Part 13 out of 16
They were spending the summer at Kaltenleutgeben, a pleasant village
near Vienna, but apparently not entirely quiet. Many friends came
out from Vienna, including a number of visiting Americans. Clemens,
however, appears to have had considerable time for writing, as we
gather from the next to Howells.
To W. D. Howells, in America:
KALTENLEUTGEBEN, BEI WIEN,
Aug. 16, '98.
DEAR HOWELLS,--Your letter came yesterday. It then occurred to me that I
might have known (per mental telegraph) that it was due; for a couple of
weeks ago when the Weekly came containing that handsome reference to me I
was powerfully moved to write you; and my letter went on writing itself
while I was at work at my other literature during the day. But next day
my other literature was still urgent--and so on and so on; so my letter
didn't get put into ink at all. But I see now, that you were writing,
about that time, therefore a part of my stir could have come across the
Atlantic per mental telegraph. In 1876 or '75 I wrote 40,000 words of a
story called "Simon Wheeler" wherein the nub was the preventing of an
execution through testimony furnished by mental telegraph from the other
side of the globe. I had a lot of people scattered about the globe who
carried in their pockets something like the old mesmerizer-button, made
of different metals, and when they wanted to call up each other and have
a talk, they "pressed the button" or did something, I don't remember
what, and communication was at once opened. I didn't finish the story,
though I re-began it in several new ways, and spent altogether 70,000
words on it, then gave it up and threw it aside.
This much as preliminary to this remark: some day people will be able to
call each other up from any part of the world and talk by mental
telegraph--and not merely by impression, the impression will be
articulated into words. It could be a terrible thing, but it won't be,
because in the upper civilizations everything like sentimentality (I was
going to say sentiment) will presently get materialized out of people
along with the already fading spiritualities; and so when a man is called
who doesn't wish to talk he will be like those visitors you mention: "not
chosen"--and will be frankly damned and shut off.
Speaking of the ill luck of starting a piece of literary work wrong-and
again and again; always aware that there is a way, if you could only
think it out, which would make the thing slide effortless from the pen-
the one right way, the sole form for you, the other forms being for men
whose line those forms are, or who are capabler than yourself: I've had
no end of experience in that (and maybe I am the only one--let us hope
so.) Last summer I started 16 things wrong--3 books and 13 mag.
articles--and could only make 2 little wee things, 1500 words altogether,
succeed:--only that out of piles and stacks of diligently-wrought MS.,
the labor of 6 weeks' unremitting effort. I could make all of those
things go if I would take the trouble to re-begin each one half a dozen
times on a new plan. But none of them was important enough except one:
the story I (in the wrong form) mapped out in Paris three or four years
ago and told you about in New York under seal of confidence--no other
person knows of it but Mrs. Clemens--the story to be called "Which was
A week ago I examined the MS--10,000 words--and saw that the plan was a
totally impossible one-for me; but a new plan suggested itself, and
straightway the tale began to slide from the pen with ease and
confidence. I think I've struck the right one this time. I have already
put 12,000 words of it on paper and Mrs. Clemens is pretty outspokenly
satisfied with it-a hard critic to content. I feel sure that all of the
first half of the story--and I hope three-fourths--will be comedy; but by
the former plan the whole of it (except the first 3 chapters) would have
been tragedy and unendurable, almost. I think I can carry the reader a
long way before he suspects that I am laying a tragedy-trap. In the
present form I could spin 16 books out of it with comfort and joy; but I
shall deny myself and restrict it to one. (If you should see a little
short story in a magazine in the autumn called "My Platonic Sweetheart"
written 3 weeks ago) that is not this one. It may have been a
I expect all these singular privacies to interest you, and you are not to
let on that they don't.
We are leaving, this afternoon, for Ischl, to use that as a base for the
baggage, and then gad around ten days among the lakes and mountains to
rest-up Mrs. Clemens, who is jaded with housekeeping. I hope I can get a
chance to work a little in spots--I can't tell. But you do it--therefore
why should you think I can't?
The dream story was never completed. It was the same that he had
worked on in London, and perhaps again in Switzerland. It would be
tried at other times and in other forms, but it never seemed to
accommodate itself to a central idea, so that the good writing in it
eventually went to waste. The short story mentioned, "My Platonic
Sweetheart," a charming, idyllic tale, was not published during Mark
Twain's lifetime. Two years after his death it appeared in Harper's
The assassination of the Empress of Austria at Geneva was the
startling event of that summer. In a letter to Twichell Clemens
presents the tragedy in a few vivid paragraphs. Later he treated it
at some length in a magazine article which, very likely because of
personal relations with members of the Austrian court, he withheld
from print. It has since been included in a volume of essays, What
Is Man, etc.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
KALTENLEUTGEBEN, Sep. 13, '98.
DEAR JOE,--You are mistaken; people don't send us the magazines. No--
Harper, Century and McClure do; an example I should like to recommend to
other publishers. And so I thank you very much for sending me Brander's
article. When you say "I like Brander Matthews; he impresses me as a man
of parts and power," I back you, right up to the hub--I feel the same
way--. And when you say he has earned your gratitude for cuffing me for
my crimes against the Leather stockings and the Vicar, I ain't making any
objection. Dern your gratitude!
His article is as sound as a nut. Brander knows literature, and loves
it; he can talk about it and keep his temper; he can state his case so
lucidly and so fairly and so forcibly that you have to agree with him,
even when you don't agree with him; and he can discover and praise such
merits as a book has, even when they are half a dozen diamonds scattered
through an acre of mud. And so he has a right to be a critic.
To detail just the opposite of the above invoice is to describe me. I
haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I
hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden
me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I
have to stop every time I begin.
That good and unoffending lady the Empress is killed by a mad-man, and I
am living in the midst of world-history again. The Queen's jubilee last
year, the invasion of the Reichsrath by the police, and now this murder,
which will still be talked of and described and painted a thousand years
from now. To have a personal friend of the wearer of the crown burst in
at the gate in the deep dusk of the evening and say in a voice broken
with tears, "My God the Empress is murdered," and fly toward her home
before we can utter a question-why, it brings the giant event home to
you, makes you a part of it and personally interested; it is as if your
neighbor Antony should come flying and say "Caesar is butchered--the head
of the world is fallen!"
Of course there is no talk but of this. The mourning is universal and
genuine, the consternation is stupefying. The Austrian Empire is being
draped with black. Vienna will be a spectacle to see, by next Saturday,
when the funeral cortege marches. We are invited to occupy a room in the
sumptuous new hotel (the "Krantz" where we are to live during the Fall
and Winter) and view it, and we shall go.
Speaking of Mrs. Leiter, there is a noble dame in Vienna, about whom they
retail similar slanders. She said in French--she is weak in French--that
she had been spending a Sunday afternoon in a gathering of the
"demimonde." Meaning the unknown land, that mercantile land, that
mysterious half-world which underlies the aristocracy. But these
Malaproperies are always inventions--they don't happen.
Yes, I wish we could have some talks; I'm full to the eye-lids. Had a
noble good one with Parker and Dunham--land, but we were grateful for
Yours with all our loves.
[Inclosed with the foregoing.]
Among the inadequate attempts to account for the assassination we must
concede high rank to the German Emperor's. He justly describes it as a
"deed unparalleled for ruthlessness," and then adds that it was "ordained
I think this verdict will not be popular "above." A man is either a free
agent or he isn't. If a man is a free agent, this prisoner is
responsible for what he has done; but if a man is not a free agent, if
the deed was ordained from above, there is no rational way of making this
prisoner even partially responsible for it, and the German court cannot
condemn him without manifestly committing a crime. Logic is logic; and
by disregarding its laws even Emperors as capable and acute as William II
can be beguiled into making charges which should not be ventured upon
except in the shelter of plenty of lightning-rods.
The end of the year 1898 found Mark Twain once more in easy, even
luxurious, circumstances. The hard work and good fortune which had
enabled him to pay his debts had, in the course of another year,
provided what was comparative affluence: His report to Howells is
characteristic and interesting.
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
HOTEL KRANTZ, WIEN, L. NEVER MARKT 6
Dec. 30, '98.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I begin with a date--including all the details--though I
shall be interrupted presently by a South-African acquaintance who is
passing through, and it may be many days before I catch another leisure
moment. Note how suddenly a thing can become habit, and how
indestructible the habit is, afterward! In your house in Cambridge a
hundred years ago, Mrs. Howells said to me, "Here is a bunch of your
letters, and the dates are of no value, because you don't put any in--
the years, anyway." That remark diseased me with a habit which has cost
me worlds of time and torture and ink, and millions of vain efforts and
buckets of tears to break it, and here it is yet--I could easier get rid
of a virtue.....
I hope it will interest you (for I have no one else who would much care
to know it) that here lately the dread of leaving the children in
difficult circumstances has died down and disappeared and I am now having
peace from that long, long nightmare, and can sleep as well as anyone.
Every little while, for these three years, now, Mrs. Clemens has come
with pencil and paper and figured up the condition of things (she keeps
the accounts and the bank-book) and has proven to me that the clouds were
lifting, and so has hoisted my spirits temporarily and kept me going till
another figuring-up was necessary. Last night she figured up for her own
satisfaction, not mine, and found that we own a house and furniture in
Hartford; that my English and American copyrights pay an income which
represents a value of $200,000; and that we have $107,000 cash in the
bank. I have been out and bought a box of 6-cent cigars; I was smoking
4 1/2 centers before.
At the house of an English friend, on Christmas Eve, we saw the Mouse-
Trap played and well played. I thought the house would kill itself with
laughter. By George they played with life! and it was most
devastatingly funny. And it was well they did, for they put us Clemenses
in the front seat, and if they played it poorly I would have assaulted
them. The head young man and girl were Americans, the other parts were
taken by English, Irish and Scotch girls. Then there was a nigger-
minstrel show, of the genuine old sort, and I enjoyed that, too, for the
nigger-show was always a passion of mine. This one was created and
managed by a Quaker doctor from Philada., (23 years old) and he was the
middle man. There were 9 others--5 Americans from 5 States and a
Scotchman, 2 Englishmen and an Irishman--all post-graduate-medical young
fellows, of course--or, it could be music; but it would be bound to be
one or the other.
It's quite true--I don't read you "as much as I ought," nor anywhere near
half as much as I want to; still I read you all I get a chance to.
