Part 14 out of 16
reeked with Jonathan in his insane debauch; rose immediately refreshed
and fine at 10 this morning, but with a strange and haunting sense of
having been on a three days' tear with a drunken lunatic. It is years
since I have known these sensations. All through the book is the glaze
of a resplendent intellect gone mad--a marvelous spectacle. No, not all
through the book--the drunk does not come on till the last third, where
what I take to be Calvinism and its God begins to show up and shine red
and hideous in the glow from the fires of hell, their only right and
proper adornment. By God I was ashamed to be in such company.
Jonathan seems to hold (as against the Arminian position) that the Man
(or his Soul or his Will) never creates an impulse itself, but is moved
to action by an impulse back of it. That's sound!
Also, that of two or more things offered it, it infallibly chooses the
one which for the moment is most pleasing to ITSELF. Perfectly correct!
An immense admission for a man not otherwise sane.
Up to that point he could have written chapters III and IV of my
suppressed "Gospel." But there we seem to separate. He seems to concede
the indisputable and unshakable dominion of Motive and Necessity (call
them what he may, these are exterior forces and not under the man's
authority, guidance or even suggestion)--then he suddenly flies the logic
track and (to all seeming) makes the man and not these exterior forces
responsible to God for the man's thoughts, words and acts. It is frank
I think that when he concedes the autocratic dominion of Motive and
Necessity he grants, a third position of mine--that a man's mind is a
mere machine--an automatic machine--which is handled entirely from the
outside, the man himself furnishing it absolutely nothing: not an ounce
of its fuel, and not so much as a bare suggestion to that exterior
engineer as to what the machine shall do, nor how it shall do it nor
After that concession, it was time for him to get alarmed and shirk--for
he was pointing straight for the only rational and possible next-station
on that piece of road the irresponsibility of man to God.
And so he shirked. Shirked, and arrived at this handsome result:
Man is commanded to do so-and-so. It has been ordained from the
beginning of time that some men shan't and others can't.
These are to be blamed: let them be damned.
I enjoy the Colonel very much, and shall enjoy the rest of him with an
Joe, the whole tribe shout love to you and yours!
We have not heard of Joe Goodman since the trying days of '90 and
'91, when he was seeking to promote the fortunes of the type-setting
machine. Goodman, meantime, who had in turn been miner, printer,
publisher, and farmer; had been devoting his energies and genius to
something entirely new: he had been translating the prehistoric
Mayan inscriptions of Yucatan, and with such success that his work
was elaborately published by an association of British scientists.
In due time a copy of this publication came to Clemens, who was full
of admiration of the great achievement.
To J. T. Goodman, in California:
June 13, '02.
DEAR JOE,--I am lost in reverence and admiration! It is now twenty-four
hours that I have been trying to cool down and contemplate with quiet
blood this extraordinary spectacle of energy, industry, perseverance,
pluck, analytical genius, penetration, this irruption of thunders and
fiery splendors from a fair and flowery mountain that nobody had supposed
was a sleeping volcano, but I seem to be as excited as ever. Yesterday
I read as much as half of the book, not understanding a word but
enchanted nevertheless--partly by the wonder of it all, the study, the
erudition, the incredible labor, the modesty, the dignity, the majestic
exclusiveness of the field and its lofty remoteness from things and
contacts sordid and mean and earthy, and partly by the grace and beauty
and limpidity of the book's unsurpassable English. Science, always great
and worshipful, goes often in hodden grey, but you have clothed her in
garments meet for her high degree.
You think you get "poor pay" for your twenty years? No, oh no. You have
lived in a paradise of the intellect whose lightest joys were beyond the
reach of the longest purse in Christendom, you have had daily and nightly
emancipation from the world's slaveries and gross interests, you have
received a bigger wage than any man in the land, you have dreamed a
splendid dream and had it come true, and to-day you could not afford to
trade fortunes with anybody--not even with another scientist, for he must
divide his spoil with his guild, whereas essentially the world you have
discovered is your own and must remain so.
It is all just magnificent, Joe! And no one is prouder or gladder than
At York Harbor, Maine, where they had taken a cottage for the
summer--a pretty place, with Howells not far distant, at Kittery
Point--Mrs. Clemens's health gave way. This was at a period when
telegraphic communication was far from reliable. The old-time
Western Union had fallen from grace; its "system" no longer
justified the best significance of that word. The new day of
reorganization was coming, and it was time for it. Mark Twain's
letter concerning the service at York Harbor would hardly be
warranted today, but those who remember conditions of that earlier
time will agree that it was justified then, and will appreciate its
To the President of The Western Union, in New York:
YORK HARBOR, MAINE.
DEAR SIR,--I desire to make a complaint, and I bring it to you, the head
of the company, because by experience I know better than to carry it to a
I have been here a month and a half, and by testimony of friends,
reinforced by personal experience I now feel qualified to claim as an
established fact that the telegraphic service here is the worst in the
world except that Boston.
These services are actually slower than was the New York and Hartford
service in the days when I last complained to you--which was fifteen or
eighteen years ago, when telegraphic time and train time between the
mentioned points was exactly the same, to-wit, three hours and a half.
Six days ago--it was that raw day which provoked so much comment--my
daughter was on her way up from New York, and at noon she telegraphed me
from New Haven asking that I meet her with a cloak at Portsmouth. Her
telegram reached me four hours and a quarter later--just 15 minutes too
late for me to catch my train and meet her.
I judge that the telegram traveled about 200 miles. It is the best
telegraphic work I have seen since I have been here, and I am mentioning
it in this place not as a complaint but as a compliment. I think a
compliment ought always to precede a complaint, where one is possible,
because it softens resentment and insures for the complaint a courteous
and gentle reception.
Still, there is a detail or two connected with this matter which ought
perhaps to be mentioned. And now, having smoothed the way with the
compliment, I will venture them. The head corpse in the York Harbor
office sent me that telegram altho (1) he knew it would reach me too late
to be of any value; (2) also, that he was going to send it to me by his
boy; (3) that the boy would not take the trolley and come the 2 miles in
12 minutes, but would walk; (4) that he would be two hours and a quarter
on the road; (5) and that he would collect 25 cents for transportation,
for a telegram which the he knew to be worthless before he started it.
From these data I infer that the Western Union owes me 75 cents; that is
to say, the amount paid for combined wire and land transportation--
a recoup provided for in the printed paragraph which heads the telegraph-
By these humane and Christian stages we now arrive at the complaint
proper. We have had a grave case of illness in the family, and a
relative was coming some six hundred miles to help in the sick-room
during the convalescing period. It was an anxious time, of course,
and I wrote and asked to be notified as to the hour of the expected
arrival of this relative in Boston or in York Harbor. Being afraid of
the telegraph--which I think ought not to be used in times of hurry and
emergency--I asked that the desired message be brought to me by some
swift method of transportation. By the milkman, if he was coming this
way. But there are always people who think they know more than you do,
especially young people; so of course the young fellow in charge of this
lady used the telegraph. And at Boston, of all places! Except York
The result was as usual; let me employ a statelier and exacter term, and
The dispatch was handed to the h. c. of the Boston office at 9 this
morning. It said, "Shall bring A. S. to you eleven forty-five this
morning." The distance traveled by the dispatch is forty or fifty miles,
I suppose, as the train-time is five minutes short of two hours, and the
trains are so slow that they can't give a W. U. telegram two hours and
twenty minutes start and overtake it.
As I have said, the dispatch was handed in at Boston at 9. The expected
visitors left Boston at 9.40, and reached my house at 12 noon, beating
the telegram 2 solid hours, and 5 minutes over.
The boy brought the telegram. It was bald-headed with age, but still
legible. The boy was prostrate with travel and exposure, but still
alive, and I went out to condole with him and get his last wishes and
send for the ambulance. He was waiting to collect transportation before
turning his passing spirit to less serious affairs. I found him
strangely intelligent, considering his condition and where he is getting
his training. I asked him at what hour the telegram was handed to the
h. c. in Boston. He answered brightly, that he didn't know.
I examined the blank, and sure enough the wary Boston h. c. had
thoughtfully concealed that statistic. I asked him at what hour it had
started from Boston. He answered up as brightly as ever, and said he
I examined the blank, and sure enough the Boston h. c. had left that
statistic out in the cold, too. In fact it turned out to be an official
concealment--no blank was provided for its exposure. And none required
by the law, I suppose. "It is a good one-sided idea," I remarked;
"They can take your money and ship your telegram next year if they want
to--you've no redress. The law ought to extend the privilege to all of
The boy looked upon me coldly.
I asked him when the telegram reached York Harbor. He pointed to some
figures following the signature at the bottom of the blank--"12.14.
"I said it was now 1.45 and asked--
"Do you mean that it reached your morgue an hour and a half ago?"
He nodded assent.
"It was at that time half an hour too late to be of any use to me, if I
wanted to go and meet my people--which was the case--for by the wording
of the message you can see that they were to arrive at the station at
11.45. Why did, your h. c. send me this useless message? Can't he read?
Is he dead?"
"It's the rules."
"No, that does not account for it. Would he have sent it if it had been
three years old, I in the meantime deceased, and he aware of it?"
The boy didn't know.
"Because, you know, a rule which required him to forward to the cemetery
to-day a dispatch due three years ago, would be as good a rule as one
which should require him to forward a telegram to me to-day which he knew
had lost all its value an hour or two before he started it. The
construction of such a rule would discredit an idiot; in fact an idiot--
I mean a common ordinary Christian idiot, you understand--would be
ashamed of it, and for the sake of his reputation wouldn't make it. What
do you think?"
He replied with much natural brilliancy that he wasn't paid for thinking.
This gave me a better opinion of the commercial intelligence pervading
his morgue than I had had before; it also softened my feelings toward
him, and also my tone, which had hitherto been tinged with bitterness.
"Let bygones be bygones," I said, gently, "we are all erring creatures,
and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticise."
