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I don't ever seem to be in a good enough humor with anything to
satirize it. No, I want to stand up before it and curse it and foam
at the mouth, or take a club and pound it to rags and pulp. I have
got in two or three chapters about Wagner's operas, and managed to
do it without showing temper, but the strain of another such effort
would burst me.

Clemens became his own courier for a time in Italy, and would seem to
have made more of a success of it than he did a good many years
afterward, if we may believe the story he has left us of his later

"Am a shining success as a courier," he records, "by the use of francs.
Have learned how to handle the railway guide intelligently and with

He declares that he will have no more couriers; but possibly he could
have employed one to advantage on the trip out of Italy, for it was a
desperately hard one, with bad connections and delayed telegrams. When,
after thirty-six hours weary, continuous traveling, they arrived at last
in Munich in a drizzle and fog, and were domiciled in their winter
quarters, at No. 1a, Karlstrasse, they felt that they had reached the
home of desolation itself, the very throne of human misery.

And the rooms were so small, the conveniences so meager, and the
porcelain stove was grim, ghastly, dismal, intolerable! So Livy and
Clara Spaulding sat down forlorn and cried, and I retired to a
private place to pray. By and by we all retired to our narrow
German beds, and when Livy and I had finished talking across the
room it was all decided that we should rest twenty-four hours, then
pay whatever damages were required and straightway fly to the south
of France.

The rooms had been engaged by letter, months before, of their
proprietress, Fraulein Dahlweiner, who had met them at the door with a
lantern in her hand, full of joy in their arrival and faith in her
ability to make them happy. It was a faith that was justified. Next
morning, when they all woke, rested, the weather had cleared, there were
bright fires in the rooms, the world had taken on a new aspect. Fraulein
Dahlweiner, the pathetic, hard-working little figure, became almost
beautiful in their eyes in her efforts for their comfort. She arranged
larger rooms and better conveniences for them. Their location was
central and there was a near-by park. They had no wish to change.
Clemens, in his letter to Howells, boasts that he brought the party
through from Rome himself, and that they never had so little trouble
before; but in looking over this letter, thirty years later, he
commented, "Probably a lie."

He secured a room some distance away for his work, but then could not
find his Swiss note-book. He wrote Twichell that he had lost it, and
that after all he might not be obliged to write a volume of travels. But
the notebook turned up and the work on the new book proceeded. For a
time it went badly. He wrote many chapters, only to throw them aside. He
had the feeling that he had somehow lost the knack of descriptive
narrative. He had become, as it seemed, too didactic. He thought his
description was inclined to be too literal, his humor manufactured. These
impressions passed, by and by; interest developed, and with it enthusiasm
and confidence. In a letter to Twichell he reported his progress:

I was about to write to my publisher and propose some other book, when
the confounded thing [the note-book] turned up, and down went my heart
into my boots. But there was now no excuse, so I went solidly to work,
tore up a great part of the MS. written in Heidelberg - wrote and tore up,
continued to write and tear up - and at last, reward of patient and noble
persistence, my pen got the old swing again! Since then I'm glad that
Providence knew better what to do with the Swiss notebook than I did.

Further along in the same letter there breaks forth a true heart-answer
to that voice of the Alps which, once heard, is never wholly silent:

O Switzerland! The further it recedes into the enriching haze of
time, the more intolerably delicious the charm of it and the cheer
of it and the glory and majesty, and solemnity and pathos of it
grow. Those mountains had a soul: they thought, they spoke. And
what a voice it was! And how real! Deep down in my memory it is
sounding yet. Alp calleth unto Alp! That stately old Scriptural
wording is the right one for God's Alps and God's ocean. How puny
we were in that awful Presence, and how painless it was to be so!
How fitting and right it seemed, and how stingless was the sense of
our unspeakable insignificance! And Lord, how pervading were the
repose and peace and blessedness that poured out of the heart of the
invisible Great Spirit of the mountains!

Now what is it? There are mountains and mountains and mountains in
this world, but only these take you by the heartstrings. I wonder
what the secret of it is. Well, time and time and again it has
seemed to me that I must drop everything and flee to Switzerland
once more. It is a longings deep, strong, tugging longing. That is
the word. We must go again, Joe.



