Mark Twain, A Biography, 1907-1910
Albert Bigelow Paine
Part 2 out of 6
Luncheons and billiards, however, failed to give sufficient brightness to
the dull winter days, or to insure him against an impending bronchial
attack, and toward the end of January he sailed away to Bermuda, where
skies were bluer and roadsides gay with bloom. His sojourn was brief
this time, but long enough to cure him, he said, and he came back full of
happiness. He had been driving about over the island with a newly
adopted granddaughter, little Margaret Blackmer, whom he had met one
morning in the hotel dining-room. A part of his dictated story will
convey here this pretty experience.
My first day in Bermuda paid a dividend--in fact a double dividend:
it broke the back of my cold and it added a jewel to my collection.
As I entered the breakfast-room the first object I saw in that
spacious and far-reaching place was a little girl seated solitary at
a table for two. I bent down over her and patted her cheek and
"I don't seem to remember your name; what is it?"
By the sparkle in her brown eyes it amused her. She said:
"Why, you've never known it, Mr. Clemens, because you've never seen
"Why, that is true, now that I come to think; it certainly is true,
and it must be one of the reasons why I have forgotten your name.
But I remember it now perfectly--it's Mary."
She was amused again; amused beyond smiling; amused to a chuckle,
and she said:
"Oh no, it isn't; it's Margaret."
I feigned to be ashamed of my mistake and said:
"Ah, well, I couldn't have made that mistake a few years ago; but I
am old, and one of age's earliest infirmities is a damaged memory;
but I am clearer now--clearer-headed--it all comes back to me just
as if it were yesterday. It's Margaret Holcomb."
She was surprised into a laugh this time, the rippling laugh that a
happy brook makes when it breaks out of the shade into the sunshine,
and she said:
"Oh, you are wrong again; you don't get anything right. It isn't
Holcomb, it's Blackmer."
I was ashamed again, and confessed it; then:
"How old are you, dear?"
"Twelve; New-Year's. Twelve and a month."
We were close comrades-inseparables, in fact-for eight days. Every
day we made pedestrian excursions--called them that anyway, and
honestly they were intended for that, and that is what they would
have been but for the persistent intrusion of a gray and grave and
rough-coated donkey by the name of Maud. Maud was four feet long;
she was mounted on four slender little stilts, and had ears that
doubled her altitude when she stood them up straight. Her tender
was a little bit of a cart with seat room for two in it, and you
could fall out of it without knowing it, it was so close to the
ground. This battery was in command of a nice, grave, dignified,
gentlefaced little black boy whose age was about twelve, and whose
name, for some reason or other, was Reginald. Reginald and Maud--I
shall not easily forget those names, nor the combination they stood
for. The trips going and coming were five or six miles, and it
generally took us three hours to make it. This was because Maud set
the pace. Whenever she detected an ascending grade she respected
it; she stopped and said with her ears:
"This is getting unsatisfactory. We will camp here."
The whole idea of these excursions was that Margaret and I should
employ them for the gathering of strength, by walking, yet we were
oftener in the cart than out of it. She drove and I superintended.
In the course of the first excursions I found a beautiful little
shell on the beach at Spanish Point; its hinge was old and dry, and
the two halves came apart in my hand. I gave one of them to
Margaret and said:
"Now dear, sometime or other in the future I shall run across you
somewhere, and it may turn out that it is not you at all, but will
be some girl that only resembles you. I shall be saying to myself
'I know that this is a Margaret by the look of her, but I don't know
for sure whether this is my Margaret or somebody else's'; but, no
matter, I can soon find out, for I shall take my half shell out of
my pocket and say, 'I think you are my Margaret, but I am not
certain; if you are my Margaret you can produce the other half of
Next morning when I entered the breakfast-room and saw the child I
approached and scanned her searchingly all over, then said, sadly:
"No, I am mistaken; it looks like my Margaret,--but it isn't, and I
am so sorry. I shall go away and cry now."
Her eyes danced triumphantly, and she cried out:
"No, you don't have to. There!" and she fetched out the identifying
I was beside myself with gratitude and joyful surprise, and revealed
it from every pore. The child could not have enjoyed this thrilling
little drama more if we had been playing it on the stage. Many
times afterward she played the chief part herself, pretending to be
in doubt as to my identity and challenging me to produce my half of
the shell. She was always hoping to catch me without it, but I
always defeated that game--wherefore she came to recognize at last
that I was not only old, but very smart.
Sometimes, when they were not walking or driving, they sat on the
veranda, and he prepared history-lessons for little Margaret by making
grotesque figures on cards with numerous legs and arms and other
fantastic symbols end features to fix the length of some king's reign.
For William the Conqueror, for instance, who reigned twenty-one years, he
drew a figure of eleven legs and ten arms. It was the proper method of
impressing facts upon the mind of a child. It carried him back to those
days at Elmira when he had arranged for his own little girls the game of
kings. A Miss Wallace, a friend of Margaret's, and usually one of the
pedestrian party, has written a dainty book of those Bermudian days.
--[Mark Twain and the Happy Islands, by Elizabeth Wallace.]
Miss Wallace says:
Margaret felt for him the deep affection that children have for an
older person who understands them and treats them with respect. Mr.
Clemens never talked down to her, but considered her opinions with a
There were some pretty sequels to the shell incident. After Mark Twain
had returned to New York, and Margaret was there, she called one day with
her mother, and sent up her card. He sent back word, saying:
"I seem to remember the name; but if this is really the person whom
I think it is she can identify herself by a certain shell I once
gave her, of which I have the other half. If the two halves fit, I
shall know that this is the same little Margaret that I remember."
The message went down, and the other half of the shell was promptly sent
up. Mark Twain had the two half-shells incised firmly in gold, and one
of these he wore on his watch-fob, and sent the other to Margaret.
He afterward corresponded with Margaret, and once wrote her:
I'm already making mistakes. When I was in New York, six weeks ago,
I was on a corner of Fifth Avenue and I saw a small girl--not a big
one--start across from the opposite corner, and I exclaimed to
myself joyfully, "That is certainly my Margaret!" so I rushed to
meet her. But as she came nearer I began to doubt, and said to
myself, "It's a Margaret--that is plain enough--but I'm afraid it is
somebody else's." So when I was passing her I held my shell so she
couldn't help but see it. Dear, she only glanced at it and passed
on! I wondered if she could have overlooked it. It seemed best to
find out; so I turned and followed and caught up with her, and said,
deferentially; "Dear Miss, I already know your first name by the
look of you, but would you mind telling me your other one?" She was
vexed and said pretty sharply, "It's Douglas, if you're so anxious
to know. I know your name by your looks, and I'd advise you to shut
yourself up with your pen and ink and write some more rubbish. I am
surprised that they allow you to run' at large. You are likely to
get run over by a baby-carriage any time. Run along now and don't
let the cows bite you."
What an idea! There aren't any cows in Fifth Avenue. But I didn't
smile; I didn't let on to perceive how uncultured she was. She was
from the country, of course, and didn't know what a comical blunder.
she was making.
Mr. Rogers's health was very poor that winter, and Clemens urged him to
try Bermuda, and offered to go back with him; so they sailed away to the
summer island, and though Margaret was gone, there was other entertaining
company--other granddaughters to be adopted, and new friends and old
friends, and diversions of many sorts. Mr. Rogers's son-in-law, William
Evarts Benjamin, came down and joined the little group. It was one of
Mark Twain's real holidays. Mr. Rogers's health improved rapidly, and
Mark Twain was in fine trim. To Mrs. Rogers, at the end of the first
week, he wrote:
DEAR MRS. ROGERS, He is getting along splendidly! This was the very
place for him. He enjoys himself & is as quarrelsome as a cat.
But he will get a backset if Benjamin goes home. Benjamin is the
brightest man in these regions, & the best company. Bright? He is
much more than that, he is brilliant. He keeps the crowd intensely
With love & all good wishes.
S. L. C.
Mark Twain and Henry Rogers were much together and much observed. They
were often referred to as "the King" and "the Rajah," and it was always a
question whether it was "the King" who took care of "the Rajah," or vice
versa. There was generally a group to gather around them, and Clemens
was sure of an attentive audience, whether he wanted to air his
philosophies, his views of the human race, or to read aloud from the
verses of Kipling.
"I am not fond of all poetry," he would say; "but there's something in
Kipling that appeals to me. I guess he's just about my level."
Miss Wallace recalls certain Kipling readings in his room, when his
friends gathered to listen.
On those Kipling evenings the 'mise-en-scene' was a striking one.
The bare hotel room, the pine woodwork and pine furniture, loose
windows which rattled in the sea-wind. Once in a while a gust of
asthmatic music from the spiritless orchestra downstairs came up the
hallway. Yellow, unprotected gas-lights burned uncertainly, and
Mark Twain in the midst of this lay on his bed (there was no couch)
still in his white serge suit, with the light from the jet shining
down on the crown of his silver hair, making it gleam and glisten
like frosted threads.
In one hand he held his book, in the other he had his pipe, which he used
principally to gesture with in the most dramatic passages.
Margaret's small successors became the earliest members of the Angel Fish
Club, which Clemens concluded to organize after a visit to the
spectacular Bermuda aquarium. The pretty angel-fish suggested youth and
feminine beauty to him, and his adopted granddaughters became angel-fish
to him from that time forward. He bought little enamel angel-fish pins,
and carried a number of them with him most of the time, so that he could
create membership on short notice. It was just another of the harmless
and happy diversions of his gentler side. He was always fond of youth
and freshness. He regarded the decrepitude of old age as an unnecessary
part of life. Often he said:
"If I had been helping the Almighty when, He created man, I would have
had Him begin at the other end, and start human beings with old age. How
much better it would have been to start old and have all the bitterness
and blindness of age in the beginning! One would not mind then if he
were looking forward to a joyful youth. Think of the joyous prospect of
growing young instead of old! Think of looking forward to eighteen
instead of eighty! Yes, the Almighty made a poor job of it. I wish He
had invited my assistance."