S. L. CLEMENS.
One day there arrived from Europe a caller with a letter of
introduction from Elizabeth, Queen of Rumania, better known as
Carmen Sylva. The visitor was Madam Hartwig, formerly an American
girl, returning now, because of reduced fortunes, to find profitable
employment in her own land. Her husband, a man of high principle,
had declined to take part in an "affair of honor," as recognized by
the Continental code; hence his ruin. Elizabeth of Rumania was one
of the most loved and respected of European queens and an author of
distinction. Mark Twain had known her in Vienna. Her letter to him
and his own letter to the public (perhaps a second one, for its date
is two years later) follow herewith.
From Carmen Sylva to Mark Twain:
BUCAREST, May 9, 1902.
HONORED MASTER,--If I venture to address you on behalf of a poor lady,
who is stranded in Bucarest I hope not to be too disagreeable.
Mrs. Hartwig left America at the age of fourteen in order to learn to
sing which she has done thoroughly. Her husband had quite a brilliant
situation here till he refused to partake 'dans une afaire onereuse',
so it seems. They haven't a penny and each of them must try to find a
living. She is very nice and pleasant and her school is so good that she
most certainly can give excellent singing lessons.
I beg your pardon for being a bore to one I so deeply love and admire,
to whom I owe days and days of forgetfulness of self and troubles and the
intensest of all joys: Hero-worship! People don't always realize what a
happiness that is! God bless you for every beautiful thought you poured
into my tired heart and for every smile on a weary way!
From Mark Twain to the Public:
Nov. 16, '04.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,--I desire to recommend Madame Hartwig to my
friends and the public as a teacher of singing and as a concert-vocalist.
She has lived for fifteen years at the court of Roumania, and she brought
with her to America an autograph letter in which her Majesty the Queen of
Roumania cordially certified her to me as being an accomplished and
gifted singer and teacher of singing, and expressed a warm hope that her
professional venture among us would meet with success; through absence in
Europe I have had no opportunity to test the validity of the Queen's
judgment in the matter, but that judgment is the utterance of an entirely
competent authority--the best that occupies a throne, and as good as any
that sits elsewhere, as the musical world well knows--and therefore back
it without hesitation, and endorse it with confidence.
I will explain that the reason her Majesty tried to do her friend a
friendly office through me instead of through someone else was, not that
I was particularly the right or best person for the office, but because I
was not a stranger. It is true that I am a stranger to some of the
monarchs--mainly through their neglect of their opportunities--but such
is not the case in the present instance. The latter fact is a high
compliment to me, and perhaps I ought to conceal it. Some people would.
Mrs. Clemens's improvement was scarcely perceptible. It was not
until October that they were able to remove her to Riverdale, and
then only in a specially arranged invalid-car. At the end of the
long journey she was carried to her room and did not leave it again
for many months.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
RIVERDALE, N. Y., Oct. 31, '02.
DEAR JOE,--It is ten days since Susy [Twichell] wrote that you were laid
up with a sprained shoulder, since which time we have had no news about
it. I hope that no news is good news, according to the proverb; still,
authoritative confirmation of it will be gladly received in this family,
if some of you will furnish it. Moreover, I should like to know how and
where it happened. In the pulpit, as like as not, otherwise you would
not be taking so much pains to conceal it. This is not a malicious
suggestion, and not a personally-invented one: you told me yourself,
once, that you threw artificial power and impressiveness into places in
your sermons where needed, by "banging the bible"--(your own words.)
You have reached a time of life when it is not wise to take these risks.
You would better jump around. We all have to change our methods as the
infirmities of age creep upon us. Jumping around will be impressive now,
whereas before you were gray it would have excited remark.
Poor Livy drags along drearily. It must be hard times for that turbulent
spirit. It will be a long time before she is on her feet again. It is a
most pathetic case. I wish I could transfer it to myself. Between
ripping and raging and smoking and reading, I could get a good deal of a
holiday out of it.
Clara runs the house smoothly and capably. She is discharging a trial-
cook today and hiring another.
A power of love to you all!
Such was the state of Mrs. Clemens's health that visitors were excluded
from the sick room, and even Clemens himself was allowed to see her no
more than a few moments at a time. These brief, precious visits were the
chief interests of his long days. Occasionally he was allowed to send
her a few lines, reporting his occupations, and these she was sometimes
permitted to answer. Only one of his notes has been preserved, written
after a day, now rare, of literary effort. Its signature, the letter Y,
stands for "Youth," always her name for him.
To Mrs. Clemens:
DEAR HEART,--I've done another full day's work, and finished before 4.
I have been reading and dozing since and would have had a real sleep a
few minutes ago but for an incursion to bring me a couple of unimportant
letters. I've stuck to the bed all day and am getting back my lost
ground. Next time I will be strictly careful and make my visit very
short--just a kiss and a rush. Thank you for your dear, dear note; you
who are my own and only sweetheart.
LETTERS OF 1903. TO VARIOUS PERSONS. HARD DAYS AT RIVERDALE.
LAST SUMMER AT ELMIRA. THE RETURN TO ITALY
The reader may perhaps recall that H. H. Rogers, some five or six years
earlier, had taken charge of the fortunes of Helen Keller, making it
possible for her to complete her education. Helen had now written her
first book--a wonderful book--'The Story of My Life', and it had been
successfully published. For a later generation it may be proper to
explain that the Miss Sullivan, later Mrs. Macy, mentioned in the letter
which follows, was the noble woman who had devoted her life to the
enlightenment of this blind, dumb girl--had made it possible for her to
speak and understand, and, indeed, to see with the eyes of luminous
The case of plagiarism mentioned in this letter is not now remembered,
and does not matter, but it furnished a text for Mark Twain, whose
remarks on the subject in general are eminently worth while.
To Helen Keller, in Wrentham, Mass.:
ST. PATRICK'S DAY, '03.
DEAR HELEN,--I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am
to have your book, and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and
as a remembrances of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted
between us for nine years without a break, and without a single act of
violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in
heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often
think of it with longing, and how they'll say, "There they come--sit
down in front!" I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was
at Henry Rogers's last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not
at all well; you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is
just as lovely as ever.
I am charmed with your book-enchanted. You are a wonderful creature,
the most wonderful in the world--you and your other half together--
Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make a complete
and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy,
penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary
competencies of her pen--they are all there.
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was
that "plagiarism" farce! As if there was much of anything in any human
utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernal, the soul--let
us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable
material of all human utterances--is plagiarism. For substantially all
ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million
outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and
satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas
there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little
discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his
temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When
a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries
and ten thousand men--but we call it his speech, and really some
exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It
is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington's battle, in some degree, and we
call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand
men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a
photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing--and the last man
gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite--that
is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine
parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure
and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do
Then why don't we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well
as the story itself? It can hardly happen--to the extent of fifty words
except in the case of a child: its memory-tablet is not lumbered with
impressions, and the actual language can have graving-room there, and
preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person's memory-tablet
is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase.
It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed
upon a man's mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to
turn up some time or other and be mistaken by him for his own. No doubt
we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences
borrowed from books at some unremembered time and now imagined to be our
own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes's
poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his
dictation, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my "Innocents
Abroad" with. Then years afterwards I was talking with Dr. Holmes about
it. He was not an ignorant ass--no, not he: he was not a collection of
decayed human turnips, like your "Plagiarism Court;" and so when I said,
"I know now where I stole it, but whom did you steal it from," he said,
"I don't remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have
never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anybody who had."
To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child's heart with
their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn't sleep for
blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole lives, their whole
histories, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions
were one solid ruck of plagiarism, and they didn't know it and never
suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting
themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they
think they've caught filching a chop! Oh, dam--
But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary
today. Ever lovingly your friend,
(Edited and modified by Clara Clemens, deputy to her mother, who for more
than 7 months has been ill in bed and unable to exercise her official
The burden of the Clemens household had fallen almost entirely upon
Clara Clemens. In addition to supervising its customary affairs,
she also shouldered the responsibility of an unusual combination of
misfortunes, for besides the critical condition of her mother, her
sister, Jean Clemens, was down with pneumonia, no word of which must
come to Mrs. Clemens. Certainly it was a difficult position. In
some account of it, which he set down later, Clemens wrote: "It was
fortunate for us all that Clara's reputation for truthfulness was so
well established in her mother's mind. It was our daily protection
from disaster. The mother never doubted Clara's word. Clara could
tell her large improbabilities without exciting any suspicion,
whereas if I tried to market even a small and simple one the case
would have been different. I was never able to get a reputation
The accumulation of physical ailments in the Clemens home had
somewhat modified Mark Twain's notion of medical practice. He was
no longer radical; he had become eclectic. It is a good deal of a
concession that he makes to Twichell, after those earlier letters
from Sweden, in which osteopathy had been heralded as the anodyne
for all human ills.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
DEAR JOE,--Livy does really make a little progress these past 3 or 4
days, progress which is visible to even the untrained eye. The
physicians are doing good work with her, but my notion is, that no art of
healing is the best for all ills. I should distribute the ailments
around: surgery cases to the surgeons; lupus to the actinic-ray
specialist; nervous prostration to the Christian Scientist; most ills to
the allopath and the homeopath; (in my own particular case) rheumatism,
gout and bronchial attacks to the osteopathist.
Mr. Rogers was to sail southward this morning--and here is this weather!
I am sorry. I think it's a question if he gets away tomorrow.
It was through J. Y. M. MacAlister, to whom the next letter is
written, that Mark Twain had become associated with the Plasmon
Company, which explains the reference to "shares." He had seen much
of MacAlister during the winter at Tedworth Square, and had grown
fond of him. It is a characteristic letter, and one of interesting
To J. Y. M. MacAlister, in London:
RIVERDALE, NEW YORK.
April, 7, '03.
