us. We shall be a little while at that bath, and
the rest of the summer at Annecy (this confidential to you) in Haute
Savoie, 22 miles from Geneva. Spend the winters in Berlin. I don't know
how long we shall be in Europe--I have a vote, but I don't cast it. I'm
going to do whatever the others desire, with leave to change their mind,
without prejudice, whenever they want to. Travel has no longer, any
charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to see except
heaven and hell, and I have only a vague curiosity as concerns one of
I found I couldn't use the play--I had departed too far from its lines
when I came to look at it. I thought I might get a great deal of
dialogue out of it, but I got only 15 loosely written pages--they saved
me half a days work. It was the cursing phonograph. There was abundance
of good dialogue, but it couldn't befitted into the new conditions of the
Oh, look here--I did to-day what I have several times in past years
thought of doing: answered an interviewing proposition from a rich
newspaper with the reminder that they had not stated the terms; that my
time was all occupied with writing, at good pay, and that as talking was
harder work I should not care to venture it unless I knew the pay was
going to be proportionately higher. I wish I had thought of this the
other day when Charley Stoddard turned a pleasant Englishman loose on me
and I couldn't think of any rational excuse.
Clemens had finished his Sellers book and had disposed of the serial
rights to the McClure syndicate. The house in Hartford was closed
early in June, and on the 6th the family, with one maid, Katie
Leary, sailed on the Gascogne. Two weeks later they had begun a
residence abroad which was to last for more than nine years.
It was not easy to get to work in Europe. Clemens's arm remained
lame, and any effort at writing brought suffering. The Century
Magazine proposed another set of letters, but by the end of July he
had barely begun on those promised to McClure and Laffan. In
August, however, he was able to send three: one from Aix about the
baths there, another from Bayreuth concerning the Wagner festival,
and a third from Marienbad, in Bohemia, where they rested for a
time. He decided that he would arrange for no more European letters
when the six were finished, but would gather material for a book.
He would take a courier and a kodak and go tramping again in some
fashion that would be interesting to do and to write.
The idea finally matured when he reached Switzerland and settled the
family at the Hotel Beau Rivage, Ouchy, Lausanne, facing Lake Leman.
He decided to make a floating trip down the Rhone, and he engaged
Joseph Very, a courier that had served him on a former European
trip, to accompany him. The courier went over to Bourget and bought
for five dollars a flat-bottomed boat and engaged its owner as their
pilot. It was the morning of September 20, when they began their
floating-trip down the beautiful historic river that flows through
the loveliest and most romantic region of France. He wrote daily to
Mrs. Clemens, and his letters tell the story of that drowsy, happy
experience better than the notes made with a view to publication.
Clemens had arrived at Lake Bourget on the evening before the
morning of their start and slept on the Island of Chatillon, in an
old castle of the same name. Lake Bourget connects with the Rhone
by a small canal.
Letters and Memoranda to Mrs. Clemens, in Ouchy, Switzerland:
Sept. 20, 1891.
Sunday, 11 a.m.
On the lake Bourget--just started. The castle of Chatillon high overhead
showing above the trees. It was a wonderfully still place to sleep in.
Beside us there was nobody in it but a woman, a boy and a dog. A Pope
was born in the room I slept in. No, he became a Pope later.
The lake is smooth as glass--a brilliant sun is shining.
Our boat is comfortable and shady with its awning.
11.20 We have crossed the lake and are entering the canal. Shall
presently be in the Rhone.
Noon. Nearly down to the Rhone. Passing the village of Chanaz.
3.15 p. m. Sunday. We have been in the Rhone 3 hours. It is
unimaginably still and reposeful and cool and soft and breezy. No rowing
or work of any kind to do--we merely float with the current--we glide
noiseless and swift--as fast as a London cab-horse rips along--8 miles an
hour--the swiftest current I've ever boated in. We have the entire river
to ourselves--nowhere a boat of any kind.
Good bye Sweetheart
S. L. C.
PORT DE GROLEE, Monday, 4.15 p.m.
[Sept. 21, 1891]
Name of the village which we left five minutes ago.
We went ashore at 5 p. m. yesterday, dear heart, and walked a short mile
to St. Geuix, a big village, and took quarters at the principal inn; had
a good dinner and afterwards along walk out of town on the banks of the
Guiers till 7.30.
Went to bed at 8.30 and continued to make notes and read books and
newspapers till midnight. Slept until 8, breakfasted in bed, and lay
till noon, because there had been a very heavy rain in the night and the
day was still dark and lowering. But at noon the sun broke through and
in 15 minutes we were tramping toward the river. Got afloat at 1 p. m.
but at 2.40 we had to rush suddenly ashore and take refuge in the above
village. Just as we got ourselves and traps safely housed in the inn,
the rain let go and came down in great style. We lost an hour and a half
there, but we are off again, now, with bright sunshine.
I wrote you yesterday my darling, and shall expect to write you every
Good-day, and love to all of you.