To one of the angel fish he wrote, just after his return:
I miss you, dear. I miss Bermuda, too, but not so much as I miss
you; for you were rare, and occasional and select, and Ltd.; whereas
Bermuda's charms and, graciousnesses were free and common and
unrestricted--like the rain, you know, which falls upon the just and
the unjust alike; a thing which would not happen if I were
superintending the rain's affairs. No, I would rain softly and
sweetly upon the just, but whenever I caught a sample of the unjust
outdoors I would drown him.
VIEWS AND ADDRESSES
[As I am beginning this chapter, April 16, 1912, the news comes of
the loss, on her first trip, of the great White Star Line steamer
Titanic, with the destruction of many passengers, among whom are
Frank D. Millet, William T. Stead, Isadore Straus, John Jacob Astor,
and other distinguished men. They died as heroes, remaining with
the ship in order that the women and children might be saved.
It was the kind of death Frank Millet would have wished to die.
He was always a soldier--a knight. He has appeared from time to
time in these pages, for he was a dear friend of the Clemens
household. One of America's foremost painters; at the time of his
death he was head of the American Academy of Arts in Rome.]
Mark Twain made a number of addresses during the spring of 1908.
He spoke at the Cartoonists' dinner, very soon after his return from
Bermuda; he spoke at the Booksellers' banquet, expressing his debt of
obligation to those who had published and sold his books; he delivered a
fine address at the dinner given by the British Schools and University
Club at Delmonico's, May 25th, in honor of Queen Victoria's birthday.
In that speech he paid high tribute to the Queen for her attitude toward
America, during the crisis of the Civil Wax, and to her royal consort,
What she did for us in America in our time of storm and stress we
shall not forget, and whenever we call it to mind we shall always
gratefully remember the wise and righteous mind that guided her in
it and sustained and supported her--Prince Albert's. We need not
talk any idle talk here to-night about either possible or impossible
war between two countries; there will be no war while we remain sane
and the son of Victoria and Albert sits upon the throne. In
conclusion, I believe I may justly claim to utter the voice of my
country in saying that we hold him in deep honor, and also in
cordially wishing him a long life and a happy reign.
But perhaps his most impressive appearance was at the dedication of the
great City College (May 14, 1908), where President John Finley, who had
been struggling along with insufficient room, was to have space at last
for his freer and fuller educational undertakings. A great number of
honored scholars, statesmen, and diplomats assembled on the college
campus, a spacious open court surrounded by stately college architecture
of medieval design. These distinguished guests were clad in their
academic robes, and the procession could not have been widely different
from that one at Oxford of a year before. But there was something rather
fearsome about it, too. A kind of scaffolding had been reared in the
center of the campus for the ceremonies; and when those grave men in
their robes of state stood grouped upon it the picture was strikingly
suggestive of one of George Cruikshank's drawings of an execution scene
at the Tower of London. Many of the robes were black--these would be the
priests--and the few scarlet ones would be the cardinals who might have
assembled for some royal martyrdom. There was a bright May sunlight over
it all, one of those still, cool brightnesses which served to heighten
the weird effect. I am sure that others felt it besides myself, for
everybody seemed wordless and awed, even at times when there was no
occasion for silence. There was something of another age about the whole
setting, to say the least.
We left the place in a motor-car, a crowd of boys following after. As
Clemens got in they gathered around the car and gave the college yell,
ending with "Twain! Twain! Twain!" and added three cheers for Tom
Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Pudd'nhead Wilson. They called for a speech, but
he only said a few words in apology for not granting their request. He
made a speech to them that night at the Waldorf--where he proposed for
the City College a chair of citizenship, an idea which met with hearty
In the same address he referred to the "God Trust" motto on the coins,
and spoke approvingly of the President's order for its removal.
We do not trust in God, in the important matters of life, and not
even a minister of the Gospel will take any coin for a cent more
than its accepted value because of that motto. If cholera should
ever reach these shores we should probably pray to be delivered from
the plague, but we would put our main trust in the Board of Health.
Next morning, commenting on the report of this speech, he said:
"If only the reporters would not try to improve on what I say. They seem
to miss the fact that the very art of saying a thing effectively is in
its delicacy, and as they can't reproduce the manner and intonation in
type they make it emphatic and clumsy in trying to convey it to the
I pleaded that the reporters were often young men, eager, and unmellowed
in their sense of literary art.
"Yes," he agreed, "they are so afraid their readers won't see my good
points that they set up red flags to mark them and beat a gong. They
mean well, but I wish they wouldn't do it."
He referred to the portion of his speech concerning the motto on the
coins. He had freely expressed similar sentiments on other public
occasions, and he had received a letter criticizing him for saying that
we do not really trust in God in any financial matter.
"I wanted to answer it," he said; "but I destroyed it. It didn't seem
I asked how the motto had originated.
"About 1853 some idiot in Congress wanted to announce to the world that
this was a religious nation, and proposed putting it there, and no other
Congressman had courage enough to oppose it, of course. It took courage
in those days to do a thing like that; but I think the same thing would
"Still the country has become broader. It took a brave man before the
Civil War to confess he had read the 'Age of Reason'."
"So it did, and yet that seems a mild book now. I read it first when I
was a cub pilot, read it with fear and hesitation, but marveling at its
fearlessness and wonderful power. I read it again a year or two ago, for
some reason, and was amazed to see how tame it had become. It seemed
that Paine was apologizing everywhere for hurting the feelings of the
He drifted, naturally, into a discussion of the Knickerbocker Trust
Company's suspension, which had tied up some fifty-five thousand dollars
of his capital, and wondered how many were trusting in God for the return
of these imperiled sums. Clemens himself, at this time, did not expect
to come out whole from that disaster. He had said very little when the
news came, though it meant that his immediate fortunes were locked up,
and it came near stopping the building activities at Redding. It was
only the smaller things of life that irritated him. He often met large
calamities with a serenity which almost resembled indifference. In the
Knickerbocker situation he even found humor as time passed, and wrote a
number of gay letters, some of which found their way into print.
It should be added that in the end there was no loss to any of the
The building of the new home at Redding had been going steadily forward
for something more than a year. John Mead Howells had made the plans;
W. W. Sunderland and his son Philip, of Danbury, Connecticut, were the
builders, and in the absence of Miss Clemens, then on a concert tour,
Mark Twain's secretary, Miss I. V. Lyon, had superintended the
"Innocence at Home," as the place was originally named, was to be ready
for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He
had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or
discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only
that there should be one great living-room for the orchestrelle, and
another big room for the billiard-table, with plenty of accommodations
for guests. He had required that the billiard-room be red, for something
in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in
moments of diversion. Besides, his other billiard-rooms had been red,
and such association may not be lightly disregarded. His one other
requirement was that the place should be complete.
"I don't want to see it," he said, "until the cat is purring on the
"He had grown so weary of change, and so indifferent to it, that he was
But it was rather, I think, that he was afraid of losing interest by
becoming wearied with details which were likely to exasperate him; also,
he wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been
conjured into existence as with a word.
It was expected that the move would be made early in the month; but there
were delays, and it was not until the 18th of June that he took
The plan, at this time, was only to use the Redding place as a summer
residence, and the Fifth Avenue house was not dismantled. A few days
before the 18th the servants, with one exception, were taken up to the
new house, Clemens and myself remaining in the loneliness of No. 21,
attending to the letters in the morning and playing billiards the rest of
the time, waiting for the appointed day and train. It was really a
pleasant three days. He invented a new game, and we were riotous and
laughed as loudly as we pleased. I think he talked very little of the
new home which he was so soon to see. It was referred to no oftener than
once or twice a day, and then I believe only in connection with certain
of the billiard-room arrangements. I have wondered since what picture of
it he could have had in his mind, for he had never seen a photograph.
He had a general idea that it was built upon a hill, and that its
architecture was of the Italian villa order. I confess I had moments of
anxiety, for I had selected the land for him, and had been more or less
accessory otherwise. I did not really worry, for I knew how beautiful
and peaceful it all was; also something of his taste and needs.
It had been a dry spring, and country roads were dusty, so that those who
were responsible had been praying for rain, to be followed by a pleasant
day for his arrival. Both petitions were granted; June 18th would fall
on Thursday, and Monday night there came a good, thorough, and refreshing
shower that washed the vegetation clean and laid the dust. The morning
of the 18th was bright and sunny and cool. Clemens was up and shaved by
six o'clock in order to be in time, though the train did not leave until
four in the afternoon--an express newly timed to stop at Redding--its
first trip scheduled for the day of Mark Twain's arrival.
We were still playing billiards when word was brought up that the cab was
waiting. My daughter, Louise, whose school on Long Island had closed
that day, was with us. Clemens wore his white flannels and a Panama hat,
and at the station a group quickly collected, reporters and others, to
interview him and speed him to his new home. He was cordial and
talkative, and quite evidently full of pleasant anticipation. A reporter
or two and a special photographer came along, to be present at his
The new, quick train, the green, flying landscape, with glimpses of the
Sound and white sails, the hillsides and clear streams becoming rapidly
steeper and dearer as we turned northward: all seemed to gratify him, and
when he spoke at all it was approvingly. The hour and a half required to
cover the sixty miles of distance seemed very short. As the train slowed
down for the Redding station, he said:
"We'll leave this box of candy"--he had bought a large box on the way--
"those colored porters sometimes like candy, and we can get some more."
He drew out a great handful of silver.
"Give them something--give everybody liberally that does any service."
There was a sort of open-air reception in waiting. Redding had
recognized the occasion as historic. A varied assemblage of vehicles
festooned with flowers had gathered to offer a gallant country welcome.
It was now a little before six o'clock of that long June day, still and
dreamlike; and to the people assembled there may have been something
which was not quite reality in the scene. There was a tendency to be
very still. They nodded, waved their hands to him, smiled, and looked
their fill; but a spell lay upon them, and they did not cheer. It would
have been a pity if they had done so. A noise, and the illusion would
have been shattered.