DEAR MACALISTER,--Yours arrived last night, and God knows I was glad to
get it, for I was afraid I had blundered into an offence in some way and
forfeited your friendship--a kind of blunder I have made so many times in
my life that I am always standing in a waiting and morbid dread of its
Three days ago I was in condition--during one horribly long night--to
sympathetically roast with you in your "hell of troubles." During that
night I was back again where I was in the black days when I was buried
under a mountain of debt. I called the daughters to me in private
council and paralysed them with the announcement, "Our outgo has
increased in the past 8 months until our expenses are now 125 per cent.
greater than our income."
It was a mistake. When I came down in the morning a gray and aged wreck,
and went over the figures again, I found that in some unaccountable way
(unaccountable to a business man but not to me) I had multiplied the
totals by 2. By God I dropped 75 years on the floor where I stood.
Do you know it affected me as one is affected when he wakes out of a
hideous dream and finds that it was only a dream. It was a great comfort
and satisfaction to me to call the daughters to a private meeting of the
Board again and say, "You need not worry any more; our outgo is only a
third more than our income; in a few months your mother will be out of
her bed and on her feet again--then we shall drop back to normal and be
Certainly there is a blistering and awful reality about a well-arranged
unreality. It is quite within the possibilities that two or three nights
like that night of mine could drive a man to suicide. He would refuse to
examine the figures; they would revolt him so, and he could go to his
death unaware that there was nothing serious about them. I cannot get
that night out of my head, it was so vivid, so real, so ghastly. In any
other year of these 33 the relief would have been simple: go where you
can cut your cloth to fit your income. You can't do that when your wife
can't be moved, even from one room to the next.
Clam spells the trained nurse afternoons; I am allowed to see Mrs.
Clemens 20 minutes twice a day and write her two letters a day provided I
put no news in them. No other person ever sees her except the physician
and now and then a nerve-specialist from New York. She saw there was
something the matter that morning, but she got no facts out of me. But
that is nothing--she hasn't had anything but lies for 8 months. A fact
would give her a relapse.
The doctor and a specialist met in conspiracy five days ago, and in their
belief she will by and by come out of this as good as new, substantially.
They ordered her to Italy for next winter--which seems to indicate that
by autumn she will be able to undertake the voyage. So Clara is writing
a Florence friend to take a look round among the villas for us in the
regions near that city. It seems early to do this, but Joan Bergheim
thought it would be wise.
He and his wife lunched with us here yesterday. They have been abroad in
Havana 4 months, and they sailed for England this morning.
I am enclosing an order for half of my (your) Founders shares. You are
not to refuse them this time, though you have done it twice before. They
are yours, not mine, and for your family's sake if not your own you
cannot in these cloudy days renounce this property which is so clearly
yours and theirs. You have been generous long enough; be just, now to
yourself. Mr. Rogers is off yachting for 5 or 6 weeks--I'll get them
when he returns. The head of the house joins me in warmest greetings and
remembrances to you and Mrs. MacAlister.
May 8. Great Scott! I never mailed this letter! I addressed it, put
"Registered" on it--then left it lying unsealed on the arm of my chair,
and rushed up to my bed quaking with a chill. I've never been out of the
bed since--oh, bronchitis, rheumatism, two sets of teeth aching, land,
I've had a dandy time for 4 weeks. And to-day--great guns, one of the
very worst! . . .
I'm devilish sorry, and I do apologise--for although I am not as slow as
you are about answering letters, as a rule, I see where I'm standing this
Two weeks ago Jean was taken down again--this time with measles, and I
haven't been able to go to her and she hasn't been able to come to me.
But Mrs. Clemens is making nice progress, and can stand alone a moment or
two at a time.
Now I'll post this.
The two letters that follow, though written only a few days apart,
were separated in their arrival by a period of seven years. The
second letter was, in some way, mislaid and not mailed; and it was
not until after the writer of it was dead that it was found and
Mark Twain could never get up much enthusiasm for the writings of
Scott. His praise of Quentin Durward is about the only approval he
ever accorded to the works of the great romanticist.
To Brander Matthews, in New York:
NEW YORK CITY, May 4, '03.
DEAR BRANDER,--I haven't been out of my bed for four weeks, but--well, I
have been reading, a good deal, and it occurs to me to ask you to sit
down, some time or other when you have 8 or 9 months to spare, and jot me
down a certain few literary particulars for my help and elevation. Your
time need not be thrown away, for at your further leisure you can make
Colombian lectures out of the results and do your students a good turn.
1. Are there in Sir Walter's novels passages done in good English--
English which is neither slovenly or involved?
2. Are there passages whose English is not poor and thin and
commonplace, but is of a quality above that?
3. Are there passages which burn with real fire--not punk, fox-fire,
4. Has he heroes and heroines who are not cads and cadesses?
5. Has he personages whose acts and talk correspond with their
characters as described by him?
6. Has he heroes and heroines whom the reader admires, admires, and
7. Has he funny characters that are funny, and humorous passages that
8. Does he ever chain the reader's interest, and make him reluctant to
lay the book down?
9. Are there pages where he ceases from posing, ceases from admiring the
placid flood and flow of his own dilutions, ceases from being artificial,
and is for a time, long or short, recognizably sincere and in earnest?
10. Did he know how to write English, and didn't do it because he didn't
11. Did he use the right word only when he couldn't think of another
one, or did he run so much to wrong because he didn't know the right one
when he saw it?
13. Can you read him? and keep your respect for him? Of course a
person could in his day--an era of sentimentality and sloppy romantics--
but land! can a body do it today?
Brander, I lie here dying, slowly dying, under the blight of Sir Walter.
I have read the first volume of Rob Roy, and as far as chapter XIX of Guy
Mannering, and I can no longer hold my head up nor take my nourishment.
Lord, it's all so juvenile! so artificial, so shoddy; and such wax
figures and skeletons and spectres. Interest? Why, it is impossible to
feel an interest in these bloodless shams, these milk-and-water humbugs.
And oh, the poverty of the invention! Not poverty in inventing
situations, but poverty in furnishing reasons for them. Sir Walter
usually gives himself away when he arranges for a situation--elaborates,
and elaborates, and elaborates, till if you live to get to it you don't
believe in it when it happens.
I can't find the rest of Rob Roy, I can't stand any more Mannering--I do
not know just what to do, but I will reflect, and not quit this great
study rashly. He was great, in his day, and to his proper audience; and
so was God in Jewish times, for that matter, but why should either of
them rank high now? And do they?--honest, now, do they? Dam'd if I
My, I wish I could see you and Leigh Hunt!
` Sincerely Yours
S. L. CLEMENS.
To Brander Matthews, in New York:
RIVERDALE, May 8,'03 (Mailed June, 1910).
DEAR BRANDER,--I'm still in bed, but the days have lost their dulness
since I broke into Sir Walter and lost my temper. I finished Guy
Mannering--that curious, curious book, with its mob of squalid shadows
jabbering around a single flesh-and-blood being--Dinmont; a book crazily
put together out of the very refuse of the romance-artist's stage
properties--finished it and took up Quentin Durward, and finished that.
It was like leaving the dead to mingle with the living: it was like
withdrawing from the infant class in the College of journalism to sit
under the lectures in English literature in Columbia University.
I wonder who wrote Quentin Durward?
In 1903, preparations were going on for a great world's fair, to be
held in St. Louis, and among other features proposed was a World's
Literary Convention, with a week to be set apart in honor of Mark
Twain, and a special Mark Twain Day in it, on which the National
Association would hold grand services in honor of the distinguished
Missourian. A letter asking his consent to the plan brought the
To T. F. Gatts, of Missouri:
NEW YORK, May 30, 1903.
DEAR MR. GATTS,--It is indeed a high compliment which you offer me in
naming an association after me and in proposing the setting apart of a
Mark Twain day at the great St. Louis fair, but such compliments are not
proper for the living; they are proper and safe for the dead only. I
value the impulse which moves you to tender me these honors. I value it
as highly as any one can, and am grateful for it, but I should stand in a
sort of terror of the honors themselves. So long as we remain alive we
are not safe from doing things which, however righteously and honorably
intended, can wreck our repute and extinguish our friendships.
I hope that no society will be named for me while I am still alive, for I
might at some time or other do something which would cause its members to
regret having done me that honor. After I shall have joined the dead I
shall follow the customs of those people and be guilty of no conduct that
can wound any friend; but until that time shall come I shall be a
doubtful quantity like the rest of our race.
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The National Mark Twain Association did not surrender easily. Mr.
Gatts wrote a second letter full of urgent appeal. If Mark Twain
was tempted, we get no hint of it in his answer.
To T. F. Gatts, of Missouri:
NEW YORK, June 8, 1903.
DEAR MR. GATTS,--While I am deeply touched by the desire of my friends of
Hannibal to confer these great honors upon me, I must still forbear to
accept them. Spontaneous and unpremeditated honors, like those which
came to me at Hannibal, Columbia, St. Louis and at the village stations
all down the line, are beyond all price and are a treasure for life in
the memory, for they are a free gift out of the heart and they come
without solicitations; but I am a Missourian and so I shrink from
distinctions which have to be arranged beforehand and with my privity,
for I then became a party to my own exalting. I am humanly fond of
honors that happen but chary of those that come by canvass and intention.
With sincere thanks to you and your associates for this high compliment
which you have been minded to offer me, I am,
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
We have seen in the letter to MacAlister that Mark Twain's wife had
been ordered to Italy and plans were in progress for an
establishment there. By the end of June Mrs. Clemens was able to
leave Riverdale, and she made the journey to Quarry Farm, Elmira,
where they would remain until October, the month planned for their
sailing. The house in Hartford had been sold; and a house which,
prior to Mrs. Clemens's breakdown they had bought near Tarrytown
(expecting to settle permanently on the Hudson) had been let. They
were going to Europe for another indefinite period.
At Quarry Farm Mrs. Clemens continued to improve, and Clemens, once
more able to work, occupied the study which Mrs. Crane had built for
him thirty years before, and where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and the
Wandering Prince had been called into being.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford, Conn.:
QUARRY FARM, ELMIRA, N. Y.,
July 21, '03.
