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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 online

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manuscripts of this period.

Of the books projected (there were several), a burlesque manual of
etiquette would seem to have been the most promising. Howells had faith
in it, and of the still remaining fragments a few seem worth quoting:


If your ball glides along in the intense and immediate vicinity of
the object-ball, and a count seems exquisitely imminent, lift one
leg; then one shoulder; then squirm your body around in sympathy
with the direction of the moving ball; and at the instant when the
ball seems on the point of colliding throw up both of your arms
violently. Your cue will probably break a chandelier, but no
matter; you have done what you could to help the count.


If it occur in your block, courteously give way to strangers
desiring a view, particularly ladies.

Avoid showing partiality toward the one dog, lest you hurt the
feelings of the other one.

Let your secret sympathies and your compassion be always with the
under dog in the fight - this is magnanimity; but bet on the other
one - this is business.


If you draw to a flush and fail to fill, do not continue the

If you hold a pair of trays, and your opponent is blind, and it
costs you fifty to see him, let him remain unperceived.

If you hold nothing but ace high, and by some means you know that
the other man holds the rest of the aces, and he calls, excuse
yourself; let him call again another time.


If you live in the country, buy at 80, sell at 40. Avoid all forms
of eccentricity.


When you wish to get the waiter's attention, do not sing out "Say!"
Simply say "Szt!"

His old abandoned notion of "Hamlet" with an added burlesque character
came back to him and stirred his enthusiasm anew, until even Howells
manifested deep interest in the matter. One reflects how young Howells
must have been in those days; how full of the joy of existence; also how
mournfully he would consider such a sacrilege now.

Clemens proposed almost as many things to Howells as his brother Orion
proposed to him. There was scarcely a letter that didn't contain some
new idea, with a request for advice or co-operation. Now it was some
book that he meant to write some day, and again it would be a something
that he wanted Howells to write.

Once he urged Howells to make a play, or at least a novel, out of Orion.
At another time he suggested as material the "Rightful Earl of Durham."

He is a perfectly stunning literary bonanza, and must be dug up and put
on the market. You must get his entire biography out of him and have it
ready for Osgood's magazine. Even if it isn't worth printing, you must
have it anyway, and use it one of these days in one of your stories or in
a play.

It was this notion about 'The American Claimant' which somewhat later
would lead to a collaboration with Howells on a drama, and eventually to
a story of that title.

But Clemens's chief interest at this time lay in publishing, rather than
in writing. His association with Osgood inspired him to devise new
ventures of profit. He planned a 'Library of American Humor', which
Howells (soon to leave the Atlantic) and "Charley" Clark - [Charles
Hopkins Clark, managing editor of the Hartford Courant.] - were to edit,
and which Osgood would publish, for subscription sale. Without realizing
it, Clemens was taking his first step toward becoming his own publisher.
His contract with Osgood for 'The Prince and the Pauper' made him
essentially that, for by the terms of it he agreed to supply all the
money for the making of the book, and to pay Osgood a royalty of seven
and one-half per cent. for selling it, reversing the usual conditions.
The contract for the Library of Humor was to be a similar one, though in
this case Osgood was to have a larger royalty return, and to share
proportionately in the expense and risk. Mark Twain was entering into a
field where he did not belong; where in the end he would harvest only
disaster and regret.

One curious project came to an end in 1881 - the plan for a monument to
Adam. In a sketch written a great many years later Mark Twain tells of
the memorial which the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher and himself once proposed
to erect to our great common ancestor. The story is based on a real
incident. Clemens, in Elmira one day (it was October, 1879), heard of a
jesting proposal made by F. G. Hall to erect a monument in Elmira to
Adam. The idea promptly caught Mark Twain's fancy. He observed to
Beecher that the human race really showed a pretty poor regard for its
great progenitor, who was about to be deposed by Darwin's simian, not to
pay him the tribute of a single monument. Mankind, he said, would
probably accept the monkey ancestor, and in time the very name of Adam
would be forgotten. He declared Mr. Hall's suggestion to be a sound