His carriage led away on the three-mile drive to the house on the
hilltop, and the floral turnout fell in behind. No first impression of a
fair land could have come at a sweeter time. Hillsides were green,
fields were white with daisies, dog-wood and laurel shone among the
trees. And over all was the blue sky, and everywhere the fragrance of
He was very quiet as we drove along. Once with gentle humor, looking
over a white daisy field, he said:
"That is buckwheat. I always recognize buckwheat when I see it. I wish
I knew as much about other things as I know about buckwheat. It seems to
be very plentiful here; it even grows by the roadside." And a little
later: "This is the kind of a road I like; a good country road through
The water was flowing over the mill-dam where the road crosses the
Saugatuck, and he expressed approval of that clear, picturesque little
river, one of those charming Connecticut streams. A little farther on a
brook cascaded down the hillside, and he compared it with some of the
tiny streams of Switzerland, I believe the Giessbach. The lane that led
to the new home opened just above, and as he entered the leafy way he
said, "This is just the kind of a lane I like," thus completing his
acceptance of everything but the house and the location.
The last of the procession had dropped away at the entrance of the lane,
and he was alone with those who had most anxiety for his verdict. They
had not long to wait. As the carriage ascended higher to the open view
he looked away, across the Saugatuck Valley to the nestling village and
church-spire and farm-houses, and to the distant hills, and declared the
land to be a good land and beautiful--a spot to satisfy one's soul. Then
came the house--simple and severe in its architecture--an Italian villa,
such as he had known in Florence, adapted now to American climate and
needs. The scars of building had not all healed yet, but close to the
house waved green grass and blooming flowers that might have been there
always. Neither did the house itself look new. The soft, gray stucco
had taken on a tone that melted into the sky and foliage of its
background. At the entrance his domestic staff waited to greet him, and
then he stepped across the threshold into the wide hall and stood in his
own home for the first time in seventeen years. It was an anxious
moment, and no one spoke immediately. But presently his eye had taken in
the satisfying harmony of the place and followed on through the wide
doors that led to the dining-room--on through the open French windows to
an enchanting vista of tree-tops and distant farmside and blue hills. He
said, very gently:
"How beautiful it all is? I did not think it could be as beautiful as
He was taken through the rooms; the great living-room at one end of the
hall--a room on the walls of which there was no picture, but only color-
harmony--and at the other end of the hall, the splendid, glowing
billiard-room, where hung all the pictures in which he took delight.
Then to the floor above, with its spacious apartments and a continuation
of color--welcome and concord, the windows open to the pleasant evening
hills. When he had seen it all--the natural Italian garden below the
terraces; the loggia, whose arches framed landscape vistas and formed a
rare picture-gallery; when he had completed the round and stood in the
billiard-room--his especial domain--once more he said, as a final
"It is a perfect house--perfect, so far as I can see, in every detail.
It might have been here always."
He was at home there from that moment--absolutely, marvelously at home,
for he fitted the setting perfectly, and there was not a hitch or flaw in
his adaptation. To see him over the billiard-table, five minutes later,
one could easily fancy that Mark Twain, as well as the house, had "been
there always." Only the presence of his daughters was needed now to
complete his satisfaction in everything.
There were guests that first evening--a small home dinner-party--and so
perfect were the appointments and service, that one not knowing would
scarcely have imagined it to be the first dinner served in that lovely
room. A little later; at the foot of the garden of bay and cedar,
neighbors, inspired by Dan Beard, who had recently located near by, set
off some fireworks. Clemens stepped out on the terrace and saw rockets
climbing through the summer sky to announce his arrival.
"I wonder why they all go to so much trouble for me," he said, softly.
"I never go to any trouble for anybody"--a statement which all who heard
it, and all his multitude of readers in every land, stood ready to deny.
That first evening closed with billiards--boisterous, triumphant
billiards--and when with midnight the day ended and the cues were set in
the rack, there was none to say that Mark Twain's first day in his new
home had not been a happy one.
FIRST DAYS AT STORMFIELD
I went up next afternoon, for I knew how he dreaded loneliness. We
played billiards for a time, then set out for a walk, following the long
drive to the leafy lane that led to my own property. Presently he said:
"In one way I am sorry I did not see this place sooner. I never want to
leave it again. If I had known it was so beautiful I should have vacated
the house in town and moved up here permanently."
I suggested that he could still do so, if he chose, and he entered
immediately into the idea. By and by we turned down a deserted road,
grassy and beautiful, that ran along his land. At one side was a slope
facing the west, and dotted with the slender, cypress-like cedars of New
England. He had asked if that were part of his land, and on being told
it was he said:
"I would like Howells to have a house there. We must try to give that to
At the foot of the hill we came to a brook and followed it into a meadow.
I told him that I had often caught fine trout there, and that soon I
would bring in some for breakfast. He answered:
"Yes, I should like that. I don't care to catch them any more myself. I
like them very hot."
We passed through some woods and came out near my own ancient little
house. He noticed it and said:
"The man who built that had some memory of Greece in his mind when he put
on that little porch with those columns."
My second daughter, Frances, was coming from a distant school on the
evening train, and the carriage was starting just then to bring her. I
suggested that perhaps he would find it pleasant to make the drive.
"Yes," he agreed, "I should enjoy that."
So I took the reins, and he picked up little Joy, who came running out
just then, and climbed into the back seat. It was another beautiful
evening, and he was in a talkative humor. Joy pointed out a small turtle
in the road, and he said:
"That is a wild turtle. Do you think you could teach it arithmetic?"
Joy was uncertain.
"Well," he went on, "you ought to get an arithmetic--a little ten-cent
arithmetic--and teach that turtle."
We passed some swampy woods, rather dim and junglelike.
"Those," he said, "are elephant woods."
But Joy answered:
"They are fairy woods. The fairies are there, but you can't see them
because they wear magic cloaks."
He said: "I wish I had one of those magic cloaks, sometimes. I had one
once, but it is worn out now."
Joy looked at him reverently, as one who had once been the owner of a
piece of fairyland.
It was a sweet drive to and from the village. There are none too many
such evenings in a lifetime. Colonel Harvey's little daughter, Dorothy,
came up a day or two later, and with my daughter Louise spent the first
week with him in the new home. They were created "Angel-Fishes"--the
first in the new aquarium; that is to say, the billiard-room, where he
followed out the idea by hanging a row of colored prints of Bermuda
fishes in a sort of frieze around the walls. Each visiting member was
required to select one as her particular patron fish and he wrote her
name upon it. It was his delight to gather his juvenile guests in this
room and teach them the science of billiard angles; but it was so
difficult to resist taking the cue and making plays himself that he was
required to stand on a little platform and give instruction just out of
reach. His snowy flannels and gleaming white hair, against those rich
red walls, with those small, summer-clad players, made a pretty picture.
The place did not retain its original name. He declared that it would
always be "Innocence at Home" to the angel-fish visitors, but that the
title didn't remain continuously appropriate. The money which he had
derived from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven had been used to build
the loggia wing, and he considered the name of "Stormfield" as a
substitute. When, presently, the summer storms gathered on that rock-
bound, open hill, with its wide reaches of vine and shrub-wild, fierce
storms that bent the birch and cedar, and strained at the bay and
huckleberry, with lightning and turbulent wind and thunder, followed by
the charging rain--the name seemed to become peculiarly appropriate.
Standing with his head bared to the tumult, his white hair tossing in the
blast, and looking out upon the wide splendor of the spectacle, he
rechristened the place, and "Stormfield" it became and remained.
The last day of Mark Twain's first week in Redding, June 25th, was
saddened by the news of the death of Grover Cleveland at his home in
Princeton, New Jersey. Clemens had always been an ardent Cleveland
admirer, and to Mrs. Cleveland now he sent this word of condolence--
Your husband was a man I knew and loved and honored for twenty-five
years. I mourn with you.
And once during the evening he said:
"He was one of our two or three real Presidents. There is none to take
THE ALDRICH MEMORIAL
At the end of June came the dedication at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, of
the Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial Museum, which the poet's wife had
established there in the old Aldrich homestead. It was hot weather.
We were obliged to take a rather poor train from South Norwalk, and
Clemens was silent and gloomy most of the way to Boston. Once there,
however, lodged in a cool and comfortable hotel, matters improved.
He had brought along for reading the old copy of Sir Thomas Malory's
Arthur Tales, and after dinner he took off his clothes and climbed into
bed and sat up and read aloud from those stately legends, with comments
that I wish I could remember now, only stopping at last when overpowered
We went on a special train to Portsmouth next morning through the summer
heat, and assembled, with those who were to speak, in the back portion of
the opera-house, behind the scenes: Clemens was genial and good-natured
with all the discomfort of it; and he liked to fancy, with Howells, who
had come over from Kittery Point, how Aldrich must be amused at the whole
circumstance if he could see them punishing themselves to do honor to his
memory. Richard Watson Gilder was there, and Hamilton Mabie; also
Governor Floyd of New Hampshire; Colonel Higginson, Robert Bridges, and
other distinguished men. We got to the more open atmosphere of the stage
presently, and the exercises began. Clemens was last on the program.
The others had all said handsome, serious things, and Clemens himself had
mentally prepared something of the sort; but when his turn came, and he
rose to speak, a sudden reaction must have set in, for he delivered an
address that certainly would have delighted Aldrich living, and must have
delighted him dead, if he could hear it. It was full of the most
charming humor, delicate, refreshing, and spontaneous. The audience,
that had been maintaining a proper gravity throughout, showed its
appreciation in ripples of merriment that grew presently into genuine
waves of laughter. He spoke out his regret for having worn black
clothes. It was a mistake, he said, to consider this a solemn time--
Aldrich would not have wished it to be so considered. He had been a man
who loved humor and brightness and wit, and had helped to make life merry
and delightful. Certainly, if he could know, he would not wish this
dedication of his own home to be a lugubrious, smileless occasion.
Outside, when the services were ended, the venerable juvenile writer,
J. T. Trowbridge, came up to Clemens with extended hand. Clemens said:
"Trowbridge, are you still alive? You must be a thousand years old.
Why, I listened to your stories while I was being rocked in the cradle."
"Mark, there's some mistake. My earliest infant smile was wakened with
one of your jokes."
They stood side by side against a fence in the blazing sun and were
photographed--an interesting picture.