DEAR JOE,--That love-letter delighted Livy beyond any like utterance
received by her these thirty years and more. I was going to answer it
for her right away, and said so; but she reserved the privilege to
herself. I judge she is accumulating Hot Stuff--as George Ade would say
. . . .
Livy is coming along: eats well, sleeps some, is mostly very gay, not
very often depressed; spends all day on the porch, sleeps there a part of
the night, makes excursions in carriage and in wheel-chair; and, in the
matter of superintending everything and everybody, has resumed business
at the old stand.
Did you ever go house-hunting 3,000 miles away? It costs three months of
writing and telegraphing to pull off a success. We finished 3 or 4 days
ago, and took the Villa Papiniano (dam the name, I have to look at it a
minutes after writing it, and then am always in doubt) for a year by
cable. Three miles outside of Florence, under Fiesole--a darling
location, and apparently a choice house, near Fiske.
There's 7 in our gang. All women but me. It means trunks and things.
But thanks be! To-day (this is private) comes a most handsome voluntary
document with seals and escutcheons on it from the Italian Ambassador
(who is a stranger to me) commanding the Customs people to keep their
hands off the Clemens's things. Now wasn't it lovely of him? And wasn't
it lovely of me to let Livy take a pencil and edit my answer and knock a
good third of it out?
And that's a nice ship--the Irene! new--swift--13,000 tons--rooms up in
the sky, open to sun and air--and all that. I was desperately troubled
for Livy--about the down-cellar cells in the ancient "Latin."
The cubs are in Riverdale, yet; they come to us the first week in August.
With lots and lots of love to you all,
The arrangement for the Villa Papiniano was not completed, after
all, and through a good friend, George Gregory Smith, a resident of
Florence, the Villa Quarto, an ancient home of royalty, on the hills
west of Florence, was engaged. Smith wrote that it was a very
beautiful place with a south-eastern exposure, looking out toward
Valombrosa and the Chianti Hills. It had extensive grounds and
stables, and the annual rental for it all was two thousand dollars a
year. It seemed an ideal place, in prospect, and there was great
hope that Mrs. Clemens would find her health once more in the
Italian climate which she loved.
Perhaps at this point, when Mark Twain is once more leaving America,
we may offer two letters from strangers to him--letters of
appreciation--such as he was constantly receiving from those among
the thousands to whom he had given happiness. The first is from
Samuel Merwin, one day to become a popular novelist, then in the
hour of his beginnings.
To Mark Twain, from Samuel Merwin:
PLAINFIELD, N. J.
August 4, 1903.
DEAR MR. CLEMENS,--For a good many years I have been struggling with the
temptation to write you and thank you for the work you have done; and to-
day I seem to be yielding.
During the past two years I have been reading through a group of writers
who seem to me to represent about the best we have--Sir Thomas Malory,
Spenser, Shakespeare, Boswell, Carlyle, Le Sage. In thinking over one
and then another, and then all of them together, it was plain to see why
they were great men and writers: each brought to his time some new blood,
new ideas,--turned a new current into the stream. I suppose there have
always been the careful, painstaking writers, the men who are always
taken so seriously by their fellow craftsmen. It seems to be the
unconventional man who is so rare--I mean the honestly unconventional
man, who has to express himself in his own big way because the
conventional way isn't big enough, because ne needs room and freedom.
We have a group of the more or less conventional men now--men of dignity
and literary position. But in spite of their influence and of all the
work they have done, there isn't one of them to whom one can give one's
self up without reservation, not one whose ideas seem based on the deep
foundation of all true philosophy,--except Mark Twain.
I hope this letter is not an impertinence. I have just been turning
about, with my head full of Spenser and Shakespeare and "Gil Blas,"
looking for something in our own present day literature to which I could
surrender myself as to those five gripping old writings. And nothing
could I find until I took up "Life on the Mississippi," and "Huckleberry
Finn," and, just now, the "Connecticut Yankee." It isn't the first time
I have read any of these three, and it's because I know it won't be the
last, because these books are the only ones written in my lifetime that
claim my unreserved interest and admiration and, above all, my feelings,
that I've felt I had to write this letter.
I like to think that "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" will be looked
upon, fifty or a hundred years from now, as the picture of buoyant,
dramatic, human American life. I feel, deep in my own heart, pretty sure
that they will be. They won't be looked on then as the work of a
"humorist" any more than we think of Shakespeare as a humorist now.
I don't mean by this to set up a comparison between Mark Twain and
Shakespeare: I don't feel competent to do it; and I'm not at all sure
that it could be done until Mark Twain's work shall have its fair share
of historical perspective. But Shakespeare was a humorist and so, thank
Heaven! is Mark Twain. And Shakespeare plunged deep into the deep, sad
things of life; and so, in a different way (but in a way that has more
than once brought tears to my eyes) has Mark Twain. But after all, it
isn't because of any resemblance for anything that was ever before
written that Mark Twain's books strike in so deep: it's rather because
they've brought something really new into our literature--new, yet old as
Adam and Eve and the Apple. And this achievement, the achievement of
putting something into literature that was not there before, is, I should
think, the most that any writer can ever hope to do. It is the one mark
of distinction between the "lonesome" little group of big men and the
vast herd of medium and small ones. Anyhow, this much I am sure of--to
the young man who hopes, however feebly, to accomplish a little
something, someday, as a writer, the one inspiring example of our time is
Very truly yours,
Mark Twain once said he could live a month on a good compliment, and from
his reply, we may believe this one to belong in, that class.
To Samuel Merwin, in Plainfield, N. J.:
Aug. 16, '03.
DEAR MR. MERWIN,--What you have said has given me deep pleasure--indeed I
think no words could be said that could give me more.
Very sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The next "compliment" is from one who remains unknown, for she
failed to sign her name in full. But it is a lovely letter, and
loses nothing by the fact that the writer of it was willing to
remain in obscurity.
To Mark Twain, from Margaret M----:
Aug. 18, 1903.
MY DEAR, DEAR MARK TWAIN,--May a little girl write and tell you how
dearly she loves and admires your writings? Well, I do and I want to
tell you your ownself. Don't think me too impertinent for indeed I don't
mean to be that! I have read everything of yours that I could get and
parts that touch me I have read over and over again. They seem such dear
friends to me, so like real live human beings talking and laughing,
working and suffering too! One cannot but feel that it is your own life
and experience that you have painted. So do not wonder that you seem a
dear friend to me who has never even seen you. I often think of you as
such in my own thoughts. I wonder if you will laugh when I tell you I
have made a hero of you? For when people seem very sordid and mean and
stupid (and it seems as if everybody was) then the thought will come like
a little crumb of comfort "well, Mark Twain isn't anyway." And it does
really brighten me up.
You see I have gotten an idea that you are a great, bright spirit of
kindness and tenderness. One who can twist everybody's-even your own-
faults and absurdities into hearty laughs. Even the person mocked must
laugh! Oh, Dear! How often you have made me laugh! And yet as often
you have struck something infinite away down deep in my heart so that I
want to cry while half laughing!
So this all means that I want to thank you and to tell you. "God always
love Mark Twain!" is often my wish. I dearly love to read books, and I
never tire of reading yours; they always have a charm for me. Good-bye,
I am afraid I have not expressed what I feel. But at least I have tried.
Clemens and family left Elmira October the 5th for New York City.
They remained at the Hotel Grosvenor until their sailing date,
October 24th. A few days earlier, Mr. Frank Doubleday sent a volume
of Kipling's poems and de Blowitz's Memoirs for entertainment on the
ship. Mark Twain's acknowledgment follows.
To F. N. Doubleday, in New York:
October 12, '03.
DEAR DOUBLEDAY,--The books came--ever so many thanks. I have been
reading "The Bell Buoy" and "The Old Men" over and over again--my custom
with Kipling's work-and saving up the rest for other leisurely and
luxurious meals. A bell-buoy is a deeply impressive fellow-being. In
these many recent trips up and down the Sound in the Kanawha--
[Mr. Rogers's yacht.]--he has talked to me nightly, sometimes in his
pathetic and melancholy way, sometimes with his strenuous and urgent
note, and I got his meaning--now I have his words! No one but Kipling
could do this strong and vivid thing. Some day I hope to hear the poem
chanted or sung--with the bell-buoy breaking in, out of the distance.
"The Old Men," delicious, isn't it? And so comically true. I haven't
arrived there yet, but I suppose I am on the way....
P. S. Your letter has arrived. It makes me proud and glad--what Kipling
says. I hope Fate will fetch him to Florence while we are there.
I would rather see him than any other man.
We've let the Tarrytown house for a year. Man, you would never have
believed a person could let a house in these times. That one's for sale,
the Hartford one is sold. When we buy again may we--may I--be damned....
I've dipped into Blowitz and find him quaintly and curiously interesting.
I think he tells the straight truth, too. I knew him a little, 23 years
The appreciative word which Kipling had sent Doubleday was: "I love
to think of the great and God-like Clemens. He is the biggest man
you have on your side of the water by a damn sight, and don't you
forget it. Cervantes was a relation of his."
LETTERS OF 1904. TO VARIOUS PERSONS. LIFE IN VILLA QUARTO. DEATH OF
MRS. CLEMENS. THE RETURN TO AMERICA
Mrs. Clemens stood the voyage to Italy very well and, in due time, the
family were installed in the Villa Reale di Quarto, the picturesque old
Palace of Cosimo, a spacious, luxurious place, even if not entirely
cheerful or always comfortable during the changeable Tuscan winter.
Congratulated in a letter from MacAlister in being in the midst of
Florentine sunshine, he answered: "Florentine sunshine? Bless you, there
isn't any. We have heavy fogs every morning, and rain all day. This
house is not merely large, it is vast--therefore I think it must always
lack the home feeling."
