Part 3 out of 16
and a small hang-out; weak, insipid, and a damn fool in general."
In No. 14, June 22d, published July 16th, he tells of the death and
burial ceremonies of the Princess Victoria K. K., and, what was to
be of more importance to him, of the arrival of Anson Burlingame,
U. S. Minister to China, and Gen. Van Valkenburgh, U. S. Minister to
Japan. They were to stay ten or fourteen days, he said, but an
effort would be made to have them stay over July 4th.
Speaking of Burlingame: "Burlingame is a man who could be esteemed,
respected, and popular anywhere, no matter whether he was among
Christians or cannibals." Then, in the same letter, comes the great
incident. "A letter arrived here yesterday, giving a meagre account
of the arrival, on the Island of Hawaii, of nineteen poor, starving
wretches, who had been buffeting a stormy sea, in an open boat, for
forty-three days. Their ship, the Hornet, from New York, with a
quantity of kerosene on board had taken fire and burned in Lat. 2d.
north, and Long. 35d. west. When they had been entirely out of
provisions for a day or two, and the cravings of hunger become
insufferable, they yielded to the ship-wrecked mariner's fearful and
awful alternative, and solemnly drew lots to determine who of their
number should die, to furnish food for his comrades; and then the
morning mists lifted, and they saw land. They are being cared for
at Sanpahoe (Not yet corroborated)."
The Hornet disaster was fully told in his letter of June 27th. The
survivors were brought to Honolulu, and with the assistance of the
Burlingame party, Clemens, laid up with saddle boils, was carried on
a stretcher to the hospital, where, aided by Burlingame, he
interviewed the shipwrecked men, securing material for the most
important piece of serious writing he had thus far performed.
Letter No. 15 to the Union--of date June 25th--occupied the most of
the first page in the issue of July 19. It was a detailed account
of the sufferings of officers and crew, as given by the third
officer and members of the crew.
From letter No. 15:
In the postscript of a letter which I wrote two or three days ago, and
sent by the ship "Live Yankee," I gave you the substance of a letter
received here from Hilo, by Walker Allen and Co., informing them that a
boat, containing fifteen men in a helpless and starving condition, had
drifted ashore at Sanpahoe, Island of Hawaii, and that they had belonged
to the clipper ship "Hornet"--Cap. Mitchell, master--had been afloat
since the burning of that vessel, about one hundred miles north of the
equator, on the third of May--forty-three days.
The Third Mate, and ten of the seamen have arrived here, and are now in
the hospital. Cap. Mitchell, one seaman named Antonio Passene, and two
passengers, Samuel and Henry Ferguson, of New York City, eighteen and
twenty-eight years, are still at Hilo, but are expected here within the
week. In the Captain's modest epitome of the terrible romance you detect
the fine old hero through it. It reads like Grant.
Here follows the whole terrible narrative, which has since been
published in more substantial form, and has been recognized as
literature. It occupied three and a half columns on the front page
of the Union, and, of course, constituted a great beat for that
paper--a fact which they appreciated to the extent of one hundred
dollars the column upon the writer's return from the islands.
In letters Nos. 14. and 15. he gives further particulars of the
month of mourning for the princess, and funeral ceremonials. He
refers to Burlingame, who was still in the islands. The remaining
letters are unimportant.
The Hawaiian episode in Mark Twain's life was one of those spots
that seemed to him always filled with sunlight. From beginning to
end it had been a long luminous dream; in the next letter, written
on the homeward-bound ship, becalmed under a cloudless sky, we
realize the fitting end of the experience.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
ON BOARD SHIP Smyrniote,
AT SEA, July 30, 1866.
DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--I write, now, because I must go hard at work as
soon as I get to San Francisco, and then I shall have no time for other
things--though truth to say I have nothing now to write which will be
calculated to interest you much. We left the, Sandwich Islands eight or
ten days--or twelve days ago--I don't know which, I have been so hard at
work until today (at least part of each day,) that the time has slipped
away almost unnoticed. The first few days we came at a whooping gait
being in the latitude of the "North-east trades," but we soon ran out of
them. We used them as long as they lasted-hundred of miles--and came
dead straight north until exactly abreast of San Francisco precisely
straight west of the city in a bee-line--but a long bee-line, as we were
about two thousand miles at sea-consequently, we are not a hundred yards
nearer San Francisco than you are. And here we lie becalmed on a glassy
sea--we do not move an inch-we throw banana and orange peel overboard and
it lies still on the water by the vessel's side. Sometimes the ocean is
as dead level as the Mississippi river, and glitters glassily as if
polished--but usually, of course, no matter how calm the weather is, we
roll and surge over the grand ground-swell. We amuse ourselves tying
pieces of tin to the ship's log and sinking them to see how far we can
distinguish them under water--86 feet was the deepest we could see a
small piece of tin, but a white plate would show about as far down as the
steeple of Dr. Bullard's church would reach, I guess. The sea is very
dark and blue here.
Ever since we got becalmed--five days--I have been copying the diary of
one of the young Fergusons (the two boys who starved and suffered, with
thirteen others, in an open boat at sea for forty-three days, lately,
after their ship, the "Hornet," was burned on the equator.) Both these
boys, and Captain Mitchell, are passengers with us. I am copying the
diary to publish in Harper's Magazine, if I have time to fix it up
properly when I get to San Francisco.
I suppose, from present appearances,--light winds and calms,--that we
shall be two or three weeks at sea, yet--and I hope so--I am in no hurry
to go to work.
Sunday Morning, Aug. 6.
This is rather slow. We still drift, drift, drift along--at intervals a
spanking breeze and then--drift again--hardly move for half a day. But I
enjoy it. We have such snowy moonlight, and such gorgeous sunsets.
And the ship is so easy--even in a gale she rolls very little, compared
to other vessels--and in this calm we could dance on deck, if we chose.
You can walk a crack, so steady is she. Very different from the Ajax.
My trunk used to get loose in the stateroom and rip and tear around the
place as if it had life in it, and I always had to take my clothes off in
bed because I could not stand up and do it.
There is a ship in sight--the first object we have seen since we left
Honolulu. We are still 1300 or 1400 miles from land and so anything like
this that varies the vast solitude of the ocean makes all hands light-
hearted and cheerful. We think the ship is the "Comet," which left
Honolulu several hours before we did. She is about twelve miles away,
and so we cannot see her hull, but the sailors think it is the Comet
because of some peculiarity about her fore-top-gallant sails. We have
watched her all the forenoon.
Afternoon We had preaching on the quarter-deck by Rev. Mr. Rising, of
Virginia City, old friend of mine. Spread a flag on the booby-hatch,
which made a very good pulpit, and then ranged the chairs on either side
against the bulwarks; last Sunday we had the shadow of the mainsail, but
today we were on the opposite tack, close hauled, and had the sun. I am
leader of the choir on this ship, and a sorry lead it is. I hope they
will have a better opinion of our music in Heaven than I have down here.
If they don't a thunderbolt will come down and knock the vessel endways.
The other ship is the Comet--she is right abreast three miles away,
sailing on our course--both of us in a dead calm. With the glasses we
can see what we take to be men and women on her decks. I am well
acquainted with nearly all her passengers, and being so close seems right
Monday 7--I had just gone to bed a little after midnight when the 2d mate
came and roused up the captain and said "The Comet has come round and is
standing away on the other tack." I went up immediately, and so did all
our passengers, without waiting to dress-men, women and children. There
was a perceptible breeze. Pretty soon the other ship swept down upon us
with all her sails set, and made a fine show in the luminous starlight.
She passed within a hundred yards of us, so we could faintly see persons
on her decks. We had two minutes' chat with each other, through the
medium of hoarse shouting, and then she bore away to windward.
In the morning she was only a little black peg standing out of the glassy
sea in the distant horizon--an almost invisible mark in the bright sky.
Dead calm. So the ships have stood, all day long--have not moved 100
Aug. 8--The calm continues. Magnificent weather. The gentlemen have all
turned boys. They play boyish games on the poop and quarter-deck. For
instance: They lay a knife on the fife-rail of the mainmast--stand off
three steps, shut one eye, walk up and strike at it with the fore-finger;
(seldom hit it;) also they lay a knife on the deck and walk seven or
eight steps with eyes close shut, and try to find it. They kneel--place
elbows against knees--extend hands in front along the deck--place knife
against end of fingers--then clasp hands behind back and bend forward and
try to pick up the knife with their teeth and rise up from knees without
rolling over or losing their balance. They tie a string to the shrouds--
stand with back against it walk three steps (eyes shut)--turn around
three times and go and put finger on the string; only a military man can
do it. If you want to know how perfectly ridiculous a grown man looks
performing such absurdities in the presence of ladies, get one to try it.
Afternoon--The calm is no more. There are three vessels in sight. It is
so sociable to have them hovering about us on this broad waste of water.
It is sunny and pleasant, but blowing hard. Every rag about the ship is
spread to the breeze and she is speeding over the sea like a bird. There
is a large brig right astern of us with all her canvas set and chasing us
at her best. She came up fast while the winds were light, but now it is
hard to tell whether she gains or not. We can see the people on the
forecastle with the glass. The race is exciting. I am sorry to know
that we shall soon have to quit the vessel and go ashore if she keeps up
Friday, Aug. 10--We have breezes and calms alternately. The brig is two
miles to three astern, and just stays there. We sail directly east--this
brings the brig, with all her canvas set, almost in the eye of the sun,
when it sets--beautiful. She looks sharply cut and black as a coal,
against a background of fire and in the midst of a sea of blood.
San Francisco, Aug. 20.--We never saw the Comet again till the 13th, in
the morning, three miles away. At three o'clock that afternoon, 25 days
out from Honolulu, both ships entered the Golden Gate of San Francisco
side by side, and 300 yards apart. There was a gale blowing, and both
vessels clapped on every stitch of canvas and swept up through the
channel and past the fortresses at a magnificent gait.
I have been up to Sacramento and squared accounts with the Union. They
paid me a great deal more than they promised me.
LETTERS 1866-67. THE LECTURER. SUCCESS ON THE COAST. IN NEW YORK.
