Part 4 out of 16
besiege me to write books. Can't do any of these things.
I am twenty-two thousand dollars in debt, and shall earn the money and
pay it within two years--and therefore I am not spending any money except
when it is necessary.
I had my life insured for $10,000 yesterday (what ever became of Mr.
Moffett' s life insurance?) "for the benefit of my natural heirs"--the
same being my mother, for Livy wouldn't claim it, you may be sure of
that. This has taken $200 out of my pocket which I was going to send to
Ma. But I will send her some, soon. Tell Orion to keep a stiff upper
lip--when the worst comes to the worst I will come forward. Must talk in
Providence, R. I., tonight. Must leave now. I thank Mollie and Orion
and the rest for your letters, but you see how I am pushed--ought to have
By the end of January, 1870 more than thirty thousand copies of the
Innocents had been sold, and in a letter to his publisher the author
expressed his satisfaction.
To Elisha Bliss, in Hartford:
ELMIRA, Jan. 28 '70.
FRIEND BLISS,--..... Yes, I am satisfied with the way you are running the
book. You are running it in staving, tip-top, first-class style. I
never wander into any corner of the country but I find that an agent has
been there before me, and many of that community have read the book. And
on an average about ten people a day come and hunt me up to thank me and
tell me I'm a benefactor! I guess this is a part of the programme we
didn't expect in the first place.
I think you are rushing this book in a manner to be proud of; and you
will make the finest success of it that has ever been made with a
subscription book, I believe. What with advertising, establishing
agencies, &c., you have got an enormous lot of machinery under way and
hard at work in a wonderfully short space of time. It is easy to see,
when one travels around, that one must be endowed with a deal of genuine
generalship in order to maneuvre a publication whose line of battle
stretches from end to end of a great continent, and whose foragers and
skirmishers invest every hamlet and besiege every village hidden away in
all the vast space between.
I'll back you against any publisher in America, Bliss--or elsewhere.
Yrs as ever
There is another letter written just at this time which of all
letters must not be omitted here. Only five years earlier Mark
Twain, poor, and comparatively unknown, had been carrying water
while Jim Gillis and Dick Stoker washed out the pans of dirt in
search of the gold pocket which they did not find. Clemens must
have received a letter from Gillis referring to some particular
occasion, but it has disappeared; the reply, however, always
remained one of James Gillis's treasured possessions.
To James Gillis, in his cabin on Jackass Hill,
Tuolumne Co., California:
ELMIRA, N.Y. Jan. 26, '70.
DEAR JIM,--I remember that old night just as well! And somewhere among my
relics I have your remembrance stored away. It makes my heart ache yet
to call to mind some of those days. Still, it shouldn't--for right in
the depths of their poverty and their pocket-hunting vagabondage lay the
germ of my coming good fortune. You remember the one gleam of jollity
that shot across our dismal sojourn in the rain and mud of Angels' Camp
I mean that day we sat around the tavern stove and heard that chap tell
about the frog and how they filled him with shot. And you remember how
we quoted from the yarn and laughed over it, out there on the hillside
while you and dear old Stoker panned and washed. I jotted the story down
in my note-book that day, and would have been glad to get ten or fifteen
dollars for it--I was just that blind. But then we were so hard up!
I published that story, and it became widely known in America, India,
China, England--and the reputation it made for me has paid me thousands
and thousands of dollars since. Four or five months ago I bought into
the Express (I have ordered it sent to you as long as you live--and if
the book keeper sends you any bills, you let me hear of it.) I went
heavily in debt never could have dared to do that, Jim, if we hadn't
heard the jumping Frog story that day.
And wouldn't I love to take old Stoker by the hand, and wouldn't I love
to see him in his great specialty, his wonderful rendition of "Rinalds"
in the" Burning Shame!" Where is Dick and what is he doing? Give him my
fervent love and warm old remembrances.
A week from today I shall be married to a girl even better, and lovelier
than the peerless "Chapparal Quails." You can't come so far, Jim, but
still I cordially invite you to come, anyhow--and I invite Dick, too.
And if you two boys were to land here on that pleasant occasion, we would
make you right royally welcome.
Truly your friend,
SAML L. CLEMENS.
P. S. "California plums are good, Jim--particularly when they are
Steve Gillis, who sent a copy of his letter to the writer, added:
"Dick Stoker--dear, gentle unselfish old Dick-died over three years
ago, aged 78. I am sure it will be a melancholy pleasure to Mark to
know that Dick lived in comfort all his later life, sincerely loved
and respected by all who knew him. He never left Jackass Hill. He
struck a pocket years ago containing enough not only to build
himself a comfortable house near his old cabin, but to last him,
without work, to his painless end. He was a Mason, and was buried
by the Order in Sonora.
"The 'Quails'--the beautiful, the innocent, the wild little Quails--
lived way out in the Chapparal; on a little ranch near the
Stanislaus River, with their father and mother. They were famous
for their beauty and had many suitors."
The mention of "California plums" refers to some inedible fruit
which Gillis once, out of pure goodness of heart, bought of a poor
wandering squaw, and then, to conceal his motive, declared that they
were something rare and fine, and persisted in eating them, though
even when stewed they nearly choked him.
LETTERS 1870-71. MARK TWAIN IN BUFFALO. MARRIAGE. THE BUFFALO EXPRESS.
"MEMORANDA." LECTURES. A NEW BOOK
Samuel L. Clemens and Olivia Langdon were married in the Langdon
home at Elmira, February 2, 1870, and took up their residence in
Buffalo in a beautiful home, a wedding present from the bride's
father. The story of their wedding, and the amusing circumstances
connected with their establishment in Buffalo, have been told
elsewhere.--[Mark Twain: A Biography, chap. lxxiv.]
Mark Twain now believed that he was through with lecturing. Two
letters to Redpath, his agent, express his comfortable condition.
To James Redpath, in Boston:
BUFFALO, March 22, 1890.
DEAR RED,--I am not going to lecture any more forever. I have got things
ciphered down to a fraction now. I know just about what it will cost us
to live and I can make the money without lecturing. Therefore old man,
count me out.
S. L. CLEMENS.
To James Redpath, in Boston:
ELMIRA, N. Y. May 10, 1870.
FRIEND REDPATH,--I guess I am out of the field permanently.
Have got a lovely wife; a lovely house, bewitchingly furnished; a lovely
carriage, and a coachman whose style and dignity are simply awe-
inspiring--nothing less--and I am making more money than necessary--by
considerable, and therefore why crucify myself nightly on the platform.
The subscriber will have to be excused from the present season at least.
Remember me to Nasby, Billings and Fall.--[Redpath's partner in the
lecture lyceum.]--Luck to you! I am going to print your menagerie,
Parton and all, and make comments.
In next Galaxy I give Nasby's friend and mine from Philadelphia (John
Quill, a literary thief) a "hyste."
Yours always and after.
The reference to the Galaxy in the foregoing letter has to do with a
department called Memoranda, which he had undertaken to conduct for
the new magazine. This work added substantially to his income, and
he believed it would be congenial. He was allowed free hand to
write and print what he chose, and some of his best work at this
time was published in the new department, which he continued for a
Mark Twain now seemed to have his affairs well regulated. His
mother and sister were no longer far away in St. Louis. Soon after
his marriage they had, by his advice, taken up residence at
Fredonia, New York, where they could be easily visited from Buffalo.
Altogether, the outlook seemed bright to Mark Twain and his wife,
during the first months of their marriage. Then there came a
change. In a letter which Clemens wrote to his mother and sister we
get the first chapter of disaster.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens, and Mrs. Moffett, in Fredonia, N. Y.:
ELMIRA, N. Y. June 25, 1870.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--We were called here suddenly by telegram, 3
days ago. Mr. Langdon is very low. We have well-nigh lost hope--all of
us except Livy.
Mr. Langdon, whose hope is one of his most prominent characteristics,
says himself, this morning, that his recovery is only a possibility, not
a probability. He made his will this morning--that is, appointed
executors--nothing else was necessary. The household is sad enough
Charley is in Bavaria. We telegraphed Munroe & Co. Paris, to notify
Charley to come home--they sent the message to Munich. Our message left
here at 8 in the morning and Charley's answer arrived less than eight
hours afterward. He sailed immediately.
He will reach home two weeks from now. The whole city is troubled. As I
write (at the office,) a dispatch arrives from Charley who has reached
London, and will sail thence on 28th. He wants news. We cannot send him
P. S. I sent $300 to Fredonia Bank for Ma--It is in her name.
Mrs. Clemens, herself, was not in the best of health at this time,
but devotion to her father took her to his bedside, where she
insisted upon standing long, hard watches, the strain of which told
upon her severely. Meantime, work must go on; the daily demand of
the newspaper and the monthly call of the Memoranda could not go
unheeded. Also, Bliss wanted a new book, and met Mark Twain at
Elmira to arrange for it. In a letter to Orion we learn of this
To Orion Clemens, in St. Louis:
ELMIRA, July 15, 1870
MY DEAR BRO.,--Per contract I must have another 600-page book ready for
my publisher Jan. z, and I only began it today. The subject of it is a
secret, because I may possibly change it. But as it stands, I propose to
do up Nevada and Cal., beginning with the trip across the country in the
stage. Have you a memorandum of the route we took--or the names of any
of the Stations we stopped at? Do you remember any of the scenes, names,
incidents or adventures of the coach trip?--for I remember next to
nothing about the matter. Jot down a foolscap page of items for me.
I wish I could have two days' talk with you.
I suppose I am to get the biggest copyright, this time, ever paid on a
subscription book in this country.
Give our love to Mollie.--Mr. Langdon is very low.