I saved up your last story to read when the numbers should be complete,
but before that time arrived some other admirer of yours carried off the
papers. I will watch admirers of yours when the Silver Wedding journey
begins, and that will not happen again. The last chance at a bound book
of yours was in London nearly two years ago--the last volume of your
short things, by the Harpers. I read the whole book twice through and
some of the chapters several times, and the reason that that was as far
as I got with it was that I lent it to another admirer of yours and he is
admiring it yet. Your admirers have ways of their own; I don't know
where they get them.
Yes, our project is to go home next autumn if we find we can afford to
live in New York. We've asked a friend to inquire about flats and
expenses. But perhaps nothing will come of it. We do afford to live in
the finest hotel in Vienna, and have 4 bedrooms, a dining-room, a
drawing-room, 3 bath-rooms and 3 Vorzimmers, (and food) but we couldn't
get the half of it in New York for the same money ($600 a month).
Susy hovers about us this holiday week, and the shadows fall all about us
"The days when we went gipsying
A long time ago."
Death is so kind, so benignant, to whom he loves; but he goes by us
others and will not look our way. We saw the "Master of Palmyra" last
night. How Death, with the gentleness and majesty, made the human grand-
folk around him seem little and trivial and silly!
With love from all of us to all of you.
LETTERS, 1899, TO HOWELLS AND OTHERS. VIENNA. LONDON. A SUMMER IN
The beginning of 1899 found the Clemens family still in Vienna, occupying
handsome apartments at the Hotel Krantz. Their rooms, so often thronged
with gay and distinguished people, were sometimes called the "Second
Embassy." Clemens himself was the central figure of these assemblies.
Of all the foreign visitors in the Austrian capital he was the most
notable. Everywhere he was surrounded by a crowd of listeners--his
sayings and opinions were widely quoted.
A project for world disarmament promulgated by the Czar of Russia would
naturally interest Mark Twain, and when William T. Stead, of the Review
of Reviews, cabled him for an opinion on the matter, he sent at first a
brief word and on the same day followed it with more extended comment.
The great war which has since devastated the world gives to this incident
an added interest.
To Wm. T. Stead, in London:
VIENNA, Jan. 9.
DEAR MR. STEAD,-The Czar is ready to disarm: I am ready to disarm.
Collect the others, it should not be much of a task now.
To Wm. T. Stead, in London:
DEAR MR. STEAD,--Peace by compulsion. That seems a better idea than the
other. Peace by persuasion has a pleasant sound, but I think we should
not be able to work it. We should have to tame the human race first, and
history seems to show that that cannot be done. Can't we reduce the
armaments little by little--on a pro rata basis--by concert of the
powers? Can't we get four great powers to agree to reduce their strength
10 per cent a year and thrash the others into doing likewise? For, of
course, we cannot expect all of the powers to be in their right minds at
one time. It has been tried. We are not going to try to get all of them
to go into the scheme peaceably, are we? In that case I must withdraw my
influence; because, for business reasons, I must preserve the outward
signs of sanity. Four is enough if they can be securely harnessed
together. They can compel peace, and peace without compulsion would be
against nature and not operative. A sliding scale of reduction of 10 per
cent a year has a sort of plausible look, and I am willing to try that if
three other powers will join. I feel sure that the armaments are now
many times greater than necessary for the requirements of either peace or
war. Take wartime for instance. Suppose circumstances made it necessary
for us to fight another Waterloo, and that it would do what it did
before--settle a large question and bring peace. I will guess that
400,000 men were on hand at Waterloo (I have forgotten the figures).
In five hours they disabled 50,000 men. It took them that tedious, long
time because the firearms delivered only two or three shots a minute.
But we would do the work now as it was done at Omdurman, with shower
guns, raining 600 balls a minute. Four men to a gun--is that the number?
A hundred and fifty shots a minute per man. Thus a modern soldier is 149
Waterloo soldiers in one. Thus, also, we can now retain one man out of
each 150 in service, disband the others, and fight our Waterloos just as
effectively as we did eighty-five years ago. We should do the same
beneficent job with 2,800 men now that we did with 400,000 then. The
allies could take 1,400 of the men, and give Napoleon 1,400 and then whip
But instead what do we see? In war-time in Germany, Russia and France,
taken together we find about 8 million men equipped for the field. Each
man represents 149 Waterloo men, in usefulness and killing capacity.
Altogether they constitute about 350 million Waterloo men, and there are
not quite that many grown males of the human race now on this planet.
Thus we have this insane fact--that whereas those three countries could
arm 18,000 men with modern weapons and make them the equals of 3 million
men of Napoleon's day, and accomplish with them all necessary war work,
they waste their money and their prosperity creating forces of their
populations in piling together 349,982,000 extra Waterloo equivalents
which they would have no sort of use for if they would only stop drinking
and sit down and cipher a little.
Perpetual peace we cannot have on any terms, I suppose; but I hope we can
gradually reduce the war strength of Europe till we get it down to where
it ought to be--20,000 men, properly armed. Then we can have all the
peace that is worth while, and when we want a war anybody can afford it.
VIENNA, January 9.
P. S.--In the article I sent the figures are wrong--"350 million" ought
to be 450 million; "349,982,000" ought to be 449,982,000, and the remark
about the sum being a little more than the present number of males on the
planet--that is wrong, of course; it represents really one and a half the
Now and then one of Mark Twain's old comrades still reached out to
him across the years. He always welcomed such letters--they came as
from a lost land of romance, recalled always with tenderness. He
sent light, chaffing replies, but they were never without an
undercurrent of affection.
To Major "Jack" Downing, in Middleport, Ohio:
HOTEL KRANTZ, WEIN, I, NEUER MART 6,
Feb. 26, 1899.
DEAR MAJOR,--No: it was to Bixby that I was apprenticed. He was to teach
me the river for a certain specified sum. I have forgotten what it was,
but I paid it. I steered a trip for Bart Bowen, of Keokuk, on the A. T.
Lacy, and I was partner with Will Bowen on the A. B. Chambers (one trip),
and with Sam Bowen a whole summer on a small Memphis packet.
The newspaper report you sent me is incorrect. Bixby is not 67: he is
97. I am 63 myself, and I couldn't talk plain and had just begun to walk
when I apprenticed myself to Bixby who was then passing himself off for
57 and successfully too, for he always looked 60 or 70 years younger than
he really was. At that time he was piloting the Mississippi on a Potomac
commission granted him by George Washington who was a personal friend of
his before the Revolution. He has piloted every important river in
America, on that commission, he has also used it as a passport in Russia.
I have never revealed these facts before. I notice, too, that you are
deceiving the people concerning your age. The printed portrait which you
have enclosed is not a portrait of you, but a portrait of me when I was
19. I remember very well when it was common for people to mistake Bixby
for your grandson. Is it spreading, I wonder--this disposition of pilots
to renew their youth by doubtful methods? Beck Jolly and Joe Bryan--they
probably go to Sunday school now--but it will not deceive.
Yes, it is as you say. All of the procession but a fraction has passed.
It is time for us all to fall in.
S. L. CLEMENS.
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
HOTEL KRANTZ, WIEN I. NEUER MARKT 6
April 2, '99.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I am waiting for the April Harper, which is about due now;
waiting, and strongly interested. You are old enough to be a weary man,
with paling interests, but you do not show it. You do your work in the
same old delicate and delicious and forceful and searching and perfect
way. I don't know how you can--but I suspect. I suspect that to you
there is still dignity in human life, and that Man is not a joke--a poor
joke--the poorest that was ever contrived. Since I wrote my Bible, (last
year)--["What Is Man."]--which Mrs. Clemens loathes, and shudders over,
and will not listen to the last half nor allow me to print any part of
it, Man is not to me the respect-worthy person he was before; and so I
have lost my pride in him, and can't write gaily nor praisefully about
him any more. And I don't intend to try. I mean to go on writing, for
that is my best amusement, but I shan't print much. (for I don't wish to
be scalped, any more than another.)
April 5. The Harper has come. I have been in Leipzig with your party,
and then went on to Karlsbad and saw Mrs. Marsh's encounter with the
swine with the toothpick and the other manners--["Their Silver Wedding
Journey."]--At this point Jean carried the magazine away.
Is it imagination, or--Anyway I seem to get furtive and fleeting glimpses
which I take to be the weariness and condolence of age; indifference to
sights and things once brisk with interest; tasteless stale stuff which
used to be champagne; the boredom of travel: the secret sigh behind the
public smile, the private What-in-hell-did-I-come-for!
But maybe that is your art. Maybe that is what you intend the reader to
detect and think he has made a Columbus-discovery. Then it is well done,
perfectly done. I wrote my last travel book--[Following the Equator.]--
in hell; but I let on, the best I could, that it was an excursion through
heaven. Some day I will read it, and if its lying cheerfulness fools me,
then I shall believe it fooled the reader. How I did loathe that journey
around the world!--except the sea-part and India.
Evening. My tail hangs low. I thought I was a financier--and I bragged
to you. I am not bragging, now. The stock which I sold at such a fine
profit early in January, has never ceased to advance, and is now worth
$60,000 more than I sold it for. I feel just as if I had been spending
$20,000 a month, and I feel reproached for this showy and unbecoming
Last week I was going down with the family to Budapest to lecture, and to
make a speech at a banquet. Just as I was leaving here I got a telegram
from London asking for the speech for a New York paper. I (this is
strictly private) sent it. And then I didn't make that speech, but
another of a quite different character--a speech born of something
which the introducer said. If that said speech got cabled and printed,
you needn't let on that it was never uttered.
That was a darling night, and those Hungarians were lively people. We
were there a week and had a great time. At the banquet I heard their
chief orator make a most graceful and easy and beautiful and delicious
speech--I never heard one that enchanted me more--although I did not
understand a word of it, since it was in Hungarian. But the art of it!-
it was superlative.
They are wonderful English scholars, these people; my lecture audience--
all Hungarians--understood me perfectly--to judge by the effects. The
English clergyman told me that in his congregation are 150 young English
women who earn their living teaching their language; and that there are.
others besides these.
For 60 cents a week the telephone reads the morning news to you at home;
gives you the stocks and markets at noon; gives you lessons in 3 foreign
languages during 3 hours; gives you the afternoon telegrams; and at night
the concerts and operas. Of course even the clerks and seamstresses and
bootblacks and everybody else are subscribers.
(Correction. Mrs. Clemens says it is 60 cents a month.)
I am renewing my youth. I made 4 speeches at one banquet here last
Saturday night. And I've been to a lot of football matches.