THE GREAT OCEAN EXCURSION
It was August 13th when he reached San Francisco and wrote in his
note-book, "Home again. No--not home again--in prison again, and
all the wild sense of freedom gone. City seems so cramped and so
dreary with toil and care and business anxieties. God help me, I
wish I were at sea again!"
The transition from the dreamland of a becalmed sailing-vessel to
the dull, cheerless realities of his old life, and the uncertainties
of his future, depressed him--filled him with forebodings. At one
moment he felt himself on the verge of suicide--the world seemed so
little worth while.
He wished to make a trip around the world, a project that required
money. He contemplated making a book of his island letters and
experiences, and the acceptance by Harper's Magazine of the revised
version of the Hornet Shipwreck story encouraged this thought.
Friends urged him to embody in a lecture the picturesque aspect of
Hawaiian life. The thought frightened him, but it also appealed to
him strongly. He believed he could entertain an audience, once he
got started on the right track. As Governor of the Third House at
Carson City he had kept the audience in hand. Men in whom he had
the utmost confidence insisted that he follow up the lecture idea
and engage the largest house in the city for his purpose. The
possibility of failure appalled him, but he finally agreed to the
In Roughing It, and elsewhere, has been told the story of this
venture--the tale of its splendid success. He was no longer
concerned, now, as to his immediate future. The lecture field was
profitable. His audience laughed and shouted. He was learning the
flavor of real success and exulting in it. With Dennis McCarthy,
formerly one of the partners in the Enterprise, as manager, he made
a tour of California and Nevada.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and others, in St. Louis:
VIRGINIA CITY, Nov. 1, 1866.
ALL THE FOLKS, AFFECTIONATE GREETING,--You know the flush time's are
past, and it has long been impossible to more than half fill the Theatre
here, with any sort of attraction, but they filled it for me, night
before last--full--dollar all over the house.
I was mighty dubious about Carson, but the enclosed call and some
telegrams set that all right--I lecture there tomorrow night.
They offer a full house and no expense in Dayton--go there next. Sandy
Baldwin says I have made the most sweeping success of any man he knows
I have lectured in San Francisco, Sacramento, Marysville, Grass Valley,
Nevada, You Bet, Red Dog and Virginia. I am going to talk in Carson,
Gold Hill, Silver City, Dayton, Washoe, San Francisco again, and again
here if I have time to re-hash the lecture.
Then I am bound for New York--lecture on the Steamer, maybe.
I'll leave toward 1st December--but I'll telegraph you.
Love to all.
His lecture tour continued from October until December, a period of
picturesque incident, the story of which has been recorded elsewhere.
--[See Mark Twain: A Biography, by the same author]--It paid him well;
he could go home now, without shame. Indeed, from his next letter, full
of the boyish elation which always to his last years was the complement
of his success, we gather that he is going home with special honors--
introductions from ministers and the like to distinguished personages of
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
SAN F., Dec. 4, 1866.
MY DEAR FOLKS,--I have written to Annie and Sammy and Katie some time
ago--also, to the balance of you.
I called on Rev. Dr. Wadsworth last night with the City College man,
but he wasn't at home. I was sorry, because I wanted to make his
acquaintance. I am thick as thieves with the Rev. Stebbings, and I am
laying for the Rev. Scudder and the Rev. Dr. Stone. I am running on
preachers, now, altogether. I find them gay. Stebbings is a regular
brick. I am taking letters of introduction to Henry Ward Beecher, Rev.
Dr. Tyng, and other eminent parsons in the east. Whenever anybody offers
me a letter to a preacher, now I snaffle it on the spot. I shall make
Rev. Dr. Bellows trot out the fast nags of the cloth for me when I get to
New York. Bellows is an able, upright and eloquent man--a man of
imperial intellect and matchless power--he is Christian in the truest
sense of the term and is unquestionably a brick....
Gen. Drum has arrived in Philadelphia and established his head-quarters
there, as Adjutant Genl. to Maj. Gen. Meade. Col. Leonard has received a
letter from him in which he offers me a complimentary benefit if I will
come there. I am much obliged, really, but I am afraid I shan't lecture
much in the States.
The China Mail Steamer is getting ready and everybody says I am throwing
away a fortune in not going in her. I firmly believe it myself.
I sail for the States in the Opposition steamer of the 5th inst.,
positively and without reserve. My room is already secured for me, and
is the choicest in the ship. I know all the officers.
We get no hint of his plans, and perhaps he had none. If his
purpose was to lecture in the East, he was in no hurry to begin.
Arriving in New York, after an adventurous voyage, he met a number
of old Californians--men who believed in him--and urged him to
lecture. He also received offers of newspaper engagements, and from
Charles Henry Webb, who had published the Californian, which Bret
Harte had edited, came the proposal to collect his published
sketches, including the jumping Frog story, in book form. Webb
himself was in New York, and offered the sketches to several
publishers, including Canton, who had once refused the Frog story by
omitting it from Artemus Ward's book. It seems curious that Canton
should make a second mistake and refuse it again, but publishers
were wary in those days, and even the newspaper success of the Frog
story did not tempt him to venture it as the title tale of a book.
Webb finally declared he would publish the book himself, and
Clemens, after a few weeks of New York, joined his mother and family
in St. Louis and gave himself up to a considerable period of
visiting, lecturing meantime in both Hannibal and Keokuk.
Fate had great matters in preparation for him. The Quaker City
Mediterranean excursion, the first great ocean picnic, was announced
that spring, and Mark Twain realized that it offered a possible
opportunity for him to see something of the world. He wrote at once
to the proprietors of the Alta-California and proposed that they
send him as their correspondent. To his delight his proposition was
accepted, the Alta agreeing to the twelve hundred dollars passage
money, and twenty dollars each for letters.
The Quaker City was not to sail until the 8th of June, but the Alta
wished some preliminary letters from New York. Furthermore, Webb
had the Frog book in press, and would issue it May 1st. Clemens,
therefore, returned to New York in April, and now once more being
urged by the Californians to lecture, he did not refuse. Frank
Fuller, formerly Governor of Utah, took the matter in hand and
engaged Cooper Union for the venture. He timed it for May 6th,
which would be a few days after the appearance of Webb's book.
Clemens was even more frightened at the prospect of this lecture
than he had been in San Francisco, and with more reason, for in New
York his friends were not many, and competition for public favor was
very great. There are two letters written May 1st, one to his
people, and one to Bret Harte, in San Francisco; that give us the
MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1867-1875
ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE
To Bret Harte, in San Francisco:
WESTMINSTER HOTEL, May 1, 1867.
DEAR BRET,--I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and hope
these few lines will find you enjoying the same God's blessing.
The book is out, and is handsome. It is full of damnable errors of
grammar and deadly inconsistencies of spelling in the Frog sketch because
I was away and did not read the proofs; but be a friend and say nothing
about these things. When my hurry is over, I will send you an autograph
copy to pisen the children with.
I am to lecture in Cooper Institute next Monday night. Pray for me.
We sail for the Holy Land June 8. Try to write me (to this hotel,) and
it will be forwarded to Paris, where we remain 10 or 15 days.
Regards and best wishes to Mrs. Bret and the family.
Truly Yr Friend
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
WESTMINSTER HOTEL, May 1, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--Don't expect me to write for a while. My hands are full of
business on account of my lecture for the 6th inst., and everything looks
shady, at least, if not dark. I have got a good agent--but now after we
have hired Cooper Institute and gone to an expense in one way or another
of $500, it comes out that I have got to play against Speaker Colfax at
Irving Hall, Ristori, and also the double troupe of Japanese jugglers,
the latter opening at the great Academy of Music--and with all this
against me I have taken the largest house in New York and cannot back
water. Let her slide! If nobody else cares I don't.
I'll send the book soon. I am awfully hurried now, but not worried.
The Cooper Union lecture proved a failure, and a success. When it became
evident to Fuller that the venture was not going to pay, he sent out a
flood of complimentaries to the school-teachers of New York City and the
surrounding districts. No one seems to have declined them. Clemens
lectured to a jammed house and acquired much reputation. Lecture
proposals came from several directions, but he could not accept them now.
He wrote home that he was eighteen Alta letters behind and had refused
everything. Thos. Nast, the cartoonist, then in his first fame, propped
a joint tour, Clemens to lecture while he, Nast, would illustrate with
"lightning" sketches; but even this could not be considered now. In a
little while he would sail, and the days were overfull. A letter written
a week before he sailed is full of the hurry and strain of these last
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
WESTMINSTER HOTEL, NEW YORK, June 1, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--I know I ought to write oftener (just got your last,) and
more fully, but I cannot overcome my repugnance to telling what I am
doing or what I expect to do or propose to do. Then, what have I left to
write about? Manifestly nothing.
It isn't any use for me to talk about the voyage, because I can have no
faith in that voyage till the ship is under way. How do I know she will
ever sail? My passage is paid, and if the ship sails, I sail in her--but
I make no calculations, have bought no cigars, no sea-going clothing
--have made no preparation whatever--shall not pack my trunk till the
morning we sail. Yet my hands are full of what I am going to do the day
before we sail--and what isn't done that day will go undone.
All I do know or feel, is, that I am wild with impatience to move--move
--move! Half a dozen times I have wished I had sailed long ago in some
ship that wasn't going to keep me chained here to chafe for lagging ages
while she got ready to go. Curse the endless delays! They always kill
me--they make me neglect every duty and then I have a conscience that
tears me like a wild beast. I wish I never had to stop anywhere a month.
I do more mean things, the moment I get a chance to fold my hands and sit
down than ever I can get forgiveness for.
Yes, we are to meet at Mr. Beach's next Thursday night, and I suppose we
shall have to be gotten up regardless of expense, in swallow-tails, white
kids and everything en regle.
I am resigned to Rev. Mr. Hutchinson's or anybody else's supervision.
I don't mind it. I am fixed. I have got a splendid, immoral, tobacco-
smoking, wine-drinking, godless room-mate who is as good and true and
right-minded a man as ever lived--a man whose blameless conduct and
example will always be an eloquent sermon to all who shall come within
their influence. But send on the professional preachers--there are none
I like better to converse with. If they're not narrow minded and bigoted
they make good companions.