ON THE RHONE BELOW VILLEBOIS,
Good morning, sweetheart. Night caught us yesterday where we had to take
quarters in a peasant's house which was occupied by the family and a lot
of cows and calves--also several rabbits.--[His word for fleas.]--The
latter had a ball, and I was the ball-room; but they were very friendly
and didn't bite.
The peasants were mighty kind and hearty, and flew around and did their
best to make us comfortable. This morning I breakfasted on the shore in
the open air with two sociable dogs and a cat. Clean cloth, napkin and
table furniture, white sugar, a vast hunk of excellent butter, good
bread, first class coffee with pure milk, fried fish just caught.
Wonderful that so much cleanliness should come out of such a phenomenally
An hour ago we saw the Falls of the Rhone, a prodigiously rough and
dangerous looking place; shipped a little water but came to no harm.
It was one of the most beautiful pieces of piloting and boat-management
I ever saw. Our admiral knew his business.
We have had to run ashore for shelter every time it has rained
heretofore, but Joseph has been putting in his odd time making a water-
proof sun-bonnet for the boat, and now we sail along dry although we had
many heavy showers this morning.
With a word of love to you all and particularly you,
ON THE RHONE, BELOW VIENNA.
I salute you, my darling. Your telegram reached me in Lyons last night
and was very pleasant news indeed.
I was up and shaved before 8 this morning, but we got delayed and didn't
sail from Lyons till 10.3O--an hour and a half lost. And we've lost
another hour--two of them, I guess--since, by an error. We came in sight
of Vienne at 2 o'clock, several miles ahead, on a hill, and I proposed to
walk down there and let the boat go ahead of us. So Joseph and I got out
and struck through a willow swamp along a dim path, and by and by came
out on the steep bank of a slough or inlet or something, and we followed
that bank forever and ever trying to get around the head of that slough.
Finally I noticed a twig standing up in the water, and by George it had a
distinct and even vigorous quiver to it! I don't know when I have felt
so much like a donkey. On an island! I wanted to drown somebody, but I
hadn't anybody I could spare. However, after another long tramp we found
a lonely native, and he had a scow and soon we were on the mainland--yes,
and a blamed sight further from Vienne than we were when we started.
Notes--I make millions of them; and so I get no time to write to you. If
you've got a pad there, please send it poste-restante to Avignon. I may
not need it but I fear I shall.
I'm straining to reach St. Pierre de Boef, but it's going to be a close
fit, I reckon.
AFLOAT, Friday, 3 p.m., '91.
Livy darling, we sailed from St. Pierre de Boef six hours ago, and are
now approaching Tournon, where we shall not stop, but go on and make
Valence, a City Of 25,000 people. It's too delicious, floating with the
swift current under the awning these superb sunshiny days in deep peace
and quietness. Some of these curious old historical towns strangely
persuade me, but it is so lovely afloat that I don't stop, but view them
from the outside and sail on. We get abundance of grapes and peaches for
next to nothing.
Joseph is perfect. He is at his very best--and never was better in his
life. I guess he gets discouraged and feels disliked and in the way when
he is lying around--but here he is perfection, and brim full of useful
alacrities and helps and ingenuities.
When I woke up an hour ago and heard the clock strike 4, I said "I seem
to have been asleep an immensely long time; I must have gone to bed
mighty early; I wonder what time I did go to bed." And I got up and lit
a candle and looked at my watch to see.
2 HOURS BELOW BOURG ST. ANDEOL.
Monday, 11 a.m., Sept. 28.
Livy darling, I didn't write yesterday. We left La Voulte in a driving
storm of cold rain--couldn't write in it--and at 1 p. m. when we were
not thinking of stopping, we saw a picturesque and mighty ruin on a high
hill back of a village, and I was seized with a desire to explore it; so
we landed at once and set out with rubbers and umbrella, sending the boat
ahead to St. Andeol, and we spent 3 hours clambering about those cloudy
heights among those worn and vast and idiotic ruins of a castle built by
two crusaders 650 years ago. The work of these asses was full of
interest, and we had a good time inspecting, examining and scrutinizing
it. All the hills on both sides of the Rhone have peaks and precipices,
and each has its gray and wasted pile of mouldy walls and broken towers.
The Romans displaced the Gauls, the Visigoths displaced the Romans, the
Saracens displaced the Visigoths, the Christians displaced the Saracens,
and it was these pious animals who built these strange lairs and cut each
other's throats in the name and for the glory of God, and robbed and
burned and slew in peace and war; and the pauper and the slave built
churches, and the credit of it went to the Bishop who racked the money
out of them. These are pathetic shores, and they make one despise the
We came down in an hour by rail, but I couldn't get your telegram till
this morning, for it was Sunday and they had shut up the post office to
go to the circus. I went, too. It was all one family--parents and 5
children--performing in the open air to 200 of these enchanted villagers,
who contributed coppers when called on. It was a most gay and strange
and pathetic show. I got up at 7 this morning to see the poor devils
cook their poor breakfast and pack up their sordid fineries.