Neither was their landlady, the American wife of an Italian count, all
that could be desired. From a letter to Twichell, however, we learn that
Mark Twain's work was progressing well.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
VILLA DI QUARTO,
FLORENCE, Jan. 7, '04.
DEAR JOE,--. . . I have had a handsome success, in one way, here.
I left New York under a sort of half promise to furnish to the Harper
magazines 30,000 words this year. Magazining is difficult work because
every third page represents 2 pages that you have put in the fire;
(because you are nearly sure to start wrong twice) and so when you have
finished an article and are willing to let it go to print it represents
only 10 cents a word instead of 30.
But this time I had the curious (and unprecedented) luck to start right
in each case. I turned out 37,000 words in 25 working days; and the
reason I think I started right every time is, that not only have I
approved and accepted the several articles, but the court of last resort
(Livy) has done the same.
On many of the between-days I did some work, but only of an idle and not
necessarily necessary sort, since it will not see print until I am dead.
I shall continue this (an hour per day) but the rest of the year I expect
to put in on a couple of long books (half-completed ones.) No more
magazine-work hanging over my head.
This secluded and silent solitude this clean, soft air and this
enchanting view of Florence, the great valley and the snow-mountains that
frame it are the right conditions for work. They are a persistent
inspiration. To-day is very lovely; when the afternoon arrives there
will be a new picture every hour till dark, and each of them divine--or
progressing from divine to diviner and divinest. On this (second) floor
Clara's room commands the finest; she keeps a window ten feet high wide
open all the time and frames it in. I go in from time to time, every day
and trade sass for a look. The central detail is a distant and stately
snow-hump that rises above and behind blackforested hills, and its
sloping vast buttresses, velvety and sun-polished with purple shadows
between, make the sort of picture we knew that time we walked in
Switzerland in the days of our youth.
I wish I could show your letter to Livy--but she must wait a week or so
for it. I think I told you she had a prostrating week of tonsilitis a
month ago; she has remained very feeble ever since, and confined to the
bed of course, but we allow ourselves to believe she will regain the lost
ground in another month. Her physician is Professor Grocco--she could
not have a better. And she has a very good trained nurse.
Love to all of you from all of us. And to all of our dear Hartford
P. S. 3 days later.
Livy is as remarkable as ever. The day I wrote you--that night, I mean--
she had a bitter attack of gout or rheumatism occupying the whole left
arm from shoulder to fingers, accompanied by fever. The pains racked her
50 or 6o hours; they have departed, now--and already she is planning a
trip to Egypt next fall, and a winter's sojourn there! This is life in
You will be surprised that I was willing to do so much magazine-writing--
a thing I have always been chary about--but I had good reasons. Our
expenses have been so prodigious for a year and a half, and are still so
prodigious, that Livy was worrying altogether too much about them, and
doing a very dangerous amount of lying awake on their account. It was
necessary to stop that, and it is now stopped.
Yes, she is remarkable, Joe. Her rheumatic attack set me to cursing and
swearing, without limit as to time or energy, but it merely concentrated
her patience and her unconquerable fortitude. It is the difference
between us. I can't count the different kinds of ailments which have
assaulted her in this fiendish year and a half--and I forgive none of
them--but here she comes up again as bright and fresh and enterprising as
ever, and goes to planning about Egypt, with a hope and a confidence
which are to me amazing.
Clara is calling for me--we have to go into town and pay calls.
In Florence, that winter, Clemens began dictating to his secretary
some autobiographical chapters. This was the work which was "not to
see print until I am dead." He found it a pleasant, lazy occupation
and wrote his delight in it to Howells in a letter which seems not
to have survived. In his reply, Howells wrote: "You do stir me
mightily with the hope of dictating and I will try it when I get the
chance. But there is the tempermental difference. You are dramatic
and unconscious; you count the thing more than yourself; I am cursed
with consciousness to the core, and can't say myself out; I am
always saying myself in, and setting myself above all that I say, as
of more worth. Lately I have felt as if I were rotting with
egotism. I don't admire myself; I am sick of myself; but I can't
think of anything else. Here I am at it now, when I ought to be
rejoicing with you at the blessing you have found .... I'd like,
immensely, to read your autobiography. You always rather bewildered
me by your veracity, and I fancy you may tell the truth about
yourself. But all of it? The black truth which we all know of
ourselves in our hearts, or only the whity-brown truth of the
pericardium, or the nice, whitened truth of the shirtfront? Even
you won't tell the black heart's--truth. The man who could do it
would be famed to the last day the sun shone upon."
We gather from Mark Twain's answer that he was not deceiving himself
in the matter of his confessions.
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FLORENCE,
March 14, '04.
DEAR HOWELLS,--Yes, I set up the safeguards, in the first day's
dictating; taking this position: that an autobiography is the truest of
all books; for while it inevitably consists mainly of extinctions of the
truth, shirkings of the truth, partial revealments of the truth, with
hardly an instance of plain straight truth, the remorseless truth is
there, between the lines, where the author is raking dust upon it, the
result being that the reader knows the author in spite of his wily
The summer in England! you can't ask better luck than that. Then you
will run over to Florence; we shall all be hungry to see you-all. We are
hunting for another villa, (this one is plenty large enough but has no
room in it) but even if we find it I am afraid it will be months before
we can move Mrs. Clemens. Of course it will. But it comforts us to let
on that we think otherwise, and these pretensions help to keep hope alive
Good-bye, with love, Amen.
News came of the death of Henry M. Stanley, one of Mark Twain's
oldest friends. Clemens once said that he had met Stanley in St.
Louis where he (Clemens) had delivered a lecture which Stanley had
reported. In the following letter he fixes the date of their
meeting as early in 1867, which would be immediately after Mark
Twain's return from California, and just prior to the Quaker City
excursion--a fact which is interesting only because it places the
two men together when each was at the very beginning of a great
To Lady Stanley, in England:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FIRENZE, May 11, '04.
DEAR LADY STANLEY,--I have lost a dear and honored friend--how fast they
fall about me now, in my age! The world has lost a tried and proved
hero. And you--what have you lost? It is beyond estimate--we who know
you, and what he was to you, know that. How far he stretches across my
life! I knew him when his work was all before him five years before the
great day that he wrote his name far-away up on the blue of the sky for
the world to see and applaud and remember; I have known him as friend and
intimate ever since. It is 37 years. I have known no other friend and
intimate so long, except John Hay--a friendship which dates from the same
year and the same half of it, the first half of 1867. I grieve with you
and with your family, dear Lady Stanley, it is all I can do; but that I
do out of my heart. It would be we, instead of I, if Mrs. Clemens knew,
but in all these 20 months that she has lain a prisoner in her bed we
have hidden from her all things that could sadden her. Many a friend is
gone whom she still asks about and still thinks is living.
In deepest sympathy I beg the privilege of signing myself
S. L. CLEMENS.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
VILLA DI QUARTO, May 11, '04
DEAR JOE,--Yours has this moment arrived--just as I was finishing a note
to poor Lady Stanley. I believe the last country-house visit we paid in
England was to Stanley's. Lord, how my friends and acquaintances fall
about me now, in my gray-headed days! Vereschagin, Mommsen, Dvorak,
Lenbach, Jokai--all so recently, and now Stanley. I had known Stanley 37
years. Goodness, who is it I haven't known! As a rule the necrologies
find me personally interested--when they treat of old stagers. Generally
when a man dies who is worth cabling, it happens that I have run across
him somewhere, some time or other.
Oh, say! Down by the Laurentian Library there's a marble image that has
been sitting on its pedestal some 450 Years, if my dates are right--
Cosimo I. I've seen the back of it many a time, but not the front; but
yesterday I twisted my head around after we had driven by, and the
profane exclamation burst from my mouth before I could think: "there's
I mean to get a photo of it--and use it if it confirms yesterday's
conviction. That's a very nice word from the Catholic Magazine and I am
glad you sent it. I mean to show it to my priest--we are very fond of
him. He is a stealing man, and is also learnedly scientific. He
invented the thing which records the seismatic disturbances, for the
peoples of the earth. And he's an astronomer and has an observatory of
Ah, many's the cry I have, over reflecting that maybe we could have had
Young Harmony for Livy, and didn't have wit enough to think of it.
Speaking of Livy reminds me that your inquiry arrives at a good time
(unberufen) It has been weeks (I don't know how many!) since we could
have said a hopeful word, but this morning Katy came the minute the day-
nurse came on watch and said words of a strange and long-forgotten sound:
"Mr. Clemens, Mrs. Clemens is really and truly better!--anybody can see
it; she sees it herself; and last night at 9 o'clock she said it."
There--it is heart-warming, it is splendid, it is sublime; let us enjoy
it, let us make the most of it today--and bet not a farthing on tomorrow.
The tomorrows have nothing for us. Too many times they have breathed the
word of promise to our ear and broken it to our hope. We take no
tomorrow's word any more.
You've done a wonder, Joe: you've written a letter that can be sent in to
Livy--that doesn't often happen, when either a friend or a stranger
writes. You did whirl in a P. S. that wouldn't do, but you wrote it on a
margin of a page in such a way that I was able to clip off the margin
clear across both pages, and now Livy won't perceive that the sheet isn't
the same size it used to was. It was about Aldrich's son, and I came
near forgetting to remove it. It should have been written on a loose
strip and enclosed. That son died on the 5th of March and Aldrich wrote
me on the night before that his minutes were numbered. On the 18th Livy
asked after that patient, and I was prepared, and able to give her a
grateful surprise by telling her "the Aldriches are no longer uneasy
I do wish I could have been present and heard Charley Clark. When he
can't light up a dark place nobody can.
With lots of love to you all.
Mrs. Clemens had her bad days and her good days-days when there
seemed no ray of light, and others that seemed almost to promise
recovery. The foregoing letter to Twichell, and the one which
follows, to Richard Watson Gilder, reflect the hope and fear that
daily and hourly alternated at Villa Quarto
To Richard Watson Gilder, in New York:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FLORENCE,
May 12, '04.