I asked them to send the N. Y. Weekly to you--no charge. I am not going
to write for it. Like all other, papers that pay one splendidly it
circulates among stupid people and the 'canaille.' I have made no
arrangement with any New York paper--I will see about that Monday or
Love to all
The "immoral" room-mate whose conduct was to be an "eloquent
example" was Dan Slote, immortalized in the Innocents as "Dan"
--a favorite on the ship, and later beloved by countless readers.
There is one more letter, written the night before the Quaker City
sailed-a letter which in a sense marks the close of the first great
period of his life--the period of aimless wandering--adventure
Perhaps a paragraph of explanation should precede this letter.
Political changes had eliminated Orion in Nevada, and he was now
undertaking the practice of law. "Bill Stewart" was Senator
Stewart, of Nevada, of whom we shall hear again. The "Sandwich
Island book," as may be imagined, was made up of his letters to the
Sacramento Union. Nothing came of the venture, except some chapters
in 'Roughing It', rewritten from the material. "Zeb and John
Leavenworth" were pilots whom he had known on the river.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family in St. Louis:
NEW YORK, June 7th, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS, I suppose we shall be many a league at sea tomorrow night,
and goodness knows I shall be unspeakably glad of it.
I haven't got anything to write, else I would write it. I have just
written myself clear out in letters to the Alta, and I think they are the
stupidest letters that were ever written from New York. Corresponding
has been a perfect drag ever since I got to the states. If it continues
abroad, I don't know what the Tribune and Alta folks will think.
I have withdrawn the Sandwich Island book--it would be useless to publish
it in these dull publishing times. As for the Frog book, I don't believe
that will ever pay anything worth a cent. I published it simply to
advertise myself--not with the hope of making anything out of it.
Well, I haven't anything to write, except that I am tired of staying in
one place--that I am in a fever to get away. Read my Alta letters--they
contain everything I could possibly write to you. Tell Zeb and John
Leavenworth to write me. They can get plenty of gossip from the pilots.
An importing house sent two cases of exquisite champagne aboard the ship
for me today--Veuve Clicquot and Lac d'Or. I and my room-mate have set
apart every Saturday as a solemn fast day, wherein we will entertain no
light matters of frivolous conversation, but only get drunk. (That is a
joke.) His mother and sisters are the best and most homelike people I
have yet found in a brown stone front. There is no style about them,
except in house and furniture.
I wish Orion were going on this voyage, for I believe he could not help
but be cheerful and jolly. I often wonder if his law business is going
satisfactorily to him, but knowing that the dull season is setting in now
(it looked like it had already set in before) I have felt as if I could
almost answer the question myself--which is to say in plain words, I was
afraid to ask. I wish I had gone to Washington in the winter instead of
going West. I could have gouged an office out of Bill Stewart for him,
and that would atone for the loss of my home visit. But I am so
worthless that it seems to me I never do anything or accomplish anything
that lingers in my mind as a pleasant memory. My mind is stored full of
unworthy conduct toward Orion and towards you all, and an accusing
conscience gives me peace only in excitement and restless moving from
place to place. If I could say I had done one thing for any of you that
entitled me to your good opinion, (I say nothing of your love, for I am
sure of that, no matter how unworthy of it I may make myself, from Orion
down you have always given me that, all the days of my life, when God
Almighty knows I seldom deserve it,) I believe I could go home and stay
there and I know I would care little for the world's praise or blame.
There is no satisfaction in the world's praise anyhow, and it has no
worth to me save in the way of business. I tried to gather up its
compliments to send to you, but the work was distasteful and I dropped
You observe that under a cheerful exterior I have got a spirit that is
angry with me and gives me freely its contempt. I can get away from that
at sea, and be tranquil and satisfied-and so, with my parting love and
benediction for Orion and all of you, I say goodbye and God bless you
all--and welcome the wind that wafts a weary soul to the sunny lands of
LETTERS 1867. THE TRAVELER. THE VOYAGE OF THE "QUAKER CITY"
Mark Twain, now at sea, was writing many letters; not personal letters,
but those unique descriptive relations of travel which would make him his
first great fame--those fresh first impressions preserved to us now as
chapters of The Innocents Abroad. Yet here and there in the midst of
sight-seeing and reporting he found time to send a brief line to those at
home, merely that they might have a word from his own hand, for he had
ordered the papers to which he was to contribute--the Alta and the New
York Tribune--sent to them, and these would give the story of his
travels. The home letters read like notebook entries.
Letters to Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
FAYAL (Azores,) June 20th, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--We are having a lively time here, after a stormy trip. We
meant to go to San Miguel, but were driven here by stress of weather.
GIBRALTAR, June 30th, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--Arrived here this morning, and am clear worn out with
riding and climbing in and over and around this monstrous rock and its
fortifications. Summer climate and very pleasant.
TANGIER, MOROCCO, (AFRICA), July 1, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS, Half a dozen of us came here yesterday from Gibraltar and
some of the company took the other direction; went up through Spain, to
Paris by rail. We decided that Gibraltar and San Roque were all of Spain
that we wanted to see at present and are glad we came here among the
Africans, Moors, Arabs and Bedouins of the desert. I would not give this
experience for all the balance of the trip combined. This is the
infernalest hive of infernally costumed barbarians I have ever come
AT SEA, July 2, 1867.
DR. FOLKS,--We are far up the intensely blue and ravishingly beautiful
Mediterranean. And now we are just passing the island of Minorca. The
climate is perfectly lovely and it is hard to drive anybody to bed, day
or night. We remain up the whole night through occasionally, and by this
means enjoy the rare sensation of seeing the sun rise. But the sunsets
are soft, rich, warm and superb!
We had a ball last night under the awnings of the quarter deck, and the
share of it of three of us was masquerade. We had full, flowing,
picturesque Moorish costumes which we purchased in the bazaars of
MARSEILLES, FRANCE, July 5, 1867.
We are here. Start for Paris tomorrow. All well. Had gorgeous 4th of
July jollification yesterday at sea.
The reader may expand these sketchy outlines to his heart's content
by following the chapters in The Innocents Abroad, which is very
good history, less elaborated than might be supposed. But on the
other hand, the next letter adds something of interest to the book-
circumstances which a modest author would necessarily omit.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
YALTA, RUSSIA, Aug. 25, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--We have been representing the United States all we knew how
today. We went to Sebastopol, after we got tired of Constantinople (got
your letter there, and one at Naples,) and there the Commandant and the
whole town came aboard and were as jolly and sociable as old friends.
They said the Emperor of Russia was at Yalta, 30 miles or 40 away, and
urged us to go there with the ship and visit him--promised us a cordial
welcome. They insisted on sending a telegram to the Emperor, and also a
courier overland to announce our coming. But we knew that a great
English Excursion party, and also the Viceroy of Egypt, in his splendid
yacht, had been refused an audience within the last fortnight, so we
thought it not safe to try it. They said, no difference--the Emperor
would hardly visit our ship, because that would be a most extraordinary
favor, and one which he uniformly refuses to accord under any
circumstances, but he would certainly receive us at his palace. We still
declined. But we had to go to Odessa, 250 miles away, and there the
Governor General urged us, and sent a telegram to the Emperor, which we
hardly expected to be answered, but it was, and promptly. So we sailed
back to Yalta.
We all went to the palace at noon, today, (3 miles) in carriages and on
horses sent by the Emperor, and we had a jolly time. Instead of the
usual formal audience of 15 minutes, we staid 4 hours and were made a
good deal more at home than we could have been in a New York drawing-
room. The whole tribe turned out to receive our party-Emperor, Empress,
the oldest daughter (Grand-Duchess Marie, a pretty girl of 14,) a little
Grand Duke, her brother, and a platoon of Admirals, Princes, Peers of the
Empire, etc., and in a little while an aid-de-camp arrived with a request
from the Grand Duke Michael, the Emperor's brother, that we would visit
his palace and breakfast with him. The Emperor also invited us, on
behalf of his absent eldest son and heir (aged 22,) to visit his palace
and consider it a visit to him. They all talk English and they were all
very neatly but very plainly dressed. You all dress a good deal finer
than they were dressed. The Emperor and his family threw off all reserve
and showed us all over the palace themselves. It is very rich and very
elegant, but in no way gaudy.
I had been appointed chairman of a committee to draught an address to the
Emperor in behalf of the passengers, and as I fully expected, and as they
fully intended, I had to write the address myself. I didn't mind it,
because I have no modesty and would as soon write to an Emperor as to
anybody else--but considering that there were 5 on the committee I
thought they might have contributed one paragraph among them, anyway.
They wanted me to read it to him, too, but I declined that honor--not
because I hadn't cheek enough (and some to spare,) but because our Consul
at Odessa was along, and also the Secretary of our Legation at St.
Petersburgh, and of course one of those ought to read it. The Emperor
accepted the address--it was his business to do it--and so many others
have praised it warmly that I begin to imagine it must be a wonderful
sort of document and herewith send you the original draught of it to be
put into alcohol and preserved forever like a curious reptile.
They live right well at the Grand Duke Michael's their breakfasts are not
gorgeous but very excellent--and if Mike were to say the word I would go
there and breakfast with him tomorrow.
P. S. [Written across the face of the last page.] They had told us it
would be polite to invite the Emperor to visit the ship, though he would
not be likely to do it. But he didn't give us a chance--he has requested
permission to come on board with his family and all his relations
tomorrow and take a sail, in case it is calm weather. I can, entertain
them. My hand is in, now, and if you want any more Emperors feted in
style, trot them out.
The next letter is of interest in that it gives us the program and
volume of his work. With all the sight seeing he was averaging a
full four letters a week--long letters, requiring careful
observation and inquiry. How fresh and impressionable and full of
vigor he was, even in that fierce southern heat! No one makes the
Mediterranean trip in summer to-day, and the thought of adding
constant letter-writing to steady travel through southern France,
Italy, Greece, and Turkey in blazing midsummer is stupefying. And
Syria and Egypt in September!
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
CONSTANTINOPLE, Sept. 1, '67.
DEAR FOLKS,--All well. Do the Alta's come regularly? I wish I knew
whether my letters reach them or not. Look over the back papers and see.
I wrote them as follows:
1 Letter from Fayal, in the Azores Islands.
1 from Gibraltar, in Spain.
1 from Tangier, in Africa.
2 from Paris and Marseilles, in France.
1 from Genoa, in Italy.
1 from Milan.
1 from Lake Como.