The "biggest copyright," mentioned in this letter, was a royalty of
7 1/2 per cent., which Bliss had agreed to pay, on the retail price
of the book. The book was Roughing It, though this title was not
decided upon until considerably later. Orion Clemens eagerly
furnished a detailed memorandum of the route of their overland
journey, which brought this enthusiastic acknowledgment:
To Orion Clemens, in St. Louis:
DEAR BRO.,--I find that your little memorandum book is going to be ever
so much use to me, and will enable me to make quite a coherent narrative
of the Plains journey instead of slurring it over and jumping 2,000 miles
at a stride. The book I am writing will sell. In return for the use of
the little memorandum book I shall take the greatest pleasure in
forwarding to you the third $1,000 which the publisher of the forthcoming
work sends me or the first $1,000, I am not particular--they will both be
in the first quarterly statement of account from the publisher.
In great haste,
Yr Obliged Bro.
Love to Mollie. We are all getting along tolerably well.
Mr. Langdon died early in August, and Mrs. Clemens returned to
Buffalo, exhausted in mind and body. If she hoped for rest now, in
the quiet of her own home, she was disappointed, as the two brief
letters that follow clearly show.
To Mrs. Moffett, in Fredonia, N. Y.:
BUFFALO, Aug. 31, 70.
MY DEAR SISTER,--I know I ought to be thrashed for not writing you, but
I have kept putting it off. We get heaps of letters every day; it is a
comfort to have somebody like you that will let us shirk and be patient
over it. We got the book and I did think I wrote a line thanking you for
it-but I suppose I neglected it.
We are getting along tolerably well. Mother [Mrs. Langdon] is here, and
Miss Emma Nye. Livy cannot sleep since her father's death--but I give
her a narcotic every night and make her. I am just as busy as I can be--
am still writing for the Galaxy and also writing a book like the
"Innocents" in size and style. I have got my work ciphered down to days,
and I haven't a single day to spare between this and the date which, by
written contract I am to deliver the M.S. of the book to the publisher.
----In a hurry
To Orion Clemens, in St, Louis:
BUF. Sept. 9th, 1870.
MY DEAR BRO,--O here! I don't want to be consulted at all about Tenn.
I don't want it even mentioned to me. When I make a suggestion it is for
you to act upon it or throw it aside, but I beseech you never to ask my
advice, opinion or consent about that hated property. If it was because
I felt the slightest personal interest in the infernal land that I ever
made a suggestion, the suggestion would never be made.
Do exactly as you please with the land--always remember this--that so
trivial a percentage as ten per cent will never sell it.
It is only a bid for a somnambulist.
I have no time to turn round, a young lady visitor (schoolmate of Livy's)
is dying in the house of typhoid fever (parents are in South Carolina)
and the premises are full of nurses and doctors and we are all fagged
Miss Nye, who had come to cheer her old schoolmate, had been
prostrated with the deadly fever soon after her arrival. Another
period of anxiety and nursing followed. Mrs. Clemens, in spite of
her frail health, devoted much time to her dying friend, until by
the time the end came she was herself in a precarious condition.
This was at the end of September. A little more than a month later,
November 7th, her first child, Langdon Clemens, was prematurely
born. To the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell and wife, of Hartford, Mark
Twain characteristically announced the new arrival.
To Rev. Joseph H. Twichell and wife, in Hartford, Conn.:
BUFFALO, Nov 12, '70.
DEAR UNCLE AND AUNT,--I came into the world on the 7th inst., and
consequently am about five days old, now. I have had wretched health
ever since I made my appearance. First one thing and then another has
kept me under the weather, and as a general thing I have been chilly and
I am not corpulent, nor am I robust in any way. At birth I only weighed
4 1/2 pounds with my clothes on--and the clothes were the chief feature of
the weight, too, I am obliged to confess. But I am doing finely,
all things considered. I was at a standstill for 3 days and a half, but
during the last 24 hours I have gained nearly an ounce, avoirdupois.
They all say I look very old and venerable-and I am aware, myself, that I
never smile. Life seems a serious thing, what I have seen of it--and my
observation teaches me that it is made up mainly of hiccups, unnecessary
washings, and colic. But no doubt you, who are old, have long since
grown accustomed and reconciled to what seems to me such a disagreeable
My father said, this morning, when my face was in repose and thoughtful,
that I looked precisely as young Edward Twichell of Hartford used to look
some is months ago--chin, mouth, forehead, expression--everything.
My little mother is very bright and cheery, and I guess she is pretty
happy, but I don't know what about. She laughs a great deal,
notwithstanding she is sick abed. And she eats a great deal, though she
says that is because the nurse desires it. And when she has had all the
nurse desires her to have, she asks for more. She is getting along very
My aunt Susie Crane has been here some ten days or two weeks, but goes
home today, and Granny Fairbanks of Cleveland arrives to take her place.
--[Mrs. Fairbanks, of the Quaker City excursion.]
P. S. Father said I had better write because you would be more
interested in me, just now, than in the rest of the family.
Clemens had made the acquaintance of the Rev. Joseph Hopkins
Twichell and his wife during his several sojourns in Hartford, in
connection with his book publication, and the two men had
immediately become firm friends. Twichell had come to Elmira in
February to the wedding to assist Rev. Thos. K. Beecher in the
marriage ceremony. Joseph Twichell was a devout Christian, while
Mark Twain was a doubter, even a scoffer, where orthodoxy was
concerned, yet the sincerity and humanity of the two men drew them
together; their friendship was lifelong.
A second letter to Twichell, something more than a month later,
shows a somewhat improved condition in the Clemens household.
To Rev. Twichell, in Hartford:
BUF. Dec. 19th, 1870.
DEAR J. H.,--All is well with us, I believe--though for some days the
baby was quite ill. We consider him nearly restored to health now,
however. Ask my brother about us--you will find him at Bliss's
publishing office, where he is gone to edit Bliss's new paper--left here
last Monday. Make his and his wife's acquaintance. Take Mrs. T. to see
them as soon as they are fixed.
Livy is up, and the prince keeps her busy and anxious these latter days
and nights, but I am a bachelor up stairs and don't have to jump up and
get the soothing syrup--though I would as soon do it as not, I assure
you. (Livy will be certain to read this letter.)
Tell Harmony (Mrs. T.) that I do hold the baby, and do it pretty handily,
too, although with occasional apprehensions that his loose head will fall
off. I don't have to quiet him--he hardly ever utters a cry. He is
always thinking about something. He is a patient, good little baby.
Smoke? I always smoke from 3 till 5 Sunday afternoons--and in New York
the other day I smoked a week, day and night. But when Livy is well I
smoke only those two hours on Sunday. I'm "boss" of the habit, now, and
shall never let it boss me any more. Originally, I quit solely on Livy's
account, (not that I believed there was the faintest reason in the
matter, but just as I would deprive myself of sugar in my coffee if she
wished it, or quit wearing socks if she thought them immoral,) and I
stick to it yet on Livy's account, and shall always continue to do so,
without a pang. But somehow it seems a pity that you quit, for Mrs. T.
didn't mind it if I remember rightly. Ah, it is turning one's back upon
a kindly Providence to spurn away from us the good creature he sent to
make the breath of life a luxury as well as a necessity, enjoyable as
well as useful, to go and quit smoking when then ain't any sufficient
excuse for it! Why, my old boy, when they use to tell me I would shorten
my life ten years by smoking, they little knew the devotee they were
wasting their puerile word upon--they little knew how trivial and
valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it! But I won't
persuade you, Twichell--I won't until I see you again--but then we'll
smoke for a week together, and then shut off again.
I would have gone to Hartford from New York last Saturday, but I got so
homesick I couldn't. But maybe I'll come soon.
No, Sir, catch me in the metropolis again, to get homesick.
I didn't know Warner had a book out.
We send oceans and continents of love--I have worked myself down, today.
With his establishment in Buffalo, Clemens, as already noted, had
persuaded his sister, now a widow, and his mother, to settle in
Fredonia, not far away. Later, he had found a position for Orion,
as editor of a small paper which Bliss had established. What with
these several diversions and the sorrows and sicknesses of his own
household, we can readily imagine that literary work had been
performed under difficulties. Certainly, humorous writing under
such disturbing conditions could not have been easy, nor could we
expect him to accept an invitation to be present and make a comic
speech at an agricultural dinner, even though Horace Greeley would
preside. However, he sent to the secretary of the association a
letter which might be read at the gathering:
To A. B. Crandall, in Woodberry Falls, N. Y., to be read
at an agricultural dinner:
BUFFALO, Dec. 26, 1870.
GENTLEMEN,--I thank you very much for your invitation to the Agricultural
dinner, and would promptly accept it and as promptly be there but for the
fact that Mr. Greeley is very busy this month and has requested me to
clandestinely continue for him in The Tribune the articles "What I Know
about Farming." Consequently the necessity of explaining to the readers
of that journal why buttermilk cannot be manufactured profitably at 8
cents a quart out of butter that costs 60 cents a pound compels my stay
at home until the article is written.
With reiterated thanks, I am
In this letter Mark Twain made the usual mistake as to the title of
the Greeley farming series, "What I Know of Farming" being the
The Buffalo Express, under Mark Twain's management, had become a
sort of repository for humorous efforts, often of an indifferent
order. Some of these things, signed by nom de plumes, were charged
to Mark Twain. When Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee" devastated the
country, and was so widely parodied, an imitation of it entitled,
"Three Aces," and signed "Carl Byng," was printed in the Express.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, then editor of Every Saturday, had not met
Mark Twain, and, noticing the verses printed in the exchanges over
his signature, was one of those who accepted them as Mark Twain's
work. He wrote rather an uncomplimentary note in Every Saturday
concerning the poem and its authorship, characterizing it as a
feeble imitation of Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee." Clemens promptly
protested to Aldrich, then as promptly regretted having done so,
feeling that he was making too much of a small matter. Hurriedly he
sent a second brief note.
To Thomas Bailey Aldrich, editor of "Every Saturday,"
BUFFALO, Jan. 22, 1870.