That winter in Munich was not recalled as an unpleasant one in
after-years. His work went well enough - always a chief source of
gratification. Mrs. Clemens and Miss Spaulding found interest in the
galleries, in quaint shops, in the music and picturesque life of that
beautiful old Bavarian town. The children also liked Munich. It was
easy for them to adopt any new environment or custom. The German
Christmas, with its lavish tree and toys and cakes, was an especial
delight. The German language they seemed fairly to absorb. Writing to
his mother Clemens said:

I cannot see but that the children speak German as well as they do
English. Susy often translates Livy's orders to the servants. I cannot
work and study German at the same time; so I have dropped the latter and
do not even read the language, except in the morning paper to get the

In Munich - as was the case wherever they were known - there were many
callers. Most Americans and many foreigners felt it proper to call on
Mark Twain. It was complimentary, but it was wearying sometimes. Mrs.
Clemens, in a letter written from Venice, where they had received even
more than usual attention, declared there were moments when she almost
wished she might never see a visitor again.

Originally there was a good deal about Munich in the new book, and some
of the discarded chapters might have been retained with advantage. They
were ruled out in the final weeding as being too serious, along with the
French chapters. Only a few Italian memories were left to follow the
Switzerland wanderings.

The book does record one Munich event, though transferring it to
Heilsbronn. It is the incident of the finding of the lost sock in the
vast bedroom. It may interest the reader to compare what really
happened, as set down in a letter to Twichell, with the story as written
for publication:

Last night I awoke at three this morning, and after raging to myself
for two interminable hours I gave it up. I rose, assumed a catlike
stealthiness, to keep from waking Livy, and proceeded to dress in
the pitch-dark. Slowly but surely I got on garment after garment
- all down to one sock; I had one slipper on and the other in my hand.
Well, on my hands and knees I crept softly around, pawing and
feeling and scooping along the carpet, and among chair-legs, for
that missing sock, I kept that up, and still kept it up, and kept it
up. At first I only said to myself, "Blame that sock," but that
soon ceased to answer. My expletives grew steadily stronger and
stronger, and at last, when I found I was lost, I had to sit flat
down on the floor and take hold of something to keep from lifting
the roof off with the profane explosion that was trying to get out
of me. I could see the dim blur of the window, but of course it was
in the wrong place and could give me no information as to where I
was. But I had one comfort - I had not waked Livy; I believed I
could find that sock in silence if the night lasted long enough.
So I started again and softly pawed all over the place, and sure
enough, at the end of half an hour I laid my hand on the missing
article. I rose joyfully up and butted the washbowl and pitcher off
the stand, and simply raised - - so to speak. Livy screamed, then
said, "Who is it? What is the matter?" I said, "There ain't
anything the matter. I'm hunting for my sock." She said, "Are you
hunting for it with a club?"

I went in the parlor and lit the lamp, and gradually the fury
subsided and the ridiculous features of the thing began to suggest
themselves. So I lay on the sofa with note-book and pencil, and
transferred the adventure to our big room in the hotel at
Heilsbronn, and got it on paper a good deal to my satisfaction.

He wrote with frequency to Howells, and sent him something for the
magazine now and then: the "Gambetta Duel" burlesque, which would make a
chapter in the book later, and the story of "The Great Revolution in
Pitcairn." - [Included in The Stolen White Elephant volume. The
"Pitcairn" and "Elephant" tales were originally chapters in 'A Tramp
Abroad'; also the unpleasant "Coffin-box" yarn, which Howells rejected
for the Atlantic and generally condemned, though for a time it remained a
favorite with its author.]

Howells's novel, 'The Lady of the Aroostook', was then running through
the 'Atlantic', and in one of his letters Clemens expresses the general
deep satisfaction of his household in that tale:

If your literature has not struck perfection now we are not able to see
what is lacking. It is all such truth - truth to the life; everywhere
your pen falls it leaves a photograph . . . . Possibly you will not
be a fully accepted classic until you have been dead one hundred years
- it is the fate of the Shakespeares of all genuine professions - but then
your books will be as common as Bibles, I believe. In that day I shall
be in the encyclopedias too, thus: "Mark Twain, history and occupation
unknown; but he was personally acquainted with Howells."