1 from some little place in Switzerland--have forgotten the name.
4 concerning Lecce, Bergamo, Padua, Verona, Battlefield of Marengo,
Pestachio, and some other cities in Northern Italy.
2 from Venice.
1 about Bologna.
1 from Florence.
1 from Pisa.
1 from Leghorn.
1 from Rome and Civita Vecchia.
2 from Naples.
1 about Pazzuoli, where St. Paul landed, the Baths of Nero, and the
ruins of Baia, Virgil's tomb, the Elysian Fields, the Sunken Cities and
the spot where Ulysses landed.
1 from Herculaneum and Vesuvius.
1 from Pompeii.
1 from the Island of Ischia.
1 concerning the Volcano of Stromboli, the city and Straits of
Messina, the land of Sicily, Scylla and Charybdis etc.
1 about the Grecian Archipelago.
1 about a midnight visit to Athens, the Piraeus and the ruins of the
1 about the Hellespont, the site of ancient Troy, the Sea of
2 about Constantinople, the Golden Horn and the beauties of the
1 from Odessa and Sebastopol in Russia, the Black Sea, etc.
2 from Yalta, Russia, concerning a visit to the Czar.
And yesterday I wrote another letter from Constantinople and
1 today about its neighbor in Asia, Scatter. I am not done with
Turkey yet. Shall write 2 or 3 more.
I have written to the New York Herald 2 letters from Naples, (no name
signed,) and 1 from Constantinople.
To the New York Tribune I have written
1 from Fayal.
1 from Civita Vecchia in the Roman States.
2 from Yalta, Russia.
And 1 from Constantinople.
I have never seen any of these letters in print except the one to the
Tribune from Fayal and that was not worth printing.
We sail hence tomorrow, perhaps, and my next letters will be mailed at
Smyrna, in Syria. I hope to write from the Sea of Tiberius, Damascus,
Jerusalem, Joppa, and possibly other points in the Holy Land. The
letters from Egypt, the Nile and Algiers I will look out for, myself.
I will bring them in my pocket.
They take the finest photographs in the world here. I have ordered some.
They will be sent to Alexandria, Egypt.
You cannot conceive of anything so beautiful as Constantinople, viewed
from the Golden Horn or the Bosphorus. I think it must be the handsomest
city in the world. I will go on deck and look at it for you, directly.
I am staying in the ship, tonight. I generally stay on shore when we are
in port. But yesterday I just ran myself down. Dan Slote, my room-mate,
is on shore. He remained here while we went up the Black Sea, but it
seems he has not got enough of it yet. I thought Dan had got the state-
room pretty full of rubbish at last, but a while ago his dragoman arrived
with a bran new, ghastly tomb-stone of the Oriental pattern, with his
name handsomely carved and gilded on it, in Turkish characters. That
fellow will buy a Circassian slave, next.
I am tired. We are going on a trip, tomorrow. I must to bed. Love to
U. S. CONSUL'S OFFICE, BEIRUT, SYRIA, Sept. 11. (1867)
DEAR FOLKS,--We are here, eight of us, making a contract with a dragoman
to take us to Baalbek, then to Damascus, Nazareth, &c. then to Lake
Genassareth (Sea of Tiberias,) then South through all the celebrated
Scriptural localities to Jerusalem--then to the Dead Sea, the Cave of
Macpelah and up to Joppa where the ship will be. We shall be in the
saddle three weeks--we have horses, tents, provisions, arms, a dragoman
and two other servants, and we pay five dollars a day apiece, in gold.
Love to all, yrs.
We leave tonight, at two o'clock in the morning.
There appear to be no further home letters written from Syria--and
none from Egypt. Perhaps with the desert and the delta the heat at
last became too fearful for anything beyond the actual requirements
of the day. When he began his next it was October, and the fiercer
travel was behind him.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
CAGHARI, SARDINIA, Oct, 12, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--We have just dropped anchor before this handsome city and--
ALGIERS, AFRICA, Oct. 15.
They would not let us land at Caghari on account of cholera. Nothing to
MALAGA, SPAIN, Oct. 17.
The Captain and I are ashore here under guard, waiting to know whether
they will let the ship anchor or not. Quarantine regulations are very
strict here on all vessels coming from Egypt. I am a little anxious
because I want to go inland to Granada and see the Alhambra. I can go on
down by Seville and Cordova, and be picked up at Cadiz.
Later: We cannot anchor--must go on. We shall be at Gibraltar before
midnight and I think I will go horseback (a long days) and thence by rail
and diligence to Cadiz. I will not mail this till I see the Gibraltar
lights--I begin to think they won't let us in anywhere.
11.30 P. M.--Gibraltar.
At anchor and all right, but they won't let us land till morning--it is a
waste of valuable time. We shall reach New York middle of November.
CADIZ, Oct 24, 1867.
DEAR FOLKS,--We left Gibraltar at noon and rode to Algeciras, (4 hours)
thus dodging the quarantine, took dinner and then rode horseback all
night in a swinging trot and at daylight took a caleche (a wheeled
vehicle) and rode 5 hours--then took cars and traveled till twelve at
night. That landed us at Seville and we were over the hard part of our
trip, and somewhat tired. Since then we have taken things comparatively
easy, drifting around from one town to another and attracting a good deal
of attention, for I guess strangers do not wander through Andalusia and
the other Southern provinces of Spain often. The country is precisely as
it was when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were possible characters.
But I see now what the glory of Spain must have been when it was under
Moorish domination. No, I will not say that, but then when one is
carried away, infatuated, entranced, with the wonders of the Alhambra and
the supernatural beauty of the Alcazar, he is apt to overflow with
admiration for the splendid intellects that created them.
I cannot write now. I am only dropping a line to let you know I am well.
The ship will call for us here tomorrow. We may stop at Lisbon, and
shall at the Bermudas, and will arrive in New York ten days after this
letter gets there.
This is the last personal letter written during that famous first
sea-gipsying, and reading it our regret grows that he did not put
something of his Spanish excursion into his book. He never returned
to Spain, and he never wrote of it. Only the barest mention of
"seven beautiful days" is found in The Innocents Abroad.
LETTERS 1867-68. WASHINGTON AND SAN FRANCISCO. THE PROPOSED BOOK OF
TRAVEL. A NEW LECTURE
From Mark Twain's home letters we get several important side-lights
on this first famous book. We learn, for in stance, that it was he
who drafted the ship address to the Emperor--the opening lines of
which became so wearisome when repeated by the sailors.
Furthermore, we learn something of the scope and extent of his
newspaper correspondence, which must have kept him furiously busy,
done as it was in the midst of super-heated and continuous sight-
seeing. He wrote fifty three letters to the Alta-California, six to
the New York Tribune, and at least two to the New York Herald more
than sixty, all told, of an average, length of three to four
thousand words each. Mark Twain always claimed to be a lazy man, and
certainly he was likely to avoid an undertaking not suited to his
gifts, but he had energy in abundance for work in his chosen field.
To have piled up a correspondence of that size in the time, and
under the circumstances already noted, quality considered, may be
counted a record in the history of travel letters.
They made him famous. Arriving in New York, November 19, 1867, Mark
Twain found himself no longer unknown to the metropolis, or to any
portion of America. Papers East and West had copied his Alta and
Tribune letters and carried his name into every corner of the States
and Territories. He had preached a new gospel in travel literature,
the gospel of frankness and sincerity that Americans could
understand. Also his literary powers had awakened at last. His
work was no longer trivial, crude, and showy; it was full of
dignity, beauty, and power; his humor was finer, worthier. The
difference in quality between the Quaker City letters and those
written from the Sandwich Islands only a year before can scarcely be
He did not remain in New York, but went down to Washington, where he
had arranged for a private secretaryship with Senator William M.
Stewart,--[The "Bill" Stewart mentioned in the preceding chapter.]
whom he had known in Nevada. Such a position he believed would make
but little demand upon his time, and would afford him an insight
into Washington life, which he could make valuable in the shape of
But fate had other plans for him. He presently received the
From Elisha Bliss, Jr., in Hartford
OFFICE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHING COMPANY.
HARTFORD, CONN, Nov 21, 1867.
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS Esq.
Tribune Office, New York.
DR. SIR,--We take the liberty to address you this, in place of a letter
which we had recently written and was about to forward to you, not
knowing your arrival home was expected so soon. We are desirous of
obtaining from you a work of some kind, perhaps compiled from your
letters from the East, &c., with such interesting additions as may be
proper. We are the publishers of A. D. Richardson's works, and flatter
ourselves that we can give an author as favorable terms and do as full
justice to his productions as any other house in the country. We are
perhaps the oldest subscription house in the country, and have never
failed to give a book an immense circulation. We sold about 100,000
copies of Richardson's F. D. & E. (Field, Dungeon and Escape) and are
now printing 41,000, of "Beyond the Mississippi," and large orders ahead.
If you have any thought of writing a book, or could be induced to do so,
we should be pleased to see you; and will do so. Will you do us the
favor to reply at once, at your earliest convenience.
Very truly, &c.,
E. BLISS, Jr.
Clemens had already the idea of a book in mind and. welcomed this
To Elisha Bliss, Jr., in Hartford:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 1867.
E. BLISS, Jr. Esq.
Sec'y American Publishing Co.--
DEAR SIR,--I only received your favor of Nov. 21st last night, at the
rooms of the Tribune Bureau here. It was forwarded from the Tribune
office, New York, where it had lain eight or ten days. This will be
a sufficient apology for the seeming discourtesy of my silence.
I wrote fifty-two (three) letters for the San Francisco "Alta California"
during the Quaker City excursion, about half of which number have been
printed, thus far. The "Alta" has few exchanges in the East, and I
suppose scarcely any of these letters have been copied on this side of
the Rocky Mountains. I could weed them of their chief faults of
construction and inelegancies of expression and make a volume that would
be more acceptable in many respects than any I could now write. When
those letters were written my impressions were fresh, but now they have
lost that freshness; they were warm then--they are cold, now. I could
strike out certain letters, and write new ones wherewith to supply their
places. If you think such a book would suit your purpose, please drop me
a line, specifying the size and general style of the volume; when the
matter ought to be ready; whether it should have pictures in it or not;
and particularly what your terms with me would be, and what amount of
money I might possibly make out of it. The latter clause has a degree of
importance for me which is almost beyond my own comprehension. But you
understand that, of course.