DEAR SIR,--Please do not publish the note I sent you the other day about
"Hy. Slocum's" plagiarism entitled "Three Aces"--it is not important
enough for such a long paragraph. Webb writes me that he has put in a
paragraph about it, too--and I have requested him to suppress it. If you
would simply state, in a line and a half under "Literary Notes," that you
mistook one "Hy. Slocum" (no, it was one "Carl Byng," I perceive) "Carl
Byng" for Mark Twain, and that it was the former who wrote the plagiarism
entitled "Three Aces," I think that would do a fair justice without any
unseemly display. But it is hard to be accused of plagiarism--a crime I
never have committed in my life.
But this came too late. Aldrich replied that he could not be
prevented from doing him justice, as forty-two thousand copies of
the first note, with the editor's apology duly appended, were
already in press. He would withdraw his apology in the next number
of Every Saturday, if Mark Twain said so. Mark Twain's response
this time assumed the proportions of a letter.
To Thomas Bailey Aldrich, in Boston:
472 DELAWARE ST., BUFFALO, Jan. 28.
DEAR MR. ALDRICH,--No indeed, don't take back the apology! Hang it, I
don't want to abuse a man's civility merely because he gives me the
I hear a good deal about doing things on the "spur of the moment"--
I invariably regret the things I do on the spur of the moment. That
disclaimer of mine was a case in point. I am ashamed every time I think
of my bursting out before an unconcerned public with that bombastic pow-
wow about burning publishers' letters, and all that sort of imbecility,
and about my not being an imitator, etc. Who would find out that I am a
natural fool if I kept always cool and never let nature come to the
But I did hate to be accused of plagiarizing Bret Harte, who trimmed and
trained and schooled me patiently until he changed me from an awkward
utterer of coarse grotesquenesses to a writer of paragraphs and chapters
that have found a certain favor in the eyes of even some of the very
decentest people in the land--and this grateful remembrance of mine ought
to be worth its face, seeing that Bret broke our long friendship a year
ago without any cause or provocation that I am aware of.
Well, it is funny, the reminiscences that glare out from murky corners of
one's memory, now and then, without warning. Just at this moment a
picture flits before me: Scene--private room in Barnum's Restaurant,
Virginia, Nevada; present, Artemus Ward, Joseph T. Goodman, (editor and
proprietor Daily "Enterprise"), and "Dan de Quille" and myself, reporters
for same; remnants of the feast thin and scattering, but such tautology
and repetition of empty bottles everywhere visible as to be offensive to
the sensitive eye; time, 2.30 A.M.; Artemus thickly reciting a poem about
a certain infant you wot of, and interrupting himself and being
interrupted every few lines by poundings of the table and shouts of
"Splendid, by Shorzhe!" Finally, a long, vociferous, poundiferous and
vitreous jingling of applause announces the conclusion, and then Artemus:
"Let every man 'at loves his fellow man and 'preciates a poet 'at loves
his fellow man, stan' up!--Stan' up and drink health and long life to
Thomas Bailey Aldrich!--and drink it stanning!" (On all hands fervent,
enthusiastic, and sincerely honest attempts to comply.) Then Artemus:
"Well--consider it stanning, and drink it just as ye are!" Which was
You must excuse all this stuff from a stranger, for the present, and when
I see you I will apologize in full.
Do you know the prettiest fancy and the neatest that ever shot through
Harte's brain? It was this: When they were trying to decide upon a
vignette for the cover of the Overland, a grizzly bear (of the arms of
the State of California) was chosen. Nahl Bras. carved him and the page
was printed, with him in it, looking thus: [Rude sketch of a grizzly
As a bear, he was a success--he was a good bear--. But then, it was
objected, that he was an objectless bear--a bear that meant nothing in
particular, signified nothing,--simply stood there snarling over his
shoulder at nothing--and was painfully and manifestly a boorish and ill-
natured intruder upon the fair page. All hands said that--none were
satisfied. They hated badly to give him up, and yet they hated as much
to have him there when there was no paint to him. But presently Harte
took a pencil and drew these two simple lines under his feet and behold
he was a magnificent success!--the ancient symbol of California savagery
snarling at the approaching type of high and progressive Civilization,
the first Overland locomotive!: [Sketch of a small section of railway
I just think that was nothing less than inspiration itself.
Once more I apologize, and this time I do it "stanning!"
SAML. L. CLEMENS.
The "two simple lines," of course, were the train rails under the
bear's feet, and completed the striking cover design of the Overland
The brief controversy over the "Three Aces" was the beginning of
along and happy friendship between Aldrich and Mark Twain. Howells,
Aldrich, Twichell, and Charles Dudley Warner--these were Mark
Twain's intimates, men that he loved, each for his own special charm
Aldrich he considered the most brilliant of living men.
In his reply to Clemens's letter, Aldrich declared that he was glad
now that, for the sake of such a letter, he had accused him falsely,
"Mem. Always abuse people.
"When you come to Boston, if you do not make your presence manifest
to me, I'll put in a !! in 'Every Saturday' to the effect that
though you are generally known as Mark Twain your favorite nom de
plume is 'Barry Gray.'"
Clemens did not fail to let Aldrich know when he was in Boston
again, and the little coterie of younger writers forgathered to give
Buffalo agreed with neither Mrs. Clemens nor the baby. What with
nursing and anguish of mind, Mark Twain found that he could do
nothing on the new book, and that he must give up his magazine
department. He had lost interest in his paper and his surroundings
in general. Journalism and authorship are poor yoke-mates. To
Onion Clemens, at this time editing Bliss's paper at Hartford, he
explained the situation.
To Onion Clemens, in Hartford:
BUFFALO, 4th 1871.
MY DEAR BRO,--What I wanted of the "Liar" Sketch, was to work it into the
California book--which I shall do. But day before yesterday I concluded
to go out of the Galaxy on the strength of it, so I have turned it into
the last Memoranda I shall ever write, and published it as a "specimen
chapter" of my forthcoming book.
I have written the Galaxy people that I will never furnish them another
article long or short, for any price but $500.00 cash--and have requested
them not to ask me for contributions any more, even at that price.
I hope that lets them out, for I will stick to that. Now do try and
leave me clear out of the 'Publisher' for the present, for I am
endangering my reputation by writing too much--I want to get out of the
public view for awhile.
I am still nursing Livy night and day and cannot write anything. I am
nearly worn out. We shall go to Elmira ten days hence (if Livy can
travel on a mattress then,) and stay there till I have finished the
California book--say three months. But I can't begin work right away
when I get there--must have a week's rest, for I have been through 30
days' terrific siege.
That makes it after the middle of March before I can go fairly to work--
and then I'll have to hump myself and not lose a moment. You and Bliss
just put yourselves in my place and you will see that my hands are full
and more than full.
When I told Bliss in N. Y. that I would write something for the Publisher
I could not know that I was just about to lose fifty days. Do you see
the difference it makes? Just as soon as ever I can, I will send some
of the book M.S. but right in the first chapter I have got to alter the
whole style of one of my characters and re-write him clear through to
where I am now. It is no fool of a job, I can tell you, but the book
will be greatly bettered by it. Hold on a few days--four or five--and
I will see if I can get a few chapters fixed to send to Bliss.
I have offered this dwelling house and the Express for sale, and when we
go to Elmira we leave here for good. I shall not select a new home till
the book is finished, but we have little doubt that Hartford will be the
We are almost certain of that. Ask Bliss how it would be to ship our
furniture to Hartford, rent an upper room in a building and unbox it and
store it there where somebody can frequently look after it. Is not the
idea good? The furniture is worth $10,000 or $12,000 and must not be
jammed into any kind of a place and left unattended to for a year.
The first man that offers $25,000 for our house can take it--it cost
that. What are taxes there? Here, all bunched together--of all kinds,
they are 7 per cent--simply ruin.
The things you have written in the Publisher are tip-top.
There are no further letters until the end of April, by which time
the situation had improved. Clemens had sold his interest in the
Express (though at a loss), had severed his magazine connection, and
was located at Quarry Farm, on a beautiful hilltop above Elmira, the
home of Mrs. Clemens's sister, Mrs. Theodore Crane. The pure air
and rest of that happy place, where they were to spend so many
idyllic summers, had proved beneficial to the sick ones, and work on
the new book progressed in consequence. Then Mark Twain's old
editor, "Joe" Goodman, came from Virginia City for a visit, and his
advice and encouragement were of the greatest value. Clemens even
offered to engage Goodman on a salary, to remain until he had
finished his book. Goodman declined the salary, but extended his
visit, and Mark Twain at last seems to have found himself working
under ideal conditions. He jubilantly reports his progress.
To Elisha Bliss, in Hartford:
ELMIRA, Monday. May 15th 1871
FRIEND BLISS,--Yrs rec'd enclosing check for $703.35 The old "Innocents"
holds out handsomely.
I have MS. enough on hand now, to make (allowing for engravings) about
400 pages of the book--consequently am two-thirds done. I intended to
run up to Hartford about the middle of the week and take it along;
because it has chapters in it that ought by all means to be in the
prospectus; but I find myself so thoroughly interested in my work, now
(a thing I have not experienced for months) that I can't bear to lose a
single moment of the inspiration. So I will stay here and peg away as
long as it lasts. My present idea is to write as much more as I have
already written, and then cull from the mass the very best chapters and
discard the rest. I am not half as well satisfied with the first part of
the book as I am with what I am writing now. When I get it done I want
to see the man who will begin to read it and not finish it. If it falls
short of the "Innocents" in any respect I shall lose my guess.
When I was writing the "Innocents" my daily stunt was 30 pages of MS and
I hardly ever got beyond it; but I have gone over that nearly every day
for the last ten. That shows that I am writing with a red-hot interest.
Nothing grieves me now--nothing troubles me, nothing bothers me or gets
my attention--I don't think of anything but the book, and I don't have an
hour's unhappiness about anything and don't care two cents whether school
keeps or not. It will be a bully book. If I keep up my present lick
three weeks more I shall be able and willing to scratch out half of the
chapters of the Overland narrative--and shall do it.
