Mark Twain, A Biography, 1907-1910
Albert Bigelow Paine
Part 4 out of 6
in the language. He had ended his literary labors with that perfect
thing which so marvelously speaks the loftiness and tenderness of his
soul. It was thoroughly in keeping with his entire career that he
should, with this rare dramatic touch, bring it to a close. A paragraph
which he omitted may be printed now:
December 27. Did I know jean's value? No, I only thought I did.
I knew a ten-thousandth fraction of it, that was all. It is always
so, with us, it has always been so. We are like the poor ignorant
private soldier-dead, now, four hundred years--who picked up the
great Sancy diamond on the field of the lost battle and sold it for
a franc. Later he knew what he had done.
Shall I ever be cheerful again, happy again? Yes. And soon. For
I know my temperament. And I know that the temperament is master of
the man, and that he is its fettered and helpless slave and must in
all things do as it commands. A man's temperament is born in him,
and no circumstances can ever change it.
My temperament has never allowed my spirits to remain depressed long
at a time.
That was a feature of Jean's temperament, too. She inherited it
from me. I think she got the rest of it from her mother.
Jean Clemens had two natural endowments: the gift of justice and a
genuine passion for all nature. In a little paper found in her desk she
I know a few people who love the country as I do, but not many.
Most of my acquaintances are enthusiastic over the spring and summer
months, but very few care much for it the year round. A few people
are interested in the spring foliage and the development of the wild
flowers--nearly all enjoy the autumn colors--while comparatively few
pay much attention to the coming and going of the birds, the changes
in their plumage and songs, the apparent springing into life on some
warm April day of the chipmunks and woodchucks, the skurrying of
baby rabbits, and again in the fall the equally sudden disappearance
of some of the animals and the growing shyness of others. To me it
is all as fascinating as a book--more so, since I have never lost
interest in it.
It is simple and frank, like Thoreau. Perhaps, had she exercised it,
there was a third gift--the gift of written thought.
Clemens remained at Stormfield ten days after Jean was gone. The weather
was fiercely cold, the landscape desolate, the house full of tragedy.
He kept pretty closely to his room, where he had me bring the heaps of
letters, a few of which he answered personally; for the others he
prepared a simple card of acknowledgment. He was for the most part in
gentle mood during these days, though he would break out now and then,
and rage at the hardness of a fate that had laid an unearned burden of
illness on Jean and shadowed her life.
They were days not wholly without humor--none of his days could be
altogether without that, though it was likely to be of a melancholy sort.
Many of the letters offered orthodox comfort, saying, in effect: "God
does not willingly punish us."
When he had read a number of these he said:
"Well, why does He do it then? We don't invite it. Why does He give
Himself the trouble?"
I suggested that it was a sentiment that probably gave comfort to the
writer of it.
"So it does," he said, "and I am glad of it--glad of anything that gives
comfort to anybody."
He spoke of the larger God--the God of the great unvarying laws, and by
and by dropped off to sleep, quite peacefully, and indeed peace came more
and more to him each day with the thought that Jean and Susy and their
mother could not be troubled any more. To Mrs. Gabrilowitsch he wrote:
REDDING, CONN, December 29, 1909.
O, Clara, Clara dear, I am so glad she is out of it & safe--safe!
I am not melancholy; I shall never be melancholy again, I think.
You see, I was in such distress when I came to realize that you were
gone far away & no one stood between her & danger but me--& I could
die at any moment, & then--oh then what would become of her! For
she was wilful, you know, & would not have been governable.
You can't imagine what a darling she was that last two or three
days; & how fine, & good, & sweet, & noble--& joyful, thank Heaven!
--& how intellectually brilliant. I had never been acquainted with
Jean before. I recognized that.
But I mustn't try to write about her--I can't. I have already
poured my heart out with the pen, recording that last day or two.
I will send you that--& you must let no one but Ossip read it.
Good-by. I love you so! And Ossip.
THE RETURN TO BERMUDA
I don't think he attempted any further writing for print. His mind was
busy with ideas, but he was willing to talk, rather than to write, rather
even than to play billiards, it seemed, although we had a few quiet
games--the last we should ever play together. Evenings he asked for
music, preferring the Scotch airs, such as "Bonnie Doon" and "The
Campbells are Coming." I remember that once, after playing the latter
for him, he told, with great feeling, how the Highlanders, led by Gen.