I have other propositions for a book, but have doubted the propriety of
interfering with good newspaper engagements, except my way as an author
could be demonstrated to be plain before me. But I know Richardson, and
learned from him some months ago, something of an idea of the
subscription plan of publishing. If that is your plan invariably, it
I am on the N. Y. Tribune staff here as an "occasional,", among other
things, and a note from you addressed to
Very truly &c.
SAM L. CLEMENS,
New York Tribune Bureau, Washington, will find me, without fail.
The exchange of these two letters marked the beginning of one of the
most notable publishing connections in American literary history.
The book, however, was not begun immediately. Bliss was in poor
health and final arrangements were delayed; it was not until late in
January that Clemens went to Hartford and concluded the arrangement.
Meantime, fate had disclosed another matter of even greater
importance; we get the first hint of it in the following letter,
though to him its beginning had been earlier--on a day in the blue
harbor of Smyrna, when young Charles Langdon, a fellow-passenger on
the Quaker City, had shown to Mark Twain a miniature of young
Langdon's sister at home:
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
224 F. STREET, WASH, Jan. 8, 1868.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--And so the old Major has been there, has he?
I would like mighty well to see him. I was a sort of benefactor to him
once. I helped to snatch him out when he was about to ride into a
Mohammedan Mosque in that queer old Moorish town of Tangier, in Africa.
If he had got in, the Moors would have knocked his venerable old head
off, for his temerity.
I have just arrived from New York-been there ever since Christmas staying
at the house of Dan Slote my Quaker City room-mate, and having a splendid
time. Charley Langdon, Jack Van Nostrand, Dan and I, (all Quaker City
night-hawks,) had a blow-out at Dan's' house and a lively talk over old
times. We went through the Holy Land together, and I just laughed till
my sides ached, at some of our reminiscences. It was the unholiest gang
that ever cavorted through Palestine, but those are the best boys in the
world. We needed Moulton badly. I started to make calls, New Year's
Day, but I anchored for the day at the first house I came to--Charlie
Langdon's sister was there (beautiful girl,) and Miss Alice Hooker,
another beautiful girl, a niece of Henry Ward Beecher's. We sent the old
folks home early, with instructions not to send the carriage till
midnight, and then I just staid there and worried the life out of those
girls. I am going to spend a few days with the Langdon's in Elmira, New
York, as soon as I get time, and a few days at Mrs. Hooker's in Hartford,
Henry Ward Beecher sent for me last Sunday to come over and dine (he
lives in Brooklyn, you know,) and I went. Harriet Beecher Stowe was
there, and Mrs. and Miss Beecher, Mrs. Hooker and my old Quaker City
favorite, Emma Beach.
We had a very gay time, if it was Sunday. I expect I told more lies than
I have told before in a month.
I went back by invitation, after the evening service, and finished the
blow-out, and then staid all night at Mr. Beach's. Henry Ward is a
I found out at 10 o'clock, last night, that I was to lecture tomorrow
evening and so you must be aware that I have been working like sin all
night to get a lecture written. I have finished it, I call it "Frozen
Truth." It is a little top-heavy, though, because there is more truth in
the title than there is in the lecture.
But thunder, I mustn't sit here writing all day, with so much business
Good by, and kind regards to all.
SAM L. CLEMENS.
Jack Van Nostrand of this letter is "Jack" of the Innocents. Emma
Beach was the daughter of Moses S. Beach, of the 'New York Sun.'
Later she became the wife of the well-known painter, Abbot H.
We do not hear of Miss Langdon again in the letters of that time,
but it was not because she was absent from his thoughts. He had
first seen her with her father and brother at the old St. Nicholas
Hotel, on lower Broadway, where, soon after the arrival of the
Quaker City in New York, he had been invited to dine. Long
afterward he said: "It is forty years ago; from that day to this she
has never been out of my mind."
From his next letter we learn of the lecture which apparently was
delivered in Washington.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
WASH. Jan. 9, 1868.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--That infernal lecture is over, thank Heaven!
It came near being a villainous failure. It was not advertised at all.
The manager was taken sick yesterday, and the man who was sent to tell
me, never got to me till afternoon today. There was the dickens to pay.
It was too late to do anything--too late to stop the lecture. I scared
up a door-keeper, and was ready at the proper time, and by pure good luck
a tolerably good house assembled and I was saved! I hardly knew what I
was going to talk about, but it went off in splendid style. I was to
have preached again Saturday night, but I won't--I can't get along
without a manager.
I have been in New York ever since Christmas, you know, and now I shall
have to work like sin to catch up my correspondence.
And I have got to get up that book, too. Cut my letters out of the
Alta's and send them to me in an envelop. Some, here, that are not
mailed yet, I shall have to copy, I suppose.
I have got a thousand things to do, and am not doing any of them. I feel
On the whole, matters were going well with him. His next letter is
full of his success--overflowing with the boyish radiance which he
never quite outgrew.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
HARTFORD, CONN. Jan. 24-68.
DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--This is a good week for me. I stopped in the
Herald office as I came through New York, to see the boys on the staff,
and young James Gordon Bennett asked me to write twice a week,
impersonally, for the Herald, and said if I would I might have full
swing, and (write) about anybody and everybody I wanted to. I said I
must have the very fullest possible swing, and he said "all right."
I said "It's a contract--" and that settled that matter.
I'll make it a point to write one letter a week, any-how.
But the best thing that has happened was here. This great American
Publishing Company kept on trying to bargain with me for a book till I
thought I would cut the matter short by coming up for a talk. I met Rev.
Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, and with his usual whole-souled way of
dropping his own work to give other people a lift when he gets a chance,
he said, "Now, here, you are one of the talented men of the age--nobody
is going to deny that---but in matters of business, I don't suppose you
know more than enough to came in when it rains. I'll tell you what to
do, and how to do it." And he did.
And I listened well, and then came up here and made a splendid contract
for a Quaker City book of 5 or 600 large pages, with illustrations, the
manuscript to be placed in the publishers' hands by the middle of July.
My percentage is to be a fifth more than they have ever paid any author,
except Horace Greeley. Beecher will be surprised, I guess, when he hears
But I had my mind made up to one thing--I wasn't going to touch a book
unless there was money in it, and a good deal of it. I told them so.
I had the misfortune to "bust out" one author of standing. They had his
manuscript, with the understanding that they would publish his book if
they could not get a book from me, (they only publish two books at a
time, and so my book and Richardson's Life of Grant will fill the bill
for next fall and winter)--so that manuscript was sent back to its author
These publishers get off the most tremendous editions of their books you
can imagine. I shall write to the Enterprise and Alta every week,
as usual, I guess, and to the Herald twice a week--occasionally to the
Tribune and the Magazines (I have a stupid article in the Galaxy, just
issued) but I am not going to write to this, that and the other paper any
The Chicago Tribune wants letters, but I hope and pray I have charged
them so much that they will not close the contract. I am gradually
getting out of debt, but these trips to New York do cost like sin.
I hope you have cut out and forwarded my printed letters to Washington
--please continue to do so as they arrive.
I have had a tip-top time, here, for a few days (guest of Mr. Jno.
Hooker's family--Beecher's relatives-in a general way of Mr. Bliss, also,
who is head of the publishing firm.) Puritans are mighty straight-laced
and they won't let me smoke in the parlor, but the Almighty don't make
any better people.
Love to all-good-bye. I shall be in New York 3 days--then go on to the
Yrs affly, especially Ma.,
I have to make a speech at the annual Herald dinner on the 6th of May.
No formal contract for the book had been made when this letter was
written. A verbal agreement between Bliss and Clemens had been
reached, to be ratified by an exchange of letters in the near
future. Bliss had made two propositions, viz., ten thousand
dollars, cash in hand, or a 5-per-cent. royalty on the selling price
of the book. The cash sum offered looked very large to Mark Twain,
and he was sorely tempted to accept it. He had faith, however, in
the book, and in Bliss's ability to sell it. He agreed, therefore,
to the royalty proposition; "The best business judgment I ever
displayed" he often declared in after years. Five per cent.
royalty sounds rather small in these days of more liberal contracts.
But the American Publishing Company sold its books only by
subscription, and the agents' commissions and delivery expenses ate
heavily into the profits. Clemens was probably correct in saying
that his percentage was larger than had been paid to any previous
author except Horace Greeley. The John Hooker mentioned was the
husband of Henry Ward Beecher's sister, Isabel. It was easy to
understand the Beecher family's robust appreciation of Mark Twain.
From the office of Dan Slote, his room-mate of the Quaker City--
"Dan" of the Innocents--Clemens wrote his letter that closed the
agreement with Bliss.
To Elisha Bliss, Jr., in Hartford:
Office of SLOTE & WOODMAN, Blank Book Manufacturers,
Nos. 119-121 William St.
NEW YORK, January 27, 1868.
Mr. E. Bliss, Jr.
Sec'y American Publishing Co.
DEAR SIR, Your favor of Jan. 25th is received, and in reply, I will say
that I accede to your several propositions, viz: That I furnish to the
American Publishing Company, through you, with MSS sufficient for a
volume of 500 to 600 pages, the subject to be the Quaker City, the
voyage, description of places, &c., and also embodying the substance of
the letters written by me during that trip, said MSS to be ready about
the first of August, next, I to give all the usual and necessary
attention in preparing said MSS for the press, and in preparation of
illustrations, in correction of proofs--no use to be made by me of the
material for this work in any way which will conflict with its interest
--the book to be sold by the American Publishing Co., by subscription--
and for said MS and labor on my part said Company to pay me a copyright
of 5 percent, upon the subscription price of the book for all copies
As further proposed by you, this understanding, herein set forth shall be
considered a binding contract upon all parties concerned, all minor
details to be arranged between us hereafter.
Very truly yours,
SAM. L. CLEMENS.
(Private and General.)
I was to have gone to Washington tonight, but have held over a day, to
attend a dinner given by a lot of newspaper Editors and literary
scalliwags, at the Westminster Hotel. Shall go down to-morrow, if I
survive the banquet.