You do not mention having received my second batch of MS, sent a week or
two ago--about 100 pages.
If you want to issue a prospectus and go right to canvassing, say the
word and I will forward some more MS--or send it by hand--special
messenger. Whatever chapters you think are unquestionably good, we will
retain of course, so they can go into a prospectus as well one time as
another. The book will be done soon, now. I have 1200 pages of MS
already written and am now writing 200 a week--more than that, in fact;
during the past week wrote 23 one day, then 30, 33, 35, 52, and 65.
It will be a starchy book, and should be full of snappy pictures--
especially pictures worked in with the letterpress. The dedication will
be worth the price of the volume--thus:
To the Late Cain.
This Book is Dedicated:
Not on account of respect for his memory, for it merits little respect;
not on account of sympathy with him, for his bloody deed placed him
without the pale of sympathy, strictly speaking: but out of a mere human
commiseration for him that it was his misfortune to live in a dark age
that knew not the beneficent Insanity Plea.
I think it will do.
P. S.--The reaction is beginning and my stock is looking up. I am
getting the bulliest offers for books and almanacs; am flooded with
lecture invitations, and one periodical offers me $6,000 cash for 12
articles, of any length and on any subject, treated humorously or
The suggested dedication "to the late Cain" may have been the
humoristic impulse of the moment. At all events, it did not
Clemens's enthusiasm for work was now such that he agreed with
Redpath to return to the platform that autumn, and he began at once
writing lectures. His disposal of the Buffalo paper had left him
considerably in debt, and platforming was a sure and quick method of
retrenchment. More than once in the years ahead Mark Twain would
return to travel and one-night stands to lift a burden of debt.
Brief letters to Redpath of this time have an interest and even a
humor of their own.
Letters to James Redpath, in Boston:
ELMIRA, June 27, 1871.
DEAR RED,--Wrote another lecture--a third one-today. It is the one I am
going to deliver. I think I shall call it "Reminiscences of Some
Pleasant Characters Whom I Have Met," (or should the "whom" be left out?)
It covers my whole acquaintance--kings, lunatics, idiots and all.
Suppose you give the item a start in the Boston papers. If I write fifty
lectures I shall only choose one and talk that one only.
No sir: Don't you put that scarecrow (portrait) from the Galaxy in, I
won't stand that nightmare.
ELMIRA, July 10, 1871.
DEAR REDPATH,--I never made a success of a lecture delivered in a church
yet. People are afraid to laugh in a church. They can't be made to do
it in any possible way.
Success to Fall's carbuncle and many happy returns.
To Mr. Fall, in Boston:
ELMIRA, N. Y. July 20, 1871.
FRIEND FALL,--Redpath tells me to blow up. Here goes! I wanted you to
scare Rondout off with a big price. $125 ain't big. I got $100 the
first time I ever talked there and now they have a much larger hall.
It is a hard town to get to--I run a chance of getting caught by the ice
and missing next engagement. Make the price $150 and let them draw out.
Letters to James Redpath, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Tuesday Aug. 8, 1871.
DEAR RED,--I am different from other women; my mind changes oftener.
People who have no mind can easily be steadfast and firm, but when a man
is loaded down to the guards with it, as I am, every heavy sea of
foreboding or inclination, maybe of indolence, shifts the cargo. See?
Therefore, if you will notice, one week I am likely to give rigid
instructions to confine me to New England; next week, send me to Arizona;
the next week withdraw my name; the next week give you full untrammelled
swing; and the week following modify it. You must try to keep the run of
my mind, Redpath, it is your business being the agent, and it always was
too many for me. It appears to me to be one of the finest pieces of
mechanism I have ever met with. Now about the West, this week, I am
willing that you shall retain all the Western engagements. But what I
shall want next week is still with God.
Let us not profane the mysteries with soiled hands and prying eyes of
P. S. Shall be here 2 weeks, will run up there when Nasby comes.
ELMIRA, N. Y. Sept. 15, 1871.
DEAR REDPATH,--I wish you would get me released from the lecture at
Buffalo. I mortally hate that society there, and I don't doubt they
hired me. I once gave them a packed house free of charge, and they never
even had the common politeness to thank me. They left me to shift for
myself, too, a la Bret Harte at Harvard. Get me rid of Buffalo!
Otherwise I'll have no recourse left but to get sick the day I lecture
there. I can get sick easy enough, by the simple process of saying the
word--well never mind what word--I am not going to lecture there.
BUFFALO, Sept. 26, 1871.
DEAR REDPATH,--We have thought it all over and decided that we can't
possibly talk after Feb. 2.
We shall take up our residence in Hartford 6 days from now
LETTERS 1871-72. REMOVAL TO HARTFORD. A LECTURE TOUR. "ROUGHING IT."
FIRST LETTER TO HOWELLS
The house they had taken in Hartford was the Hooker property on
Forest Street, a handsome place in a distinctly literary
neighborhood. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dudley Warner, and
other well-known writers were within easy walking distance; Twichell
was perhaps half a mile away.
It was the proper environment for Mark Twain. He settled his little
family there, and was presently at Redpath's office in Boston, which
was a congenial place, as we have seen before. He did not fail to
return to the company of Nasby, Josh Billings, and those others of
Redpath's "attractions" as long and as often as distance would
permit. Bret Harte, who by this time had won fame, was also in
Boston now, and frequently, with Howells, Aldrich, and Mark Twain,
gathered in some quiet restaurant corner for a luncheon that lasted
through a dim winter afternoon--a period of anecdote, reminiscence,
and mirth. They were all young then, and laughed easily. Howells,
has written of one such luncheon given by Ralph Keeler, a young
Californian--a gathering at which James T. Fields was present
"Nothing remains to me of the happy time but a sense of idle and
aimless and joyful talk-play, beginning and ending nowhere, of eager
laughter, of countless good stories from Fields, of a heat-lightning
shimmer of wit from Aldrich, of an occasional concentration of our
joint mockeries upon our host, who took it gladly."
But a lecture circuit cannot be restricted to the radius of Boston.
Clemens was presently writing to Redpath from Washington and points
To James Redpath, in Boston:
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1871.
DEAR RED,--I have come square out, thrown "Reminiscences" overboard, and
taken "Artemus Ward, Humorist," for my subject. Wrote it here on Friday
and Saturday, and read it from MS last night to an enormous house. It
suits me and I'll never deliver the nasty, nauseous "Reminiscences" any
The Artemus Ward lecture lasted eleven days, then he wrote:
To Redpath and Fall, in Boston:
BUFFALO DEPOT, Dec. 8, 1871.
REDPATH & FALL, BOSTON,--Notify all hands that from this time I shall
talk nothing but selections from my forthcoming book "Roughing It."
Tried it last night. Suits me tip-top.
SAM'L L. CLEMENS.
The Roughing It chapters proved a success, and continued in high
favor through the rest of the season.
To James Redpath, in Boston:
LOGANSPORT, IND. Jan. 2, 1872.
FRIEND REDPATH,--Had a splendid time with a splendid audience in
Indianapolis last night--a perfectly jammed house, just as I have had all
the time out here. I like the new lecture but I hate the "Artemus Ward"
talk and won't talk it any more. No man ever approved that choice of
subject in my hearing, I think.
Give me some comfort. If I am to talk in New York am I going to have a
good house? I don't care now to have any appointments cancelled. I'll
even "fetch" those Dutch Pennsylvanians with this lecture.
Have paid up $4000 indebtedness. You are the, last on my list. Shall
begin to pay you in a few days and then I shall be a free man again.
With his debts paid, Clemens was anxious to be getting home. Two
weeks following the above he wrote Redpath that he would accept no
more engagements at any price, outside of New England, and added,
"The fewer engagements I have from this time forth the better I
shall be pleased." By the end of February he was back in Hartford,
refusing an engagement in Boston, and announcing to Redpath, "If I
had another engagement I'd rot before I'd fill it." From which we
gather that he was not entirely happy in the lecture field.
As a matter of fact, Mark Twain loathed the continuous travel and
nightly drudgery of platform life. He was fond of entertaining, and
there were moments of triumph that repaid him for a good deal, but
the tyranny of a schedule and timetables was a constant
Meantime, Roughing It had appeared and was selling abundantly. Mark
Twain, free of debt, and in pleasant circumstances, felt that the
outlook was bright. It became even more so when, in March, the
second child, a little girl, Susy, was born, with no attending
misfortunes. But, then, in the early summer little Langdon died.
It was seldom, during all of Mark Twain's life, that he enjoyed more
than a brief period of unmixed happiness.
It was in June of that year that Clemens wrote his first letter to
William Dean Howells the first of several hundred that would follow
in the years to come, and has in it something that is characteristic
of nearly all the Clemens-Howells letters--a kind of tender
playfulness that answered to something in Howells's make-up, his
sense of humor, his wide knowledge of a humanity which he pictured
so amusingly to the world.
To William Dean Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, June 15, 1872.
FRIEND HOWELLS,--Could you tell me how I could get a copy of your
portrait as published in Hearth and Home? I hear so much talk about it
as being among the finest works of art which have yet appeared in that
journal, that I feel a strong desire to see it. Is it suitable for
framing? I have written the publishers of H & H time and again, but they
say that the demand for the portrait immediately exhausted the edition
and now a copy cannot be had, even for the European demand, which has now
begun. Bret Harte has been here, and says his family would not be
without that portrait for any consideration. He says his children get up
in the night and yell for it. I would give anything for a copy of that
portrait to put up in my parlor. I have Oliver Wendell Holmes and Bret
Harte's, as published in Every Saturday, and of all the swarms that come
every day to gaze upon them none go away that are not softened and
humbled and made more resigned to the will of God. If I had yours to put
up alongside of them, I believe the combination would bring more souls to
earnest reflection and ultimate conviction of their lost condition, than
any other kind of warning would. Where in the nation can I get that
portrait? Here are heaps of people that want it,--that need it. There
is my uncle. He wants a copy. He is lying at the point of death. He
has been lying at the point of death for two years. He wants a copy--and
I want him to have a copy. And I want you to send a copy to the man that
shot my dog. I want to see if he is dead to every human instinct.