We returned to Boston that evening. Clemens did not wish to hurry in the
summer heat, and we remained another day quietly sight-seeing, and
driving around and around Commonwealth Avenue in a victoria in the cool
of the evening. Once, remembering Aldrich, he said:
"I was just planning Tom Sawyer when he was beginning the 'Story of a Bad
Boy'. When I heard that he was writing that I thought of giving up mine,
but Aldrich insisted that it would be a foolish thing to do. He thought
my Missouri boy could not by any chance conflict with his boy of New
England, and of course he was right."
He spoke of how great literary minds usually came along in company. He
"Now and then, on the stream of time, small gobs of that thing which we
call genius drift down, and a few of these lodge at some particular
point, and others collect about them and make a sort of intellectual
island--a towhead, as they say on the river--such an accumulation of
intellect we call a group, or school, and name it.
"Thirty years ago there was the Cambridge group. Now there's been still
another, which included Aldrich and Howells and Stedman and Cable. It
will soon be gone. I suppose they will have to name it by and by."
He pointed out houses here and there of people he had known and visited
in other days. The driver was very anxious to go farther, to other and
more distinguished sights. Clemens mildly but firmly refused any
variation of the program, and so we kept on driving around and around the
shaded loop of Beacon Street until dusk fell and the lights began to
twinkle among the trees.
DEATH OF "SAM" MOFFETT
Clemens' next absence from Redding came on August 1, 1908, when the
sudden and shocking news was received of the drowning of his nephew,
Samuel E. Moffett, in the surf of the Jersey shore. Moffett was his
nearest male relative, and a man of fine intellect and talents. He was
superior in those qualities which men love--he was large-minded and
large-hearted, and of noble ideals. With much of the same sense of humor
which had made his uncle's fame, he had what was really an abnormal
faculty of acquiring and retaining encyclopedic data. Once as a child he
had visited Hartford when Clemens was laboring over his history game.
The boy was much interested, and asked permission to help. His uncle
willingly consented, and referred him to the library for his facts. But
he did not need to consult the books; he already had English history
stored away, and knew where to find every detail of it. At the time of
his death Moffett held an important editorial position on Collier's
Clemens was fond and proud of his nephew. Returning from the funeral, he
was much depressed, and a day or two later became really ill. He was in
bed for a few days, resting, he said, after the intense heat of the
journey. Then he was about again and proposed billiards as a diversion.
We were all alone one very still, warm August afternoon playing, when he
"I feel a little dizzy; I will sit down a moment."
I brought him a glass of water and he seemed to recover, but when he rose
and started to play I thought he had a dazed look. He said:
"I have lost my memory. I don't know which is my ball. I don't know
what game we are playing."
But immediately this condition passed, and we thought little of it,
considering it merely a phase of biliousness due to his recent journey.
I have been told since, by eminent practitioners, that it was the first
indication of a more serious malady.
He became apparently quite himself again and showed his usual vigor-light
of step and movement, able to skip up and down stairs as heretofore. In
a letter to Mrs. Crane, August 12th, he spoke of recent happenings:
DEAR AUNT SUE,--It was a most moving, a most heartbreaking sight,
the spectacle of that stunned & crushed & inconsolable family. I
came back here in bad shape, & had a bilious collapse, but I am all
right again, though the doctor from New York has given peremptory
orders that I am not to stir from here before frost. O fortunate
Sam Moffett! fortunate Livy Clemens! doubly fortunate Susy! Those
swords go through & through my heart, but there is never a moment
that I am not glad, for the sake of the dead, that they have
How Livy would love this place! How her very soul would steep
itself thankfully in this peace, this tranquillity, this deep
stillness, this dreamy expanse of woodsy hill & valley! You must
come, Aunt Sue, & stay with us a real good visit. Since June 26 we
have had 21 guests, & they have all liked it and said they would
To Howells, on the same day, he wrote:
Won't you & Mrs. Howells & Mildred come & give us as many days as
you can spare & examine John's triumph? It is the most satisfactory
house I am acquainted with, & the most satisfactorily situated . .
. . I have dismissed my stenographer, & have entered upon a
holiday whose other end is the cemetery.
Clemens had fully decided, by this time, to live the year round in the
retirement at Stormfield, and the house at 21 Fifth Avenue was being
dismantled. He had also, as he said, given up his dictations for the
time, at least, after continuing them, with more or less regularity, for
a period of two and a half years, during which he had piled up about half
a million words of comment and reminiscence. His general idea had been
to add portions of this matter to his earlier books as the copyrights
expired, to give them new life and interest, and he felt that he had
plenty now for any such purpose.
He gave his time mainly to his guests, his billiards, and his reading,
though of course he could not keep from writing on this subject and that
as the fancy moved him, and a drawer in one of his dressers began to
accumulate fresh though usually fragmentary manuscripts. . . He read the
daily paper, but he no longer took the keen, restless interest in public
affairs. New York politics did not concern him any more, and national
politics not much. When the Evening Post wrote him concerning the
advisability of renominating Governor Hughes he replied:
If you had asked me two months ago my answer would have been prompt
& loud & strong: yes, I want Governor Hughes renominated. But it is
too late, & my mouth is closed. I have become a citizen & taxpayer
of Connecticut, & could not now, without impertinence, meddle in
matters which are none of my business. I could not do it with
impertinence without trespassing on the monopoly of another.
Howells speaks of Mark Twain's "absolute content" with his new home, and
these are the proper words' to express it. He was like a storm-beaten
ship that had drifted at last into a serene South Sea haven.
The days began and ended in tranquillity. There were no special morning
regulations: One could have his breakfast at any time and at almost any
place. He could have it in bed if he liked, or in the loggia or
livingroom, or billiard-room. He might even have it in the diningroom,
or on the terrace, just outside. Guests--there were usually guests--
might suit their convenience in this matter--also as to the forenoons.
The afternoon brought games--that is, billiards, provided the guest knew
billiards, otherwise hearts. Those two games were his safety-valves, and
while there were no printed requirements relating to them the unwritten
code of Stormfield provided that guests, of whatever age or previous
faith, should engage in one or both of these diversions.
Clemens, who usually spent his forenoon in bed with his reading and his
letters, came to the green table of skill and chance eager for the onset;
if the fates were kindly, he approved of them openly. If not--well, the
fates were old enough to know better, and, as heretofore, had to take the
consequences. Sometimes, when the weather was fine and there were no
games (this was likely to be on Sunday afternoons), there were drives
among the hills and along the Saugatuck through the Bedding Glen.
The cat was always "purring on the hearth" at Stormfield--several cats--
for Mark Twain's fondness for this clean, intelligent domestic animal
remained, to the end, one of his happiest characteristics. There were
never too many cats at Stormfield, and the "hearth" included the entire
house, even the billiard-table. When, as was likely to happen at any
time during the game, the kittens Sinbad, or Danbury, or Billiards would
decide to hop up and play with the balls, or sit in the pockets and grab
at them as they went by, the game simply added this element of chance,
and the uninvited player was not disturbed. The cats really owned
Stormfield; any one could tell that from their deportment. Mark Twain
held the title deeds; but it was Danbury and Sinbad and the others that
possessed the premises. They occupied any portion of the house or its
furnishings at will, and they never failed to attract attention. Mark
Twain might be preoccupied and indifferent to the comings and goings of
other members of the household; but no matter what he was doing, let
Danbury appear in the offing and he was observed and greeted with due
deference, and complimented and made comfortable. Clemens would arise
from the table and carry certain choice food out on the terrace to
Tammany, and be satisfied with almost no acknowledgment by way of
appreciation. One could not imagine any home of Mark Twain where the
cats were not supreme. In the evening, as at 21 Fifth Avenue, there was
music--the stately measures of the orchestrelle--while Mark Twain smoked
and mingled unusual speculation with long, long backward dreams.
It was three months from the day of arrival in Redding that some guests
came to Stormfield without invitation--two burglars, who were carrying
off some bundles of silver when they were discovered. Claude, the
butler, fired a pistol after them to hasten their departure, and Clemens,
wakened by the shots, thought the family was opening champagne and went
to sleep again.
It was far in the night; but neighbor H. A. Lounsbury and Deputy-Sheriff
Banks were notified, and by morning the thieves were captured, though
only after a pretty desperate encounter, during which the officer
received a bullet-wound. Lounsbury and a Stormfield guest had tracked
them in the dark with a lantern to Bethel, a distance of some seven
miles. The thieves, also their pursuers, had boarded the train there.
Sheriff Banks was waiting at the West Redding station when the train came
down, and there the capture was made. It was a remarkably prompt and
shrewd piece of work. Clemens gave credit for its success chiefly to
Lounsbury, whose talents in many fields always impressed him. The
thieves were taken to the Redding Town Hall for a preliminary healing.
Subsequently they received severe sentences.
Clemens tacked this notice on his front door:
TO THE NEXT BURGLAR
There is nothing but plated ware in this house now and henceforth.
You will find it in that brass thing in the dining-room over in the
corner by the basket of kittens.
If you want the basket put the kittens in the brass thing. Do not
make a noise--it disturbs the family.
You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing which has the
umbrellas in it, chiffonnier, I think they call it, or pergola, or
something like that.
Please close the door when you go away!
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.
Now came the tranquil days of the Connecticut autumn. The change of the
landscape colors was a constant delight to Mark Twain. There were
several large windows in his room, and he called them his picture-
gallery. The window-panes were small, and each formed a separate picture
of its own that was changing almost hourly. The red tones that began to
run through the foliage; the red berry bushes; the fading grass, and the
little touches of sparkling frost that came every now and then at early
morning; the background of distant blue hills and changing skies-these
things gave his gallery a multitude of variation that no art-museums
could furnish. He loved it all, and he loved to walk out in it, pacing
up and down the terrace, or the long path that led to the pergola at the
foot of a natural garden. If a friend came, he was willing to walk much
farther; and we often descended the hill in one direction or another,
though usually going toward the "gorge," a romantic spot where a clear
brook found its way through a deep and rather dangerous-looking chasm.