Jean has been in here examining the poll for the Immortals ("Literature,"
March 24,) in the hope, I think, that at last she should find me at the
top and you in second place; and if that is her ambition she has suffered
disappointment for the third time--and will never fare any better, I
hope, for you are where you belong, by every right. She wanted to know
who it is that does the voting, but I was not able to tell her. Nor when
the election will be completed and decided.
Next Morning. I have been reading the morning paper. I do it every
morning--well knowing that I shall find in it the usual depravities and
basenesses and hypocrisies and cruelties that make up civilization, and
cause me to put in the rest of the day pleading for the damnation of the
human race. I cannot seem to get my prayers answered, yet I do not
(Escaped from) 5 o'clock tea. ('sh!) Oh, the American girl in Europe!
Often she is creditable, but sometimes she is just shocking. This one,
a minute ago--19, fat-face, raspy voice, pert ways, the self-complacency
of God; and with it all a silly laugh (embarrassed) which kept breaking
out through her chatter all along, whereas there was no call for it, for
she said nothing that was funny. "Spose so many 've told y' how they
'njoyed y'r chapt'r on the Germ' tongue it's bringin' coals to Newcastle
Kehe! say anything 'bout it Ke-hehe! Spent m' vacation 'n Russia, 'n
saw Tolstoi; he said--" It made me shudder.
April 12. Jean has been in here with a copy of Literature, complaining
that I am again behind you in the election of the 10 consecrated members;
and seems troubled about it and not quite able to understand it. But I
have explained to her that you are right there on the ground, inside the
pool-booth, keeping game--and that that makes a large difference in these
13th. I have been to the Knustausstellung with Mrs. Clemens. The office
of art seems to be to grovel in the dirt before Emperors and this and
that and the other damned breed of priests.
Howells and Clemens were corresponding regularly again, though not
with the frequency of former years. Perhaps neither of them was
bubbling over with things to say; perhaps it was becoming yearly
less attractive to pick up a pen and write, and then, of course,
there was always the discouragement of distance. Once Howells
wrote: "I know this will find you in Austria before I can well turn
round, but I must make believe you are in Kennebunkport before I can
begin it." And in another letter: "It ought to be as pleasant to
sit down and write to you as to sit down and talk to you, but it
isn't..... The only reason why I write is that I want another
letter from you, and because I have a whole afternoon for the job.
I have the whole of every afternoon, for I cannot work later than
lunch. I am fagged by that time, and Sunday is the only day that
brings unbearable leisure. I hope you will be in New York another
winter; then I shall know what to do with these foretastes of
Clemens usually wrote at considerable length, for he had a good deal
to report of his life in the Austrian capital, now drawing to a
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
May 12, 1899.
DEAR HOWELLS,--7.15 p. m. Tea (for Mr. and Mrs. Tower, who are leaving
for Russia) just over; nice people and rather creditable to the human
race: Mr. and Mrs. Tower; the new Minister and his wife; the Secretary of
Legation; the Naval (and Military) Attach; several English ladies; an
Irish lady; a Scotch lady; a particularly nice young Austrian baron who
wasn't invited but came and went supposing it was the usual thing and
wondered at the unusually large gathering; two other Austrians and
several Americans who were also in his fix; the old Baronin Langeman,
the only Austrian invited; the rest were Americans. It made just a
comfortable crowd in our parlor, with an overflow into Clara's through
the folding doors. I don't enjoy teas, and am daily spared them by Mrs.
Clemens, but this was a pleasant one. I had only one accident. The old
Baronin Langeman is a person I have a strong fondness for, for we
violently disagree on some subjects and as violently agree on others--
for instance, she is temperance and I am not: she has religious beliefs
and feelings and I have none; (she's a Methodist!) she is a democrat and
so am I; she is woman's rights and so am I; she is laborers' rights and
approves trades unions and strikes, and that is me. And so on. After
she was gone an English lady whom I greatly like, began to talk sharply
against her for contributing money, time, labor, and public expression of
favor to a strike that is on (for an 11-hour day) in the silk factories
of Bohemia--and she caught me unprepared and betrayed me into over-warm
argument. I am sorry: for she didn't know anything about the subject,
and I did; and one should be gentle with the ignorant, for they are the
chosen of God.
(The new Minister is a good man, but out of place. The Sec. of Legation
is a good man, but out of place. The Attache is a good man, but out of
place. Our government for displacement beats the new White Star ship;
and her possible is 17,200 tons.)
May 13, 4 p. m. A beautiful English girl and her handsome English
husband came up and spent the evening, and she certainly is a bird.
English parents--she was born and reared in Roumania and couldn't talk
English till she was 8 or 10. She came up clothed like the sunset, and
was a delight to look at. (Roumanian costume.).....
Twenty-four young people have gone out to the Semmering to-day (and to-
morrow) and Mrs. Clemens and an English lady and old Leschetitzky and his
wife have gone to chaperon them. They gave me a chance to go, but there
are no snow mountains that I want to look at. Three hours out, three
hours back, and sit up all night watching the young people dance; yelling
conversationally and being yelled at, conversationally, by new
acquaintances, through the deafening music, about how I like Vienna, and
if it's my first visit, and how long we expect to stay, and did I see the
foot-washing, and am I writing a book about Vienna, and so on. The terms
seemed too severe. Snow mountains are too dear at the price ....
For several years I have been intending to stop writing for print as soon
as I could afford it. At last I can afford it, and have put the pot-
boiler pen away. What I have been wanting is a chance to write a book
without reserves--a book which should take account of no one's feelings,
and no one's prejudices, opinions, beliefs, hopes, illusions, delusions;
a book which should say my say, right out of my heart, in the plainest
language and without a limitation of any sort. I judged that that would
be an unimaginable luxury, heaven on earth.
It is under way, now, and it is a luxury! an intellectual drunk: Twice I
didn't start it right; and got pretty far in, both times, before I found
it out. But I am sure it is started right this time. It is in tale-
form. I believe I can make it tell what I think of Man, and how he is
constructed, and what a shabby poor ridiculous thing he is, and how
mistaken he is in his estimate of his character and powers and qualities
and his place among the animals.
So far, I think I am succeeding. I let the madam into the secret day
before yesterday, and locked the doors and read to her the opening
chapters. She said--
"It is perfectly horrible--and perfectly beautiful!"
"Within the due limits of modesty, that is what I think."
I hope it will take me a year or two to write it, and that it will turn
out to be the right vessel to contain all the abuse I am planning to dump
The story mentioned in the foregoing, in which Mark Twain was to
give his opinion of man, was The Mysterious Stranger. It was not
finished at the time, and its closing chapter was not found until
after his death. Six years later (1916) it was published serially
in Harper's Magazine, and in book form.
The end of May found the Clemens party in London, where they were
received and entertained with all the hospitality they had known in
earlier years. Clemens was too busy for letter-writing, but in the
midst of things he took time to report to Howells an amusing
incident of one of their entertainments.
To W. D. Howells, in America:
LONDON, July 3, '99
DEAR HOWELLS,--..... I've a lot of things to write you, but it's no use--
I can't get time for anything these days. I must break off and write a
postscript to Canon Wilberforce before I go to bed. This afternoon he
left a luncheon-party half an hour ahead of the rest, and carried off my
hat (which has Mark Twain in a big hand written in it.) When the rest of
us came out there was but one hat that would go on my head--it fitted
exactly, too. So wore it away. It had no name in it, but the Canon was
the only man who was absent. I wrote him a note at 8 p.m.; saying that
for four hours I had not been able to take anything that did not belong
to me, nor stretch a fact beyond the frontiers of truth, and my family
were getting alarmed. Could he explain my trouble? And now at 8.30 p.m.
comes a note from him to say that all the afternoon he has been
exhibiting a wonder-compelling mental vivacity and grace of expression,
etc., etc., and have I missed a hat? Our letters have crossed.
News came of the death of Robert Ingersoll. Clemens had been always
one of his most ardent admirers, and a warm personal friend. To
Ingersoll's niece he sent a word of heartfelt sympathy.
To Miss Eva Farrell, in New York:
30 WELLINGTON COURT, ALBERT GATE.
DEAR MISS FARRELL,--Except my daughter's, I have not grieved for any
death as I have grieved for his. His was a great and beautiful spirit,
he was a man--all man from his crown to his foot soles. My reverence for
him was deep and genuine; I prized his affection for me and returned it
S. L. CLEMENS.
Clemens and family decided to spend the summer in Sweden, at Sauna,
in order to avail themselves of osteopathic treatment as practised
by Heinrick Kellgren. Kellgren's method, known as the "Swedish
movements," seemed to Mark Twain a wonderful cure for all ailments,
and he heralded the discovery far and wide. He wrote to friends far
and near advising them to try Kellgren for anything they might
happen to have. Whatever its beginning, any letter was likely to
close with some mention of the new panacea.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, traveling in Europe:
SANNA, Sept. 6, '99.
DEAR JOE,--I've no business in here--I ought to be outside. I shall
never see another sunset to begin with it this side of heaven. Venice?
land, what a poor interest that is! This is the place to be. I have
seen about 60 sunsets here; and a good 40 of them were clear and away
beyond anything I had ever imagined before for dainty and exquisite and
marvellous beauty and infinite change and variety. America? Italy? The
tropics? They have no notion of what a sunset ought to be. And this
one--this unspeakable wonder! It discounts all the rest. It brings the
tears, it is so unutterably beautiful.
If I had time, I would say a word about this curative system here. The
people actually do several of the great things the Christian Scientists
pretend to do. You wish to advise with a physician about it? Certainly.
There is no objection. He knows next to something about his own trade,
but that will not embarrass him in framing a verdict about this one.
I respect your superstitions--we all have them. It would be quite
natural for the cautious Chinaman to ask his native priest to instruct
him as to the value of the new religious specialty which the Western
missionary is trying to put on the market, before investing in it. (He
would get a verdict.)
Love to you all!
Howells wrote that he was going on a reading-tour-dreading it, of
course-and asking for any advice that Clemens felt qualified to
give. Naturally, Clemens gave him the latest he had in stock,
without realizing, perhaps, that he was recommending an individual
practice which few would be likely to imitate. Nevertheless, what
he says is interesting.
To W. D. Howells, in America:
SANNA, SWEDEN, Sept. 26, '99.