Beecher agreed that there were many reasons why a monument should be
erected to Adam, and suggested that a subscription be started for the
purpose. Certain business men, seeing an opportunity for advertising the
city, took the matter semi-seriously, and offered to contribute large
sums in the interest of the enterprise. Then it was agreed that Congress
should be petitioned to sanction the idea exclusively to Elmira,
prohibiting the erection of any such memorial elsewhere. A document to
this effect was prepared, headed by F. G. Hall, and signed by other
leading citizens of Elmira, including Beecher himself. General Joe
Hawley came along just then on a political speech-making tour. Clemens
introduced him, and Hawley, in turn, agreed to father the petition in
Congress. What had begun merely as pleasantry began to have a formidable

But alas! in the end Hawley's courage had failed him. He began to hate
his undertaking. He was afraid of the national laugh it would arouse,
the jeers of the newspapers. It was certain to leak out that Mark Twain
was behind it, in spite of the fact that his name nowhere appeared; that
it was one of his colossal jokes. Now and then, in the privacy of his
own room at night, Hawley would hunt up the Adam petition and read it and
feel the cold sweat breaking out. He postponed the matter from one
session to another till the summer of 1881, when he was about to sail for
Europe. Then he gave the document to his wife, to turn over to Clemens,
and ignominiously fled.

[For text of the petition in full, etc., see Appendix P, at the end of
last volume.]

Mark Twain's introduction of Hawley at Elmira contained this pleasantry:
"General Hawley was president of the Centennial Commission. Was a
gallant soldier in the war. He has been Governor of Connecticut, member
of Congress, and was president of the convention that nominated Abraham

General Hawley: "That nominated Grant."

Twain: "He says it was Grant, but I know better. He is a member of my
church at Hartford, and the author of 'Beautiful Snow.' Maybe he will
deny that. But I am only here to give him a character from his last
place. As a pure citizen, I respect him; as a personal friend of years,
I have the warmest regard for him; as a neighbor whose vegetable garden
joins mine, why - why, I watch him. That's nothing; we all do that with
any neighbor. General Hawley keeps his promises, not only in private,
but in public. He is an editor who believes what he writes in his own
paper. As the author of 'Beautiful Snow' he added a new pang to winter.
He is broad-souled, generous, noble, liberal, alive to his moral and
religious responsibilities. Whenever the contribution-box was passed I
never knew him to take out a cent."



The Army of the Potomac gave a dinner in Hartford on the 8th of June,
1881. But little memory remains of it now beyond Mark Twain's speech and
a bill of fare containing original comments, ascribed to various revered
authors, such as Johnson, Milton, and Carlyle. A pleasant incident
followed, however, which Clemens himself used to relate. General Sherman
attended the banquet, and Secretary of War, Robert Lincoln. Next morning
Clemens and Twichell were leaving for West Point, where they were to
address the military students, guests on the same special train on which
Lincoln and Sherman had their private car. This car was at the end of
the train, and when the two passengers reached the station, Sherman and
Lincoln were out on the rear platform addressing the multitude. Clemens
and Twichell went in and, taking seats, waited for them.

As the speakers finished the train started, but they still remained
outside, bowing and waving to the assembled citizens, so that it was
under good headway before they came in. Sherman came up to Clemens, who
sat smoking unconcernedly.

"Well," he said, "who told you you could go in this car?"

"Nobody," said Clemens.

"Do you expect to pay extra fare?" asked Sherman.

"No," said Clemens. "I don't expect to pay any fare."

"Oh, you don't. Then you'll work your way."

Sherman took off his coat and military hat and made Clemens put them on.

"Now," said he, "whenever the train stops you go out on the platform and
represent me and make a speech."

It was not long before the train stopped, and Clemens, according to
orders, stepped out on the rear platform and bowed to the crowd. There
was a cheer at the sight of his military uniform. Then the cheer waned,
became a murmur of uncertainty, followed by an undertone of discussion.
Presently somebody said:

"Say, that ain't Sherman, that's Mark Twain," which brought another

Then Sherman had to come out too, and the result was that both spoke.
They kept this up at the different stations, and sometimes Lincoln came
out with them. When there was time all three spoke, much to the
satisfaction of their audiences.