Once he was persuaded to descend into this fairy-like place, for it was
well worth exploring; but his footing was no longer sure and he did not
He liked better to sit on the grass-grown, rocky arch above and look down
into it, and let his talk follow his mood. He liked to contemplate the
geology of his surroundings, the record of the ageless periods of
construction required to build the world. The marvels of science always
appealed to him. He reveled in the thought of the almost limitless
stretches of time, the millions upon millions of years that had been
required for this stratum and that--he liked to amaze himself with the
sounding figures. I remember him expressing a wish to see the Grand
Canon of Arizona, where, on perpendicular walls six thousand feet high,
the long story of geological creation is written. I had stopped there
during my Western trip of the previous year, and I told him something of
its wonders. I urged him to see them for himself, offering to go with
him. He said:
"I should enjoy that; but the railroad journey is so far and I should
have no peace. The papers would get hold of it, and I would have to make
speeches and be interviewed, and I never want to do any of those things
I suggested that the railroads would probably be glad to place a private
car at his service, so that he might travel in comfort; but he shook his
"That would only make me more conspicuous."
"How about a disguise?"
"Yes," he said, "I might put on a red wig and false whiskers and change
my name, but I couldn't disguise my drawling speech and they'd find me
It was amusing, but it was rather sad, too. His fame had deprived him of
He talked of many things during these little excursions. Once he told
how he had successively advised his nephew, Moffett, in the matter of
obtaining a desirable position. Moffett had wanted to become a reporter.
Clemens devised a characteristic scheme. He said:
"I will get you a place on any newspaper you may select if you promise
faithfully to follow out my instructions."
The applicant agreed, eagerly enough. Clemens said:
"Go to the newspaper of your choice. Say that you are idle and want
work, that you are pining for work--longing for it, and that you ask no
wages, and will support yourself. All that you ask is work. That you
will do anything, sweep, fill the inkstands, mucilage-bottles, run
errands, and be generally useful. You must never ask for wages. You
must wait until the offer of wages comes to you. You must work just as
faithfully and just as eagerly as if you were being paid for it. Then
see what happens."
The scheme had worked perfectly. Young Moffett had followed his
instructions to the letter. By and by he attracted attention. He was
employed in a variety of ways that earned him the gratitude and the
confidence of the office. In obedience to further instructions, he began
to make short, brief, unadorned notices of small news matters that came
under his eye and laid them on the city editor's desk. No pay was asked;
none was expected. Occasionally one of the items was used. Then, of
course, it happened, as it must sooner or later at a busy time, that he
was given a small news assignment. There was no trouble about his
progress after that. He had won the confidence of the management and
shown that he was not afraid to work.
The plan had been variously tried since, Clemens said, and he could not
remember any case in which it had failed. The idea may have grown out of
his own pilot apprenticeship on the river, when cub pilots not only
received no salary, but paid for the privilege of learning.
Clemens discussed public matters less often than formerly, but they were
not altogether out of his mind. He thought our republic was in a fair
way to become a monarchy--that the signs were already evident. He
referred to the letter which he had written so long ago in Boston, with
its amusing fancy of the Archbishop of Dublin and his Grace of Ponkapog,
and declared that, after all, it contained something of prophecy.--[See
chap. xcvii; also Appendix M.]--He would not live to see the actual
monarchy, he said, but it was coming.
"I'm not expecting it in my time nor in my children's time, though it may
be sooner than we think. There are two special reasons for it and one
condition. The first reason is, that it is in the nature of man to want
a definite something to love, honor, reverently look up to and obey; a
God and King, for example. The second reason is, that while little
republics have lasted long, protected by their poverty and
insignificance, great ones have not. And the condition is, vast power
and wealth, which breed commercial and political corruptions, and incite
public favorites to dangerous ambitions."
He repeated what I had heard him say before, that in one sense we already
had a monarchy; that is to say, a ruling public and political aristocracy
which could create a Presidential succession. He did not say these
things bitterly now, but reflectively and rather indifferently.
He was inclined to speak unhopefully of the international plans for
universal peace, which were being agitated rather persistently.
"The gospel of peace," he said, "is always making a deal of noise, always
rejoicing in its progress but always neglecting to furnish statistics.
There are no peaceful nations now. All Christendom is a soldier-camp.
The poor have been taxed in some nations to the starvation point to
support the giant armaments which Christian governments have built up,
each to protect itself from the rest of the Christian brotherhood, and
incidentally to snatch any scrap of real estate left exposed by a weaker
owner. King Leopold II. of Belgium, the most intensely Christian
monarch, except Alexander VI., that has escaped hell thus far, has stolen
an entire kingdom in Africa, and in fourteen years of Christian endeavor
there has reduced the population from thirty millions to fifteen by
murder and mutilation and overwork, confiscating the labor of the
helpless natives, and giving them nothing in return but salvation and a
home in heaven, furnished at the last moment by the Christian priest.
"Within the last generation each Christian power has turned the bulk of
its attention to finding out newer and still newer and more and more
effective ways of killing Christians, and, incidentally, a pagan now and
then; and the surest way to get rich quickly in Christ's earthly kingdom
is to invent a kind of gun that can kill more Christians at one shot than
any other existing kind. All the Christian nations are at it. The more
advanced they are, the bigger and more destructive engines of war they
Once, speaking of battles great and small, and how important even a small
battle must seem to a soldier who had fought in no other, he said:
"To him it is a mighty achievement, an achievement with a big A, when to
a wax-worn veteran it would be a mere incident. For instance, to the
soldier of one battle, San Juan Hill was an Achievement with an A as big
as the Pyramids of Cheops; whereas, if Napoleon had fought it, he would
have set it down on his cuff at the time to keep from forgetting it had
happened. But that is all natural and human enough. We are all like
The curiosities and absurdities of religious superstitions never failed
to furnish him with themes more or less amusing. I remember one Sunday,
when he walked down to have luncheon at my house, he sat under the shade
and fell to talking of Herod's slaughter of the innocents, which he said
could not have happened.
"Tacitus makes no mention of it," he said, "and he would hardly have
overlooked a sweeping order like that, issued by a petty ruler like
Herod. Just consider a little king of a corner of the Roman Empire
ordering the slaughter of the first-born of a lot of Roman subjects.
Why, the Emperor would have reached out that long arm of his and
dismissed Herod. That tradition is probably about as authentic as those
connected with a number of old bridges in Europe which are said to have
been built by Satan. The inhabitants used to go to Satan to build
bridges for them, promising him the soul of the first one that crossed
the bridge; then, when Satan had the bridge done, they would send over a
rooster or a jackass--a cheap jackass; that was for Satan, and of course
they could fool him that way every time. Satan must have been pretty
simple, even according to the New Testament, or he wouldn't have led
Christ up on a high mountain and offered him the world if he would fall
down and worship him. That was a manifestly absurd proposition, because
Christ, as the Son of God, already owned the world; and, besides, what
Satan showed him was only a few rocky acres of Palestine. It is just as
if some one should try to buy Rockefeller, the owner of all the Standard
Oil Company, with a gallon of kerosene."
He often spoke of the unseen forces of creation, the immutable laws that
hold the planet in exact course and bring the years and the seasons
always exactly on schedule time. "The Great Law" was a phrase often on
his lips. The exquisite foliage, the cloud shapes, the varieties of
color everywhere: these were for him outward manifestations of the Great
Law, whose principle I understood to be unity--exact relations throughout
all nature; and in this I failed to find any suggestion of pessimism, but
only of justice. Once he wrote on a card for preservation:
From everlasting to everlasting, this is the law: the sum of wrong &
misery shall always keep exact step with the sum of human
No "civilization," no "advance," has ever modified these proportions
by even the shadow of a shade, nor ever can, while our race endures.
CITIZEN AND FARMER
The procession of guests at Stormfield continued pretty steadily.
Clemens kept a book in which visitors set down their names and the dates
of arrival and departure, and when they failed to attend to these matters
he diligently did it himself after they were gone.
Members of the Harper Company came up with their wives; "angel-fish" swam
in and out of the aquarium; Bermuda friends came to see the new home;
Robert Collier, the publisher, and his wife--"Mrs. Sally," as Clemens
liked to call her--paid their visits; Lord Northcliffe, who was visiting
America, came with Colonel Harvey, and was so impressed with the
architecture of Stormfield that he adopted its plans for a country-place
he was about to build in Newfoundland. Helen Keller, with Mr. and Mrs.
Macy, came up for a week-end visit. Mrs. Crane came over from Elmira;
and, behold! one day came the long-ago sweetheart of his childhood,
little Laura Hawkins--Laura Frazer now, widowed and in the seventies,
with a granddaughter already a young lady quite grown up.
That Mark Twain was not wearying of the new conditions we may gather from
a letter written to Mrs. Rogers in October:
I've grown young in these months of dissipation here. And I have
left off drinking--it isn't necessary now. Society & theology are
sufficient for me.
To Helen Allen, a Bermuda "Angel-Fish," he wrote:
We have good times here in this soundless solitude on the hilltop.
The moment I saw the house I was glad I built it, & now I am gladder
& gladder all the time. I was not dreaming of living here except in
the summer-time--that was before I saw this region & the house, you
see--but that is all changed now; I shall stay here winter & summer
both & not go back to New York at all. My child, it's as tranquil &
contenting as Bermuda. You will be very welcome here, dear.
He interested himself in the affairs and in the people of Redding. Not
long after his arrival he had gathered in all the inhabitants of the
country-side, neighbors of every quality, for closer acquaintance, and
threw open to them for inspection every part of the new house. He
appointed Mrs. Lounsbury, whose acquaintance was very wide; a sort of
committee on reception, and stood at the entrance with her to welcome
each visitor in person.
It was a sort of gala day, and the rooms and the grounds were filled with
the visitors. In the dining-room there were generous refreshments.
Again, not long afterward, he issued a special invitation to all of
those-architects, builders, and workmen who had taken any part, however
great or small, in the building of his home. Mr. and Mrs. Littleton were
visiting Stormfield at this time, and both Clemens and Littleton spoke to
these assembled guests from the terrace, and made them feel that their
efforts had been worth while.