DEAR HOWELLS,--Get your lecture by heart--it will pay you. I learned a
trick in Vienna--by accident--which I wish I had learned years ago. I
meant to read from a Tauchnitz, because I knew I hadn't well memorized
the pieces; and I came on with the book and read a few sentences, then
remembered that the sketch needed a few words of explanatory
introduction; and so, lowering the book and now and then unconsciously
using it to gesture with, I talked the introduction, and it happened to
carry me into the sketch itself, and then I went on, pretending that I
was merely talking extraneous matter and would come to the sketch
presently. It was a beautiful success. I knew the substance of the
sketch and the telling phrases of it; and so, the throwing of the rest of
it into informal talk as I went along limbered it up and gave it the snap
and go and freshness of an impromptu. I was to read several pieces, and
I played the same game with all of them, and always the audience thought
I was being reminded of outside things and throwing them in, and was
going to hold up the book and begin on the sketch presently--and so I
always got through the sketch before they were entirely sure that it had
begun. I did the same thing in Budapest and had the same good time over
again. It's a new dodge, and the best one that was ever invented. Try
it. You'll never lose your audience--not even for a moment. Their
attention is fixed, and never wavers. And that is not the case where one
reads from book or MS., or where he stands up without a note and frankly
exposes the fact, by his confident manner and smooth phrasing, that he is
not improvising, but reciting from memory. And in the heat of telling a
thing that is memorised in substance only, one flashes out the happiest
suddenly-begotten phrases every now and then! Try it. Such a phrase has
a life and sparkle about it that twice as good a one could not exhibit if
prepared beforehand, and it "fetches" an audience in such an enthusing
and inspiring and uplifting way that that lucky phrase breeds another
Your September instalment--["Their Silver Wedding journey."]--was
delicious--every word of it. You haven't lost any of your splendid art.
Callers have arrived.
"Yes," wrote Howells, "if I were a great histrionic artist like you
I would get my poor essays by heart, and recite them, but being what
I am I should do the thing so lifelessly that I had better recognise
their deadness frankly and read them."
From Vienna Clemens had contributed to the Cosmopolitan, then owned
by John Brisben Walker, his first article on Christian Science. It
was a delicious bit of humor and found such enthusiastic
appreciation that Walker was moved to send an additional $200 check
in payment for it. This brought prompt acknowledgment.
To John Brisben Walker, in Irvington, N. Y.:
LONDON, Oct. 19, '99
DEAR MR. WALKER,--By gracious but you have a talent for making a man feel
proud and good! To say a compliment well is a high art--and few possess
it. You know how to do it, and when you confirm its sincerity with a
handsome cheque the limit is reached and compliment can no higher go.
I like to work for you: when you don't approve an article you say so,
recognizing that I am not a child and can stand it; and when you approve
an article I don't have to dicker with you as if I raised peanuts and you
kept a stand; I know I shall get every penny the article is worth.
You have given me very great pleasure, and I thank you for it.
S. L. CLEMENS.
On the same day he sent word to Howells of the good luck which now
seemed to be coming his way. The Joan of Arc introduction was the
same that today appears in his collected works under the title of
Saint Joan of Arc.
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
LONDON, Oct. 19, '99.
DEAR HOWELLS,--My, it's a lucky day!--of the sort when it never rains but
it pours. I was to write an introduction to a nobler book--the English
translation of the Official Record (unabridged) of the Trials and
Rehabilitation of Joan of Arc, and make a lot of footnotes. I wrote the
introduction in Sweden, and here a few days ago I tore loose from a tale
I am writing, and took the MS book and went at the grind of note-making
--a fearful job for a man not used to it. This morning brought a note
from my excellent friend Murray, a rich Englishman who edits the
translation, saying, "Never mind the notes--we'll make the translators do
them." That was comfort and joy.
The same mail brought a note from Canon Wilberforce, asking me to talk
Joan of Arc in his drawing-room to the Dukes and Earls and M. P.'s--
(which would fetch me out of my seclusion and into print, and I couldn't
have that,) and so of course I must run down to the Abbey and explain--
and lose an hour. Just then came Murray and said "Leave that to me
--I'll go and do the explaining and put the thing off 3 months; you write
a note and tell him I am coming."
(Which I did, later.) Wilberforce carried off my hat from a lunch party
last summer, and in to-day's note he said he wouldn't steal my new hat
this time. In my note I said I couldn't make the drawing-room talk, now
--Murray would explain; and added a P. S.: "You mustn't think it is
because I am afraid to trust my hat in your reach again, for I assure you
upon honor it isn't. I should bring my old one."
I had suggested to Murray a fortnight ago, that he get some big guns to
write introductory monographs for the book.
Miss X, Joan's Voices and Prophecies.
The Lord Chief Justice of England, the legal prodigies which she
performed before her judges.
Lord Roberts, her military genius.
Kipling, her patriotism.
And so on. When he came this morning he said he had captured Miss X;
that Lord Roberts and Kipling were going to take hold and see if they
could do monographs worthy of the book. He hadn't run the others to
cover yet, but was on their track. Very good news. It is a grand book,
and is entitled to the best efforts of the best people. As for me, I
took pains with my Introduction, and I admit that it is no slouch of a
Then I came down to Chatto's, and found your all too beautiful letter,
and was lifted higher than ever. Next came letters from America properly
glorifying my Christian Science article in the Cosmopolitan (and one
roundly abusing it,) and a letter from John Brisben Walker enclosing $200
additional pay for the article (he had already paid enough, but I didn't
mention that--which wasn't right of me, for this is the second time he
has done such a thing, whereas Gilder has done it only once and no one
else ever.) I make no prices with Walker and Gilder--I can trust them.
And last of all came a letter from M-. How I do wish that man was in
hell. Even-the briefest line from that idiot puts me in a rage.
But on the whole it has been a delightful day, and with M----in hell it
would have been perfect. But that will happen, and I can wait.
Ah, if I could look into the inside of people as you do, and put it on
paper, and invent things for them to do and say, and tell how they said
it, I could writs a fine and readable book now, for I've got a prime
subject. I've written 30,000 words of it and satisfied myself that the
stuff is there; so I am going to discard that MS and begin all over again
and have a good time with it.
Oh, I know how you feel! I've been in hell myself. You are there
tonight. By difference in time you are at luncheon, now--and not eating
it. Nothing is so lonesome as gadding around platforming. I have
declined 45 lectures to-day-England and Scotland. I wanted the money,
but not the torture: Good luck to you!--and repentance.
With love to all of you
LETTERS OF 1900, MAINLY TO TWICHELL. THE BOER WAR. BOXER TROUBLES.
THE RETURN TO AMERICA
The New Year found Clemens still in London, chiefly interested in
osteopathy and characteristically glorifying the practice at the expense
of other healing methods.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
LONDON, Jan. 8, 1900.
DEAR JOE,--Mental Telepathy has scored another. Mental Telegraphy will
be greatly respected a century hence.
By the accident of writing my sister and describing to her the remarkable
cures made by Kellgren with his hands and without drugs, I brought upon
myself a quite stunning surprise; for she wrote to me that she had been
taking this very treatment in Buffalo--and that it was an American
Well, it does really turn out that Dr. Still, in the middle of Kansas, in
a village, began to experiment in 1874, only five years after Kellgren
began the same work obscurely in the village of Gotha, in Germany. Dr.
Still seems to be an honest man; therefore I am persuaded that Kellgren
moved him to his experiments by Mental Telegraphy across six hours of
longitude, without need of a wire. By the time Still began to
experiment, Kellgren had completed his development of the principles of
his system and established himself in a good practice in London--1874
--and was in good shape to convey his discovery to Kansas, Mental
Yes, I was greatly surprised to find that my mare's nest was much in
arrears: that this new science was well known in America under the name
of Osteopathy. Since then, I find that in the past 3 years it has got
itself legalized in 14 States in spite of the opposition of the
physicians; that it has established 20 Osteopathic schools and colleges;
that among its students are 75 allopathic physicians; that there is a
school in Boston and another in Philadelphia, that there are about 100
students in the parent college (Dr. Still's at Kirksville, Missouri,) and
that there are about 2,000 graduates practicing in America. Dear me,
there are not 30 in Europe. Europe is so sunk in superstitions and
prejudices that it is an almost impossible thing to get her to do
anything but scoff at a new thing--unless it come from abroad; as witness
the telegraph, dentistry, &c.
Presently the Osteopath will come over here from America and will soon
make himself a power that must be recognized and reckoned with; and then,
25 years from now, England will begin to claim the invention and tell all
about its origin, in the Cyclopedia B-----as in the case of the
telegraph, applied anaesthetics and the other benefactions which she
heaped her abuse upon when her inventors first offered them to her.
I cannot help feeling rather inordinately proud of America for the gay
and hearty way in which she takes hold of any new thing that comes along
and gives it a first rate trial. Many an ass in America, is getting a
deal of benefit out of X-Science's new exploitation of an age-old healing
principle--faith, combined with the patient's imagination--let it boom
along! I have no objection. Let them call it by what name they choose,
so long as it does helpful work among the class which is numerically
vastly the largest bulk of the human race, i.e. the fools, the idiots,
We do not guess, we know that 9 in 10 of the species are pudd'nheads.
We know it by various evidences; and one of them is, that for ages the
race has respected (and almost venerated) the physician's grotesque
system--the emptying of miscellaneous and harmful drugs into a person's
stomach to remove ailments which in many cases the drugs could not reach
at all; in many cases could reach and help, but only at cost of damage to
some other part of the man; and in the remainder of the cases the drug
either retarded the cure, or the disease was cured by nature in spite of
the nostrums. The doctor's insane system has not only been permitted to
continue its follies for ages, but has been protected by the State and
made a close monopoly--an infamous thing, a crime against a free-man's
proper right to choose his own assassin or his own method of defending
his body against disease and death.
And yet at the same time, with curious and senile inconsistency, the
State has allowed the man to choose his own assassin--in one detail--the
patent-medicine detail--making itself the protector of that perilous
business, collecting money out of it, and appointing no committee of
experts to examine the medicines and forbid them when extra dangerous.
Really, when a man can prove that he is not a jackass, I think he is in
the way to prove that he is no legitimate member of the race.
I have by me a list of 52 human ailments--common ones--and in this list I
count 19 which the physician's art cannot cure. But there isn't one
which Osteopathy or Kellgren cannot cure, if the patient comes early.