Now you send me that portrait. I am sending you mine, in this letter;
and am glad to do it, for it has been greatly admired. People who are
judges of art, find in the execution a grandeur which has not been
equalled in this country, and an expression which has not been approached
S. L. CLEMENS.
P. S. 62,000 copies of "Roughing It" sold and delivered in 4 months.
The Clemens family did not spend the summer at Quarry Farm that
year. The sea air was prescribed for Mrs. Clemens and the baby, and
they went to Saybrook, Connecticut, to Fenwick Hall. Clemens wrote
very little, though he seems to have planned Tom Sawyer, and perhaps
made its earliest beginning, which was in dramatic form.
His mind, however, was otherwise active. He was always more or less
given to inventions, and in his next letter we find a description of
one which he brought to comparative perfection.
He had also conceived the idea of another book of travel, and this
was his purpose of a projected trip to England.
To Orion Clemens, in Hartford:
FENWICK HALL, SAYBROOK, CONN.
Aug. 11, 1872.
MY DEAR BRO.--I shall sail for England in the Scotia, Aug. 21.
But what I wish to put on record now, is my new invention--hence this
note, which you will preserve. It is this--a self-pasting scrap-book
--good enough idea if some juggling tailor does not come along and ante-
date me a couple of months, as in the case of the elastic veststrap.
The nuisance of keeping a scrap-book is: 1. One never has paste or gum
tragacanth handy; 2. Mucilage won't stick, or stay, 4 weeks;
3. Mucilage sucks out the ink and makes the scraps unreadable;
4. To daub and paste 3 or 4 pages of scraps is tedious, slow, nasty and
tiresome. My idea is this: Make a scrap-book with leaves veneered or
coated with gum-stickum of some kind; wet the page with sponge, brush,
rag or tongue, and dab on your scraps like postage stamps.
Lay on the gum in columns of stripes.
Each stripe of gum the length of say 20 ems, small pica, and as broad as
your finger; a blank about as broad as your finger between each 2
stripes--so in wetting the paper you need not wet any more of the gum
than your scrap or scraps will cover--then you may shut up the book and
the leaves won't stick together.
Preserve, also, the envelope of this letter--postmark ought to be good
evidence of the date of this great humanizing and civilizing invention.
I'll put it into Dan Slote's hands and tell him he must send you all over
America, to urge its use upon stationers and booksellers--so don't buy
into a newspaper. The name of this thing is "Mark Twain's Self-Pasting
All well here. Shall be up a P. M. Tuesday. Send the carriage.
S. L. CLEMENS.
The Dan Slote of this letter is, of course, his old Quaker City
shipmate, who was engaged in the blank-book business, the firm being
Slote & Woodman, located at 119 and 121 William Street, New York.
LETTERS 1872-73. MARK TWAIN IN ENGLAND. LONDON HONORS. ACQUAINTANCE
WITH DR. JOHN BROWN. A LECTURE TRIUMPH. "THE GILDED AGE"
Clemens did, in fact, sail for England on the given date, and was
lavishly received there. All literary London joined in giving him a
good time. He had not as yet been received seriously by the older
American men of letters, but England made no question as to his
title to first rank. Already, too, they classified him as of the
human type of Lincoln, and reveled in him without stint. Howells
writes: "In England, rank, fashion, and culture rejoiced in him.
Lord Mayors, Lord Chief justices, and magnates of many kinds were
He was treated so well and enjoyed it all so much that he could not
write a book--the kind of book he had planned. One could not poke
fun at a country or a people that had welcomed him with open arms.
He made plenty of notes, at first, but presently gave up the book
idea and devoted himself altogether to having a good time.
He had one grievance--a publisher by the name of Hotten, a sort of
literary harpy, of which there were a great number in those days of
defective copyright, not merely content with pilfering his early
work, had reprinted, under the name of Mark Twain, the work of a
mixed assortment of other humorists, an offensive volume bearing the
title, Screamers and Eye-openers, by Mark Twain.
They besieged him to lecture in London, and promised him overflowing
houses. Artemus Ward, during his last days, had earned London by
storm with his platform humor, and they promised Mark Twain even
greater success. For some reason, however, he did not welcome the
idea; perhaps there was too much gaiety. To Mrs. Clemens he wrote:
To Mrs. Clemens, in Hartford:
LONDON, Sep. 15, 1872.
Livy, darling, everybody says lecture-lecture-lecture--but I have not the
least idea of doing it--certainly not at present. Mr. Dolby, who took
Dickens to America, is coming to talk business to me tomorrow, though I
have sent him word once before, that I can't be hired to talk here,
because I have no time to spare.
There is too much sociability--I do not get along fast enough with work.
Tomorrow I lunch with Mr. Toole and a Member of Parliament--Toole is the
most able Comedian of the day. And then I am done for a while. On
Tuesday I mean to hang a card to my keybox, inscribed--"Gone out of the
City for a week"--and then I shall go to work and work hard. One can't
be caught in a hive of 4,000,000 people, like this.
I have got such a perfectly delightful razor. I have a notion to buy
some for Charley, Theodore and Slee--for I know they have no such razors
there. I have got a neat little watch-chain for Annie--$20.
I love you my darling. My love to all of you.
That Mark Twain should feel and privately report something of his
triumphs we need not wonder at. Certainly he was never one to give
himself airs, but to have the world's great literary center paying
court to him, who only ten years before had been penniless and
unknown, and who once had been a barefoot Tom Sawyer in Hannibal,
was quite startling. It is gratifying to find evidence of human
weakness in the following heart-to-heart letter to his publisher,
especially in view of the relating circumstances.
To Elisha Bliss, in Hartford:
LONDON, Sept. 28, 1872.
FRIEND BLISS,--I have been received in a sort of tremendous way, tonight,
by the brains of London, assembled at the annual dinner of the Sheriffs
of London--mine being (between you and me) a name which was received with
a flattering outburst of spontaneous applause when the long list of
guests was called.
I might have perished on the spot but for the friendly support and
assistance of my excellent friend Sir John Bennett--and I want you to
paste the enclosed in a couple of the handsomest copies of the
"Innocents" and "Roughing It," and send them to him. His address is
"Sir John Bennett,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The "relating circumstances" were these: At the abovementioned
dinner there had been a roll-call of the distinguished guests
present, and each name had been duly applauded. Clemens, conversing
in a whisper with his neighbor, Sir John Bennett, did not give very
close attention to the names, applauding mechanically with the
Finally, a name was read that brought out a vehement hand-clapping.
Mark Twain, not to be outdone in cordiality, joined vigorously, and
kept his hands going even after the others finished. Then,
remarking the general laughter, he whispered to Sir John: "Whose
name was that we were just applauding?"
We may believe that the "friendly support" of Sir John Bennett was
welcome for the moment. But the incident could do him no harm; the
diners regarded it as one of his jokes, and enjoyed him all the more
He was ready to go home by November, but by no means had he had
enough of England. He really had some thought of returning there
permanently. In a letter to Mrs. Crane, at Quarry Farm, he wrote:
"If you and Theodore will come over in the Spring with Livy and me,
and spend the summer you will see a country that is so beautiful
that you will be obliged to believe in Fairyland..... and Theodore
can browse with me among dusty old dens that look now as they looked
five hundred years ago; and puzzle over books in the British Museum
that were made before Christ was born; and in the customs of their
public dinners, and the ceremonies of every official act, and the
dresses of a thousand dignitaries, trace the speech and manners of
all the centuries that have dragged their lagging decades over
England since the Heptarchy fell asunder. I would a good deal
rather live here if I could get the rest of you over."
In a letter home, to his mother and sister, we get a further picture
of his enjoyment.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett:
LONDON, Nov. 6, 1872.
MY DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--I have been so everlasting busy that I
couldn't write--and moreover I have been so unceasingly lazy that I
couldn't have written anyhow. I came here to take notes for a book, but
I haven't done much but attend dinners and make speeches. But have had a
jolly good time and I do hate to go away from these English folks; they
make a stranger feel entirely at home--and they laugh so easily that it
is a comfort to make after-dinner speeches here. I have made hundreds of
friends; and last night in the crush of the opening of the New Guild-hall
Library and Museum, I was surprised to meet a familiar face every few
steps. Nearly 4,000 people, of both sexes, came and went during the
evening, so I had a good opportunity to make a great many new
Livy is willing to come here with me next April and stay several months
--so I am going home next Tuesday. I would sail on Saturday, but that is
the day of the Lord Mayor's annual grand state dinner, when they say 900
of the great men of the city sit down to table, a great many of them in
their fine official and court paraphernalia, so I must not miss it.
However, I may yet change my mind and sail Saturday. I am looking at a
fine Magic lantern which will cost a deal of money, and if I buy it Sammy
may come and learn to make the gas and work the machinery, and paint
pictures for it on glass. I mean to give exhibitions for charitable
purposes in Hartford, and charge a dollar a head.
In a hurry,
He sailed November 12th on the Batavia, arriving in New York two
weeks later. There had been a presidential election in his absence.
General Grant had defeated Horace Greeley, a result, in some measure
at least, attributed to the amusing and powerful pictures of the
cartoonist, Thomas Nast. Mark Twain admired Greeley's talents, but
he regarded him as poorly qualified for the nation's chief
executive. He wrote:
To Th. Nast, in Morristown, N. J.:
HARTFORD, Nov. 1872.
Nast, you more than any other man have won a prodigious victory for
Grant--I mean, rather, for civilization and progress. Those pictures
were simply marvelous, and if any man in the land has a right to hold his
head up and be honestly proud of his share in this year's vast events
that man is unquestionably yourself. We all do sincerely honor you, and
are proud of you.