Colin Campbell, had charged at Lucknow, inspired by that stirring air.
When he had retired I usually sat with him, and he drifted into
literature, or theology, or science, or history--the story of the
universe and man.
One evening he spoke of those who had written but one immortal thing and
stopped there. He mentioned "Ben Bolt."
"I met that man once," he said. "In my childhood I sang 'Sweet Alice,
Ben Bolt,' and in my old age, fifteen years ago, I met the man who wrote
it. His name was Brown.--[Thomas Dunn English. Mr. Clemens apparently
remembered only the name satirically conferred upon him by Edgar Allan
Poe, "Thomas Dunn Brown."]--He was aged, forgotten, a mere memory. I
remember how it thrilled me to realize that this was the very author of
'Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt.' He was just an accident. He had a vision and
echoed it. A good many persons do that--the thing they do is to put in
compact form the thing which we have all vaguely felt. 'Twenty Years
Ago' is just like it 'I have wandered through the village, Tom, and sat
beneath the tree'--and Holmes's 'Last Leaf' is another: the memory of the
hallowed past, and the gravestones of those we love. It is all so
beautiful--the past is always beautiful."
He quoted, with great feeling and effect:
The massy marbles rest
On the lips that we have pressed
In their bloom,
And the names we love to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.
He continued in this strain for an hour or more. He spoke of humor, and
thought it must be one of the chief attributes of God. He cited plants
and animals that were distinctly humorous in form and in their
characteristics. These he declared were God's jokes.
"Why," he said, "humor is mankind's greatest blessing."
"Your own case is an example," I answered. "Without it, whatever your
reputation as a philosopher, you could never have had the wide-spread
affection that is shown by the writers of that great heap of letters."
"Yes," he said, gently, "they have liked to be amused."
I tucked him in for the night, promising to send him to Bermuda, with
Claude to take care of him, if he felt he could undertake the journey in
two days more.
He was able, and he was eager to go, for he longed for that sunny island,
and for the quiet peace of the Allen home. His niece, Mrs. Loomis, came
up to spend the last evening in Stormfield, a happy evening full of quiet
talk, and next morning, in the old closed carriage that had been his
wedding-gift, he was driven to the railway station. This was on January
He was to sail next day, and that night, at Mr. Loomis's, Howells came
in, and for an hour or two they reviewed some of the questions they had
so long ago settled, or left forever unsettled, and laid away. I
remember that at dinner Clemens spoke of his old Hartford butler, George,
and how he had once brought George to New York and introduced him at the
various publishing houses as his friend, with curious and sometimes
rather embarrassing results.
The talk drifted to sociology and to the labor-unions, which Clemens
defended as being the only means by which the workman could obtain
recognition of his rights.
Howells in his book mentions this evening, which he says "was made
memorable to me by the kind, clear, judicial sense with which he
explained and justified the labor-unions as the sole present help of the
weak against the strong."
They discussed dreams, and then in a little while Howells rose to go. I
went also, and as we walked to his near-by apartment he spoke of Mark
Twain's supremacy. He said:
"I turn to his books for cheer when I am down-hearted. There was never
anybody like him; there never will be."
Clemens sailed next morning. They did not meet again.
LETTERS FROM BERMUDA
Stormfield was solemn and empty without Mark Twain; but he wrote by every
steamer, at first with his own hand, and during the last week by the hand
of one of his enlisted secretaries--some member of the Allen family
usually Helen. His letters were full of brightness and pleasantry--
always concerned more or less with business matters, though he was no
longer disturbed by them, for Bermuda was too peaceful and too far away,
and, besides, he had faith in the Mark Twain Company's ability to look
after his affairs. I cannot do better, I believe, than to offer some
portions of these letters here.
He reached Bermuda on the 7th of January, 1910, and on the 12th he wrote:
Again I am living the ideal life. There is nothing to mar it but
the bloody-minded bandit Arthur,--[A small playmate of Helen's of
whom Clemens pretended to be fiercely jealous. Once he wrote a
memorandum to Helen: "Let Arthur read this book. There is a page in
it that is poisoned."]--who still fetches and carries Helen.