Fifteen years ago I had a deep reverence for the physician and the
surgeon. But 6 months of closely watching the Kellgren business has
revolutionized all that, and now I have neither reverence nor respect for
the physician's trade, and scarcely any for the surgeon's,--I am
convinced that of all quackeries, the physician's is the grotesquest and
the silliest. And they know they are shams and humbugs. They have taken
the place of those augurs who couldn't look each other in the face
See what a powerful hold our ancient superstitions have upon us: two
weeks ago, when Livy committed an incredible imprudence and by
consequence was promptly stricken down with a heavy triple attack--
influenza, bronchitis, and a lung affected--she recognized the gravity of
the situation, and her old superstitions rose: she thought she ought to
send for a doctor--Think of it--the last man in the world I should want
around at such a time. Of course I did not say no--not that I was
indisposed to take the responsibility, for I was not, my notion of a
dangerous responsibility being quite the other way--but because it is
unsafe to distress a sick person; I only said we knew no good doctor,
and it could not be good policy to choose at hazard; so she allowed me to
send for Kellgren. To-day she is up and around-Lured. It is safe to say
that persons hit in the same way at the same time are in bed yet, and
booked to stay there a good while, and to be in a shackly condition and
afraid of their shadows for a couple of years or more to come.
It will be seen by the foregoing that Mark Twain's interest in the
Kellgren system was still an ardent one. Indeed, for a time he gave most
of his thought to it, and wrote several long appreciations, perhaps with
little idea of publication, but merely to get his enthusiasm physically
expressed. War, however, presently supplanted medicine--the Boer
troubles in South Africa and the Boxer insurrection in China. It was a
disturbing, exciting year.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
WELLINGTON COURT, KNIGHTSBRIDGE,
Jan. 25, 1900.
DEAR HOWELLS,--If you got half as much as Pond prophesied, be content and
praise God--it has not happened to another. But I am sorry he didn't go
with you; for it is marvelous to hear him yarn. He is good company,
cheery and hearty, and his mill is never idle. Your doing a lecture tour
was heroic. It was the highest order of grit, and you have a right to be
proud of yourself. No mount of applause or money or both could save it
from being a hell to a man constituted as you are. It is that even to
me, who am made of coarser stuff.
I knew the audiences would come forward and shake hands with you--that
one infallible sign of sincere approval. In all my life, wherever it
failed me I left the hall sick and ashamed, knowing what it meant.
Privately speaking, this is a sordid and criminal war, and in every way
shameful and excuseless. Every day I write (in my head) bitter magazine
articles about it, but I have to stop with that. For England must not
fall; it would mean an inundation of Russian and German political
degradations which would envelop the globe and steep it in a sort of
Middle-Age night and slavery which would last till Christ comes again.
Even wrong--and she is wrong--England must be upheld. He is an enemy of
the human race who shall speak against her now. Why was the human race
created? Or at least why wasn't something creditable created in place of
it. God had his opportunity. He could have made a reputation. But no,
He must commit this grotesque folly--a lark which must have cost him a
regret or two when He came to think it over and observe effects. For a
giddy and unbecoming caprice there has been nothing like it till this
war. I talk the war with both sides--always waiting until the other man
introduces the topic. Then I say "My head is with the Briton, but my
heart and such rags of morals as I have are with the Boer--now we will
talk, unembarrassed and without prejudice." And so we discuss, and have
It was my intention to make some disparaging remarks about the human
race; and so I kept this letter open for that purpose, and for the
purpose of telling my dream, wherein the Trinity were trying to guess a
conundrum, but I can do better--for I can snip out of the "Times" various
samples and side-lights which bring the race down to date, and expose it
as of yesterday. If you will notice, there is seldom a telegram in a
paper which fails to show up one or more members and beneficiaries of our
Civilization as promenading in his shirt-tail, with the rest of his
regalia in the wash.
I love to see the holy ones air their smug pieties and admire them and
smirk over them, and at the same moment frankly and publicly show their
contempt for the pieties of the Boer--confidently expecting the approval
of the country and the pulpit, and getting it.
I notice that God is on both sides in this war; thus history repeats
itself. But I am the only person who has noticed this; everybody here
thinks He is playing the game for this side, and for this side only.
With great love to you all
One cannot help wondering what Mark Twain would have thought of
human nature had he lived to see the great World War, fought mainly
by the Christian nations who for nearly two thousand years had been
preaching peace on earth and goodwill toward men. But his opinion
of the race could hardly have been worse than it was. And nothing
that human beings could do would have surprised him.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
LONDON, Jan. 27, 1900.
DEAR JOE,--Apparently we are not proposing to set the Filipinos free and
give their islands to them; and apparently we are not proposing to hang
the priests and confiscate their property. If these things are so, the
war out there has no interest for me.
I have just been examining chapter LXX of "Following the Equator," to see
if the Boer's old military effectiveness is holding out. It reads
curiously as if it had been written about the present war.
I believe that in the next chapter my notion of the Boer was rightly
conceived. He is popularly called uncivilized, I do not know why.
Happiness, food, shelter, clothing, wholesale labor, modest and rational
ambitions, honesty, kindliness, hospitality, love of freedom and
limitless courage to fight for it, composure and fortitude in time of
disaster, patience in time of hardship and privation, absence of noise
and brag in time of victory, contentment with a humble and peaceful life
void of insane excitements--if there is a higher and better form of
civilization than this, I am not aware of it and do not know where to
look for it. I suppose we have the habit of imagining that a lot of
artistic, intellectual and other artificialities must be added, or it
isn't complete. We and the English have these latter; but as we lack the
great bulk of these others, I think the Boer civilization is the best of
the two. My idea of our civilization is that it is a shabby poor thing
and full of cruelties, vanities, arrogancies, meannesses, and
hypocrisies. As for the word, I hate the sound of it, for it conveys a
lie; and as for the thing itself, I wish it was in hell, where it
Provided we could get something better in the place of it. But that is
not possible, perhaps. Poor as it is, it is better than real savagery,
therefore we must stand by it, extend it, and (in public) praise it.
And so we must not utter any hateful word about England in these days,
nor fail to hope that she will win in this war, for her defeat and fall
would be an irremediable disaster for the mangy human race.... Naturally,
then, I am for England; but she is profoundly in the wrong, Joe, and no
(instructed) Englishman doubts it. At least that is my belief.
Maybe I managed to make myself misunderstood, as to the Osteopathists.
I wanted to know how the men impress you. As to their Art, I know fairly
well about that, and should not value Hartford's opinion of it; nor a
physician's; nor that of another who proposed to enlighten me out of his
ignorance. Opinions based upon theory, superstition and ignorance are
not very precious.
Livy and the others are off for the country for a day or two.
Love to you all
The next letter affords a pleasant variation. Without doubt it was
written on realizing that good nature and enthusiasm had led him
into indiscretion. This was always happening to him, and letters
like this are not infrequent, though generally less entertaining.
To Mr. Ann, in London:
WELLINGTON COURT, Feb. 23, '00.
DEAR MR. ANN,--Upon sober second thought, it won't do!--I withdraw that
letter. Not because I said anything in it which is not true, for I
didn't; but because when I allow my name to be used in forwarding a
stock-scheme I am assuming a certain degree of responsibility as toward
the investor, and I am not willing to do that. I have another objection,
a purely selfish one: trading upon my name, whether the enterprise scored
a success or a failure would damage me. I can't afford that; even the
Archbishop of Canterbury couldn't afford it, and he has more character to
spare than I have. (Ah, a happy thought! If he would sign the letter
with me that would change the whole complexion of the thing, of course.
I do not know him, yet I would sign any commercial scheme that he would
sign. As he does not know me, it follows that he would sign anything
that I would sign. This is unassailable logic--but really that is all
that can be said for it.)
No, I withdraw the letter. This virgin is pure up to date, and is going
to remain so.
S. L. C.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
KNIGHTSBRIDGE, Mch. 4, '00.
DEAR JOE,--Henry Robinson's death is a sharp wound to me, and it goes
very deep. I had a strong affection for him, and I think he had for me.
Every Friday, three-fourths of the year for 16 years he was of the
billiard-party in our house. When we come home, how shall we have
billiard-nights again--with no Ned Bunce and no Henry Robinson?
I believe I could not endure that. We must find another use for that
room. Susy is gone, George is gone, Libby Hamersley, Ned Bunce, Henry
Robinson. The friends are passing, one by one; our house, where such
warm blood and such dear blood flowed so freely, is become a cemetery.
But not in any repellent sense. Our dead are welcome there; their life
made it beautiful, their death has hallowed it, we shall have them with
us always, and there will be no parting.
It was a moving address you made over Ward Cheney--that fortunate, youth!
Like Susy, he got out of life all that was worth the living, and got his
great reward before he had crossed the tropic frontier of dreams and
entered the Sahara of fact. The deep consciousness of Susy's good
fortune is a constant comfort to me.
London is happy-hearted at last. The British victories have swept the
clouds away and there are no uncheerful faces. For three months the
private dinner parties (we go to no public ones) have been Lodges of
Sorrow, and just a little depressing sometimes; but now they are smiley
and animated again. Joe, do you know the Irish gentleman and the Irish
lady, the Scotch gentleman and the Scotch lady? These are darlings,
every one. Night before last it was all Irish--24. One would have to
travel far to match their ease and sociability and animation and sparkle
and absence of shyness and self-consciousness.
It was American in these fine qualities. This was at Mr. Lecky's. He is
Irish, you know. Last night it was Irish again, at Lady Gregory's. Lord
Roberts is Irish; and Sir William Butler; and Kitchener, I think; and a
disproportion of the other prominent Generals are of Irish and Scotch
breed-keeping up the traditions of Wellington, and Sir Colin Campbell of
the Mutiny. You will have noticed that in S. A. as in the Mutiny, it is
usually the Irish and the Scotch that are placed in the fore-front of the
battle. An Irish friend of mine says this is because the Kelts are
idealists, and enthusiasts, with age-old heroisms to emulate and keep
bright before the world; but that the low-class Englishman is dull and
without ideals, fighting bull-doggishly while he has a leader, but losing
his head and going to pieces when his leader falls--not so with the Kelt.
Sir Wm. Butler said "the Kelt is the spear-head of the British lance."
Love to you all.
The Henry Robinson mentioned in the foregoing letter was Henry C.