Presently the idea developed to establish something that would be of
benefit to his neighbors, especially to those who did not have access to
much reading-matter. He had been for years flooded with books by authors
and publishers, and there was a heavy surplus at his home in the city.
When these began to arrive he had a large number of volumes set aside as
the nucleus of a public library. An unused chapel not far away--it could
be seen from one of his windows--was obtained for the purpose; officers
were elected; a librarian was appointed, and so the Mark Twain Library of
Redding was duly established. Clemens himself was elected its first
president, with the resident physician, Dr. Ernest H. Smith, vice-
president, and another resident, William E. Grumman, librarian. On the
afternoon of its opening the president made a brief address. He said:
I am here to speak a few instructive words to my fellow-farmers.
I suppose you are all farmers: I am going to put in a crop next
year, when I have been here long enough and know how. I couldn't
make a turnip stay on a tree now after I had grown it. I like to
talk. It would take more than the Redding air to make me keep
still, and I like to instruct people. It's noble to be good, and
it's nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble. I am glad
to help this library. We get our morals from books. I didn't get
mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books--
theoretically at least. Mr. Beard or Mr. Adams will give some land,
and by and by we are going to have a building of our own.
This statement was news to both Mr. Beard and Mr. Adams and an
inspiration of the moment; but Mr. Theodore Adams, who owned a most
desirable site, did in fact promptly resolve to donate it for library
purposes. Clemens continued:
I am going to help build that library with contributions from my
visitors. Every male guest who comes to my house will have to
contribute a dollar or go away without his baggage.--
[A characteristic notice to guests requiring them to contribute a
dollar to the Library Building Fund was later placed on the
billiard-room mantel at Stormfield with good results.]--If those
burglars that broke into my house recently had done that they would
have been happier now, or if they'd have broken into this library
they would have read a few books and led a better life. Now they
are in jail, and if they keep on they will go to Congress. When a
person starts downhill you can never tell where he's going to stop.
I am sorry for those burglars. They got nothing that they wanted
and scared away most of my servants. Now we are putting in a
burglar-alarm instead of a dog. Some advised the dog, but it costs
even more to entertain a dog than a burglar. I am having the ground
electrified, so that for a mile around any one who puts his foot
across the line sets off an alarm that will be heard in Europe. Now
I will introduce the real president to you, a man whom you know
So a new and important benefit was conferred upon the community, and
there was a feeling that Redding, besides having a literary colony, was
to be literary in fact.
It might have been mentioned earlier that Redding already had literary
associations when Mark Twain arrived. As far back as Revolutionary days
Joel Barlow, a poet of distinction, and once Minister to France, had been
a resident of Redding, and there were still Barlow descendants in the
William Edgar Grumman, the librarian, had written the story of Redding's
share in the Revolutionary War--no small share, for Gen. Israel Putnam's
army had been quartered there during at least one long, trying winter.
Charles Burr Todd, of one of the oldest Redding families, himself--still
a resident, was also the author of a Redding history.
Of literary folk not native to Redding, Dora Reed Goodale and her sister
Elaine, the wife of Dr. Charles A. Eastman, had, long been residents of
Redding Center; Jeanette L. Gilder and Ida M. Tarbell had summer homes on
Redding Ridge; Dan Beard, as already mentioned, owned a place near the
banks of the Saugatuck, while Kate V. St. Maur, also two of Nathaniel
Hawthorne's granddaughters had recently located adjoining the Stormfield
lands. By which it will be seen that Redding was in no way unsuitable as
a home for Mark Twain.
A MANTEL AND A BABY ELEPHANT
Mark Twain was the receiver of two notable presents that year. The first
of these, a mantel from Hawaii, presented to him by the Hawaiian
Promotion Committee, was set in place in the billiard-room on the morning
of his seventy-third birthday. This committee had written, proposing to
build for his new home either a mantel or a chair, as he might prefer,
the same to be carved from the native woods. Clemens decided on a
billiard-room mantel, and John Howells forwarded the proper measurements.
So, in due time, the mantel arrived, a beautiful piece of work and in
fine condition, with the Hawaiian word, "Aloha," one of the sweetest
forms of greeting in any tongue, carved as its central ornament.
To the donors of the gift Clemens wrote:
The beautiful mantel was put in its place an hour ago, & its
friendly "Aloha" was the first uttered greeting received on my 73d
birthday. It is rich in color, rich in quality, & rich in
decoration; therefore it exactly harmonized with the taste for such
things which was born in me & which I have seldom been able to
indulge to my content. It will be a great pleasure to me, daily
renewed, to have under my eye this lovely reminder of the loveliest
fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean, & I beg to thank
the committee for providing me that pleasure.
To F. N. Otremba, who had carved the mantel, he sent this word:
I am grateful to you for the valued compliment to me in the labor of
heart and hand and brain which you have put upon it. It is worthy
of the choicest place in the house and it has it.
It was the second beautiful mantel in Stormfield--the Hartford library
mantel, removed when that house was sold, having been installed in the
Altogether the seventy-third birthday was a pleasant one. Clemens, in
the morning, drove down to see the library lot which Mr. Theodore Adams
had presented, and the rest of the day there were fine, close billiard
games, during which he was in the gentlest and happiest moods. He
recalled the games of two years before, and as we stopped playing I said:
"I hope a year from now we shall be here, still playing the great game."
And he answered, as then:
"Yes, it is a great game--the best game on earth." And he held out his
hand and thanked me for coming, as he never failed to do when we parted,
though it always hurt me a little, for the debt was so largely mine.
Mark Twain's second present came at Christmas-time. About ten days
earlier, a letter came from Robert J. Collier, saying that he had bought
a baby elephant which he intended to present to Mark Twain as a Christmas
gift. He added that it would be sent as soon as he could get a car for
it, and the loan of a keeper from Barnum & Bailey's headquarters at
The news created a disturbance in Stormfield. One could not refuse,
discourteously and abruptly, a costly present like that; but it seemed a
disaster to accept it. An elephant would require a roomy and warm place,
also a variety of attention which Stormfield was not prepared to supply.
The telephone was set going and certain timid excuses were offered by the
secretary. There was no good place to put an elephant in Stormfield, but
Mr. Collier said, quite confidently:
"Oh, put him in the garage."
"But there's no heat in the garage."
"Well, put him in the loggia, then. That's closed in, isn't it, for the
winter? Plenty of sunlight--just the place for a young elephant."
"But we play cards in the loggia. We use it for a sort of sun-parlor."
"But that wouldn't matter. He's a kindly, playful little thing. He'll
be just like a kitten. I'll send the man up to look over the place and
tell you just how to take care of him, and I'll send up several bales of
hay in advance. It isn't a large elephant, you know: just a little one--
a regular plaything."
There was nothing further to be done; only to wait and dread until the
Christmas present's arrival.
A few days before Christmas ten bales of hay arrived and several bushels
of carrots. This store of provender aroused no enthusiasm at Stormfield.
It would seem there was no escape now.
On Christmas morning Mr. Lounsbury telephoned up that there was a man at
the station who said he was an elephant-trainer from Barnum & Bailey's,
sent by Mr. Collier to look at the elephant's quarters and get him
settled when he should arrive. Orders were given to bring the man over.
The day of doom was at hand.
But Lounsbury's detective instinct came once more into play. He had seen
a good many elephant-trainers at Bridgeport, and he thought this one had
a doubtful look.
"Where is the elephant?" he asked, as they drove along.
"He will arrive at noon."
"Where are you going to put him?"
"In the loggia."
"How big is he?"
"About the size of a cow."
"How long have you been with Barnum and Bailey?"
"Then you must know some friends of mine" (naming two that had no
existence until that moment).
"Oh yes, indeed. I know them well."
Lounsbury didn't say any more just then, but he had a feeling that
perhaps the dread at Stormfield had grown unnecessarily large. Something
told him that this man seemed rather more like a butler, or a valet, than
an elephant-trainer. They drove to Stormfield, and the trainer looked
over the place. It would do perfectly, he said. He gave a few
instructions as to the care of this new household feature, and was driven
back to the station to bring it.
Lounsbury came back by and by, bringing the elephant but not the trainer.
It didn't need a trainer. It was a beautiful specimen, with soft, smooth
coat and handsome trappings, perfectly quiet, well-behaved and small--
suited to the loggia, as Collier had said--for it was only two feet long
and beautifully made of cloth and cotton--one of the forest toy elephants
ever seen anywhere.
It was a good joke, such as Mark Twain loved--a carefully prepared,
harmless bit of foolery. He wrote Robert Collier, threatening him with
all sorts of revenge, declaring that the elephant was devastating
"To send an elephant in a trance, under pretense that it was dead or
stuffed!" he said. "The animal came to life, as you knew it would, and
began to observe Christmas, and we now have no furniture left and no
servants and no visitors, no friends, no photographs, no burglars--
nothing but the elephant. Be kind, be merciful, be generous; take him
away and send us what is left of the earthquake."
Collier wrote that he thought it unkind of him to look a gift-elephant in
the trunk. And with such chaffing and gaiety the year came to an end.
When the bad weather came there was not much company at Stormfield, and
I went up regularly each afternoon, for it was lonely on that bleak hill,
and after his forenoon of reading or writing he craved diversion. My own
home was a little more than a half mile away, and I enjoyed the walk,
whatever the weather. I usually managed to arrive about three o'clock.
He would watch from his high windows until he saw me raise the hilltop,
and he would be at the door when I arrived, so that there might be no
delay in getting at the games. Or, if it happened that he wished to show
me something in his room, I would hear his rich voice sounding down the
stair. Once, when I arrived, I heard him calling, and going up I found
him highly pleased with the arrangement of two pictures on a chair,
placed so that the glasses of them reflected the sunlight on the ceiling.
"They seem to catch the reflection of the sky and the winter colors.
Sometimes the hues are wonderfully iridescent."
He pointed to a bunch of wild red berries on the mantel with the sun on
"How beautifully they light up!" he said; "some of them in the sunlight,
some still in the shadow."
He walked to the window and stood looking out on the somber fields.
"The lights and colors are always changing there," he said. "I never
tire of it."