Presently he will be found drowned. Claude comes to Bay House twice
a day to see if I need any service. He is invaluable. There was a
military lecture last night at the Officers' Mess Prospect; as the
lecturer honored me with a special urgent invitation, and said he
wanted to lecture to me particularly, I naturally took Helen and her
mother into the private carriage and went.
As soon as we landed at the door with the crowd the Governor came to
me& was very cordial. I "met up" with that charming Colonel Chapman
[we had known him on the previous visit] and other officers of the
regiment & had a good time.
A few days later he wrote:
Thanks for your letter & for its contenting news of the situation in
that foreign & far-off & vaguely remembered country where you &
Loomis & Lark and other beloved friends are.
I had a letter from Clara this morning. She is solicitous & wants
me well & watchfully taken care of. My, my, she ought to see Helen
& her parents & Claude administer that trust. Also she says, "I
hope to hear from you or Mr. Paine very soon."
I am writing her & I know you will respond to your part of her
prayer. She is pretty desolate now after Jean's emancipation--the
only kindness that God ever did that poor, unoffending child in all
her hard life.
Send Clara a copy of Howells's gorgeous letter.
The "gorgeous letter" mentioned was an appreciation of his recent Bazar
article, "The Turning-Point in My Life," and here follows:
January 18, 1910.
DEAR CLEMENS,--While your wonderful words are warm in my mind yet I
want to tell you what you know already: that you never wrote
anything greater, finer, than that turning-point paper of yours.
I shall feel it honor enough if they put on my tombstone "He was
born in the same century and general section of Middle Western
country with Dr. S. L. Clemens, Oxon., and had his degree three
years before him through a mistake of the University."
I hope you are worse. You will never be riper for a purely
intellectual life, and it is a pity to have you lagging along with a
worn-out material body on top of your soul.
W. D. HOWELLS.
On the margin of this letter Clemens had written:
I reckon this spontaneous outburst from the first critic of the day
is good to keep, ain't it, Paine?
January 24th he wrote again of his contentment:
Life continues here the same as usual. There isn't a fault in it-
good times, good home, tranquil contentment all day & every day
without a break. I know familiarly several very satisfactory people
& meet them frequently: Mr. Hamilton, the Sloanes, Mr. & Mrs. Fells,
Miss Waterman, & so on. I shouldn't know how to go about bettering
On February 5th he wrote that the climate and condition of his health
might require him to stay in Bermuda pretty continuously, but that he
wished Stormfield kept open so that he might come to it at any time. And
Yesterday Mr. Allen took us on an excursion in Mr. Hamilton's big
motor-boat. Present: Mrs. Allen, Mr. & Mrs. & Miss Sloane, Helen,
Mildred Howells, Claude, & me. Several hours' swift skimming over
ravishing blue seas, a brilliant sun; also a couple of hours of
picnicking & lazying under the cedars in a secluded place.
The Orotava is arriving with a6o passengers-I shall get letters by
her, no doubt.
P. S.-Please send me the Standard Unabridged that is on the table in
my bedroom. I have no dictionary here.
There is no mention in any of these letters of his trouble; but he was
having occasional spasms of pain, though in that soft climate they would
seem to have come with less frequency, and there was so little to disturb
him, and much that contributed to his peace. Among the callers at the
Bay House to see him was Woodrow Wilson, and the two put in some pleasant
hours at miniature golf, "putting" on the Allen lawn. Of course a
catastrophe would come along now and then--such things could not always
be guarded against. In a letter toward the end of February he wrote:
It is 2.30 in the morning & I am writing because I can't sleep.
I can't sleep because a professional pianist is coming to-morrow
afternoon to play for me. My God! I wouldn't allow Paderewski or
Gabrilowitsch to do that. I would rather have a leg amputated.
I knew he was coming, but I never dreamed it was to play for me.