Robinson, one-time Governor of Connecticut, long a dear and intimate
friend of the Clemens household. "Lecky" was W. E. H. Lecky, the
Irish historian whose History of European Morals had been, for many
years, one of Mark Twain's favorite books:
In July the Clemenses left the small apartment at 30 Wellington
Court and established a summer household a little way out of London,
at Dollis Hill. To-day the place has been given to the public under
the name of Gladstone Park, so called for the reason that in an
earlier time Gladstone had frequently visited there. It was a
beautiful spot, a place of green grass and spreading oaks. In a
letter in which Mrs. Clemens wrote to her sister she said: "It is
simply divinely beautiful and peaceful; the great, old trees are
beyond everything. I believe nowhere in the world do you find such
trees as in England." Clemens wrote to Twichell: "From the house
you can see little but spacious stretches of hay-fields and green
turf..... Yet the massed, brick blocks of London are reachable in
three minutes on a horse. By rail we can be in the heart of London,
in Baker Street, in seventeen minutes--by a smart train in five."
Mail, however, would seem to have been less prompt.
To the Editor of the Times, in London:
SIR,--It has often been claimed that the London postal service was
swifter than that of New York, and I have always believed that the claim
was justified. But a doubt has lately sprung up in my mind. I live
eight miles from Printing House Square; the Times leaves that point at 4
o'clock in the morning, by mail, and reaches me at 5 in the afternoon,
thus making the trip in thirteen hours.
It is my conviction that in New York we should do it in eleven.
DOLLIS HILL, N. W.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
DOLLIS HILL HOUSE, KILBURN, N. W.
LONDON, Aug. 12, '00.
DEAR JOE,--The Sages Prof. Fiske and Brander Matthews were out here to
tea a week ago and it was a breath of American air to see them. We
furnished them a bright day and comfortable weather--and they used it all
up, in their extravagant American way. Since then we have sat by coal
We shall sail for home sometime in October, but shall winter in New York
where we can have an osteopath of good repute to continue the work of
putting this family in proper condition.
Livy and I dined with the Chief justice a month ago and he was as well-
conditioned as an athlete.
It is all China, now, and my sympathies are with the Chinese. They have
been villainously dealt with by the sceptred thieves of Europe, and I
hope they will drive all the foreigners out and keep them out for good.
I only wish it; of course I don't really expect it.
Why, hang it, it occurs to me that by the time we reach New York you
Twichells will be invading Europe and once more we shall miss the
connection. This is thoroughly exasperating. Aren't we ever going to
With no end of love from all of us,
P. S. Aug. 18.
DEAR JOE,--It is 7.30 a. m. I have been waking very early, lately. If
it occurs once more, it will be habit; then I will submit and adopt it.
This is our day of mourning. It is four years since Susy died; it is
five years and a month that I saw her alive for the last time-throwing
kisses at us from the railway platform when we started West around the
Sometimes it is a century; sometimes it was yesterday.
We discover in the foregoing letter that the long European residence
was drawing to an end. More than nine years had passed since the
closing of the Hartford house--eventful years that had seen failure,
bereavement, battle with debt, and rehabilitated fortunes. All the
family were anxious to get home--Mark Twain most anxious of all.
They closed Dollis Hill House near the end of September, and put up
for a brief period at a family hotel, an amusing picture of which
To J. Y. M. MacAlister, in London:
MY DEAR MACALISTER,--We do really start next Saturday. I meant to sail
earlier, but waited to finish some studies of what are called Family
Hotels. They are a London specialty, God has not permitted them to exist
elsewhere; they are ramshackle clubs which were dwellings at the time of
the Heptarchy. Dover and Albemarle Streets are filled with them. The
once spacious rooms are split up into coops which afford as much
discomfort as can be had anywhere out of jail for any money. All the
modern inconveniences are furnished, and some that have been obsolete for
a century. The prices are astonishingly high for what you get. The
bedrooms are hospitals for incurable furniture. I find it so in this
one. They exist upon a tradition; they represent the vanishing home-like
inn of fifty years ago, and are mistaken by foreigners for it. Some
quite respectable Englishmen still frequent them through inherited habit
and arrested development; many Americans also, through ignorance and
superstition. The rooms are as interesting as the Tower of London, but
older I think. Older and dearer. The lift was a gift of William the
Conqueror, some of the beds are prehistoric. They represent geological
periods. Mine is the oldest. It is formed in strata of Old Red
Sandstone, volcanic tufa, ignis fatuus, and bicarbonate of hornblende,
superimposed upon argillaceous shale, and contains the prints of
prehistoric man. It is in No. 149. Thousands of scientists come to see
it. They consider it holy. They want to blast out the prints but
cannot. Dynamite rebounds from it.
Finished studies and sail Saturday in Minnehaha.
Yours ever affectionately,
They sailed for New York October 6th, and something more than a week
later America gave them a royal welcome. The press, far and wide,
sounded Mark Twain's praises once more; dinners and receptions were
offered on every hand; editors and lecture agents clamored for him.
The family settled in the Earlington Hotel during a period of house-
hunting. They hoped eventually to return to Hartford, but after a
brief visit paid by Clemens alone to the old place he wrote:
To Sylvester Baxter, in Boston:
NEW YORK, Oct. 26, 1900.
DEAR MR. BAXTER,--It was a great pleasure to me to renew the other days
with you, and there was a pathetic pleasure in seeing Hartford and the
house again; but I realize that if we ever enter the house again to live,
our hearts will break. I am not sure that we shall ever be strong enough
to endure that strain.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Mr. and Mrs. Rogers wished to have them in their neighborhood, but
the houses there were not suitable, or were too expensive. Through
Mr. Frank Doubleday they eventually found, at 14 West Tenth Street,
a large residence handsomely furnished, and this they engaged for
the winter. "We were lucky to get this big house furnished," he
wrote MacAlister in London. "There was not another one in town
procurable that would answer us, but this one is all right--space
enough in it for several families, the rooms all old-fashioned,
The little note that follows shows that Mark Twain had not entirely
forgotten the days of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
To a Neighbor on West Tenth Street, New York:
DEAR MADAM,--I know I ought to respect my duty and perform it, but I am
weak and faithless where boys are concerned, and I can't help secretly
approving pretty bad and noisy ones, though I do object to the kind that
ring door-bells. My family try to get me to stop the boys from holding
conventions on the front steps, but I basely shirk out of it, because I
think the boys enjoy it.
My wife has been complaining to me this evening about the boys on the
front steps and under compulsion I have made some promises. But I am
very forgetful, now that I am old, and my sense of duty is getting
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1901-1906
ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE
LETTERS OF 1901, CHIEFLY TO TWICHELL. MARK TWAIN AS A REFORMER.
SUMMER AT SARANAC. ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT McKINLEY
An editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal, early in 1901, said:
"A remarkable transformation, or rather a development, has taken
place in Mark Twain. The genial humorist of the earlier day is now
a reformer of the vigorous kind, a sort of knight errant who does
not hesitate to break a lance with either Church or State if he
thinks them interposing on that broad highway over which he believes
not a part but the whole of mankind has the privilege of passing in
the onward march of the ages."
Mark Twain had begun "breaking the lance" very soon after his return
from Europe. He did not believe that he could reform the world, but
at least he need not withhold his protest against those things which
stirred his wrath. He began by causing the arrest of a cabman who
had not only overcharged but insulted him; he continued by writing
openly against the American policy in the Philippines, the
missionary propaganda which had resulted in the Chinese uprising and
massacre, and against Tammany politics. Not all of his efforts were
in the line of reform; he had become a sort of general spokesman
which the public flocked to hear, whatever the subject. On the
occasion of a Lincoln Birthday service at Carnegie Hall he was
chosen to preside, and he was obliged to attend more dinners than
were good for his health. His letters of this period were mainly
written to his old friend Twichell, in Hartford. Howells, who lived
in New York, he saw with considerable frequency.
In the letter which follows the medicine which Twichell was to take
was Plasmon, an English proprietary remedy in which Mark Twain had
invested--a panacea for all human ills which osteopathy could not
To Rev. Joseph Twichell, in Hartford:
14 W. 10TH ST. Jan. 23, '01.
DEAR JOE,--Certainly. I used to take it in my coffee, but it settled to
the bottom in the form of mud, and I had to eat it with a spoon; so I
dropped the custom and took my 2 teaspoonfuls in cold milk after
breakfast. If we were out of milk I shoveled the dry powder into my
mouth and washed it down with water. The only essential is to get it
down, the method is not important.
No, blame it, I can't go to the Alumni dinner, Joe. It takes two days,
and I can't spare the time. Moreover I preside at the Lincoln birthday
celebration in Carnegie Hall Feb. 11 and I must not make two speeches so
close together. Think of it--two old rebels functioning there--I as
President, and Watterson as Orator of the Day! Things have changed
somewhat in these 40 years, thank God.
Look here--when you come down you must be our guest--we've got a roomy
room for you, and Livy will make trouble if you go elsewhere. Come
straight to 14 West 10th.
Jan. 24. Livy says Amen to that; also, can you give us a day or two's
notice, so the room will be sure to be vacant?
I'm going to stick close to my desk for a month, now, hoping to write a
The letter which follows is a fair sample of Mark Twain's private
violence on a subject which, in public print, he could only treat
effectively by preserving his good humor. When he found it
necessary to boil over, as he did, now and then, for relief, he
always found a willing audience in Twichell. The mention of his
"Private Philosophy" refers to 'What Is Man?', privately published
in 1906; reissued by his publishers in 1916.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
14 W. 10th Jan. 29, '01.
DEAR JOE,--I'm not expecting anything but kicks for scoffing, and am
expecting a diminution of my bread and butter by it, but if Livy will let
me I will have my say. This nation is like all the others that have been
spewed upon the earth--ready to shout for any cause that will tickle its
vanity or fill its pocket. What a hell of a heaven it will be, when they
get all these hypocrites assembled there!
I can't understand it! You are a public guide and teacher, Joe, and are
under a heavy responsibility to men, young and old; if you teach your
people--as you teach me--to hide their opinions when they believe the
flag is being abused and dishonored, lest the utterance do them and a
publisher a damage, how do you answer for it to your conscience? You are
sorry for me; in the fair way of give and take, I am willing to be a
little sorry for you.
However, I seem to be going counter to my own Private Philosophy--which
Livy won't allow me to publish--because it would destroy me. But I hope
to see it in print before I die. I planned it 15 years ago, and wrote it
in '98. I've often tried to read it to Livy, but she won't have it; it
makes her melancholy. The truth always has that effect on people. Would
have, anyway, if they ever got hold of a rag of it--Which they don't.