Mark Twain, in Washington, was in line for political preferment: His
wide acquaintance on the Pacific slope, his new fame and growing
popularity, his powerful and dreaded pen, all gave him special
distinction at the capital. From time to time the offer of one
office or another tempted him, but he wisely, or luckily, resisted.
In his letters home are presented some of his problems.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
224 F. STREET WASHINGTON Feb. 6, 1868.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--For two months there have been some fifty
applications before the government for the postmastership of San
Francisco, which is the heaviest concentration of political power on the
coast and consequently is a post which is much coveted.,
When I found that a personal friend of mine, the Chief Editor of the Alta
was an applicant I said I didn't want it--I would not take $10,000 a year
out of a friend's pocket.
The two months have passed, I heard day before yesterday that a new and
almost unknown candidate had suddenly turned up on the inside track, and
was to be appointed at once. I didn't like that, and went after his case
in a fine passion. I hunted up all our Senators and representatives and
found that his name was actually to come from the President early in the
Then Judge Field said if I wanted the place he could pledge me the
President's appointment--and Senator Conness said he would guarantee me
the Senate's confirmation. It was a great temptation, but it would
render it impossible to fill my book contract, and I had to drop the
I have to spend August and September in Hartford which isn't San
Francisco. Mr. Conness offers me any choice out of five influential
California offices. Now, some day or other I shall want an office and
then, just my luck, I can't get it, I suppose.
They want to send me abroad, as a Consul or a Minister. I said I didn't
want any of the pie. God knows I am mean enough and lazy enough, now,
without being a foreign consul.
Sometime in the course of the present century I think they will create a
Commissioner of Patents, and then I hope to get a berth for Orion.
I published 6 or 7 letters in the Tribune while I was gone, now I cannot
get them. I suppose I must have them copied.
Love to all
Orion Clemens was once more a candidate for office: Nevada had become a
State; with regularly elected officials, and Orion had somehow missed
being chosen. His day of authority had passed, and the law having failed
to support him, he was again back at his old occupation, setting type in
St. Louis. He was, as ever, full of dreams and inventions that would
some day lead to fortune. With the gift of the Sellers imagination,
inherited by all the family, he lacked the driving power which means
achievement. More and more as the years went by he would lean upon his
brother for moral and physical support. The chances for him in
Washington do not appear to have been bright. The political situation
under Andrew Johnson was not a happy one.
To Orion Clemens, in St. Louis:
224 F. STREET, WASH., Feb. 21. (1868)
MY DEAR BRO.,--I am glad you do not want the clerkship, for that Patent
Office is in such a muddle that there would be no security for the
permanency of a place in it. The same remark will apply to all offices
here, now, and no doubt will, till the close of the present
Any man who holds a place here, now, stands prepared at all times to
vacate it. You are doing, now, exactly what I wanted you to do a year
We chase phantoms half the days of our lives.
It is well if we learn wisdom even then, and save the other half.
I am in for it. I must go on chasing them until I marry--then I am done
with literature and all other bosh,--that is, literature wherewith to
please the general public.
I shall write to please myself, then. I hope you will set type till you
complete that invention, for surely government pap must be nauseating
food for a man--a man whom God has enabled to saw wood and be
independent. It really seemed to me a falling from grace, the idea of
going back to San Francisco nothing better than a mere postmaster, albeit
the public would have thought I came with gilded honors, and in great
I only retain correspondence enough, now, to make a living for myself,
and have discarded all else, so that I may have time to spare for the
book. Drat the thing, I wish it were done, or that I had no other
writing to do.
This is the place to get a poor opinion of everybody in. There isn't one
man in Washington, in civil office, who has the brains of Anson
Burlingame--and I suppose if China had not seized and saved his great
talents to the world, this government would have discarded him when his
time was up.
There are more pitiful intellects in this Congress! Oh, geeminy! There
are few of them that I find pleasant enough company to visit.
I am most infernally tired of Wash. and its "attractions." To be busy
is a man's only happiness--and I am--otherwise I should die
The secretarial position with Senator Stewart was short-lived. One
cannot imagine Mark Twain as anybody's secretary, and doubtless
there was little to be gained on either side by the arrangement.
They parted without friction, though in later years, when Stewart
had become old and irascible, he used to recount a list of
grievances and declare that he had been obliged to threaten violence
in order to bring Mark to terms; but this was because the author of
Roughing It had in that book taken liberties with the Senator, to
the extent of an anecdote and portrait which, though certainly
harmless enough, had for some reason given deep offense.
Mark Twain really had no time for secretary work. For one thing he
was associated with John Swinton in supplying a Washington letter to
a list of newspapers, and then he was busy collecting his Quaker
City letters, and preparing the copy for his book. Matters were
going well enough, when trouble developed from an unexpected
quarter. The Alta-California had copyrighted the letters and
proposed to issue them in book form. There had been no contract
which would prevent this, and the correspondence which Clemens
undertook with the Alta management led to nothing. He knew that he
had powerful friends among the owners, if he could reach them
personally, and he presently concluded to return to San Francisco,
make what arrangement he could, and finish his book there. It was
his fashion to be prompt; in his next letter we find him already on
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
AT SEA, Sunday, March 15, Lat. 25. (1868)
DEAR FOLKS,--I have nothing to write, except that I am well--that the
weather is fearfully hot-that the Henry Chauncey is a magnificent ship--
that we have twelve hundred, passengers on board-that I have two
staterooms, and so am not crowded--that I have many pleasant friends
here, and the people are not so stupid as on the Quaker City--that we had
Divine Service in the main saloon at 10.30 this morning--that we expect
to meet the upward bound vessel in Latitude 23, and this is why I am
We shall reach Aspinwall Thursday morning at 6 o'clock, and San Francisco
less than two weeks later. I worry a great deal about being obliged to
go without seeing you all, but it could not be helped.
Dan Slote, my splendid room-mate in the Quaker City and the noblest man
on earth, will call to see you within a month. Make him dine with you
and spend the evening. His house is my home always in. New York.
The San Francisco trip proved successful. Once on the ground Clemens had
little difficulty in convincing the Alta publishers that they had
received full value in the newspaper use of the letters, and that the
book rights remained with the author. A letter to Bliss conveys the
To Elisha Bliss, Jr., in Hartford:
SAN FRANCISCO, May 5, '68.
E. BLISS, Jr. Esq.
Dr. SIR,--The Alta people, after some hesitation, have given me
permission to use my printed letters, and have ceased to think of
publishing them themselves in book form. I am steadily at work, and
shall start East with the completed Manuscript, about the middle of June.
I lectured here, on the trip, the other night-over sixteen hundred
dollars in gold in the house--every seat taken and paid for before night.
But he did not sail in June. His friends persuaded him to cover his
lecture circuit of two years before, telling the story of his
travels. This he did with considerable profit, being everywhere
received with great honors. He ended this tour with a second
lecture in San Francisco, announced in a droll and characteristic
fashion which delighted his Pacific admirers, and insured him a
crowded house.--[See Mark Twain: A Biography, chap xlvi, and
His agreement had been to deliver his MS. about August 1st.
Returning by the Chauncey, July 28th, he was two days later in
Hartford, and had placid the copy for the new book in Bliss's hands.
It was by no means a compilation of his newspaper letters. His
literary vision was steadily broadening. All of the letters had
been radically edited, some had been rewritten, some entirely
eliminated. He probably thought very well of the book, an opinion
shared by Bliss, but it is unlikely that either of them realized
that it was to become a permanent classic, and the best selling book
of travel for at least fifty years.
LETTERS 1868-70. COURTSHIP, AND "THE INNOCENTS ABROAD"
The story of Mark Twain's courtship has been fully told in the
completer story of his life; it need only be briefly sketched here
as a setting for the letters of this period. In his letter of
January 8th we note that he expects to go to Elmira for a few days
as soon as he has time.
But he did not have time, or perhaps did not receive a pressing
invitation until he had returned with his MS. from California.
Then, through young Charles Langdon, his Quaker City shipmate, he
was invited to Elmira. The invitation was given for a week, but
through a subterfuge--unpremeditated, and certainly fair enough in
a matter of love-he was enabled to considerably prolong his visit.
By the end of his stay he had become really "like one of the
family," though certainly not yet accepted as such. The fragmentary
letter that follows reflects something of his pleasant situation.
The Mrs. Fairbanks mentioned in this letter had been something more
than a "shipmother" to Mark Twain. She was a woman of fine literary
taste, and Quaker City correspondent for her husband's paper, the
Cleveland Herald. She had given Mark Twain sound advice as to his
letters, which he had usually read to her, and had in no small
degree modified his early natural tendency to exaggeration and
outlandish humor. He owed her much, and never failed to pay her
Part of a letter to Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
ELMIRA, N.Y. Aug. 26, 1868.
DEAR FOLKS,--You see I am progressing--though slowly. I shall be here
a week yet maybe two--for Charlie Langdon cannot get away until his
father's chief business man returns from a journey--and a visit to Mrs.
Fairbanks, at Cleveland, would lose half its pleasure if Charlie were not
along. Moulton of St. Louis ought to be there too. We three were Mrs.
F's "cubs," in the Quaker City. She took good care that we were at
church regularly on Sundays; at the 8-bells prayer meeting every night;
and she kept our buttons sewed on and our clothing in order--and in a
word was as busy and considerate, and as watchful over her family of
uncouth and unruly cubs, and as patient and as long-suffering, withal, as
a natural mother. So we expect.....
Didn't finish yesterday. Something called me away. I am most
comfortably situated here. This is the pleasantest family I ever knew.
I only have one trouble, and that is they give me too much thought and
too much time and invention to the object of making my visit pass
delightfully. It needs----
Just how and when he left the Langdon home the letters do not
record. Early that fall he began a lecture engagement with James
Redpath, proprietor of the Boston Lyceum Bureau, and his engagements
were often within reach of Elmira. He had a standing invitation now
to the Langdon home, and the end of the week often found him there.
Yet when at last he proposed for the hand of Livy Langdon the
acceptance was by no means prompt. He was a favorite in the Langdon
household, but his suitability as a husband for the frail and gentle
daughter was questioned.
However, he was carrying everything, just then, by storm. The
largest houses everywhere were crowded to hear him. Papers spoke of
him as the coming man of the age, people came to their doors to see
him pass. There is but one letter of this period, but it gives us
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
CLEVELAND, Nov. 20, 1868.