This is a 9 k-m. current and the wind is with us; we shall make Avignon
before 4 o'clock. I saw watermelons and pomegranates for sale at St.
With a power of love, Sweetheart,
HOTEL D'EUROPE, AVIGNON,
Monday, 6 p.m., Sept. 28.
Well, Livy darling, I have been having a perfect feast of letters for an
hour, and I thank you and dear Clam with all my heart. It's like hearing
from home after a long absence.
It is early to be in bed, but I'm always abed before 9, on this voyage;
and up at 7 or a trifle later, every morning. If I ever take such a trip
again, I will have myself called at the first tinge of dawn and get to
sea as soon after as possible. The early dawn on the water-nothing can
be finer, as I know by old Mississippi experience. I did so long for you
and Sue yesterday morning--the most superb sunrise!--the most marvelous
sunrise! and I saw it all from the very faintest suspicion of the coming
dawn all the way through to the final explosion of glory. But it had
interest private to itself and not to be found elsewhere in the world;
for between me and it, in the far distant-eastward, was a silhouette
mountain-range in which I had discovered, the previous afternoon, a most
noble face upturned to the sky, and mighty form out stretched, which I
had named Napoleon Dreaming of Universal Empire--and now, this prodigious
face, soft, rich, blue, spirituelle, asleep, tranquil, reposeful, lay
against that giant conflagration of ruddy and golden splendors all rayed
like a wheel with the upstreaming and far-reaching lances of the sun. It
made one want to cry for delight, it was so supreme in its unimaginable
majesty and beauty.
We had a curious experience today. A little after I had sealed and
directed my letter to you, in which I said we should make Avignon before
4, we got lost. We ceased to encounter any village or ruin mentioned in
our "particularizes" and detailed Guide of the Rhone--went drifting along
by the hour in a wholly unknown land and on an uncharted river! Confound
it, we stopped talking and did nothing but stand up in the boat and
search the horizons with the glass and wonder what in the devil had
happened. And at last, away yonder at 5 o'clock when some east towers
and fortresses hove in sight we couldn't recognize them for Avignon--yet
we knew by the broken bridge that it was Avignon.
Then we saw what the trouble was--at some time or other we had drifted
down the wrong side of an island and followed a sluggish branch of the
Rhone not frequented in modern times. We lost an hour and a half by it
and missed one of the most picturesque and gigantic and history-sodden
masses of castellated medieval ruin that Europe can show.
It was dark by the time we had wandered through the town and got the
letters and found the hotel--so I went to bed.
We shall leave here at noon tomorrow and float down to Arles, arriving
about dark, and there bid good bye to the boat, the river-trip finished.
Between Arles and Nimes (and Avignon again,) we shall be till Saturday
morning--then rail it through on that day to Ouchy, reaching the hotel at
11 at night if the train isn't late.
Next day (Sunday) if you like, go to Basel, and Monday to Berlin. But I
shall be at your disposal, to do exactly as you desire and prefer.
With no end of love to all of you and twice as much to you,
I believe my arm is a trifle better than it was when I started.
The mention in the foregoing letter of the Napoleon effigy is the
beginning of what proved to be a rather interesting episode. Mark
Twain thought a great deal of his discovery, as he called it--the
giant figure of Napoleon outlined by the distant mountain range.
In his note-book he entered memoranda telling just where it was to
be seen, and added a pencil sketch of the huge profile. But then he
characteristically forgot all about it, and when he recalled the
incident ten years later, he could not remember the name of the
village, Beauchastel, from which the great figure could be seen;
also, that he had made a record of the place.
But he was by this time more certain than ever that his discovery
was a remarkable one, which, if known, would become one of the great
natural wonders, such as Niagara Falls. Theodore Stanton was
visiting him at the time, and Clemens urged him, on his return to
France, to make an excursion to the Rhone and locate the Lost
Napoleon, as he now called it. But Clemens remembered the wonder as
being somewhere between Arles and Avignon, instead of about a
hundred miles above the last-named town. Stanton naturally failed
to find it, and it remained for the writer of these notes, motoring
up the Rhone one September day, exactly twenty-two years after the
first discovery, to re-locate the vast reclining figure of the first
consul of France, "dreaming of Universal Empire." The re-discovery
was not difficult--with Mark Twain's memoranda as a guide--and it
was worth while. Perhaps the Lost Napoleon is not so important a
natural wonder as Mark Twain believed, but it is a striking picture,
and on a clear day the calm blue face outlined against the sky will
long hold the traveler's attention.
To Clara Clemens, in Ouchy, Switzerland:
AFLOAT, 11.20 a.m., Sept. 29, Tuesday.
DEAR OLD BEN,--The vast stone masses and huge towers of the ancient papal
palace of Avignon are projected above an intervening wooded island a mile
up the river behind me--for we are already on our way to Arles. It is a
perfectly still morning, with a brilliant sun, and very hot--outside; but
I am under cover of the linen hood, and it is cool and shady in here.
Please tell mamma I got her very last letter this morning, and I perceive
by it that I do not need to arrive at Ouchy before Saturday midnight.