Perhaps Mark Twain was too busy at this time to write letters. His
success in England had made him more than ever popular in America,
and he could by no means keep up with the demands on him. In
January he contributed to the New York Tribune some letters on the
Sandwich Islands, but as these were more properly articles they do
not seem to belong here.
He refused to go on the lecture circuit, though he permitted Redpath
to book him for any occasional appearance, and it is due to one of
these special engagements that we have the only letter preserved
from this time. It is to Howells, and written with that
exaggeration with which he was likely to embellish his difficulties.
We are not called upon to believe that there were really any such
demonstrations as those ascribed to Warner and himself.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
FARMINGTON AVE, Hartford Feb. 27.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--I am in a sweat and Warner is in another. I told
Redpath some time ago I would lecture in Boston any two days he might
choose provided they were consecutive days--
I never dreamed of his choosing days during Lent since that was his
special horror--but all at once he telegraphs me, and hollers at me in
ail manner of ways that I am booked for Boston March 5 of all days in the
year--and to make matters just as mixed and uncertain as possible, I
can't find out to save my life whether he means to lecture me on the 6th
Warner's been in here swearing like a lunatic, and saying he had written
you to come on the 4th,--and I said, "You leather-head, if I talk in
Boston both afternoon and evening March 5, I'll have to go to Boston the
4th,"--and then he just kicked up his heels and went off cursing after a
fashion I never heard of before.
Now let's just leave this thing to Providence for 24 hours--you bet it
will come out all right.
He was writing a book with Warner at this time--The Gilded Age--
the two authors having been challenged by their wives one night at
dinner to write a better book than the current novels they had been
discussing with some severity. Clemens already had a story in his
mind, and Warner agreed to collaborate in the writing. It was begun
without delay. Clemens wrote the first three hundred and ninety-
nine pages, and read there aloud to Warner, who took up the story at
this point and continued it through twelve chapters, after which
they worked alternately, and with great enjoyment. They also worked
rapidly, and in April the story was completed. For a collaboration
by two men so different in temperament and literary method it was a
Another thing Mark Twain did that winter was to buy some land on
Farmington Avenue and begin the building of a home. He had by no
means given up returning to England, and made his plans to sail with
Mrs. Clemens and Susy in May. Miss Clara Spaulding, of Elmira--
[Later Mrs. John B. Stanchfield, of New York.]--a girlhood friend of
Mrs. Clemens--was to accompany them.
The Daily Graphic heard of the proposed journey, and wrote, asking
for a farewell word. His characteristic reply is the only letter of
any kind that has survived from that spring.
To the Editor of "The Daily Graphic," in New York City:
HARTFORD, Apl. 17, 1873.
ED. GRAPHIC,--Your note is received. If the following two lines which I
have cut from it are your natural handwriting, then I understand you to
ask me "for a farewell letter in the name of the American people." Bless
you, the joy of the American people is just a little premature; I haven't
gone yet. And what is more, I am not going to stay, when I do go.
Yes, it is true. I am only going to remain beyond the sea, six months,
that is all. I love stir and excitement; and so the moment the spring
birds begin to sing, and the lagging weariness of summer to threaten,
I grow restless, I get the fidgets; I want to pack off somewhere where
there's something going on. But you know how that is--you must have felt
that way. This very day I saw the signs in the air of the coming
dullness, and I said to myself, "How glad I am that I have already
chartered a steamship!" There was absolutely nothing in the morning
papers. You can see for yourself what the telegraphic headings were:
A Father Killed by His Son
A Bloody Fight in Kentucky
A Court House Fired, and
Negroes Therein Shot
A Louisiana Massacre
An Eight-year-old murderer
Two to Three Hundred Men Roasted Alive!
A Town in a State of General Riot
A Lively Skirmish in Indiana
(and thirty other similar headings.)
The items under those headings all bear date yesterday, Apl. 16 (refer to
your own paper)--and I give you my word of honor that that string of
commonplace stuff was everything there was in the telegraphic columns
that a body could call news. Well, said I to myself this is getting
pretty dull; this is getting pretty dry; there don't appear to be
anything going on anywhere; has this progressive nation gone to sleep?
Have I got to stand another month of this torpidity before I can begin to
browse among the lively capitals of Europe?
But never mind-things may revive while I am away. During the last two
months my next-door neighbor, Chas. Dudley Warner, has dropped his "Back-
Log Studies," and he and I have written a bulky novel in partnership.
He has worked up the fiction and I have hurled in the facts. I consider
it one of the most astonishing novels that ever was written. Night after
night I sit up reading it over and over again and crying. It will be
published early in the Fall, with plenty of pictures. Do you consider
this an advertisement?--and if so, do you charge for such things when a
man is your friend?
SAML. L. CLEMENS,
An amusing, even if annoying, incident happened about the time of
Mark Twain's departure. A man named Chew related to Twichell a most
entertaining occurrence. Twichell saw great possibilities in it,
and suggested that Mark Twain be allowed to make a story of it,
sharing the profits with Chew. Chew agreed, and promised to send
the facts, carefully set down. Twichell, in the mean time, told the
story to Clemens, who was delighted with it and strongly tempted to
write it at once, while he was in the spirit, without waiting on
Chew. Fortunately, he did not do so, for when Chew's material came
it was in the form of a clipping, the story having been already
printed in some newspaper. Chew's knowledge of literary ethics
would seem to have been slight. He thought himself entitled to
something under the agreement with Twichell. Mark Twain, by this
time in London, naturally had a different opinion.
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
LONDON, June 9, '73.
DEAR OLD JOE,--I consider myself wholly at liberty to decline to pay Chew
anything, and at the same time strongly tempted to sue him into the
bargain for coming so near ruining me. If he hadn't happened to send me
that thing in print, I would have used the story (like an innocent fool)
and would straightway have been hounded to death as a plagiarist. It
would have absolutely destroyed me. I cannot conceive of a man being such
a hopeless ass (after serving as a legislative reporter, too) as to
imagine that I or any other literary man in his senses would consent to
chew over old stuff that had already been in print. If that man wern't
an infant in swaddling clothes, his only reply to our petition would have
been, "It has been in print." It makes me as mad as the very Old Harry
every time I think of Mr. Chew and the frightfully narrow escape I have
had at his hands. Confound Mr. Chew, with all my heart! I'm willing
that he should have ten dollars for his trouble of warming over his cold
victuals--cheerfully willing to that--but no more. If I had had him near
when his letter came, I would have got out my tomahawk and gone for him.
He didn't tell the story half as well as you did, anyhow.
I wish to goodness you were here this moment--nobody in our parlor but
Livy and me,--and a very good view of London to the fore. We have a
luxuriously ample suite of apartments in the Langham Hotel, 3rd floor,
our bedroom looking straight up Portland Place and our parlor having a
noble array of great windows looking out upon both streets (Portland
Place and the crook that joins it to Regent Street.)
9 P.M. Full twilight--rich sunset tints lingering in the west.
I am not going to write anything--rather tell it when I get back. I love
you and Harmony, and that is all the fresh news I've got, anyway. And I
mean to keep that fresh all the time.
P. S.--Am luxuriating in glorious old Pepy's Diary, and smoking.
Letters are exceedingly scarce through all this period. Mark Twain,
now on his second visit to London, was literally overwhelmed with
honors and entertainment; his rooms at the Langham were like a
court. Such men as Robert Browning, Turgenieff, Sir John Millais,
and Charles Kingsley hastened to call. Kingsley and others gave him
dinners. Mrs. Clemens to her sister wrote: "It is perfectly
discouraging to try to write you."
The continuous excitement presently told on her. In July all
further engagements were canceled, and Clemens took his little
family to Scotland, for quiet and rest. They broke the journey at
York, and it was there that Mark Twain wrote the only letter
remaining from this time.
Part of a letter to Mrs. Jervis Langdon, of Elmira, N. Y.:
For the present we shall remain in this queer old walled town, with its
crooked, narrow lanes, that tell us of their old day that knew no wheeled
vehicles; its plaster-and-timber dwellings, with upper stories far
overhanging the street, and thus marking their date, say three hundred
years ago; the stately city walls, the castellated gates, the ivy-grown,
foliage-sheltered, most noble and picturesque ruin of St. Mary's Abbey,
suggesting their date, say five hundred years ago, in the heart of
Crusading times and the glory of English chivalry and romance; the vast
Cathedral of York, with its worn carvings and quaintly pictured windows,
preaching of still remoter days; the outlandish names of streets and
courts and byways that stand as a record and a memorial, all these
centuries, of Danish dominion here in still earlier times; the hint here
and there of King Arthur and his knights and their bloody fights with
Saxon oppressors round about this old city more than thirteen hundred
years gone by; and, last of all, the melancholy old stone coffins and
sculptured inscriptions, a venerable arch and a hoary tower of stone that
still remain and are kissed by the sun and caressed by the shadows every
day, just as the sun and the shadows have kissed and caressed them every
lagging day since the Roman Emperor's soldiers placed them here in the
times when Jesus the Son of Mary walked the streets of Nazareth a youth,
with no more name or fame than the Yorkshire boy who is loitering down
this street this moment.
Their destination was Edinburgh, where they remained a month. Mrs.
Clemens's health gave way on their arrival there, and her husband,
knowing the name of no other physician in the place, looked up Dr.
John Brown, author of Rab and His Friends, and found in him not only
a skilful practitioner, but a lovable companion, to whom they all
became deeply attached. Little Susy, now seventeen months old,
became his special favorite. He named her Megalops, because of her
Mrs. Clemens regained her strength and they returned to London.