DEAR GILDER,--A friend of ours (the Baroness de Nolda) was here this
afternoon and wanted a note of introduction to the Century, for she has
something to sell to you in case you'll want to make her an offer after
seeing a sample of the goods. I said "With pleasure: get the goods
ready, send the same to me, I will have Jean type-write them, then I will
mail them to the Century and tonight I will write the note to Mr. Gilder
and start it along. Also write me a letter embodying what you have been
saying to me about the goods and your proposed plan of arranging and
explaining them, and I will forward that to Gilder too."
As to the Baroness. She is a German; 30 years old; was married at 17; is
very pretty-indeed I might say very pretty; has a lot of sons (5) running
up from seven to 12 years old. Her husband is a Russian. They live half
the time in Russia and the other half in Florence, and supply population
alternately to the one country and then to the other. Of course it is a
family that speaks languages. This occurs at their table--I know it by
experience: It is Babel come again. The other day, when no guests were
present to keep order, the tribes were all talking at once, and 6
languages were being traded in; at last the littlest boy lost his temper
and screamed out at the top of his voice, with angry sobs: "Mais,
vraiment, io non capisco gar nichts."
The Baroness is a little afraid of her English, therefore she will write
her remarks in French--I said there's a plenty of translators in New
York. Examine her samples and drop her a line.
For two entire days, now, we have not been anxious about Mrs. Clemens
(unberufen). After 20 months of bed-ridden solitude and bodily misery
she all of a sudden ceases to be a pallid shrunken shadow, and looks
bright and young and pretty. She remains what she always was, the most
wonderful creature of fortitude, patience, endurance and recuperative
power that ever was. But ah, dear, it won't last; this fiendish malady
will play new treacheries upon her, and I shall go back to my prayers
again--unutterable from any pulpit!
With love to you and yours,
S. L. C.
May 13 10 A.M. I have just paid one of my pair of permitted 2 minutes
visits per day to the sick room. And found what I have learned to
expect--retrogression, and that pathetic something in the eye which
betrays the secret of a waning hope.
The year of the World's Fair had come, and an invitation from Gov.
Francis, of Missouri, came to Mark Twain in Florence, personally
inviting him to attend the great celebration and carry off first
prize. We may believe that Clemens felt little in the spirit of
humor, but to such an invitation he must send a cheerful, even if
To Gov. Francis, of Missouri:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FIRENZE,
May 26, 1904.
DEAR GOVERNOR FRANCIS,--It has been a dear wish of mine to exhibit myself
at the Great Fair and get a prize, but circumstances beyond my control
have interfered, and I must remain in Florence. Although I have never
taken prizes anywhere else I used to take them at school in Missouri half
a century ago, and I ought to be able to repeat, now, if I could have a
chance. I used to get the medal for good spelling, every week, and I
could have had the medal for good conduct if there hadn't been so much
curruption in Missouri in those days; still, I got it several times by
trading medals and giving boot. I am willing to give boot now, if--
however, those days are forever gone by in Missouri, and perhaps it is
better so. Nothing ever stops the way it was in this changeable world.
Although I cannot be at the Fair, I am going to be represented there
anyway, by a portrait, by Professor Gelli. You will find it excellent.
Good judges here say it is better than the original. They say it has all
the merits of the original and keeps still, besides. It sounds like
flattery, but it is just true.
I suppose you will get a prize, because you have created the most
prodigious and in all ways most wonderful Fair the planet has ever seen.
Very well, you have indeed earned it: and with it the gratitude of the
State and the nation.
It was only a few days after the foregoing was written that death
entered Villa Quarto--unexpectedly at last--for with the first June
days Mrs. Clemens had seemed really to improve. It was on Sunday,
June 5th, that the end came. Clemens, with his daughter Jean, had
returned from a long drive, during which they had visited a Villa
with the thought of purchase. On their return they were told that
their patient had been better that afternoon than for three months.
Yet it was only a few hours later that she left them, so suddenly
and quietly that even those near her did not at first realize that
she was gone.
To W. D. Howells, in New York.
VILLA DI QUARTO, FLORENCE,
June 6, '94. 
DEAR HOWELLS,--Last night at 9.20 I entered Mrs. Clemens's room to say
the usual goodnight--and she was dead--tho' no one knew it. She had been
cheerfully talking, a moment before. She was sitting up in bed--she had
not lain down for months--and Katie and the nurse were supporting her.
They supposed she had fainted, and they were holding the oxygen pipe to
her mouth, expecting to revive her. I bent over her and looked in her
face, and I think I spoke--I was surprised and troubled that she did not
notice me. Then we understood, and our hearts broke. How poor we are
But how thankful I am that her persecutions are ended. I would not call
her back if I could.
Today, treasured in her worn old Testament, I found a dear and gentle
letter from you, dated Far Rockaway, Sept. 13, 1896, about our poor
Susy's death. I am tired and old; I wish I were with Livy.
I send my love-and hers-to you all.
S. L. C.
In a letter to Twichell he wrote: "How sweet she was in death; how
young, how beautiful, how like her dear, girlish self cf thirty
years ago; not a gray hair showing."
The family was now without plans for the future until they
remembered the summer home of R. W. Gilder, at Tyringham,
Massachusetts, and the possibility of finding lodgment for
themselves in that secluded corner of New England. Clemens wrote
without delay, as follows:
To R. W. Gilder, in New York:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FLORENCE,
June 7, '04.
DEAR GILDER FAMILY,--I have been worrying and worrying to know what to
do: at last I went to the girls with an idea: to ask the Gilders to get
us shelter near their summer home. It was the first time they have not
shaken their heads. So to-morrow I will cable to you and shall hope to
be in time.
An, hour ago the best heart that ever beat for me and mine went silent
out of this house, and I am as one who wanders and has lost his way. She
who is gone was our head, she was our hands. We are now trying to make
plans--we: we who have never made a plan before, nor ever needed to. If
she could speak to us she would make it all simple and easy with a word,
and our perplexities would vanish away. If she had known she was near to
death she would have told us where to go and what to do: but she was not
suspecting, neither were we. (She had been chatting cheerfully a moment
before, and in an instant she was gone from us and we did not know it.
We were not alarmed, we did not know anything had happened. It was a
blessed death--she passed away without knowing it.) She was all our
riches and she is gone: she was our breath, she was our life and now we
We send you our love--and with it the love of you that was in her heart
when she died.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Howells wrote his words of sympathy, adding: "The character which
now remains a memory was one of the most perfect ever formed on the
earth," and again, after having received Clemens's letter: "I cannot
speak of your wife's having kept that letter of mine where she did.
You know how it must humiliate a man in his unworthiness to have
anything of his so consecrated. She hallowed what she touched, far
To W. D. Howells, in New York:
VILLA DI QUARTO, '04.
June 12, 6 p. m.
DEAR HOWELLS,--We have to sit and hold our hands and wait--in the silence
and solitude of this prodigious house; wait until June 25, then we go to
Naples and sail in the Prince Oscar the 26th. There is a ship 12 days
earlier (but we came in that one.) I see Clara twice a day--morning and
evening--greeting--nothing more is allowed. She keeps her bed, and says
nothing. She has not cried yet. I wish she could cry. It would break
Livy's heart to see Clara. We excuse ourselves from all the friends that
call--though of course only intimates come. Intimates--but they are not
the old old friends, the friends of the old, old times when we laughed.
Shall we ever laugh again? If I could only see a dog that I knew in the
old times! and could put my arms around his neck and tell him all,
everything, and ease my heart.
Think-in 3 hours it will be a week!--and soon a month; and by and by a
year. How fast our dead fly from us.
She loved you so, and was always as pleased as a child with any notice
you took of her.
Soon your wife will be with you, oh fortunate man! And John, whom mine
was so fond of. The sight of him was such a delight to her. Lord, the
old friends, how dear they are.
S. L. C.
To Rev. J. R. Twichell, in Hartford:
VILLA DI QUARTO, FLORENCE,
June 18, '04.
DEAR JOE,--It is 13 days. I am bewildered and must remain so for a time
longer. It was so sudden, so unexpected. Imagine a man worth a hundred
millions who finds himself suddenly penniless and fifty million in debt
in his old age.
I was richer than any other person in the world, and now I am that pauper
without peer. Some day I will tell you about it, not now.
A tide of condolence flowed in from all parts of the world. It was
impossible to answer all. Only a few who had been their closest
friends received a written line, but the little printed
acknowledgment which was returned was no mere formality. It was a
heartfelt, personal word.
They arrived in America in July, and were accompanied by Twichell to
Elmira, and on the 14th Mrs. Clemens was laid to rest by the side of
Susy and little Langdon. R. W. Gilder had arranged for them to
occupy, for the summer, a cottage on his place at Tyringham, in the
Berkshire Hills. By November they were at the Grosvenor, in New
York, preparing to establish themselves in a house which they had
taken on the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue--Number 21.
To F. N. Doubleday, in New York:
DEAR DOUBLEDAY,--I did not know you were going to England: I would have
freighted you with such messages of homage and affection to Kipling.
And I would have pressed his hand, through you, for his sympathy with
me in my crushing loss, as expressed by him in his letter to Gilder.
You know my feeling for Kipling and that it antedates that expression.
I was glad that the boys came here to invite me to the house-warming and
I think they understood why a man in the shadow of a calamity like mine
could not go.
It has taken three months to repair and renovate our house--corner of 9th
and 5th Avenue, but I shall be in it in io or 15 days hence. Much of the
furniture went into it today (from Hartford). We have not seen it for 13
years. Katy Leary, our old housekeeper, who has been in our service more
than 24 years, cried when she told me about it to-day. She said "I had
forgotten it was so beautiful, and it brought Mrs. Clemens right back to
me--in that old time when she was so young and lovely."