DEAR FOLKS,--I played against the Eastern favorite, Fanny Kemble, in
Pittsburgh, last night. She had 200 in her house, and I had upwards of
1,500. All the seats were sold (in a driving rain storm, 3 days ago,)
as reserved seats at 25 cents extra, even those in the second and third
tiers--and when the last seat was gone the box office had not been open
more than 2 hours. When I reached the theatre they were turning people
away and the house was crammed, 150 or 200 stood up, all the evening.
I go to Elmira tonight. I am simply lecturing for societies, at $100 a
It would be difficult for any family to refuse relationship with one
whose star was so clearly ascending, especially when every
inclination was in his favor, and the young lady herself encouraged
his suit. A provisional engagement was presently made, but it was
not finally ratified until February of the following year. Then in
a letter from one of his lecture points he tells his people
something of his happiness.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
LOCKPORT, N. Y. Feb. 27, 1868.
DEAR FOLKS,--I enclose $20 for Ma. I thought I was getting ahead of her
little assessments of $35 a month, but find I am falling behind with her
instead, and have let her go without money. Well, I did not mean to do
it. But you see when people have been getting ready for months in a
quiet way to get married, they are bound to grow stingy, and go to saving
up money against that awful day when it is sure to be needed. I am
particularly anxious to place myself in a position where I can carry on
my married life in good shape on my own hook, because I have paddled my
own canoe so long that I could not be satisfied now to let anybody help
me--and my proposed father-in-law is naturally so liberal that it would
be just like him to want to give us a start in life. But I don't want it
that way. I can start myself. I don't want any help. I can run this
institution without any outside assistance, and I shall have a wife who
will stand by me like a soldier through thick and thin, and never
complain. She is only a little body, but she hasn't her peer in
Christendom. I gave her only a plain gold engagement ring, when fashion
imperatively demands a two-hundred dollar diamond one, and told her it
was typical of her future lot--namely, that she would have to flourish on
substantials rather than luxuries. (But you see I know the girl--she
don't care anything about luxuries.) She is a splendid girl. She spends
no money but her usual year's allowance, and she spends nearly every cent
of that on other people. She will be a good sensible little wife,
without any airs about her. I don't make intercession for her beforehand
and ask you to love her, for there isn't any use in that--you couldn't
help it if you were to try.
I warn you that whoever comes within the fatal influence of her beautiful
nature is her willing slave for evermore. I take my affidavit on that
statement. Her father and mother and brother embrace and pet her
constantly, precisely as if she were a sweetheart, instead of a blood
relation. She has unlimited power over her father, and yet she never
uses it except to make him help people who stand in need of help....
But if I get fairly started on the subject of my bride, I never shall get
through--and so I will quit right here. I went to Elmira a little over a
week ago, and staid four days and then had to go to New York on business.
No further letters have been preserved until June, when he is in
Elmira and with his fiancee reading final proofs on the new book.
They were having an idyllic good time, of course, but it was a
useful time, too, for Olivia Langdon had a keen and refined literary
instinct, and the Innocents Abroad, as well as Mark Twain's other
books, are better to-day for her influence.
It has been stated that Mark Twain loved the lecture platform, but
from his letters we see that even at this early date, when he was at
the height of his first great vogue as a public entertainer, he had
no love for platform life. Undoubtedly he rejoiced in the brief
periods when he was actually before his audience and could play upon
it with his master touch, but the dreary intermissions of travel and
broken sleep were too heavy a price to pay.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis
ELMIRA, June 4. (1868)
DEAR FOLKS,--Livy sends you her love and loving good wishes, and I send
you mine. The last 3 chapters of the book came tonight--we shall read it
in the morning and then thank goodness, we are done.
In twelve months (or rather I believe it is fourteen,) I have earned just
eighty dollars by my pen--two little magazine squibs and one newspaper
letter--altogether the idlest, laziest 14 months I ever spent in my life.
And in that time my absolute and necessary expenses have been scorchingly
heavy--for I have now less than three thousand six hundred dollars in
bank out of the eight or nine thousand I have made during those months,
lecturing. My expenses were something frightful during the winter.
I feel ashamed of my idleness, and yet I have had really no inclination
to do anything but court Livy. I haven't any other inclination yet.
I have determined not to work as hard traveling, any more, as I did last
winter, and so I have resolved not to lecture outside of the 6 New
England States next winter. My Western course would easily amount to
$10,000, but I would rather make 2 or 3 thousand in New England than
submit again to so much wearing travel. (I have promised to talk ten
nights for a thousand dollars in the State of New York, provided the
places are close together.) But after all if I get located in a newspaper
in a way to suit me, in the meantime, I don't want to lecture at all next
winter, and probably shan't. I most cordially hate the lecture field.
And after all, I shudder to think that I may never get out of it.
In all conversations with Gough, and Anna Dickinson, Nasby, Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Wendell Phillips and the other old stagers, I could not
observe that they ever expected or hoped to get out of the business.
I don't want to get wedded to it as they are. Livy thinks we can live on
a very moderate sum and that we'll not need to lecture. I know very well
that she can live on a small allowance, but I am not so sure about
myself. I can't scare her by reminding her that her father's family
expenses are forty thousand dollars a year, because she produces the
documents at once to show that precious little of this outlay is on her
account. But I must not commence writing about Livy, else I shall never
stop. There isn't such another little piece of perfection in the world
as she is.
My time is become so short, now, that I doubt if I get to California this
summer. If I manage to buy into a paper, I think I will visit you a
while and not go to Cal. at all. I shall know something about it after
my next trip to Hartford. We all go there on the l0th--the whole family
--to attend a wedding, on the 17th. I am offered an interest in a
Cleveland paper which would pay me $2,300 to $2,500 a year, and a salary
added of $3,000. The salary is fair enough, but the interest is not
large enough, and so I must look a little further. The Cleveland folks
say they can be induced to do a little better by me, and urge me to come
out and talk business. But it don't strike me--I feel little or no
inclination to go.
I believe I haven't anything else to write, and it is bed-time. I want
to write to Orion, but I keep putting it off--I keep putting everything
off. Day after day Livy and I are together all day long and until 10 at
night, and then I feel dreadfully sleepy. If Orion will bear with me and
forgive me I will square up with him yet. I will even let him kiss Livy.
My love to Mollie and Annie and Sammie and all. Good-bye.
It is curious, with his tendency to optimism and general expansion
of futures, that he says nothing of the possible sales of the new
book, or of his expectations in that line. It was issued in July,
and by June the publishers must have had promising advance orders
from their canvassers; but apparently he includes none of these
chickens in his financial forecast. Even when the book had been out
a full month, and was being shipped at the rate of several hundreds
a day, he makes no reference to it in a letter to his sister, other
than to ask if she has not received a copy. This, however, was a
Mark Twain peculiarity. Writing was his trade; the returns from it
seldom excited him. It was only when he drifted into strange and
untried fields that he began to chase rainbows, to blow iridescent
bubbles, and count unmined gold.
To Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
BUFFALO, Aug. 20, 1869.
MY DEAR SISTER,--I have only time to write a line. I got your letter
this morning and mailed it to Livy. She will be expecting me tonight and
I am sorry to disappoint her so, but then I couldn't well get away. I
will go next Saturday.
I have bundled up Livy's picture and will try and recollect to mail it
tomorrow. It is a porcelaintype and I think you will like it.
I am sorry I never got to St. Louis, because I may be too busy to go, for
a long time. But I have been busy all the time and St. Louis is clear
out of the way, and remote from the world and all ordinary routes of
travel. You must not place too much weight upon this idea of moving the
capital from Washington. St. Louis is in some respects a better place
for it than Washington, though there isn't more than a toss-up between
the two after all. One is dead and the other in a trance. Washington is
in the centre of population and business, while St. Louis is far removed
from both. And you know there is no geographical centre any more. The
railroads and telegraph have done away with all that. It is no longer
a matter of sufficient importance to be gravely considered by thinking
men. The only centres, now, are narrowed down to those of intelligence,
capital and population. As I said before Washington is the nearest to
those and you don't have to paddle across a river on ferry boats of a
pattern popular in the dark ages to get to it, nor have to clamber up
vilely paved hills in rascally omnibuses along with a herd of all sorts
of people after you are there. Secondly, the removal of the capital is
one of those old, regular, reliable dodges that are the bread-and meat of
back country congressmen. It is agitated every year. It always has
been, it always will be; It is not new in any respect. Thirdly. The
Capitol has cost $40,000,000 already and lacks a good deal of being
finished, yet. There are single stones in the Treasury building (and a
good many of them) that cost twenty-seven thousand dollars apiece--and
millions were spent in the construction of that and the Patent Office and
the other great government buildings. To move to St. Louis, the country
must throw away a hundred millions of capital invested in those
buildings, and go right to work to spend a hundred millions on new
buildings in St. Louis. Shall we ever have a Congress, a majority of
whose members are hopelessly insane? Probably not. But it is possible-
unquestionably such a thing is possible. Only I don't believe it will
happen in our time; and I am satisfied the capital will not be moved
until it does happen. But if St. Louis would donate the ground and the
buildings, it would be a different matter. No, Pamela, I don't see any
good reason to believe you or I will ever see the capital moved.
I have twice instructed the publishers to send you a book--it was the
first thing I did--long before the proofs were finished. Write me if it
is not yet done.
Livy says we must have you all at our marriage, and I say we can't.
It will be at Christmas or New Years, when such a trip across the country
would be equivalent to murder & arson & everything else.--And it would
cost five hundred dollars--an amount of money she don't know the value of
now, but will before a year is gone. She grieves over it, poor little
rascal, but it can't be helped. She must wait awhile, till I am firmly
on my legs, & then she shall see you. She says her father and mother
will invite you just as soon as the wedding date is definitely fixed,
anyway--& she thinks that's bound to settle it. But the ice & snow, &
the long hard journey, & the injudiciousness of laying out any money
except what we are obliged to part with while we are so much in debt,
settles the case differently. For it is a debt.