Though in humorous form, this was a sincere tribute. Clemens always
regarded with awe William Dean Howells's ability to dissect and
photograph with such delicacy the minutiae of human nature; just as
Howells always stood in awe of Mark Twain's ability to light, with a
single flashing sentence, the whole human horizon.



They decided to spend the spring months in Paris, so they gave up their
pleasant quarters with Fraulein Dahlweiner, and journeyed across Europe,
arriving at the French capital February 28, 1879. Here they met another
discouraging prospect, for the weather was cold and damp, the cabmen
seemed brutally ill-mannered, their first hotel was chilly, dingy,
uninviting. Clemens, in his note-book, set down his impressions of their
rooms. A paragraph will serve:

Ten squatty, ugly arm-chairs, upholstered in the ugliest and
coarsest conceivable scarlet plush; two hideous sofas of the same
- uncounted armless chairs ditto. Five ornamental chairs, seats
covered with a coarse rag, embroidered in flat expanse with a
confusion of leaves such as no tree ever bore, six or seven a dirty
white and the rest a faded red. How those hideous chairs do swear
at the hideous sofa near them! This is the very hatefulest room I
have seen in Europe.

Oh, how cold and raw and unwarmable it is!

It was better than that when the sun came out, and they found happier
quarters presently at the Hotel Normandy, rue de l'Echelle.

But, alas, the sun did not come out often enough. It was one of those
French springs and summers when it rains nearly every day, and is
distressingly foggy and chill between times. Clemens received a bad
impression of France and the French during that Parisian-sojourn, from
which he never entirely recovered. In his note-book he wrote: "France
has neither winter, nor summer, nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks
it is a fine country."

The weather may not have been entirely accountable for his prejudice, but
from whatever cause Mark Twain, to the day of his death, had no great
love for the French as a nation. Conversely, the French as a nation did
not care greatly for Mark Twain. There were many individual Frenchmen
that Mark Twain admired, as there were many Frenchmen who admired the
work and personality of Mark Twain; but on neither side was there the
warm, fond, general affection which elsewhere throughout Europe he
invited and returned.

His book was not yet finished. In Paris he worked on it daily, but
without enthusiasm. The city was too noisy, the weather too dismal. His
note-book says:

May 7th. I wish this terrible winter would come to an end. Have had
rain almost without intermission for two months and one week.

May 28th. This is one of the coldest days of this most damnable and
interminable winter.

It was not all gloom and discomfort. There was congenial company in
Paris, and dinner-parties, and a world of callers. Aldrich the
scintillating - [ Of Aldrich Clemens used to say: "When Aldrich speaks it
seems to me he is the bright face of the moon, and I feel like the other
side." Aldrich, unlike Clemens, was not given to swearing. The Parisian
note-book has this memorandum: "Aldrich gives his seat in the horse-car
to a crutched cripple, and discovers that what he took for a crutch is
only a length of walnut beading and the man not lame; whereupon Aldrich
uses the only profanity that ever escaped his lips: 'Damn a dam'd man who
would carry a dam'd piece of beading under his dam'd arm!'"] - was there,
also Gedney Bunce, of Hartford, Frank Millet and his wife, Hjalinar
Hjorth Boyesen and his wife, and a Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, artist
people whom the Clemenses had met pleasantly in Italy. Turgenieff, as in
London, came to call; also Baron Tauchnitz, that nobly born
philanthropist of German publishers, who devoted his life, often at his
personal cost, to making the literature of other nations familiar to his
own. Tauchnitz had early published the 'Innocents', following it with
other Mark Twain volumes as they appeared, paying always, of his own will
and accord, all that he could afford to pay for this privilege; which was
not really a privilege, for the law did not require him to pay at all. He
traveled down to Paris now to see the author, and to pay his respects to
him. "A mighty nice old gentleman," Clemens found him. Richard Whiteing
was in Paris that winter, and there were always plenty of young American
painters whom it was good to know.