Clemens, still urged to lecture, finally agreed with George Dolby to
a week's engagement, and added a promise that after taking his wife
and daughter back to America he would return immediately for a more
extended course. Dolby announced him to appear at the Queen's
Concert Rooms, Hanover Square, for the week of October 13-18, his
lecture to be the old Sandwich Islands talk that seven years before
had brought him his first success. The great hall, the largest in
London, was thronged at each appearance, and the papers declared
that Mark Twain had no more than "whetted the public appetite" for
his humor. Three days later, October 1873, Clemens, with his
little party, sailed for home. Half-way across the ocean he wrote
the friend they had left in Scotland:
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
MID-ATLANTIC, Oct. 30, 1873.
OUR DEAR FRIEND THE DOCTOR,--We have plowed a long way over the sea,
and there's twenty-two hundred miles of restless water between us, now,
besides the railway stretch. And yet you are so present with us, so
close to us that a span and a whisper would bridge the distance.
The first three days were stormy, and wife, child, maid, and Miss
Spaulding were all sea-sick 25 hours out of the 24, and I was sorry I
ever started. However, it has been smooth, and balmy, and sunny and
altogether lovely for a day or two now, and at night there is a broad
luminous highway stretching over the sea to the moon, over which the
spirits of the sea are traveling up and down all through the secret night
and having a genuine good time, I make no doubt.
Today they discovered a "collie" on board! I find (as per advertisement
which I sent you) that they won't carry dogs in these ships at any price.
This one has been concealed up to this time. Now his owner has to pay
L10 or heave him overboard. Fortunately the doggie is a performing
doggie and the money will be paid. So after all it was just as well you
didn't intrust your collie to us.
A poor little child died at midnight and was buried at dawn this morning
--sheeted and shotted, and sunk in the middle of the lonely ocean in
water three thousand fathoms deep. Pity the poor mother.
With our love.
S. L. CLEMENS.
Mark Twain was back in London, lecturing again at the Queen's
Concert Rooms, after barely a month's absence. Charles Warren
Stoddard, whom he had known in California, shared his apartment at
the Langham, and acted as his secretary--a very necessary office,
for he was besieged by callers and bombarded with letters.
He remained in London two months, lecturing steadily at Hanover
Square to full houses. It is unlikely that there is any other
platform record to match it. One letter of this period has been
preserved. It is written to Twichell, near the end of his
To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:
LONDON, Jan. 5 1874.
MY DEAR OLD JOE,--I knew you would be likely to graduate into an ass if
I came away; and so you have--if you have stopped smoking. However, I
have a strong faith that it is not too late, yet, and that the
judiciously managed influence of a bad example will fetch you back again.
I wish you had written me some news--Livy tells me precious little. She
mainly writes to hurry me home and to tell me how much she respects me:
but she's generally pretty slow on news. I had a letter from her along
with yours, today, but she didn't tell me the book is out. However, it's
all right. I hope to be home 20 days from today, and then I'll see her,
and that will make up for a whole year's dearth of news. I am right down
grateful that she is looking strong and "lovelier than ever." I only
wish I could see her look her level best, once--I think it would be a
I have just spent a good part of this day browsing through the Royal
Academy Exhibition of Landseer's paintings. They fill four or five great
salons, and must number a good many hundreds. This is the only
opportunity ever to see them, because the finest of them belong to the
queen and she keeps them in her private apartments. Ah, they're
wonderfully beautiful! There are such rich moonlights and dusks in "The
Challenge" and "The Combat;" and in that long flight of birds across a
lake in the subdued flush of sunset (or sunrise--for no man can ever tell
tother from which in a picture, except it has the filmy morning mist
breathing itself up from the water). And there is such a grave
analytical profundity in the faces of "The Connoisseurs;" and such pathos
in the picture of the fawn suckling its dead mother, on a snowy waste,
with only the blood in the footprints to hint that she is not asleep.
And the way he makes animals absolute flesh and blood--insomuch that if
the room were darkened ever so little and a motionless living animal
placed beside a painted one, no man could tell which was which.
I interrupted myself here, to drop a line to Shirley Brooks and suggest
a cartoon for Punch. It was this. In one of the Academy salons (in the
suite where these pictures are), a fine bust of Landseer stands on a
pedestal in the centre of the room. I suggest that some of Landseer's
best known animals be represented as having come down out of their frames
in the moonlight and grouped themselves about the bust in mourning
Well, old man, I am powerful glad to hear from you and shall be powerful
glad to see you and Harmony. I am not going to the provinces because I
cannot get halls that are large enough. I always felt cramped in Hanover
Square Rooms, but I find that everybody here speaks with awe and respect
of that prodigious place, and wonder that I could fill it so long.
I am hoping to be back in 20 days, but I have so much to go home to and
enjoy with a jubilant joy, that it seems hardly possible that it can ever
come to pass in so uncertain a world as this.
I have read the novel--[The Gilded Age, published during his absence,
December, 1873.]--here, and I like it. I have made no inquiries about
it, though. My interest in a book ceases with the printing of it.
With a world of love,
LETTERS 1874. HARTFORD AND ELMIRA. A NEW STUDY. BEGINNING "TOM
SAWYER." THE SELLERS PLAY.
Naturally Redpath would not give him any peace now. His London success
must not be wasted. At first his victim refused point-blank, and with
great brevity. But he was overborne and persuaded, and made occasional
appearances, wiring at last this final defiant word:
Telegram to James Redpath, in Boston:
HARTFORD, March 3, 1874.
JAMES REDPATH,--Why don't you congratulate me?
I never expect to stand on a lecture platform again after Thursday night.
That he was glad to be home again we may gather from a letter sent
at this time to Doctor Brown, of Edinburgh.
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
FARMINGTON AVENUE, HARTFORD
Feby. 28, 1874.
MY DEAR FRIEND,--We are all delighted with your commendations of the
Gilded Age-and the more so because some of our newspapers have set forth
the opinion that Warner really wrote the book and I only added my name to
the title page in order to give it a larger sale. I wrote the first
eleven chapters, every word. and every line. I also wrote chapters 24,
25, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37, 21, 42, 43, 45, 51, 52. 53, 57,
59, 60, 61, 62, and portions of 35, 49 and 56. So I wrote 32 of the 63
chapters entirely and part of 3 others beside.
The fearful financial panic hit the book heavily, for we published it in
the midst of it. But nevertheless in the 8 weeks that have now elapsed
since the day we published, we have sold 40,000 copies; which gives
L3,000 royalty to be divided between the authors. This is really the
largest two-months' sale which any American book has ever achieved
(unless one excepts the cheaper editions of Uncle Tom's Cabin). The
average price of our book is 16 shillings a copy--Uncle Tom was 2
shillings a copy. But for the panic our sale would have been doubled,
I verily believe. I do not believe the sale will ultimately go over
I shipped to you, from Liverpool, Barley's Illustrations of Judd's
"Margaret" (the waiter at the Adelphi Hotel agreeing to ship it securely
per parcel delivery,) and I do hope it did not miscarry, for we in
America think a deal of Barley's--[Felix Octavius Carr barley, 1822-1888,
illustrator of the works of Irving, Cooper, etc. Probably the most
distinguished American illustrator of his time.]--work. I shipped the
novel (" Margaret") to you from here a week ago.
Indeed I am thankful for the wife and the child--and if there is one
individual creature on all this footstool who is more thoroughly and
uniformly and unceasingly happy than I am I defy the world to produce him
and prove him. In my opinion, he doesn't exist. I was a mighty rough,
coarse, unpromising subject when Livy took charge of me 4 years ago, and
I may still be, to the rest of the world, but not to her. She has made a
very creditable job of me.
Success to the Mark Twain Club!-and the novel shibboleth of the Whistle.
Of course any member rising to speak would be required to preface his
remark with a keen respectful whistle at the chair-the chair recognizing
the speaker with an answering shriek, and then as the speech proceeded
its gravity and force would be emphasized and its impressiveness
augmented by the continual interjection of whistles in place of
punctuation-pauses; and the applause of the audience would be manifested
in the same way ....
They've gone to luncheon, and I must follow. With strong love from us
SAML. L. CLEMENS.
These were the days when the Howells and Clemens families began
visiting back and forth between Boston and Hartford, and sometimes
Aldrich came, though less frequently, and the gatherings at the
homes of Warner and Clemens were full of never-to-be-forgotten
happiness. Of one such visit Howells wrote:
"In the good-fellowship of that cordial neighborhood we had two such
days as the aging sun no longer shines on in his round. There was
constant running in and out of friendly houses, where the lively
hosts and guests called one another by their christian names or
nicknames, and no such vain ceremony as knocking or ringing at
doors. Clemens was then building the stately mansion in which he
satisfied his love of magnificence as if it had been another
sealskin coat, and he was at the crest of the prosperity which
enabled him to humor every whim or extravagance."
It was the delight of such a visit that kept Clemens constantly
urging its repetition. One cannot but feel the genuine affection of
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
Mch. 1, 1876.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Now you will find us the most reasonable people in the
world. We had thought of precipitating upon you George Warner and wife
one day; Twichell and his jewel of a wife another day, and Chas. Perkins
and wife another. Only those--simply members of our family, they are.
But I'll close the door against them all--which will "fix" all of the lot
except Twichell, who will no more hesitate to climb in at the back window
And you shall go to bed when you please, get up when you please, talk
when you please, read when you please. Mrs. Howells may even go to New
York Saturday if she feels that she must, but if some gentle, unannoying
coaxing can beguile her into putting that off a few days, we shall be
more than glad, for I do wish she and Mrs. Clemens could have a good
square chance to get acquainted with each other. But first and last and
all the time, we want you to feel untrammeled and wholly free from
The date suits--all dates suit.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
FARMINGTON AVENUE, HARTFORD, Mch. 20, 1876.
DEAR HOWELLS,--You or Aldrich or both of you must come to Hartford to
live. Mr. Hall, who lives in the house next to Mrs. Stowe's (just where
we drive in to go to our new house) will sell for $16,000 or $17,000.
The lot is 85 feet front and 150 deep--long time and easy payments on the
purchase? You can do your work just as well here as in Cambridge, can't
you? Come, will one of you boys buy that house? Now say yes.