Jean and my secretary and the servants whom we brought from Italy because
Mrs. Clemens liked them so well, are still keeping house in the Berkshire
hills--and waiting. Clara (nervously wrecked by her mother's death) is
in the hands of a specialist in 69th St., and I shall not be allowed to
have any communication with her--even telephone--for a year. I am in
this comfortable little hotel, and still in bed--for I dasn't budge till
I'm safe from my pet devil, bronchitis.
Isn't it pathetic? One hour and ten minutes before Mrs. Clemens died I
was saying to her "To-day, after five months search, I've found the villa
that will content you: to-morrow you will examine the plans and give it
your consent and I will buy it." Her eyes danced with pleasure, for she
longed for a home of her own. And there, on that morrow, she lay white
and cold. And unresponsive to my reverent caresses--a new thing to me
and a new thing to her; that had not happened before in five and thirty
I am coming to see you and Mrs. Doubleday by and bye. She loved and
honored Mrs. Doubleday and her work.
It was a presidential year and the air was thick with politics.
Mark Twain was no longer actively interested in the political
situation; he was only disheartened by the hollowness and pretense
of office-seeking, and the methods of office-seekers in general.
Grieved that Twichell should still pin his faith to any party when
all parties were so obviously venal and time-serving, he wrote in
outspoken and rather somber protest.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
THE GROSVENOR, Nov. 4, '04.
Oh, dear! get out of that sewer--party politics--dear Joe. At least
with your mouth. We hail only two men who could make speeches for their
parties and preserve their honor and their dignity. One of them is dead.
Possibly there were four. I am sorry for John Hay; sorry and ashamed.
And yet I know he couldn't help it. He wears the collar, and he had to
pay the penalty. Certainly he had no more desire to stand up before a
mob of confiding human incapables and debauch them than you had.
Certainly he took no more real pleasure in distorting history, concealing
facts, propagating immoralities, and appealing to the sordid side of
human nature than did you; but he was his party's property, and he had to
climb away down and do it.
It is interesting, wonderfully interesting--the miracles which party-
politics can do with a man's mental and moral make-up. Look at McKinley,
Roosevelt, and yourself: in private life spotless in character;
honorable, honest, just, humane, generous; scorning trickeries,
treacheries, suppressions of the truth, mistranslations of the meanings
of facts, the filching of credit earned by another, the condoning of
crime, the glorifying of base acts: in public political life the reverse
of all this.
McKinley was a silverite--you concealed it. Roosevelt was a silverite--
you concealed it. Parker was a silverite--you publish it. Along with a
shudder and a warning: "He was unsafe then. Is he any safer now?"
Joe, even I could be guilty of such a thing as that--if I were in party-
politics; I really believe it.
Mr. Cleveland gave the country the gold standard; by implication you
credit the matter to the Republican party.
By implication you prove the whole annual pension-scoop, concealing the
fact that the bulk of the money goes to people who in no way deserve it.
You imply that all the batteners upon this bribery-fund are Republicans.
An indiscreet confession, since about half of them must have been
Democrats before they were bought.
You as good as praise Order 78. It is true you do not shout, and you do
not linger, you only whisper and skip--still, what little you do in the
matter is complimentary to the crime.
It means, if it means anything, that our outlying properties will all be
given up by the Democrats, and our flag hauled down. All of them? Not
only the properties stolen by Mr. McKinley and Mr. Roosevelt, but the
properties honestly acquired? Joe, did you believe that hardy statement
when you made it? Yet you made it, and there it stands in permanent
print. Now what moral law would suffer if we should give up the stolen
"You know our standard-bearer. He will maintain all that we have
gained"--by whatever process. Land, I believe you!
By George, Joe, you are as handy at the game as if you had been in
training for it all your life. Your campaign Address is built from the
ground up upon the oldest and best models. There isn't a paragraph in it
whose facts or morals will wash--not even a sentence, I believe.
But you will soon be out of this. You didn't want to do it--that is
sufficiently apparent, thanks be!--but you couldn't well get out of it.
In a few days you will be out of it, and then you can fumigate yourself
and take up your legitimate work again and resume your clean and
wholesome private character once more and be happy--and useful.
I know I ought to hand you some guff, now, as propitiation and apology
for these reproaches, but on the whole I believe I won't.
I have inquired, and find that Mitsikuri does not arrive here until to-
morrow night. I shall watch out, and telephone again, for I greatly want
to see him.
P. S.--Nov, 4. I wish I could learn to remember that it is unjust and
dishonorable to put blame upon the human race for any of its acts. For
it did not make itself, it did not make its nature, it is merely a
machine, it is moved wholly by outside influences, it has no hand in
creating the outside influences nor in choosing which of them it will
welcome or reject, its performance is wholly automatic, it has no more
mastership nor authority over its mind than it has over its stomach,
which receives material from the outside and does as it pleases with it,
indifferent to it's proprietor's suggestions, even, let alone his
commands; wherefore, whatever the machine does--so called crimes and
infamies included--is the personal act of its Maker, and He, solely, is
responsible. I wish I could learn to pity the human race instead of
censuring it and laughing at it; and I could, if the outside influences
of old habit were not so strong upon my machine. It vexes me to catch
myself praising the clean private citizen Roosevelt, and blaming the
soiled President Roosevelt, when I know that neither praise nor blame is
due to him for any thought or word or deed of his, he being merely a
helpless and irresponsible coffee-mill ground by the hand of God.
Through a misunderstanding, Clemens, something more than a year
earlier, had severed his connection with the Players' Club, of which
he had been one of the charter members. Now, upon his return to New
York, a number of his friends joined in an invitation to him to
return. It was not exactly a letter they sent, but a bit of an old
"To Mark Twain
Will ye no come back again,
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be.
Will ye no come back again?"
Those who signed it were David Monroe, of the North American Review;
Robert Reid, the painter, and about thirty others of the Round Table
Group, so called because its members were accustomed to lunching at
a large round table in a bay window of the Player dining-room. Mark
Twain's reply was prompt and heartfelt. He wrote:
To Robt. Reid and the Others:
WELL-BELOVED,--Surely those lovely verses went to Prince Charley's heart,
if he had one, and certainly they have gone to mine. I shall be glad and
proud to come back again after such a moving and beautiful compliment as
this from comrades whom I have loved so long. I hope you can poll the
necessary vote; I know you will try, at any rate. It will be many months
before I can foregather with you, for this black border is not
perfunctory, not a convention; it symbolizes the loss of one whose memory
is the only thing I worship.
It is not necessary for me to thank you--and words could not deliver what
I feel, anyway. I will put the contents of your envelope in the small
casket where I keep the things which have become sacred to me.
S. L. C.
A year later, Mark Twain did "come back again," as an honorary life
member, and was given a dinner of welcome by those who had signed the
lines urging his return.
LETTERS OF 1905. TO TWICHELL, MR. DUNEKA AND OTHERS.
POLITICS AND HUMANITY. A SUMMER AT DUBLIN. MARK TWAIN AT 70
In 1884 Mark Twain had abandoned the Republican Party to vote for
Cleveland. He believed the party had become corrupt, and to his
last day it was hard for him to see anything good in Republican
policies or performance. He was a personal friend of Thedore
Roosevelt's but, as we have seen in a former letter, Roosevelt the
politician rarely found favor in his eyes. With or without
justification, most of the President's political acts invited his
caustic sarcasm and unsparing condemnation. Another letter to
Twichell of this time affords a fair example.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
Feb. 16, '05.
DEAR JOE,--I knew I had in me somewhere a definite feeling about the
President if I could only find the words to define it with. Here they
are, to a hair--from Leonard Jerome: "For twenty years I have loved
Roosevelt the man and hated Roosevelt the statesman and politician."
It's mighty good. Every time, in 25 years, that I have met Roosevelt the
man, a wave of welcome has streaked through me with the hand-grip;
but whenever (as a rule) I meet Roosevelt the statesman and politician,
I find him destitute of morals and not respectworthy. It is plain that
where his political self and his party self are concerned he has nothing
resembling a conscience; that under those inspirations he is naively
indifferent to the restraints of duty and even unaware of them; ready to
kick the Constitution into the back yard whenever it gets in the way; and
whenever he smells a vote, not only willing but eager to buy it, give
extravagant rates for it and pay the bill not out of his own pocket or
the party's, but out of the nation's, by cold pillage. As per Order 78
and the appropriation of the Indian trust funds.
But Roosevelt is excusable--I recognize it and (ought to) concede it.
We are all insane, each in his own way, and with insanity goes
irresponsibility. Theodore the man is sane; in fairness we ought to keep
in mind that Theodore, as statesman arid politician, is insane and
Do not throw these enlightenments aside, but study them, let them raise
you to higher planes and make you better. You taught me in my callow
days, let me pay back the debt now in my old age out of a thesaurus with
wisdom smelted from the golden ores of experience.
Ever yours for sweetness and light
The next letter to Twichell takes up politics and humanity in
general, in a manner complimentary to neither. Mark Twain was never
really a pessimist, but he had pessimistic intervals, such as come
to most of us in life's later years, and at such times he let
himself go without stint concerning "the damned human race," as he
called it, usually with a manifest sense of indignation that he
should be a member of it. In much of his later writing--
A Mysterious Stranger for example--he said his say with but small
restraint, and certainly in his purely intellectual moments he was
likely to be a pessimist of the most extreme type, capably damning
the race and the inventor of it. Yet, at heart, no man loved his
kind more genuinely, or with deeper compassion, than Mark Twain,
perhaps for its very weaknesses. It was only that he had intervals
--frequent intervals, and rather long ones--when he did not admire
it, and was still more doubtful as to the ways of providence.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
March 14, '05.
DEAR JOE,--I have a Puddn'head maxim:
"When a man is a pessimist before 48 he knows too much; if he is an
optimist after it, he knows too little."
It is with contentment, therefore, that I reflect that I am better and
wiser than you. Joe, you seem to be dealing in "bulks," now; the "bulk"
of the farmers and U. S. Senators are "honest." As regards purchase and
sale with money? Who doubts it? Is that the only measure of honesty?