President Garfield was shot that summer - July 2, 1881. - [On the day that
President Garfield was shot Mrs. Clemens received from their friend
Reginald Cholmondeley a letter of condolence on the death of her husband
in Australia; startling enough, though in reality rather comforting than
otherwise, for the reason that the "Mark Twain" who had died in Australia
was a very persistent impostor. Clemens wrote Cholmondeley: "Being dead
I might be excused from writing letters, but I am not that kind of a
corpse. May I never be so dead as to neglect the hail of a friend from a
far land." Out of this incident grew a feature of an anecdote related in
Following the Equator the joke played by the man from Bendigo.] - He died
September 19th, and Arthur came into power. There was a great feeling of
uncertainty as to what he would do. He was regarded as "an excellent
gentleman with a weakness for his friends." Incumbents holding
appointive offices were in a state of dread.

Howells's father was consul at Toronto, and, believing his place to be in
danger, he appealed to his son. In his book Howells tells how, in turn,
he appealed to Clemens, remembering his friendship with Grant and Grant's
friendship with Arthur. He asked Clemens to write to Grant, but Clemens
would hear of nothing less than a call on the General, during which the
matter would be presented to him in person. Howells relates how the
three of them lunched together, in a little room just out of the office,
on baked beans and coffee, brought in from some near-by restaurant:

The baked beans and coffee were of about the railroad-refreshment
quality; but eating them with Grant was like sitting down to baked
beans and coffee with Julius Caesar, or Alexander, or some other
great Plutarchan captain.

Clemens, also recalling the interview, once added some interesting

"I asked Grant if he wouldn't write a word on a card which Howells could
carry to Washington and hand to the President. But, as usual, General
Grant was his natural self - that is to say, ready and determined to do a
great deal more for you than you could possibly ask him to do. He said
he was going to Washington in a couple of days to dine with the
President, and he would speak to him himself on the subject and make it a
personal matter. Grant was in the humor to talk - he was always in a
humor to talk when no strangers were present - he forced us to stay and
take luncheon in a private room, and continued to talk all the time. It
was baked beans, but how 'he sits and towers,' Howells said, quoting
Dame. Grant remembered 'Squibob' Derby (John Phoenix) at West Point very
well. He said that Derby was always drawing caricatures of the
professors and playing jokes on every body. He told a thing which I had
heard before but had never seen in print. A professor questioning a
class concerning certain particulars of a possible siege said, 'Suppose a
thousand men are besieging a fortress whose equipment of provisions is
so-and-so; it is a military axiom that at the end of forty-five days the
fort will surrender. Now, young men, if any of you were in command of
such a fortress, how would you proceed?'

"Derby held up his hand in token that he had an answer for that question.
He said, 'I would march out, let the enemy in, and at the end of
forty-five days I would change places with him.'

"I tried hard, during that interview, to get General Grant to agree to
write his personal memoirs for publication, but he wouldn't listen to the
suggestion. His inborn diffidence made him shrink from voluntarily
coming before the public and placing himself under criticism as an
author. He had no confidence in his ability to write well; whereas we
all know now that he possessed an admirable literary gift and style. He
was also sure that the book would have no sale, and of course that would
be a humility too. I argued that the book would have an enormous sale,
and that out of my experience I could save him from making unwise
contracts with publishers, and would have the contract arranged in such a
way that they could not swindle him, but he said he had no necessity for
any addition to his income. Of course he could not foresee that he was
camping on a volcano; that as Ward's partner he was a ruined man even
then, and of course I had no suspicion that in four years from that time
I would become his publisher. He would not agree to write his memoirs.
He only said that some day he would make very full notes and leave them
behind him, and then if his children chose to make them into a book they
could do so. We came away then. He fulfilled his promise entirely
concerning Howells's father, who held his office until he resigned of his
own accord."