.....Mr. Langdon is just as good as bound for $25,000 for me, and has
already advanced half of it in cash. I wrote and asked whether I had
better send him my note, or a due-bill, or how he would prefer to have
the indebtedness made of record and he answered every other topic in the
letter pleasantly but never replied to that at all. Still, I shall give
my note into the hands of his business agent here, and pay him the
interest as it falls due. We must "go slow." We are not in the
Cleveland Herald. We are a hundred thousand times better off, but there
isn't so much money in it.
In spite of the immediate success of his book--a success the like of
which had scarcely been known in America-Mark Twain held himself to
be, not a literary man, but a journalist: He had no plans for
another book; as a newspaper owner and editor he expected, with his
marriage, to settle down and devote the rest of his life to
journalism. The paper was the Buffalo Express; his interest in it
was one-third--the purchase price, twenty-five thousand dollars, of
which he had paid a part, Jervis Langdon, his future father-in-law,
having furnished cash and security for the remainder. He was
already in possession in August, but he was not regularly in Buffalo
that autumn, for he had agreed with Redpath to deliver his Quaker
City lecture, and the tour would not end until a short time before
his wedding-day, February 2, 1870.
Our next letter hardly belongs in this collection; as it was
doubtless written with at least the possibility of publication in
view. But it is too amusing, too characteristic of Mark Twain, to
be omitted. It was sent in response to an invitation from the New
York Society of California Pioneers to attend a banquet given in New
York City, October 13, 1869, and was, of course, read to the
To the New York Society of California Pioneers, in New York City:
ELMIRA, October 11, 1869.
GENTLEMEN,--Circumstances render it out of my power to take advantage of
the invitation extended to me through Mr. Simonton, and be present at
your dinner at New York. I regret this very much, for there are several
among you whom I would have a right to join hands with on the score of
old friendship, and I suppose I would have a sublime general right to
shake hands with the rest of you on the score of kinship in California
ups and downs in search of fortune.
If I were to tell some of my experience, you would recognize California
blood in me; I fancy the old, old story would sound familiar, no doubt.
I have the usual stock of reminiscences. For instance: I went to
Esmeralda early. I purchased largely in the "Wide West," "Winnemucca,"
and other fine claims, and was very wealthy. I fared sumptuously on
bread when flour was $200 a barrel and had beans for dinner every Sunday,
when none but bloated aristocrats could afford such grandeur. But I
finished by feeding batteries in a quartz mill at $15 a week, and wishing
I was a battery myself and had somebody to feed me. My claims in
Esmeralda are there yet. I suppose I could be persuaded to sell.
I went to Humboldt District when it was new; I became largely interested
in the "Alba Nueva" and other claims with gorgeous names, and was rich
again--in prospect. I owned a vast mining property there. I would not
have sold out for less than $400,000 at that time. But I will now.
Finally I walked home--200 miles partly for exercise, and partly because
stage fare was expensive. Next I entered upon an affluent career in
Virginia City, and by a judicious investment of labor and the capital of
friends, became the owner of about all the worthless wild cat mines there
were in that part of the country. Assessments did the business for me
there. There were a hundred and seventeen assessments to one dividend,
and the proportion of income to outlay was a little against me. My
financial barometer went down to 32 Fahrenheit, and the subscriber was
I took up extensions on the main lead-extensions that reached to British
America, in one direction, and to the Isthmus of Panama in the other--and
I verily believe I would have been a rich man if I had ever found those
infernal extensions. But I didn't. I ran tunnels till I tapped the
Arctic Ocean, and I sunk shafts till I broke through the roof of
perdition; but those extensions turned up missing every time. I am
willing to sell all that property and throw in the improvements.
Perhaps you remember that celebrated "North Ophir?" I bought that mine.
It was very rich in pure silver. You could take it out in lumps as large
as a filbert. But when it was discovered that those lumps were melted
half dollars, and hardly melted at that, a painful case of "salting" was
apparent, and the undersigned adjourned to the poorhouse again.
I paid assessments on "Hale and Norcross" until they sold me out, and I
had to take in washing for a living--and the next month that infamous
stock went up to $7,000 a foot.
I own millions and millions of feet of affluent silver leads in Nevada--
in fact the entire undercrust of that country nearly, and if Congress
would move that State off my property so that I could get at it, I would
be wealthy yet. But no, there she squats--and here am I. Failing health
persuades me to sell. If you know of any one desiring a permanent
investment, I can furnish one that will have the virtue of being eternal.
I have been through the California mill, with all its "dips, spurs and
angles, variations and sinuosities." I have worked there at all the
different trades and professions known to the catalogues. I have been
everything, from a newspaper editor down to a cow-catcher on a
locomotive, and I am encouraged to believe that if there had been a few
more occupations to experiment on, I might have made a dazzling success
at last, and found out what mysterious designs Providence had in creating
But you perceive that although I am not a Pioneer, I have had a
sufficiently variegated time of it to enable me to talk Pioneer like a
native, and feel like a Forty-Niner. Therefore, I cordially welcome you
to your old-remembered homes and your long deserted firesides, and close
this screed with the sincere hope that your visit here will be a happy
one, and not embittered by the sorrowful surprises that absence and lapse
of years are wont to prepare for wanderers; surprises which come in the
form of old friends missed from their places; silence where familiar
voices should be; the young grown old; change and decay everywhere; home
a delusion and a disappointment; strangers at hearthstone; sorrow where
gladness was; tears for laughter; the melancholy-pomp of death where the
grace of life has been!
With all good wishes for the Returned Prodigals, and regrets that I
cannot partake of a small piece of the fatted calf (rare and no gravy,)
I am yours, cordially,
In the next letter we find him in the midst of a sort of confusion
of affairs, which, in one form or another, would follow him
throughout the rest of his life. It was the price of his success
and popularity, combined with his general gift for being concerned
with a number of things, and a natural tendency for getting into hot
water, which becomes more evident as the years and letters pass in
review. Orion Clemens, in his attempt to save money for the
government, had employed methods and agents which the officials at
Washington did not understand, and refused to recognize. Instead of
winning the credit and commendation he had expected, he now found
himself pursued by claims of considerable proportions. The "land"
referred to is the Tennessee tract, the heritage which John Clemens
had provided for his children. Mark Twain had long since lost faith
in it, and was not only willing, but eager to renounce his rights.
"Nasby" is, of course, David R. Locke, of the Toledo Blade, whose
popularity at this time both as a lecturer and writer was very
great. Clemens had met him here and there on their platform tour,
and they had become good friends. Clemens, in fact, had once
proposed to Nasby a joint trip to the Pacific coast.
The California idea had been given up, but both Mark Twain and Nasby
found engagements enough, and sufficient profit east of the
Mississippi. Boston was often their headquarters that winter ('69
and '70), and they were much together. "Josh Billings," another of
Redpath's lecturers, was likewise often to be found in the Lyceum
offices. There is a photograph of Mark Twain, Nasby, and Josh
Clemens also, that winter, met William Dean Howells, then in the
early days of his association with the Atlantic Monthly. The two
men, so widely different, became firm friends at sight, and it was
to Howells in the years to come that Mark Twain would write more
letters, and more characteristic letters, than to any other living
man. Howells had favorably reviewed 'The Innocents Abroad,' and
after the first moment of their introduction had passed Clemens
said: "When I read that review of yours I felt like the woman who
said that she was so glad that her baby had come white." It was not
the sort of thing that Howells would have said, but it was the sort
of thing that he could understand and appreciate from Mark Twain.
In company with Nasby Clemens, that season, also met Oliver Wendell
Holmes. Later he had sent Holmes a copy of his book and received a
pleasantly appreciative reply. "I always like," wrote Holmes, "to
hear what one of my fellow countrymen, who is not a Hebrew scholar,
or a reader of hiero-glyphics, but a good-humored traveler with a
pair of sharp, twinkling Yankee (in the broader sense) eyes in his
head, has to say about the things that learned travelers often make
unintelligible, and sentimental ones ridiculous or absurd .... I
hope your booksellers will sell a hundred thousand copies of your
travels." A wish that was realized in due time, though it is
doubtful if Doctor Holmes or any one else at the moment believed
that a book of that nature and price (it was $3.50 a copy) would
ever reach such a sale.
To Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
BOSTON, Nov. 9, 1869.
MY DEAR SISTER,--Three or four letters just received from home. My first
impulse was to send Orion a check on my publisher for the money he wants,
but a sober second thought suggested that if he has not defrauded the
government out of money, why pay, simply because the government chooses
to consider him in its debt? No: Right is right. The idea don't suit
me. Let him write the Treasury the state of the case, and tell them he
has no money. If they make his sureties pay, then I will make the
sureties whole, but I won't pay a cent of an unjust claim. You talk of
disgrace. To my mind it would be just as disgraceful to allow one's self
to be bullied into paying that which is unjust.
Ma thinks it is hard that Orion's share of the land should be swept away
just as it is right on the point (as it always has been) of becoming
valuable. Let her rest easy on that point. This letter is his ample
authority to sell my share of the land immediately and appropriate the
proceeds--giving no account to me, but repaying the amount to Ma first,
or in case of her death, to you or your heirs, whenever in the future he
shall be able to do it. Now, I want no hesitation in this matter. I
renounce my ownership from this date, for this purpose, provided it is
sold just as suddenly as he can sell it.
In the next place--Mr. Langdon is old, and is trying hard to withdraw
from business and seek repose. I will not burden him with a purchase--
but I will ask him to take full possession of a coal tract of the land
without paying a cent, simply conditioning that he shall mine and throw
the coal into market at his own cost, and pay to you and all of you what
he thinks is a fair portion of the profits accruing--you can do as you
please with the rest of the land. Therefore, send me (to Elmira,)
information about the coal deposits so framed that he can comprehend the
matter and can intelligently instruct an agent how to find it and go to
Tomorrow night I appear for the first time before a Boston audience--
4,000 critics--and on the success of this matter depends my future
success in New England. But I am not distressed. Nasby is in the same
boat. Tonight decides the fate of his brand-new lecture. He has just
left my room--been reading his lecture to me--was greatly depressed. I
have convinced him that he has little to fear.
I get just about five hundred more applications to lecture than I can
possibly fill--and in the West they say "Charge all you please, but
come." I shan't go West at all. I stop lecturing the 22d of January,
sure. But I shall talk every night up to that time. They flood me with
high-priced invitations to write for magazines and papers, and publishers