Aren't there a dozen kinds of honesty which can't be measured by the
money-standard? Treason is treason--and there's more than one form of
it; the money-form is but one of them. When a person is disloyal to any
confessed duty, he is plainly and simply dishonest, and knows it; knows
it, and is privately troubled about it and not proud of himself. Judged
by this standard--and who will challenge the validity of it?--there isn't
an honest man in Connecticut, nor in the Senate, nor anywhere else. I do
not even except myself, this time.
Am I finding fault with you and the rest of the populace? No--I assure
you I am not. For I know the human race's limitations, and this makes it
my duty--my pleasant duty--to be fair to it. Each person in it is honest
in one or several ways, but no member of it is honest in all the ways
required by--by what? By his own standard. Outside of that, as I look
at it, there is no obligation upon him.
Am I honest? I give you my word of honor (private) I am not. For seven
years I have suppressed a book which my conscience tells me I ought to
publish. I hold it a duty to publish it. There are other difficult
duties which I am equal to, but I am not equal to that one. Yes, even I
am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.
We are certainly all honest in one or several ways--every man in the
world--though I have reason to think I am the only one whose black-list
runs so light. Sometimes I feel lonely enough in this lofty solitude.
Yes, oh, yes, I am not overlooking the "steady progress from age to age
of the coming of the kingdom of God and righteousness." "From age to
age"--yes, it describes that giddy gait. I (and the rocks) will not live
to see it arrive, but that is all right--it will arrive, it surely will.
But you ought not to be always ironically apologizing for the Deity. If
that thing is going to arrive, it is inferable that He wants it to
arrive; and so it is not quite kind of you, and it hurts me, to see you
flinging sarcasms at the gait of it. And yet it would not be fair in me
not to admit that the sarcasms are deserved. When the Deity wants a
thing, and after working at it for "ages and ages" can't show even a
shade of progress toward its accomplishment, we--well, we don't laugh,
but it is only because we dasn't. The source of "righteousness"--is in
the heart? Yes. And engineered and directed by the brain? Yes. Well,
history and tradition testify that the heart is just about what it was in
the beginning; it has undergone no shade of change. Its good and evil
impulses and their consequences are the same today that they were in Old
Bible times, in Egyptian times, in Greek times, in Middle Age times, in
Twentieth Century times. There has been no change.
Meantime, the brain has undergone no change. It is what it always was.
There are a few good brains and a multitude of poor ones. It was so in
Old Bible times and in all other times--Greek, Roman, Middle Ages and
Twentieth Century. Among the savages--all the savages--the average brain
is as competent as the average brain here or elsewhere. I will prove it
to you, some time, if you like. And there are great brains among them,
too. I will prove that also, if you like.
Well, the 19th century made progress--the first progress after "ages and
ages"--colossal progress. In what? Materialities. Prodigious
acquisitions were made in things which add to the comfort of many and
make life harder for as many more. But the addition to righteousness?
Is that discoverable? I think not. The materialities were not invented
in the interest of righteousness; that there is more righteousness in the
world because of them than there, was before, is hardly demonstrable, I
think. In Europe and America, there is a vast change (due to them) in
ideals--do you admire it? All Europe and all America, are feverishly
scrambling for money. Money is the supreme ideal--all others take tenth
place with the great bulk of the nations named. Money-lust has always
existed, but not in the history of the world was it ever a craze, a
madness, until your time and mine. This lust has rotted these nations;
it has made them hard, sordid, ungentle, dishonest, oppressive.
Did England rise against the infamy of the Boer war? No--rose in favor
of it. Did America rise against the infamy of the Phillipine war? No--
rose in favor of it. Did Russia rise against the infamy of the present
war? No--sat still and said nothing. Has the Kingdom of God advanced in
Russia since the beginning of time?
Or in Europe and America, considering the vast backward step of the
money-lust? Or anywhere else? If there has been any progress toward
righteousness since the early days of Creation--which, in my ineradicable
honesty, I am obliged to doubt--I think we must confine it to ten per
cent of the populations of Christendom, (but leaving, Russia, Spain and
South America entirely out.) This gives us 320,000,000 to draw the ten
per cent from. That is to say, 32,000,000 have advanced toward
righteousness and the Kingdom of God since the "ages and ages" have been
flying along, the Deity sitting up there admiring. Well, you see it
leaves 1,200,000,000 out of the race. They stand just where they have
always stood; there has been no change.
N. B. No charge for these informations. Do come down soon, Joe.
St. Clair McKelway, of The Brooklyn Eagle, narrowly escaped injuries
in a railway accident, and received the following. Clemens and
McKelway were old friends.
To St. Clair McKelway, in Brooklyn:
21 FIFTH AVE. Sunday Morning.
April 30, 1905.
DEAR McKELWAY, Your innumerable friends are grateful, most grateful.
As I understand the telegrams, the engineer of your train had never seen
a locomotive before. Very well, then, I am once more glad that there is
an Ever-watchful Providence to foresee possible results and send Ogdens
and McIntyres along to save our friends.
The Government's Official report, showing that our railways killed twelve
hundred persons last year and injured sixty thousand convinces me that
under present conditions one Providence is not enough to properly and
efficiently take care of our railroad business. But it is
characteristically American--always trying to get along short-handed and
I am helping your family congratulate themselves, and am your friend as
S. L. CLEMENS.
Clemens did not spend any more summers at Quarry Farm. All its
associations were beautiful and tender, but they could only sadden
him. The life there had been as of another world, sunlit, idyllic,
now forever vanished. For the summer of 1905 he leased the Copley
Green house at Dublin, New Hampshire, where there was a Boston
colony of writing and artistic folk, including many of his long-time
friends. Among them was Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who
wrote a hearty letter of welcome when he heard the news. Clemens
replied in kind.
To Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in Boston:
21 FIFTH AVE. Sunday, March 26, z9o.5.
DEAR COL. HIGGINSON,--I early learned that you would be my neighbor in
the Summer and I rejoiced, recognizing in you and your family a large
asset. I hope for frequent intercourse between the two households. I
shall have my youngest daughter with me. The other one will go from the
rest-cure in this city to the rest-cure in Norfolk Conn and we shall not
see her before autumn. We have not seen her since the middle of October.
Jean (the youngest daughter) went to Dublin and saw the house and came
back charmed with it. I know the Thayers of old--manifestly there is no
lack of attractions up there. Mrs. Thayer and I were shipmates in a wild
excursion perilously near 40 years ago.
You say you "send with this" the story. Then it should be here but it
isn't, when I send a thing with another thing, the other thing goes but
the thing doesn't, I find it later--still on the premises. Will you look
it up now and send it?
Aldrich was here half an hour ago, like a breeze from over the fields,
with the fragrance still upon his spirit. I am tired of waiting for that
man to get old.
S. L. C.
Mark Twain was in his seventieth year, old neither in mind nor body,
but willing to take life more quietly, to refrain from travel and
gay events. A sort of pioneers' reunion was to be held on the
Pacific Coast, and a letter from Robert Fulton, of Reno, Nevada,
invited Clemens to attend. He did not go, but he sent a letter that
we may believe was the next best thing to those who heard it read.
To Robert Fulton, in Reno, Nevada:
IN THE MOUNTAINS,
May 24, 1905.
DEAR MR. FULTON,--I remember, as if it were yesterday, that when I
disembarked from the overland stage in front of the Ormsby in Carson City
in August, 1861, I was not expecting to be asked to come again. I was
tired, discouraged, white with alkali dust, and did not know anybody; and
if you had said then, "Cheer up, desolate stranger, don't be down-
hearted--pass on, and come again in 1905," you cannot think how grateful
I would have been and how gladly I would have closed the contract.
Although I was not expecting to be invited, I was watching out for it,
and was hurt and disappointed when you started to ask me and changed it
to, "How soon are you going away?"
But you have made it all right, now, the wound is closed. And so I thank
you sincerely for the invitation; and with you, all Reno, and if I were a
few years younger I would accept it, and promptly. I would go. I would
let somebody else do the oration, but, as for me, I would talk--
just talk. I would renew my youth; and talk--and talk--and talk
--and have the time of my life! I would march the unforgotten and
unforgettable antiques by, and name their names, and give them reverent
Hailand-farewell as they passed: Goodman, McCarthy, Gillis, Curry,
Baldwin, Winters, Howard, Nye, Stewart; Neely Johnson, Hal Clayton,
North, Root,--and my brother, upon whom be peace!--and then the
desperadoes, who made life a joy and the "Slaughter-house" a precious
possession: Sam Brown, Farmer Pete, Bill Mayfield, Six-fingered Jake,
Jack Williams and the rest of the crimson discipleship--and so on and so
on. Believe me, I would start a resurrection it would do you more good
to look at than the next one will, if you go on the way you are doing
Those were the days! those old ones. They will come no more. Youth will
come no more. They were so full to the brim with the wine of life; there
have been no others like them. It chokes me up to think of them. Would
you like me to come out there and cry? It would not beseem my white
Good-bye. I drink to you all. Have a good time--and take an old man's
A few days later he was writing to H. H. Bancroft, of San Francisco,
who had invited him for a visit in event of his coming to the Coast.
Henry James had just been there for a week and it was hoped that
Howells would soon follow.
To H. H. Bancroft, in San Francisco:
UP IN NEW HAMPSHIRE,
May 27, 1905.
DEAR MR. BANCROFT,--I thank you sincerely for the tempting hospitalities
which you offer me, but I have to deny myself, for my wandering days are
over, and it is my desire and purpose to sit by the fire the rest of my
remnant of life and indulge myself with the pleasure and repose of work
--work uninterrupted and unmarred by duties or excursions.
A man who like me, is going to strike 70 on the 30th of next November has
no business to be flitting around the way Howells does--that shameless
old fictitious butter fly. (But if he comes, don't tell him I said it,