During the summer absence alterations were made in the Hartford home,
with extensive decorations by Tiffany. The work was not completed when
the family returned. Clemens wrote to Charles Warren Stoddard, then in
the Sandwich Islands, that the place was full of carpenters and
decorators, whereas what they really needed was "an incendiary."

If the house would only burn down we would pack up the cubs and fly to
the isles of the blest, and shut ourselves up in the healing solitudes of
the crater of Haleakala and get a good rest, for the mails do not intrude
there, nor yet the telephone and the telegraph; and after resting we
would come down the mountain a piece and board with a godly,
breech-clouted native, and eat poi and dirt, and give thanks to whom all
thanks belong for these privileges, and never housekeep any more.

They had acquired more ground. One morning in the spring Mark Twain had
looked out of his window just in time to see a man lift an ax to cut down
a tree on the lot which lay between his own and that of his neighbor. He
had heard that a house was to be built there; altogether too close to him
for comfort and privacy. Leaning out of the window he called sonorously,
"Woodman, spare that tree!" Then he hurried down, obtained a stay of
proceedings, and without delay purchased the lot from the next-door
neighbor who owned it, acquiring thereby one hundred feet of extra ground
and a greenhouse which occupied it. It was a costly purchase; the owner
knew he could demand his own price; he asked and received twelve thousand
dollars for the strip.

In November, Clemens found that he must make another trip to Canada. 'The
Prince and the Pauper' was ready for issue, and to insure Canadian
copyright the author must cross the line in person. He did not enjoy the
prospect of a cold-weather trip to the north, and tried to tempt Howells
to go with him, but only succeeded in persuading Osgood, who would do
anything or go anywhere that offered the opportunity for pleasant company
and junket.

It was by no means an unhappy fortnight. Clemens took a note-book, and
there are plenty of items that give reality to that long-ago excursion.
He found the Canadian girls so pretty that he records it as a relief now
and then to see a plain one. On another page he tells how one night in
the hotel a mouse gnawed and kept him awake, and how he got up and hunted
for it, hoping to destroy it. He made a rebus picture for the children
of this incident in a letter home.

We get a glimpse just here of how he was constantly viewing himself as
literary material - human material - an example from which some literary
aspect or lesson may be drawn. Following the mouse adventure we find it
thus dramatized:
Trace Father Brebeuf all through this trip, and when I am in a rage
and can't endure the mouse be reading of Brebeuf's marvelous
endurances and be shamed.

And finally, after chasing the bright-eyed rascal several days, and
throwing things and trying to jump on him when in my overshoes, he
darts away with those same bright eyes, then straightway I read
Brebeuf's magnificent martyrdom, and turn in, subdued and wondering.
By and by the thought occurs to me, Brebeuf, with his good, great
heart would spare even that poor humble mousie - and for his sake so
will I - I will throw the trap in the fire - jump out of bed, reach
under, fetch out the trap, and find him throttled there and not two
minutes dead.

They gave him a dinner in Montreal. Louis Frechette, the Canadian poet,
was there and Clemens addressed him handsomely in the response he made to
the speech of welcome. From that moment Frechette never ceased to adore
Mark Twain, and visited him soon after the return to Hartford.

'The Prince and the Pauper' was published in England, Canada, Germany,
and America early in December, 1881. There had been no stint of money,
and it was an extremely handsome book. The pen-and-ink drawings were
really charming, and they were lavish as to number. It was an attractive
volume from every standpoint, and it was properly dedicated "To those
good-mannered and agreeable children, Susy and Clara Clemens."

The story itself was totally unlike anything that Mark Twain had done
before. Enough of its plan and purpose has been given in former chapters
to make a synopsis of it unnecessary here. The story of the wandering
prince and the pauper king - an impressive picture of ancient legal and
regal cruelty - is as fine and consistent a tale as exists in the realm of
pure romance. Unlike its great successor, the 'Yankee at King Arthur's
Court', it never sacrifices the illusion to the burlesque, while through
it all there runs a delicate vein of humor. Only here and there is there
the slightest disillusion, and this mainly in the use of some
ultra-modern phrase or word.