You are supposing that I am supposing that I am moved by a Large
Patriotism, and that I am distressed because our President has blundered
up to his neck in the Philippine mess; and that I am grieved because this
great big ignorant nation, which doesn't know even the A B C facts of the
Philippine episode, is in disgrace before the sarcastic world--drop that
idea! I care nothing for the rest--I am only distressed and troubled
because I am befouled by these things. That is all. When I search
myself away down deep, I find this out. Whatever a man feels or thinks
or does, there is never any but one reason for it--and that is a selfish
At great inconvenience, and expense of precious time I went to the chief
synagogue the other night and talked in the interest of a charity school
of poor Jew girls. I know--to the finest, shades--the selfish ends that
moved me; but no one else suspects. I could give you the details if I
had time. You would perceive how true they are.
I've written another article; you better hurry down and help Livy squelch
She's out pottering around somewhere, poor housekeeping slave; and Clara
is in the hands of the osteopath, getting the bronchitis pulled and
hauled out of her. It was a bad attack, and a little disquieting. It
came day before yesterday, and she hasn't sat up till this afternoon.
She is getting along satisfactorily, now.
Lots of love to you all.
Mark Twain's religion had to do chiefly with humanity in its present
incarnation, and concerned itself very little with any possible
measure of reward or punishment in some supposed court of the
hereafter. Nevertheless, psychic investigation always interested
him, and he was good-naturedly willing to explore, even hoping,
perhaps, to be convinced that individuality continues beyond death.
The letter which follows indicates his customary attitude in
relation to spiritualistic research. The experiments here
mentioned, however, were not satisfactory.
To Mrs. Charles McQuiston:
DOBBS FERRY, N. Y.
March 26, 1901.
DEAR MRS. McQUISTON,--I have never had an experience which moved me to
believe the living can communicate with the dead, but my wife and I have
experimented in the matter when opportunity offered and shall continue to
I enclose a letter which came this morning--the second from the same
source. Mrs. K----is a Missourian, and lately she discovered, by
accident, that she was a remarkable hypnotiser. Her best subject is a
Missouri girl, Miss White, who is to come here soon and sustain strictly
scientific tests before professors at Columbia University. Mrs. Clemens
and I intend to be present. And we shall ask the pair to come to our
house to do whatever things they can do. Meantime, if you thought well
of it, you might write her and arrange a meeting, telling her it is by my
suggestion and that I gave you her address.
Someone has told me that Mrs. Piper is discredited. I cannot be sure,
but I think it was Mr. Myers, President of the London Psychical Research
Society--we heard of his death yesterday. He was a spiritualist. I am
afraid he was a very easily convinced man. We visited two mediums whom
he and Andrew Lang considered quite wonderful, but they were quite
Mrs. Clemens corrects me: One of those women was a fraud, the other not a
fraud, but only an innocent, well-meaning, driveling vacancy.
S. L. CLEMENS.
In Mark Twain's Bermuda chapters entitled Idle Notes of an Idle
Excursion he tells of an old sea captain, one Hurricane Jones, who
explained biblical miracles in a practical, even if somewhat
startling, fashion. In his story of the prophets of Baal, for
instance, the old captain declared that the burning water was
nothing more nor less than petroleum. Upon reading the "notes,"
Professor Phelps of Yale wrote that the same method of explaining
miracles had been offered by Sir Thomas Browne.
Perhaps it may be added that Captain Hurricane Jones also appears in
Roughing It, as Captain Ned Blakely.
To Professor William Lyon Phelps;
NEW YORK, April 24, 1901.
MY DEAR SIR,--I was not aware that old Sir Thomas had anticipated that
story, and I am much obliged to you for furnishing me the paragraph.
t is curious that the same idea should leave entered two heads so unlike
as the head of that wise old philosopher and that of Captain Ned Wakeman,
a splendidly uncultured old sailor, but in his own opinion a thinker by
divine right. He was an old friend of mine of many years' standing;
I made two or three voyages with him, and found him a darling in many
ways. The petroleum story was not told to me; he told it to Joe
Twichell, who ran across him by accident on a sea voyage where I think
the two were the only passengers. A delicious pair, and admirably mated,
they took to each other at once and became as thick as thieves. Joe was
passing under a fictitious name, and old Wakeman didn't suspect that he
was a parson; so he gave his profanity full swing, and he was a master of
that great art. You probably know Twichell, and will know that that is a
kind of refreshment which he is very capable of enjoying.
S. L. CLEMENS.
For the summer Clemens and his family found a comfortable lodge in
the Adirondacks--a log cabin called "The Lair"--on Saranac Lake.
Soon after his arrival there he received an invitation to attend the
celebration of Missouri's eightieth anniversary. He sent the
To Edward L. Dimmitt, in St. Louis:
AMONG THE ADIRONDACK LAKES, July 19, 1901.
DEAR MR. DIMMITT,--By an error in the plans, things go wrong end first in
this world, and much precious time is lost and matters of urgent
importance are fatally retarded. Invitations which a brisk young fellow
should get, and which would transport him with joy, are delayed and
impeded and obstructed until they are fifty years overdue when they reach
It has happened again in this case.
When I was a boy in Missouri I was always on the lookout for invitations
but they always miscarried and went wandering through the aisles of time;
and now they are arriving when I am old and rheumatic and can't travel
and must lose my chance.
I have lost a world of delight through this matter of delaying
invitations. Fifty years ago I would have gone eagerly across the world
to help celebrate anything that might turn up. IT would have made no
difference to me what it was, so that I was there and allowed a chance to
make a noise.
The whole scheme of things is turned wrong end to. Life should begin
with age and its privileges and accumulations, and end with youth and its
capacity to splendidly enjoy such advantages. As things are now, when in
youth a dollar would bring a hundred pleasures, you can't have it. When
you are old, you get it and there is nothing worth buying with it then.
It's an epitome of life. The first half of it consists of the capacity
to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without
I am admonished in many ways that time is pushing me inexorably along.
I am approaching the threshold of age; in 1977 I shall be 142. This is
no time to be flitting about the earth. I must cease from the activities
proper to youth and begin to take on the dignities and gravities and
inertia proper to that season of honorable senility which is on its way
and imminent as indicated above.
Yours is a great and memorable occasion, and as a son of Missouri I
should hold it a high privilege to be there and share your just pride in
the state's achievements; but I must deny myself the indulgence, while
thanking you earnestly for the prized honor you have done me in asking me
to be present.
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
In the foregoing Mark Twain touches upon one of his favorite
fancies: that life should begin with old age and approach strong
manhood, golden youth, to end at last with pampered and beloved
babyhood. Possibly he contemplated writing a story with this idea
as the theme, but He seems never to have done so.
The reader who has followed these letters may remember Yung Wing,
who had charge of the Chinese educational mission in Hartford, and
how Mark Twain, with Twichell, called on General Grant in behalf of
the mission. Yung Wing, now returned to China, had conceived the
idea of making an appeal to the Government of the United States for
relief of his starving countrymen.
To J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
AMPERSAND, N. Y., July 28, '01.
DEAR JOE,--As you say, it is impracticable--in my case, certainly. For
me to assist in an appeal to that Congress of land-thieves and liars
would be to bring derision upon it; and for me to assist in an appeal for
cash to pass through the hands of those missionaries out there, of any
denomination, Catholic or Protestant, wouldn't do at all. They wouldn't
handle money which I had soiled, and I wouldn't trust them with it,
anyway. They would devote it to the relief of suffering--I know that--
but the sufferers selected would be converts. The missionary-utterances
exhibit no humane feeling toward the others, but in place of it a spirit
of hate and hostility. And it is natural; the Bible forbids their
presence there, their trade is unlawful, why shouldn't their characters
be of necessity in harmony with--but never mind, let it go, it irritates
Later.... I have been reading Yung Wing's letter again. It may be that
he is over-wrought by his sympathies, but it may not be so. There may be
other reasons why the missionaries are silent about the Shensi-2-year
famine and cannibalism. It may be that there are so few Protestant
converts there that the missionaries are able to take care of them. That
they are not likely to largely concern themselves about Catholic converts
and the others, is quite natural, I think.
That crude way of appealing to this Government for help in a cause which
has no money in it, and no politics, rises before me again in all its
admirable innocence! Doesn't Yung Wing know us yet? However, he has
been absent since '96 or '97. We have gone to hell since then. Kossuth
couldn't raise 30 cents in Congress, now, if he were back with his moving
I am on the front porch (lower one--main deck) of our little bijou of a
dwelling-house. The lake-edge (Lower Saranac) is so nearly under me that
I can't see the shore, but only the water, small-pored with rain-
splashes--for there is a heavy down-pour. It is charmingly like sitting
snuggled up on a ship's deck with the stretching sea all around--but very
much more satisfactory, for at sea a rain-storm is depressing, while here
of course the effect engendered is just a deep sense of comfort and
contentment. The heavy forest shuts us solidly in on three sides there
are no neighbors. There are beautiful little tan-colored impudent
squirrels about. They take tea, 5 p. m., (not invited) at the table in
the woods where Jean does my typewriting, and one of them has been brave
enough to sit upon Jean's knee with his tail curved over his back and
munch his food. They come to dinner, 7 p. m., on the front porch (not
invited). They all have the one name--Blennerhasset, from Burr's friend
--and none of them answers to it except when hungry.
We have been here since June 21st. For a little while we had some warm
days--according to the family's estimate; I was hardly discommoded
myself. Otherwise the weather has been of the sort you are familiar with
in these regions: cool days and cool nights. We have heard of the hot
wave every Wednesday, per the weekly paper--we allow no dailies to
intrude. Last week through visitors also--the only ones we have had--
Dr. Root and John Howells.
We have the daily lake-swim; and all the tribe, servants included (but
not I) do a good deal of boating; sometimes with the guide, sometimes
without him--Jean and Clara are competent with the oars. If we live
another year, I hope we shall spend its summer in this house.
We have taken the Appleton country seat, overlooking the Hudson, at
Riverdale, 25 minutes from the Grand Central Station, for a year,
beginning Oct. 1, with option for another year. We are obliged to be
close to New York for a year or two.
Aug. 3rd. I go yachting a fortnight up north in a 20-knot boat 225 feet
long, with the owner, (Mr. Rogers), Tom Reid, Dr. Rice, Col. A. G. Paine
and one or two others. Judge Howland would go, but can't get away from
engagements; Professor Sloane would go, but is in the grip of an illness.
Come--will you go? If you can manage it, drop a post-card to me c/o H.H.
Rogers, 26 Broadway. I shall be in New York a couple of days before we
sail--July 31 or Aug. 1, perhaps the latter,--and I think I shall stop at
the Hotel Grosvenor, cor. l0th St and 5th ave.