When I heard the horrible news 4 hours ago, be d---d if I didn't
come near screaming. I meant to slip out and be absent, but now I
can't. Don't pray for me. The thing is just as d---d bad as it can
Clemens's love for music did not include the piano, except for very
gentle melodies, and he probably did not anticipate these from a
professional player. He did not report the sequel of the matter; but it
is likely that his imagination had discounted its tortures. Sometimes
his letters were pure nonsense. Once he sent a sheet, on one side of
which was written:
March s, 1910.
Received of S. L. C.
Two Dollars and Forty Cents
in return for my promise to believe everything he says
HELEN S. ALLEN.
and on the reverse:
The proprietor of the hereinbefore mentioned Promise desires to part
with it on account of ill health and obliged to go away somewheres
so as to let it recipricate, and will take any reasonable amount for
it above 2 percent of its face because experienced parties think it
will not keep but only a little while in this kind of weather & is a
kind of proppity that don't give a cuss for cold storage nohow.
Clearly, however serious Mark Twain regarded his physical condition, he
did not allow it to make him gloomy. He wrote that matters were going
everywhere to his satisfaction; that Clara was happy; that his household
and business affairs no longer troubled him; that his personal
surroundings were of the pleasantest sort. Sometimes he wrote of what he
was reading, and once spoke particularly of Prof. William Lyon Phelps's
Literary Essays, which he said he had been unable to lay down until he
had finished the book.--[To Phelps himself he wrote: "I thank you ever
so much for the book, which I find charming--so charming, indeed, that I
read it through in a single night, & did not regret the lost night's
sleep. I am glad if I deserve what you have said about me; & even if I
don't I am proud & well contented, since you think I deserve it."]
So his days seemed full of comfort. But in March I noticed that he
generally dictated his letters, and once when he sent some small
photographs I thought he looked thinner and older. Still he kept up his
merriment. In one letter he said:
While the matter is in my mind I will remark that if you ever send
me another letter which is not paged at the top I will write you
with my own hand, so that I may use with utter freedom & without
embarrassment the kind of words which alone can describe such a
criminal, to wit, - - - -; you will have to put into words those
dashes because propriety will not allow me to do it myself in my
secretary's hearing. You are forgiven, but don't let it occur
He had still made no mention of his illness; but on the 25th of March he
wrote something of his plans for coming home. He had engaged passage on
the Bermudian for April 23d, he said; and he added:
But don't tell anybody. I don't want it known. I may have to go
sooner if the pain in my breast does not mend its ways pretty
considerable. I don't want to die here, for this is an unkind place
for a person in that condition. I should have to lie in the
undertaker's cellar until the ship would remove me & it is dark down
there & unpleasant.
The Colliers will meet me on the pier, & I may stay with them a week
or two before going home. It all depends on the breast pain. I
don't want to die there. I am growing more and more particular
about the place.
But in the same letter he spoke of plans for the summer, suggesting that
we must look into the magic-lantern possibilities, so that library
entertainments could be given at Stormfield. I confess that this letter,
in spite of its light tone, made me uneasy, and I was tempted to sail for
Bermuda to bring him home. Three days later he wrote again:
I have been having a most uncomfortable time for the past four days
with that breast pain, which turns out to be an affection of the
heart, just as I originally suspected. The news from New York is to
the effect that non-bronchial weather has arrived there at last;
therefore, if I can get my breast trouble in traveling condition I
may sail for home a week or two earlier than has been proposed.
The same mail that brought this brought a letter from Mr. Allen, who
frankly stated that matters had become very serious indeed. Mr. Clemens
had had some dangerous attacks, and the physicians considered his
These letters arrived April 1st. I went to New York at once and sailed
next morning. Before sailing I consulted with Dr. Quintard, who provided
me with some opiates and instructed me in the use of the hypodermic
needle. He also joined me in a cablegram to the Gabrilowitsches, then in
Italy, advising them to sail without delay.
THE VOYAGE HOME
I sent no word to Bermuda that I was coming, and when on the second
morning I arrived at Hamilton, I stepped quickly ashore from the tender
and hurried to Bay House. The doors were all open, as they usually are
in that summer island, and no one was visible. I was familiar with the
place, and, without knocking, I went through to the room occupied by Mark
Twain. As I entered I saw that he was alone, sitting in a large chair,
clad in the familiar dressing-gown.