Mrs. Clemens is an invalid yet, but is getting along pretty fairly.
We send best regards.
April found the Clemens family in Elmira. Mrs. Clemens was not
over-strong, and the cares of house-building were many. They went
early, therefore, remaining at the Langdon home in the city until
Quarry Farm should feel a touch of warmer sun, Clemens wrote the
news to Doctor Brown.
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
ELMIRA, N. Y., April 27, '86.
DEAR DOCTOR,--This town is in the interior of the State of New York--
and was my wife's birth-place. We are here to spend the whole summer.
Although it is so near summer, we had a great snow-storm yesterday, and
one the day before. This is rather breaking in upon our plans, as it may
keep us down here in the valley a trifle longer than we desired. It gets
fearfully hot here in the summer, so we spend our summers on top of a
hill 6 or 700 feet high, about two or three miles from here--it never
gets hot up there.
Mrs. Clemens is pretty strong, and so is the "little wifie" barring a
desperate cold in the head the child grows in grace and beauty
marvellously. I wish the nations of the earth would combine in a baby
show and give us a chance to compete. I must try to find one of her
latest photographs to enclose in this. And this reminds me that Mrs.
Clemens keeps urging me to ask you for your photograph and last night she
said, "and be sure to ask him for a photograph of his sister, and Jock-
but say Master Jock--do not be headless and forget that courtesy; he is
Jock in our memories and our talk, but he has a right to his title when a
body uses his name in a letter." Now I have got it all in--I can't have
made any mistake this time. Miss Clara Spaulding looked in, a moment,
yesterday morning, as bright and good as ever. She would like to lay
her love at your feet if she knew I was writing--as would also fifty
friends of ours whom you have never seen, and whose homage is as fervent
as if the cold and clouds and darkness of a mighty sea did not lie
between their hearts and you. Poor old Rab had not many "friends" at
first, but if all his friends of today could gather to his grave from the
four corners of the earth what a procession there would be! And Rab's
friends are your friends.
I am going to work when we get on the hill-till then I've got to lie
fallow, albeit against my will. We join in love to you and yours.
Your friend ever,
SAML. L. CLEMENS.
P. S. I enclose a specimen of villainy. A man pretends to be my brother
and my lecture agent--gathers a great audience together in a city more
than a thousand miles from here, and then pockets the money and elopes,
leaving the audience to wait for the imaginary lecturer! I am after him
with the law.
It was a historic summer at the Farm. A new baby arrived in June; a
new study was built for Mark Twain by Mrs. Crane, on the hillside
near the old quarry; a new book was begun in it--The Adventures of
Tom Sawyer--and a play, the first that Mark Twain had really
attempted, was completed--the dramatization of The Gilded Age.
An early word went to Hartford of conditions at the Farm.
To Rev. and Mrs. Twichell, in Hartford:
ELMIRA, June 11, 1874.
MY DEAR OLD JOE AND HARMONY,--The baby is here and is the great American
Giantess--weighing 7 3/4 pounds. We had to wait a good long time for
her, but she was full compensation when she did come.
The Modoc was delighted with it, and gave it her doll at once. There is
nothing selfish about the Modoc. She is fascinated with the new baby.
The Modoc rips and tears around out doors, most of the time, and
consequently is as hard as a pine knot and as brown as an Indian. She
is bosom friend to all the ducks, chickens, turkeys and guinea hens on
the place. Yesterday as she marched along the winding path that leads up
the hill through the red clover beds to the summer-house, there was a
long procession of these fowls stringing contentedly after her, led by a
stately rooster who can look over the Modoc's head. The devotion of
these vassals has been purchased with daily largess of Indian meal, and
so the Modoc, attended by her bodyguard, moves in state wherever she
Susie Crane has built the loveliest study for me, you ever saw. It is
octagonal, with a peaked roof, each octagon filled with a spacious
window, and it sits perched in complete isolation on top of an elevation
that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant
blue hills. It is a cosy nest, with just room in it for a sofa and a
table and three or four chairs--and when the storms sweep down the remote
valley and the lightning flashes above the hills beyond, and the rain
beats upon the roof over my head, imagine the luxury of it! It stands
500 feet above the valley and 2 1/2 miles from it.
However one must not write all day. We send continents of love to you
We have mentioned before that Clemens had settled his mother and
sister at Fredonia, New York, and when Mrs. Clemens was in condition
to travel he concluded to pay them a visit.
It proved an unfortunate journey; the hot weather was hard on Mrs.
Clemens, and harder still, perhaps, on Mark Twain's temper. At any
period of his life a bore exasperated him, and in these earlier days
he was far more likely to explode than in his mellower age. Remorse
always followed--the price he paid was always costly. We cannot
know now who was the unfortunate that invited the storm, but in the
next letter we get the echoes of it and realize something of its
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and Mrs. Moffett, in Fredonia:
ELMIRA, Aug. 15.
MX DEAR MOTHER AND SISTER,--I came away from Fredonia ashamed of myself;
--almost too much humiliated to hold up my head and say good-bye. For I
began to comprehend how much harm my conduct might do you socially in
your village. I would have gone to that detestable oyster-brained bore
and apologized for my inexcusable rudeness to him, but that I was
satisfied he was of too small a calibre to know how to receive an apology
Pamela appalled me by saying people had hinted that they wished to visit
Livy when she came, but that she had given them no encouragement.
I feared that those people would merely comprehend that their courtesies
were not wanted, and yet not know exactly why they were not wanted.
I came away feeling that in return for your constant and tireless efforts
to secure our bodily comfort and make our visit enjoyable, I had basely
repaid you by making you sad and sore-hearted and leaving you so. And
the natural result has fallen to me likewise--for a guilty conscience has
harassed me ever since, and I have not had one short quarter of an hour
of peace to this moment.
You spoke of Middletown. Why not go there and live? Mr. Crane says it
is only about a hundred miles this side of New York on the Erie road.
The fact that one or two of you might prefer to live somewhere else is
not a valid objection--there are no 4 people who would all choose the
same place--so it will be vain to wait for the day when your tastes shall
be a unit. I seriously fear that our visit has damaged you in Fredonia,
and so I wish you were out of it.
The baby is fat and strong, and Susie the same. Susie was charmed with
the donkey and the doll.
P. S.--DEAR MA AND PAMELA--I am mainly grieved because I have been rude
to a man who has been kind to you--and if you ever feel a desire to
apologize to him for me, you may be sure that I will endorse the apology,
no matter how strong it may be. I went to his bank to apologize to him,
but my conviction was strong that he was not man enough to know how to
take an apology and so I did not make it.
William Dean Howells was in those days writing those vividly
realistic, indeed photographic stories which fixed his place among
American men of letters. He had already written 'Their Wedding
Journey' and 'A Chance Acquaintance' when 'A Foregone Conclusion'
appeared. For the reason that his own work was so different, and
perhaps because of his fondness for the author, Clemens always
greatly admired the books of Howells. Howells's exact observation
and his gift for human detail seemed marvelous to Mark Twain, who
with a bigger brush was inclined to record the larger rather than
the minute aspects of life. The sincerity of his appreciation of
Howells, however, need not be questioned, nor, for that matter, his
detestation of Scott.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Aug. 22, 1874.
DEAR HOWELLS,--I have just finished reading the 'Foregone Conclusion' to
Mrs. Clemens and we think you have even outdone yourself. I should think
that this must be the daintiest, truest, most admirable workmanship that
was ever put on a story. The creatures of God do not act out their
natures more unerringly than yours do. If your genuine stories can die,
I wonder by what right old Walter Scott's artificialities shall continue
I brought Mrs. Clemens back from her trip in a dreadfully broken-down
condition--so by the doctor's orders we unpacked the trunks sorrowfully
to lie idle here another month instead of going at once to Hartford and
proceeding to furnish the new house which is now finished. We hate to
have it go longer desolate and tenantless, but cannot help it.
By and by, if the madam gets strong again, we are hoping to have the
Grays there, and you and the Aldrich households, and Osgood, down to
engage in an orgy with them.
Howells was editor of the Atlantic by this time, and had been urging
Clemens to write something suitable for that magazine. He had done
nothing, however, until this summer at Quarry Farm. There, one
night in the moonlight, Mrs. Crane's colored cook, who had been a
slave, was induced to tell him her story. It was exactly the story
to appeal to Mark Twain, and the kind of thing he could write. He
set it down next morning, as nearly in her own words and manner as
possible, without departing too far from literary requirements.
He decided to send this to Howells. He did not regard it very
highly, but he would take the chance. An earlier offering to the
magazine had been returned. He sent the "True Story," with a brief
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Sept. 2, '74.
MY DEAR HOWELLS,--.....I enclose also a "True Story" which has no humor
in it. You can pay as lightly as you choose for that, if you want it,
for it is rather out of my line. I have not altered the old colored
woman's story except to begin at the beginning, instead of the middle, as
she did--and traveled both ways.....
But Howells was delighted with it. He referred to its "realest kind
of black talk," and in another place added, "This little story
delights me more and more. I wish you had about forty of them."
Along with the "True Story" Mark Twain had sent the "Fable for Good
Old Boys and Girls"; but this Howells returned, not, as he said,
because he didn't like it, but because the Atlantic on matters of
religion was just in that "Good Lord, Good Devil condition when a
little fable like yours wouldn't leave it a single Presbyterian,
Baptist, Unitarian, Episcopalian, Methodist, or Millerite paying
subscriber, while all the deadheads would stick to it and abuse it
in the denominational newspapers!"
But the shorter MS. had been only a brief diversion. Mark Twain was
bowling along at a book and a play. The book was Tom Sawyer, as
already mentioned, and the play a dramatization from The Gilded Age.
Clemens had all along intended to dramatize the story of Colonel
Sellers, and was one day thunderstruck to receive word from
California that a San Francisco dramatist had appropriated his