We all send you and the Harmonies lots and gobs of love.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
AMPERSAND, N. Y., Aug. 28.
DEAR JOE,--Just a word, to scoff at you, with your extravagant suggestion
that I read the biography of Phillips Brooks--the very dullest book that
has been printed for a century. Joe, ten pages of Mrs. Cheney's masterly
biography of her fathers--no, five pages of it--contain more meat, more
sense, more literature, more brilliancy, than that whole basketful of
drowsy rubbish put together. Why, in that dead atmosphere even Brooks
himself is dull--he wearied me; oh how he wearied me!
We had a noble good time in the Yacht, and caught a Chinese missionary
and drowned him.
Love from us all to you all.
The assassination of President McKinley occurred September 6, 1901.
Such an event would naturally stir Mark Twain to comment on human
nature in general. His letter to Twichell is as individual as it is
sound in philosophy. At what period of his own life, or under what
circumstances, he made the long journey with tragic intent there is
no means of knowing now. There is no other mention of it elsewhere
in the records that survive him.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
AMPERSAND, Tuesday, (Sept. 10, 1901)
DEAR JOE,--It is another off day, but tomorrow I shall resume work to a
certainty, and bid a long farewell to letter-scribbling.
The news of the President looks decidedly hopeful, and we are all glad,
and the household faces are much improved, as to cheerfulness. Oh, the
talk in the newspapers! Evidently the Human Race is the same old Human
Race. And how unjust, and unreflectingly discriminating, the talkers
are. Under the unsettling effects of powerful emotion the talkers are
saying wild things, crazy things--they are out of themselves, and do not
know it; they are temporarily insane, yet with one voice they declare the
assassin sane--a man who has been entertaining fiery and reason--
debauching maggots in his head for weeks and months. Why, no one is
sane, straight along, year in and year out, and we all know it. Our
insanities are of varying sorts, and express themselves in varying forms
--fortunately harmless forms as a rule--but in whatever form they occur
an immense upheaval of feeling can at any time topple us distinctly over
the sanity-line for a little while; and then if our form happens to be of
the murderous kind we must look out--and so must the spectator.
This ass with the unpronounceable name was probably more insane than
usual this week or two back, and may get back upon his bearings by and
by, but he was over the sanity-border when he shot the President. It is
possible that it has taken him the whole interval since the murder of the
King of Italy to get insane enough to attempt the President's life.
Without a doubt some thousands of men have been meditating the same act
in the same interval, but new and strong interests have intervened and
diverted their over-excited minds long enough to give them a chance to
settle, and tranquilize, and get back upon a healthy level again. Every
extraordinary occurrence unsettles the heads of hundreds of thousands of
men for a few moments or hours or days. If there had been ten kings
around when Humbert fell they would have been in great peril for a day or
more--and from men in whose presence they would have been quite safe
after the excess of their excitement had had an interval in which to cool
down. I bought a revolver once and travelled twelve hundred miles to
kill a man. He was away. He was gone a day. With nothing else to do,
I had to stop and think--and did. Within an hour--within half of it--
I was ashamed of myself--and felt unspeakably ridiculous. I do not know
what to call it if I was not insane. During a whole week my head was in
a turmoil night and day fierce enough and exhausting enough to upset a
stronger reason than mine.
All over the world, every day, there are some millions of men in that
condition temporarily. And in that time there is always a moment--
perhaps only a single one when they would do murder if their man was at
hand. If the opportunity comes a shade too late, the chances are that it
has come permanently too late. Opportunity seldom comes exactly at the
supreme moment. This saves a million lives a day in the world--for sure.
No Ruler is ever slain but the tremendous details of it are ravenously
devoured by a hundred thousand men whose minds dwell, unaware, near the
temporary-insanity frontier--and over they go, now! There is a day--two
days--three--during which no Ruler would be safe from perhaps the half of
them; and there is a single moment wherein he would not be safe from any
of them, no doubt.
It may take this present shooting-case six months to breed another ruler-
tragedy, but it will breed it. There is at least one mind somewhere
which will brood, and wear, and decay itself to the killing-point and
produce that tragedy.
Every negro burned at the stake unsettles the excitable brain of another
one--I mean the inflaming details of his crime, and the lurid
theatricality of his exit do it--and the duplicate crime follows; and
that begets a repetition, and that one another one and so on. Every
lynching-account unsettles the brains of another set of excitable white
men, and lights another pyre--115 lynchings last year, 102 inside of 8
months this year; in ten years this will be habit, on these terms.
Yes, the wild talk you see in the papers! And from men who are sane when
not upset by overwhelming excitement. A U. S. Senator-Cullom--wants this
Buffalo criminal lynched! It would breed other lynchings--of men who are
not dreaming of committing murders, now, and will commit none if Cullom
will keep quiet and not provide the exciting cause.
And a District Attorney wants a law which shall punish with death
attempts upon a President's life--this, mind you, as a deterrent.
It would have no effect--or the opposite one. The lunatic's mind-space
is all occupied--as mine was--with the matter in hand; there is no room
in it for reflections upon what may happen to him. That comes after the
It is the noise the attempt would make in the world that would breed the
subsequent attempts, by unsettling the rickety minds of men who envy the
criminal his vast notoriety--his obscure name tongued by stupendous Kings
and Emperors--his picture printed everywhere, the trivialest details of
his movements, what he eats, what he drinks; how he sleeps, what he says,
cabled abroad over the whole globe at cost of fifty thousand dollars a
day--and he only a lowly shoemaker yesterday!--like the assassin of the
President of France--in debt three francs to his landlady, and insulted
by her--and to-day she is proud to be able to say she knew him
"as familiarly as you know your own brother," and glad to stand till she
drops and pour out columns and pages of her grandeur and her happiness
upon the eager interviewer.
Nothing will check the lynchings and ruler-murder but absolute silence--
the absence of pow-pow about them. How are you going to manage that?
By gagging every witness and jamming him into a dungeon for life; by
abolishing all newspapers; by exterminating all newspaper men; and by
extinguishing God's most elegant invention, the Human Race. It is quite
simple, quite easy, and I hope you will take a day off and attend to it,
Joe. I blow a kiss to you, and am
When the Adirondack summer ended Clemens settled for the winter in
the beautiful Appleton home at Riverdale-on-the-Hudson. It was a
place of wide-spreading grass and shade-a house of ample room. They
were established in it in time for Mark Twain to take an active
interest in the New York elections and assist a ticket for good
government to defeat Tammany Hall.
LETTERS OF 1902. RIVERDALE. YORK HARBOR. ILLNESS OF MRS. CLEMENS
The year 1902 was an eventful one for Mark Twain. In April he received a
degree of LL.D. from the University of Missouri and returned to his
native State to accept it. This was his last journey to the Mississippi
River. During the summer Mrs. Clemens's health broke down and illnesses
of one sort or another visited other members of the family. Amid so much
stress and anxiety Clemens had little time or inclination for work. He
wrote not many letters and mainly somber ones. Once, by way of
diversion, he worked out the idea of a curious club--which he formed--its
members to be young girls--girls for the most part whom he had never
seen. They were elected without their consent from among those who wrote
to him without his consent, and it is not likely that any one so chosen
declined membership. One selection from his letters to the French
member, Miss Helene Picard, of St.-Die, France, will explain the club and
present a side of Mask Twain somewhat different from that found in most
of his correspondence.
To Miss Picard, in St.-Die, France:
RIVERDALE-ON-THE-HUDSON, February 22, 1902.
DEAR MISS HELENE,--If you will let me call you so, considering that my
head is white and that I have grownup daughters. Your beautiful letter
has given me such deep pleasure! I will make bold to claim you for a
friend and lock you up with the rest of my riches; for I am a miser who
counts his spoil every day and hoards it secretly and adds to it when he
can, and is grateful to see it grow.
Some of that gold comes, like yourself, in a sealed package, and I can't
see it and may never have the happiness; but I know its value without
that, and by what sum it increases my wealth.
I have a Club, a private Club, which is all my own. I appoint the
Members myself, and they can't help themselves, because I don't allow
them to vote on their own appointment and I don't allow them to resign!
They are all friends whom I have never seen (save one), but who have
written friendly letters to me.
By the laws of my Club there can be only one Member in each country, and
there can be no male Member but myself. Some day I may admit males, but
I don't know--they are capricious and inharmonious, and their ways
provoke me a good deal. It is a matter which the Club shall decide.
I have made four appointments in the past three or four months: You as
Member for France, a young Highland girl as Member for Scotland, a
Mohammedan girl as Member for Bengal, and a dear and bright young niece
of mine as Member for the United States--for I do not represent a country
myself, but am merely Member at Large for the Human Race.
You must not try to resign, for the laws of the Club do not allow that.
You must console yourself by remembering that you are in the best of
company; that nobody knows of your membership except myself--that no
Member knows another's name, but only her country; that no taxes are
levied and no meetings held (but how dearly I should like to attend
One of my Members is a Princess of a royal house, another is the daughter
of a village book-seller on the continent of Europe. For the only
qualification for Membership is intellect and the spirit of good will;
other distinctions, hereditary or acquired, do not count.
May I send you the Constitution and Laws of the Club? I shall be so
pleased if I may. It is a document which one of my daughters typewrites
for me when I need one for a new Member, and she would give her eyebrows
to know what it is all about, but I strangle her curiosity by saying:
"There are much cheaper typewriters than you are, my dear, and if you try
to pry into the sacred mysteries of this Club one of your prosperities
will perish sure."
My favorite? It is "Joan of Arc." My next is "Huckleberry Finn," but
the family's next is "The Prince and the Pauper." (Yes, you are right--
I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go
thrashing around in political questions.)
I wish you every good fortune and happiness and I thank you so much for
S. L. CLEMENS.
Early in the year Clemens paid a visit to Twichell in Hartford, and
after one of their regular arguments on theology and the moral
accountability of the human race, arguments that had been going on
between them for more than thirty years--Twichell lent his visitor
Freedom of the Will, by Jonathan Edwards, to read on the way home.
The next letter was the result.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
DEAR JOE,--"After compliments."--[Meaning "What a good time you gave me;
what a happiness it was to be under your roof again; etc., etc." See
opening sentence of all translations of letters passing between Lord
Roberts and Indian princes and rulers.]--From Bridgeport to New York;
thence to home; and continuously until near midnight I wallowed and