Bay House stands upon the water, and the morning light, reflected in at
the window, had an unusual quality. He was not yet shaven, and he seemed
unnaturally pale and gray; certainly he was much thinner. I was too
startled, for the moment, to say anything. When he turned and saw me he
seemed a little dazed.
"Why," he said, holding out his hand, "you didn't tell us you were
"No," I said, "it is rather sudden. I didn't quite like the sound of
your last letters."
"But those were not serious," he protested. "You shouldn't have come on
I said then that I had come on my own account; that I had felt the need
of recreation, and had decided to run down and come home with him.
"That's--very--good," he said, in his slow, gentle fashion. "Now I'm
glad to see you."
His breakfast came in and he ate with an appetite.
When he had been shaved and freshly propped tip in his pillows it seemed
to me, after all, that I must have been mistaken in thinking him so
changed. Certainly he was thinner, but his color was fine, his eyes were
bright; he had no appearance of a man whose life was believed to be in
danger. He told me then of the fierce attacks he had gone through, how
the pains had torn at him, and how it had been necessary for him to have
hypodermic injections, which he amusingly termed "hypnotic injunctions"
and "subcutaneous applications," and he had his humor out of it, as of
course he must have, even though Death should stand there in person.
From Mr. and Mrs. Allen and from the physician I learned how slender had
been his chances and how uncertain were the days ahead. Mr. Allen had
already engaged passage on the Oceana for the 12th, and the one purpose
now was to get him physically in condition for the trip.
How devoted those kind friends had been to him! They had devised every
imaginable thing for his comfort. Mr. Allen had rigged an electric bell
which connected with his own room, so that he could be aroused instantly
at any hour of the night. Clemens had refused to have a nurse, for it
was only during the period of his extreme suffering that he needed any
one, and he did not wish to have a nurse always around. When the pains
were gone he was as bright and cheerful, and, seemingly, as well as ever.
On the afternoon of my arrival we drove out, as formerly, and he
discussed some of the old subjects in quite the old way. He had been
rereading Macaulay, he said, and spoke at considerable length of the
hypocrisy and intrigue of the English court under James II. He spoke,
too, of the Redding Library. I had sold for him that portion of the land
where Jean's farm-house had stood, and it was in his mind to use the
money for some sort of a memorial to Jean. I had written, suggesting
that perhaps he would like to put up a small library building, as the
Adams lot faced the corner where Jean had passed every day when she rode
to the station for the mail. He had been thinking this over, he said,
and wished the idea carried out. He asked me to write at once to his
lawyer, Mr. Lark, and have a paper prepared appointing trustees for a
memorial library fund.
The pain did not trouble him that afternoon, nor during several
succeeding days. He was gay and quite himself, and he often went out on
the lawn; but we did not drive out again. For the most part, he sat
propped up in his bed, reading or smoking, or talking in the old way; and
as I looked at him he seemed so full of vigor and the joy of life that I
could not convince myself that he would not outlive us all. I found that
he had been really very much alive during those three months--too much
for his own good, sometimes--for he had not been careful of his hours or
his diet, and had suffered in consequence.
He had not been writing, though he had scribbled some playful valentines
and he had amused himself one day by preparing a chapter of advice--for
me it appeared--which, after reading it aloud to the Allens and receiving
their approval, he declared he intended to have printed for my benefit.
As it would seem to have been the last bit of continued writing he ever
did, and because it is characteristic and amusing, a few paragraphs may
be admitted. The "advice" is concerning deportment on reaching the Gate
which St. Peter is supposed to guard--
Upon arrival do not speak to St. Peter until spoken to. It is not
your place to begin.
Do not begin any remark with "Say."
When applying for a ticket avoid trying to make conversation. If
you must talk let the weather alone. St. Peter cares not a damn for
the weather. And don't ask him what time the 4.30 train goes; there
aren't any trains in heaven, except through trains, and the less
information you get about them the better for you.
You can ask him for his autograph--there is no harm in that--but be
careful and don't remark that it is one of the penalties of
greatness. He has heard that before.
Don't try to kodak him. Hell is full of people who have made that
Leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit
you would stay out and the dog would go in.