They had what they called the Stomach Club, a jolly organization, whose
purpose was indicated by its name. Mark Twain occasionally attended its
sessions, and on one memorable evening, when Edwin A. Abbey was there,
speeches were made which never appeared in any printed proceedings. Mark
Twain's address that night has obtained a wide celebrity among the clubs
of the world, though no line of it, or even its title has ever found its
way into published literature.

Clemens had a better time in Paris than the rest of his party. He could
go and come, and mingle with the sociabilities when the abnormal weather
kept the others housed in. He did a good deal of sight-seeing of his own
kind, and once went up in a captive balloon. They were all studying
French, more or less, and they read histories and other books relating to
France. Clemens renewed his old interest in Joan of Arc, and for the
first time appears to have conceived the notion of writing the story of
that lovely character.

The Reign of Terror interested him. He reread Carlyle's Revolution, a
book which he was never long without reading, and they all read 'A Tale
of Two Cities'. When the weather permitted they visited the scenes of
that grim period.

In his note-book he comments:

"The Reign of Terror shows that, without distinction or rank, the
people were savages. Marquises, dukes, lawyers, blacksmiths, they
each figure in due proportion to their crafts."

And again:

"For 1,000 years this savage nation indulged itself in massacre;
every now and then a big massacre or a little one. The spirit is
peculiar to France - I mean in Christendom - no other state has had
it. In this France has always walked abreast, kept her end up with
her brethren, the Turks and the Burmese. Their chief traits - love
of glory and massacre."

Yet it was his sense of fairness that made him write, as a sort of

"You perceive I generalize with intrepidity from single instances.
It is the tourists' custom. When I see a man jump from the Vendome
Column I say, 'They like to do that in Paris.'"

Following this implied atonement, he records a few conclusions, drawn
doubtless from Parisian reading and observation:

"Childish race and great."

"I'm for cremation."

"I disfavor capital punishment."

"Samson was a Jew, therefore not a fool. The Jews have the best
average brain of any people in the world. The Jews are the only
race in the world who work wholly with their brains, and never with
their hands. There are no Jew beggars, no Jew tramps, no Jew
ditchers, hod-carriers, day-laborers, or followers of toilsome
mechanical trade.

"They are peculiarly and conspicuously the world's intellectual

"Communism is idiocy. They want to divide up the property. Suppose
they did it. It requires brains to keep money as well as to make
it. In a precious little while the money would be back in the
former owner's hands and the communist would be poor again. The
division would have to be remade every three years or it would do
the communist no good."

A curious thing happened one day in Paris. Boyesen; in great excitement,
came to the Normandy and was shown to the Clemens apartments. He was
pale and could hardly speak, for his emotion. He asked immediately if
his wife had come to their rooms. On learning that she had not, he
declared that she was lost or had met with an accident. She had been
gone several hours, he said, and had sent no word, a thing which she had
never done before. He besought Clemens to aid him in his search for her,
to do something to help him find her. Clemens, without showing the least
emotion or special concentration of interest, said quietly:

"I will."

"Where will you go first," Boyesen demanded.

Still in the same even voice Clemens said:

"To the elevator."

He passed out of the room, with Boyesen behind him, into the hall. The
elevator was just coming up, and as they reached it, it stopped at their
landing, and Mrs. Boyesen stepped out. She had been delayed by a
breakdown and a blockade. Clemens said afterward that he had a positive
conviction that she would be on the elevator when they reached it. It
was one of those curious psychic evidences which we find all along during
his life; or, if the skeptics prefer to call them coincidences, they are
privileged to do so.

Paris, June 1, 1879. Still this vindictive winter continues. Had a
raw, cold rain to-day. To-night we sit around a rousing wood fire.

They stood it for another month, and then on the 10th of July, when it
was still chilly and disagreeable, they gave it up and left for Brussels,
which he calls "a dirty, beautiful (architecturally), interesting town."

Two days in Brussels, then to Antwerp, where they dined on the Trenton
with Admiral Roan, then to Rotterdam, Dresden, Amsterdam, and London,
arriving there the 29th of July, which was rainy and cold, in keeping
with all Europe that year.