To see him then so full of the interest and delight of the moment, one
might easily believe he had never known tragedy and shipwreck. More than
any one I ever knew, he lived in the present. Most of us are either
dreaming of the past or anticipating the future--forever beating the
dirge of yesterday or the tattoo of to-morrow. Mark Twain's step was
timed to the march of the moment. There were days when he recalled the
past and grieved over it, and when he speculated concerning the future;
but his greater interest was always of the now, and of the particular
locality where he found it. The thing which caught his fancy, however
slight or however important, possessed him fully for the time, even if
He was especially interested that winter in the Shakespeare-Bacon
problem. He had long been unable to believe that the actor-manager from
Stratford had written those great plays, and now a book just published,
'The Shakespeare Problem Restated', by George Greenwood, and another one
in press, 'Some Characteristic Signatures of Francis Bacon', by William
Stone Booth, had added the last touch of conviction that Francis Bacon,
and Bacon only, had written the Shakespeare dramas. I was ardently
opposed to this idea. The romance of the boy, Will Shakespeare, who had
come up to London and began, by holding horses outside of the theater,
and ended by winning the proudest place in the world of letters, was
something I did not wish to let perish. I produced all the stock
testimony--Ben Jonson's sonnet, the internal evidence of the plays
themselves, the actors who had published them--but he refused to accept
any of it. He declared that there was not a single proof to show that
Shakespeare had written one of them.
"Is there any evidence that he didn't?" I asked.
"There's evidence that he couldn't," he said. "It required a man with
the fullest legal equipment to have written them. When you have read
Greenwood's book you will see how untenable is any argument for
I was willing to concede something, and offered a compromise.
"Perhaps," I said, "Shakespeare was the Belasoo of that day--the
managerial genius, unable to write plays himself, but with the supreme
gift of making effective drama from the plays of others. In that case it
is not unlikely that the plays would be known as Shakespeare's. Even in
this day John Luther Long's "Madam Butterfly" is sometimes called
Belasco's play; though it is doubtful if Belasco ever wrote a line of
He considered this view, but not very favorably. The Booth book was at
this time a secret, and he had not told me anything concerning it; but he
had it in his mind when he said, with an air of the greatest conviction:
"I know that Shakespeare did not write those plays, and I have reason to
believe he did not touch the text in any way."
"How can you be so positive?" I asked.
"I have private knowledge from a source that cannot be questioned."
I now suspected that he was joking, and asked if he had been consulting a
spiritual medium; but he was clearly in earnest.
"It is the great discovery of the age," he said, quite seriously. "The
world will soon ring with it. I wish I could tell you about it, but I
have passed my word. You will not have long to wait."
I was going to sail for the Mediterranean in February, and I asked if it
would be likely that I would know this great secret before I sailed. He
thought not; but he said that more than likely the startling news would
be given to the world while I was on the water, and it might come to me
on the ship by wireless. I confess I was amazed and intensely curious by
this time. I conjectured the discovery of some document--some Bacon or
Shakespeare private paper which dispelled all the mystery of the
authorship. I hinted that he might write me a letter which I could open
on the ship; but he was firm in his refusal. He had passed his word, he
repeated, and the news might not be given out as soon as that; but he
assured me more than once that wherever I might be, in whatever remote
locality, it would come by cable, and the world would quake with it.
I was tempted to give up my trip, to be with him at Stormfield at the
time of the upheaval.
Naturally the Shakespeare theme was uppermost during the remaining days
that we were together. He had engaged another stenographer, and was now
dictating, forenoons, his own views on the subject--views coordinated
with those of Mr. Greenwood, whom he liberally quoted, but embellished
and decorated in his own gay manner. These were chapters for his
autobiography, he said, and I think he had then no intention of making a
book of them. I could not quite see why he should take all this
argumentary trouble if he had, as he said, positive evidence that Bacon,
and not Shakespeare, had written the plays. I thought the whole matter
The Shakespeare interest had diverging by-paths. One evening, when we
were alone at dinner, he said:
"There is only one other illustrious man in history about whom there is
so little known," and he added, "Jesus Christ."
He reviewed the statements of the Gospels concerning Christ, though he
declared them to be mainly traditional and of no value. I agreed that
they contained confusing statements, and inflicted more or less with
justice and reason; but I said I thought there was truth in them, too.
"Why do you think so?" he asked.
"Because they contain matters that are self-evident--things eternally and
"Then you make your own Bible?"
"Yes, from those materials combined with human reason."
"Then it does not matter where the truth, as you call it, comes from?"
I admitted that the source did not matter; that truth from Shakespeare,
Epictetus, or Aristotle was quite as valuable as from the Scriptures. We
were on common ground now. He mentioned Marcus Aurelius, the Stoics, and
their blameless lives. I, still pursuing the thought of Jesus, asked:
"Do you not think it strange that in that day when Christ came, admitting
that there was a Christ, such a character could have come at all--in the
time of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, when all was ceremony and
"I remember," he said, "the Sadducees didn't believe in hell. He brought
"Nor the resurrection. He brought them that, also."
He did not admit that there had been a Christ with the character and
mission related by the Gospels.
"It is all a myth," he said. "There have been Saviours in every age of
the world. It is all just a fairy tale, like the idea of Santa Claus."
"But," I argued, "even the spirit of Christmas is real when it is
genuine. Suppose that we admit there was no physical Saviour--that it is
only an idea--a spiritual embodiment which humanity has made for itself
and is willing to improve upon as its own spirituality improves, wouldn't
that make it worthy?"
"But then the fairy story of the atonement dissolves, and with it
crumbles the very foundations of any established church. You can create
your own Testament, your own Scripture, and your own Christ, but you've
got to give up your atonement."
"As related to the crucifixion, yes, and good riddance to it; but the
death of the old order and the growth of spirituality comes to a sort of
atonement, doesn't it?"
"A conclusion like that has about as much to do with the Gospels and
Christianity as Shakespeare had to do with Bacon's plays. You are
preaching a doctrine that would have sent a man to the stake a few
centuries ago. I have preached that in my own Gospel."
I remembered then, and realized that, by my own clumsy ladder, I had
merely mounted from dogma, and superstition to his platform of training
the ideals to a higher contentment of soul.
"IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD?"
I set out on my long journey with much reluctance. However, a series of
guests with various diversions had been planned, and it seemed a good
time to go. Clemens gave me letters of introduction, and bade me
Godspeed. It would be near the end of April before I should see him
Now and then on the ship, and in the course of my travels, I remembered
the great news I was to hear concerning Shakespeare. In Cairo, at
Shepheard's, I looked eagerly through English newspapers, expecting any
moment to come upon great head-lines; but I was always disappointed.
Even on the return voyage there was no one I could find who had heard any
particular Shakespeare news.
Arriving in New York, I found that Clemens himself had published his
Shakespeare dictations in a little volume of his own, entitled, 'Is
Shakespeare Dead?' The title certainly suggested spiritistic matters,
and I got a volume at Harpers', and read it going up on the train, hoping
to find somewhere in it a solution of the great mystery. But it was only
matter I had already known; the secret was still unrevealed.
At Redding I lost not much time in getting up to Stormfield. There had
been changes in my absence. Clara Clemens had returned from her travels,
and Jean, whose health seemed improved, was coming home to be her
father's secretary. He was greatly pleased with these things, and
declared he was going to have a home once more with his children about
He was quite alone that day, and we walked up and down the great living-
room for an hour, perhaps, while he discussed his new plans. For one
thing, he had incorporated his pen-name, Mark Twain, in order that the
protection of his copyrights and the conduct of his literary business in
general should not require his personal attention. He seemed to find a
relief in this, as he always did in dismissing any kind of
responsibility. When we went in for billiards I spoke of his book, which
I had read on the way up, and of the great Shakespearian secret which was
to astonish the world. Then he told me that the matter had been delayed,
but that he was no longer required to suppress it; that the revelation
was in the form of a book--a book which revealed conclusively to any one
who would take the trouble to follow the directions that the acrostic
name of Francis Bacon in a great variety of forms ran through many--
probably through all of the so-called Shakespeare plays. He said it was
far and away beyond anything of the kind ever published; that Ignatius
Donnelly and others had merely glimpsed the truth, but that the author of
this book, William Stone Booth, had demonstrated, beyond any doubt or
question, that the Bacon signatures were there. The book would be issued
in a few days, he said. He had seen a set of proofs of it, and while it
had not been published in the best way to clearly demonstrate its great
revelation, it must settle the matter with every reasoning mind. He
confessed that his faculties had been more or less defeated in,
attempting to follow the ciphers, and he complained bitterly that the
evidence had not been set forth so that he who merely skims a book might
He had failed on the acrostics at first; but more recently he had
understood the rule, and had been able to work out several Bacon
signatures. He complimented me by saying that he felt sure that when the
book came I would have no trouble with it.
Without going further with this matter, I may say here that the book
arrived presently, and between us we did work out a considerable number
of the claimed acrostics by following the rules laid down. It was
certainly an interesting if not wholly convincing occupation, and it
would be a difficult task for any one to prove that the ciphers are not
there. Just why this pretentious volume created so little agitation it
would be hard to say. Certainly it did not cause any great upheaval in
the literary world, and the name of William Shakespeare still continues
to be printed on the title-page of those marvelous dramas so long
associated with his name.
Mark Twain's own book on the subject--'Is Shakespeare Dead?'--found a
wide acceptance, and probably convinced as many readers. It contained no
new arguments; but it gave a convincing touch to the old ones, and it was
certainly readable.--[Mark Twain had the fullest conviction as to the
Bacon authorship of the Shakespeare plays. One evening, with Mr. Edward
Loomis, we attended a fine performance of "Romeo and Juliet" given by
Sothern and Marlowe. At the close of one splendid scene he said, quite
earnestly, "That is about the best play that Lord Bacon ever wrote."]