Mark Twain never did any better writing than some of the splendid scenes
in 'The Prince and the Pauper'. The picture of Old London Bridge; the
scene in the vagabond's retreat, with its presentation to the little king
of the wrongs inflicted by the laws of his realm; the episode of the jail
where his revelation reaches a climax - these are but a few of the
splendid pictures which the chapters portray, while the spectacle of
England acquiring mercy at the hands of two children, a king and a
beggar, is one which only genius could create. One might quote here, but
to do so without the context would be to sacrifice atmosphere, half the
story's charm. How breathlessly interesting is the tale of it! We may
imagine that first little audience at Mark Twain's fireside hanging
expectant on every paragraph, hungry always for more. Of all Mark
Twain's longer works of fiction it is perhaps the most coherent as to
plot, the most carefully thought out, the most perfect as to workmanship.
This is not to say that it is his greatest story. Probably time will not
give it that rank, but it comes near to being a perfectly constructed
story, and it has an imperishable charm.

It was well received, though not always understood by the public. The
reviewer was so accustomed to looking for the joke in Mark Twain's work,
that he found it hard to estimate this new product. Some even went so
far as to refer to it as one of Mark Twain's big jokes, meaning probably
that he had created a chapter in English history with no foundation
beyond his fancy. Of course these things pained the author of the book.
At one time, he had been inclined to publish it anonymously, to avert
this sort of misunderstanding, and sometimes now he regretted not having
done so.

Yet there were many gratifying notices. The New York Herald reviewer
gave the new book two columns of finely intelligent appreciation. In
part he said:

To those who have followed the career of Mark Twain, his appearance
as the author of a charming and noble romance is really no more of a
surprise than to see a stately structure risen upon sightly ground
owned by an architect of genius, with the resources of abundant
building material and ample training at command. Of his capacity
they have had no doubt, and they rejoice in his taking a step which
they felt he was able to take. Through all his publications may be
traced the marks of the path which half led up to this happy height.
His humor has often been the cloak, but not the mask, of a sturdy
purpose. His work has been characterized by a manly love of truth,
a hatred of humbug, and a scorn for cant. A genial warmth and
whole-souledness, a beautiful fancy, a fertile imagination, and a
native feeling for the picturesque and a fine eye for color have
afforded the basis of a style which has become more and more plastic
and finished.

And in closing:

The characters of these two boys, twins in spirit, will rank with
the purest and loveliest creations of child-life in the realm of



Beyond the publication of The Prince and the Pauper Clemens was sparingly
represented in print in '81. A chapter originally intended for the book,
the "Whipping Boy's Story," he gave to the Bazaar Budget, a little
special-edition sheet printed in Hartford. It was the story of the 'Bull
and the Bees' which he later adapted for use in Joan of Arc, the episode
in which Joan's father rides a bull to a funeral. Howells found that it
interfered with the action in the story of the Prince, and we might have
spared it from the story of Joan, though hardly without regret.

The military story "A Curious Episode" was published in the Century
Magazine for November. The fact that Clemens had heard, and not
invented, the story was set forth quite definitely and fully in his
opening paragraphs. Nevertheless, a "Captious Reader" thought it
necessary to write to a New York publication concerning its origin:

I am an admirer of the writings of Mr. Mark Twain, and consequently,
when I saw the table of contents of the November number of the
Century, I bought it and turned at once to the article bearing his
name, and entitled, "A Curious Episode." When I began to read it,
it struck me as strangely familiar, and I soon recognized the story
as a true one, told me in the summer of 1878 by an officer of the
United States artillery. Query: Did Mr. Twain expect the public to
credit this narrative to his clever brain?

The editor, seeing a chance for Mark Twain "copy," forwarded a clipping
to Clemens and asked him if he had anything to say in the matter. Clemens
happened to know the editor very well, and he did have something to say,
not for print, but for the editor's private ear.

The newspaper custom of shooting a man in the back and then calling
upon him to come out in a card and prove that he was not engaged in

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineMark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 → online text (page 11 of 20)