Had to keep a rousing big cannel-coal fire blazing in the grate all
day. A remarkable summer, truly!

London meant a throng of dinners, as always: brilliant, notable affairs,
too far away to recall. A letter written by Mrs. Clemens at the time
preserves one charming, fresh bit of that departed bloom.

Clara [Spaulding] went in to dinner with Mr. Henry James; she
enjoyed him very much. I had a little chat with him before dinner,
and he was exceedingly pleasant and easy to talk with. I had
expected just the reverse, thinking one would feel looked over by
him and criticized.

Mr. Whistler, the artist, was at the dinner, but he did not attract
me. Then there was a lady, over eighty years old, a Mrs. Stuart,
who was Washington Irving's love, and she is said to have been his
only love, and because of her he went unmarried to his grave.
- [Mrs. Clemens was misinformed. Irving's only "love" was a Miss
Hoffman.] - She was also an intimate friend of Madame Bonaparte.
You would judge Mrs. Stuart to be about fifty, and she was the life
of the drawing-room after dinner, while the ladies were alone,
before the gentlemen came up. It was lovely to see such a sweet old
age; every one was so fond of her, every one deferred to her, yet
every one was joking her, making fun of her, but she was always
equal to the occasion, giving back as bright replies as possible;
you had not the least sense that she was aged. She quoted French in
her stories with perfect ease and fluency, and had all the time such
a kindly, lovely way. When she entered the room, before dinner, Mr.
James, who was then talking with me, shook hands with her and said,
"Good evening, you wonderful lady." After she had passed . . .
he said, "She is the youngest person in London. She has the
youngest feelings and the youngest interests . . . . She is
always interested."

It was a perfect delight to hear her and see her.

For more than two years they had had an invitation from Reginald
Cholmondeley to pay him another visit.

So they went for a week to Condover, where many friends were gathered,
including Millais, the painter, and his wife (who had been the wife of
Ruskin), numerous relatives, and other delightful company. It was one of
the happiest chapters of their foreign sojourn. - [Moncure D. Conway, who
was in London at the time, recalls, in his Autobiography, a visit which
he made with Mr. and Mrs. Clemens to Stratford-on-Avon. "Mrs. Clemens
was an ardent Shakespearian, and Mark Twain determined to give her a
surprise. He told her that we were going on a journey to Epworth, and
persuaded me to connive with the joke by writing to Charles Flower not to
meet us himself, but send his carriage. On arrival at the station we
directed the driver to take us straight to the church. When we entered,
and Mrs. Clemens read on Shakespeare's grave, 'Good friend, for Jesus'
sake, forbear,' she started back, exclaiming, 'where am I?' Mark
received her reproaches with an affluence of guilt, but never did lady
enjoy a visit more than that to Avonbank. Mrs. Charles Flower (nee
Martineau) took Mrs. Clemens to her heart, and contrived that every
social or other attraction of that region should surround her."]

From the note-book:

Sunday, August 17,'79. Raw and cold, and a drenching rain. Went to
hear Mr. Spurgeon. House three-quarters full-say three thousand
people. First hour, lacking one minute, taken up with two prayers,
two ugly hymns, and Scripture-reading. Sermon three-quarters of an
hour long. A fluent talker, good, sonorous voice. Topic treated in
the unpleasant, old fashion: Man a mighty bad child, God working at
him in forty ways and having a world of trouble with him.

A wooden-faced congregation; just the sort to see no incongruity in
the majesty of Heaven stooping to plead and sentimentalize over
such, and see in their salvation an important matter.

Tuesday, August 19th. Went up Windermere Lake in the steamer.
Talked with the great Darwin.

They had planned to visit Dr. Brown in Scotland. Mrs. Clemens, in
particular, longed to go, for his health had not been of the best, and
she felt that they would never have a chance to see him again. Clemens
in after years blamed himself harshly for not making the trip, declaring
that their whole reason for not going was an irritable reluctance on his
part to take the troublesome journey and a perversity of spirit for which
there was no real excuse. There is documentary evidence against this
harsh conclusion. They were, in fact, delayed here and there by
misconnections and the continued terrific weather, barely reaching

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineMark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 → online text (page 6 of 20)