Among the visitors who had come to Stormfield was Howells. Clemens had
called a meeting of the Human Race Club, but only Howells was able to
attend. We will let him tell of his visit:
We got on very well without the absentees, after finding them in the
wrong, as usual, and the visit was like those I used to have with
him so many years before in Hartford, but there was not the old
ferment of subjects. Many things had been discussed and put away
for good, but we had our old fondness for nature and for each other,
who were so differently parts of it. He showed his absolute content
with his house, and that was the greater pleasure for me because it
was my son who designed it. The architect had been so fortunate as
to be able to plan it where a natural avenue of savins, the close-
knit, slender, cypress-like cedars of New England, led away from the
rear of the villa to the little level of a pergola, meant some day
to be wreathed and roofed with vines. But in the early spring days
all the landscape was in the beautiful nakedness of the Northern
winter. It opened in the surpassing loveliness of wooded and
meadowed uplands, under skies that were the first days blue, and the
last gray over a rainy and then a snowy floor. We walked up and
down, up and down, between the villa terrace and the pergola, and
talked with the melancholy amusement, the sad tolerance of age for
the sort of men and things that used to excite us or enrage us; now
we were far past turbulence or anger. Once we took a walk together
across the yellow pastures to a chasmal creek on his grounds, where
the ice still knit the clayey banks together like crystal mosses;
and the stream far down clashed through and over the stones and the
shards of ice. Clemens pointed out the scenery he had bought to
give himself elbowroom, and showed me the lot he was going to have
me build on. The next day we came again with the geologist he had
asked up to Stormfield to analyze its rocks. Truly he loved the
place . . . .
My visit at Stormfield came to an end with tender relucting on his
part and on mine. Every morning before I dressed I heard him
sounding my name through the house for the fun of it and I know for
the fondness, and if I looked out of my door there he was in his
long nightgown swaying up and down the corridor, and wagging his
great white head like a boy that leaves his bed and comes out in the
hope of frolic with some one. The last morning a soft sugar-snow
had fallen and was falling, and I drove through it down to the
station in the carriage which had been given him by his wife's
father when they were first married, and had been kept all those
intervening years in honorable retirement for this final use.--[This
carriage--a finely built coup--had been presented to Mrs. Crane when
the Hartford house was closed. When Stormfield was built she
returned it to its original owner.]--Its springs had not grown
yielding with time, it had rather the stiffness and severity of age;
but for him it must have swung low like the sweet chariot of the
negro "spiritual" which I heard him sing with such fervor when those
wonderful hymns of the slaves began to make their way northward.
Howells's visit resulted in a new inspiration. Clemens started to write
him one night when he could not sleep, and had been reading the volume of
letters of James Russell Lowell. Then, next morning, he was seized with
the notion of writing a series of letters to such friends as Howells,
Twichell, and Rogers--letters not to be mailed, but to be laid away for
some future public. He wrote two of these immediately--to Howells and to
Twichell. The Howells letter (or letters, for it was really double) is
both pathetic and amusing. The first part ran:
3 in the morning, April 17, 1909.
My pen has gone dry and the ink is out of reach. Howells, did you
write me day-before-day-before yesterday or did I dream it? In my
mind's eye I most vividly see your hand-write on a square blue
envelope in the mail-pile. I have hunted the house over, but there
is no such letter. Was it an illusion?
I am reading Lowell's letters & smoking. I woke an hour ago & am
reading to keep from wasting the time. On page 305, Vol. I, I have
just margined a note:
"Young friend! I like that! You ought to see him now."
It seemed startlingly strange to hear a person call you young. It
was a brick out of a blue sky, & knocked me groggy for a moment. Ah
me, the pathos of it is that we were young then. And he--why, so
was he, but he didn't know it. He didn't even know it 9 years
later, when we saw him approaching and you warned me, saying:
"Don't say anything about age--he has just turned 50 & thinks he is
old, & broods over it."
Well, Clara did sing! And you wrote her a dear letter.
Time to go to sleep.
The second letter, begun at 10 A.M., outlines the plan by which he is to
write on the subject uppermost in his mind without restraint, knowing
that the letter is not to be mailed.
. . .The scheme furnishes a definite target for each letter, & you
can choose the target that's going to be the most sympathetic for
what you are hungering & thirsting to say at that particular moment.
And you can talk with a quite unallowable frankness & freedom
because you are not going to send the letter. When you are on fire
with theology you'll not write it to Rogers, who wouldn't be an
inspiration; you'll write it to Twichell, because it will make him
writhe and squirm & break the furniture. When you are on fire with
a good thing that's indecent you won't waste it on Twichell; you'll
save it for Howells, who will love it. As he will never see it you
can make it really indecenter than he could stand; & so no harm is
done, yet a vast advantage is gained.
The letter was not finished, and the scheme perished there. The Twichell
letter concerned missionaries, and added nothing to what he had already
said on the subject.
He wrote no letter to Mr. Rogers--perhaps never wrote to him again.
THE DEATH OF HENRY ROGERS
Clemens, a little before my return, had been on a trip to Norfolk,
Virginia, to attend the opening ceremonies of the Virginia Railway. He
had made a speech on that occasion, in which he had paid a public tribute
to Henry Rogers, and told something of his personal obligation to the
He began by telling what Mr. Rogers had done for Helen Keller, whom he
called "the most marvelous person of her sex that has existed on this
earth since Joan of Arc." Then he said:
That is not all Mr. Rogers has done, but you never see that side of
his character because it is never protruding; but he lends a helping
hand daily out of that generous heart of his. You never hear of it.
He is supposed to be a moon which has one side dark and the other
bright. But the other side, though you don't see it, is not dark;
it is bright, and its rays penetrate, and others do see it who are
I would take this opportunity to tell something that I have never
been allowed to tell by Mr. Rogers, either by my mouth or in print,
and if I don't look at him I can tell it now.
In 1894, when the publishing company of Charles L. Webster, of which
I was financial agent, failed, it left me heavily in debt. If you
will remember what commerce was at that time you will recall that
you could not sell anything, and could not buy anything, and I was
on my back; my books were not worth anything at all, and I could not
give away my copyrights. Mr. Rogers had long-enough vision ahead to
say, "Your books have supported you before, and after the panic is
over they will support you again," and that was a correct
proposition. He saved my copyrights, and saved me from financial
ruin. He it was who arranged with my creditors to allow me to roam
the face of the earth and persecute the nations thereof with
lectures, promising at the end of four years I would pay dollar for
dollar. That arrangement was made, otherwise I would now be living
out-of-doors under an umbrella, and a borrowed one at that.
You see his white mustache and his hair trying to get white (he is
always trying to look like me--I don't blame him for that). These
are only emblematic of his character, and that is all. I say,
without exception, hair and all, he is the whitest man I have ever
This had been early in April. Something more than a month later Clemens
was making a business trip to New York to see Mr. Rogers. I was
telephoned early to go up and look over some matters with him before he
started. I do not remember why I was not to go along that day, for I
usually made such trips with him. I think it was planned that Miss
Clemens, who was in the city, was to meet him at the Grand Central
Station. At all events, she did meet him there, with the news that
during the night Mr. Rogers had suddenly died. This was May 20, 1909.
The news had already come to the house, and I had lost no time in
preparations to follow by the next train. I joined him at the Grosvenor
Hotel, on Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street. He was upset and deeply
troubled by the loss of his stanch adviser and friend. He had a helpless
look, and he said his friends were dying away from him and leaving him
"And how I hate to do anything," he added, "that requires the least
modicum of intelligence!"
We remained at the Grosvenor for Mr. Rogers's funeral. Clemens served as
one of the pall-bearers, but he did not feel equal to the trip to
Fairhaven. He wanted to be very quiet, he said. He could not undertake
to travel that distance among those whom he knew so well, and with whom
he must of necessity join in conversation; so we remained in the hotel
apartment, reading and saying very little until bedtime. Once he asked
me to write a letter to Jean: "Say, 'Your father says every little while,
"How glad I am that Jean is at home again!"' for that is true and I think
of it all the time."
But by and by, after a long period of silence, he said:
"Mr. Rogers is under the ground now."
And so passed out of earthly affairs the man who had contributed so
largely to the comfort of Mark Twain's old age. He was a man of fine
sensibilities and generous impulses; withal a keen sense of humor.
One Christmas, when he presented Mark Twain with a watch and a match-
case, he wrote:
MY DEAR CLEMENS,--For many years your friends have been complaining
of your use of tobacco, both as to quantity and quality. Complaints
are now coming in of your use of time. Most of your friends think
that you are using your supply somewhat lavishly, but the chief
complaint is in regard to the quality.
I have been appealed to in the mean time, and have concluded that it
is impossible to get the right kind of time from a blacking-box.
Therefore, I take the liberty of sending you herewith a machine that
will furnish only the best. Please use it with the kind wishes of
H. H. ROGERS.
P. S.--Complaint has also been made in regard to the furrows you
make in your trousers in scratching matches. You will find a furrow
on the bottom of the article inclosed. Please use it. Compliments
of the season to the family.
He was a man too busy to write many letters, but when he did write (to
Clemens at least) they were always playful and unhurried. One reading
them would not find it easy to believe that the writer was a man on whose
shoulders lay the burdens of stupendous finance-burdens so heavy that at
last he was crushed beneath their weight.
AN EXTENSION OF COPYRIGHT
One of the pleasant things that came to Mark Twain that year was the
passage of a copyright bill, which added to the royalty period an
extension of fourteen years. Champ Clark had been largely instrumental
in the success of this measure, and had been fighting for it steadily
since Mark Twain's visit to Washington in 1906. Following that visit,
. . . It [the original bill] would never pass because the bill
had literature and music all mixed together. Being a Missourian of
course it would give me great pleasure to be of service to you.
What I want to say is this: you have prepared a simple bill relating
only to the copyright of books; send it to me and I will try to have
Clemens replied that he might have something more to say on the copyright
question by and by--that he had in hand a dialogue--[Similar to the "Open
Letter to the Register of Copyrights," North American Review, January,
1905.]--which would instruct Congress, but this he did not complete.
Meantime a simple bill was proposed and early in 1909 it became a law.
In June Clark wrote:
DR. SAMUEL L. CLEMENS,
Stormfield, Redding, Conn.
MY DEAR DOCTOR,--I am gradually becoming myself again, after a
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