You will be wanting to slip down at night and smuggle water to those
poor little chaps (the infant damned), but don't you try it. You
would be caught, and nobody in heaven would respect you after that.
Explain to Helen why I don't come. If you can.
There were several pages of this counsel. One paragraph was written in
shorthand. I meant to ask him to translate it; but there were many other
things to think of, and I did not remember.
I spent most of each day with him, merely sitting by the bed and reading
while he himself read or dozed. His nights were wakeful--he found it
easier to sleep by day--and he liked to think that some one was there.
He became interested in Hardy's Jude, and spoke of it with high approval,
urging me to read it. He dwelt a good deal on the morals of it, or
rather on the lack of them. He followed the tale to the end, finishing
it the afternoon before we sailed. It was his last continuous reading.
I noticed, when he slept, that his breathing was difficult, and I could
see from day to day that he did not improve; but each evening he would be
gay and lively, and he liked the entire family to gather around, while he
became really hilarious over the various happenings of the day.
It was only a few days before we sailed that the very severe attacks
returned. The night of the 8th was a hard one. The doctors were
summoned, and it was only after repeated injections of morphine that the
pain had been eased. When I returned in the early morning he was sitting
in his chair trying to sing, after his old morning habit. He took my
hand and said:
"Well, I had a picturesque night. Every pain I had was on exhibition."
He looked out the window at the sunlight on the bay and green dotted
islands. "'Sparkling and bright in the liquid light,'" he quoted.
"That's Hoffman. Anything left of Hoffman?"
"No," I said.
"I must watch for the Bermudian and see if she salutes," he said,
presently. "The captain knows I am here sick, and he blows two short
whistles just as they come up behind that little island. Those are for
He said he could breathe easier if he could lean forward, and I placed a
card-table in front of him. His breakfast came in, and a little later he
became quite gay. He drifted to Macaulay again, and spoke of King
James's plot to assassinate William II., and how the clergy had brought
themselves to see that there was no difference between killing a king in
battle and by assassination. He had taken his seat by the window to
watch for the Bermudian. She came down the bay presently, her bright red
stacks towering vividly above the green island. It was a brilliant
morning, the sky and the water a marvelous blue. He watched her
anxiously and without speaking. Suddenly there were two white puffs of
steam, and two short, hoarse notes went up from her.
"Those are for me," he said, his face full of contentment. "Captain
Fraser does not forget me."
There followed another bad night. My room was only a little distance
away, and Claude came for me. I do not think any of us thought he would
survive it; but he slept at last, or at least dozed. In the morning he
"That breast pain stands watch all night and the short breath all day.
I am losing enough sleep to supply a worn-out army. I want a jugful of
that hypnotic injunction every night and every morning."
We began to fear now that he would not be able to sail on the 12th; but
by great good-fortune he had wonderfully improved by the 12th, so much so
that I began to believe, if once he could be in Stormfield, where the air
was more vigorous, he might easily survive the summer. The humid
atmosphere of the season increased the difficulty of his breathing.
That evening he was unusually merry. Mr. and Mrs. Allen and Helen and
myself went in to wish him good night. He was loath to let us leave, but
was reminded that he would sail in the morning, and that the doctor had
insisted that he must be quiet and lie still in bed and rest. He was
never one to be very obedient. A little later Mrs. Allen and I, in the
sitting-room, heard some one walking softly outside on the veranda. We
went out there, and he was marching up and down in his dressing-gown as
unconcerned as if he were not an invalid at all. He hadn't felt sleepy,
he said, and thought a little exercise would do him good. Perhaps it
did, for he slept soundly that night--a great blessing.
Mr. Allen had chartered a special tug to come to Bay House landing in the
morning and take him to the ship. He was carried in a little hand-chair
to the tug, and all the way out he seemed light-spirited, anything but an
invalid: The sailors carried him again in the chair to his state-room,
and he bade those dear Bermuda friends good-by, and we sailed away.
As long as I remember anything I shall remember the forty-eight hours of
that homeward voyage. It was a brief two days as time is measured; but
as time is lived it has taken its place among those unmeasured periods by
the side of which even years do not count.
At first he seemed quite his natural self, and asked for a catalogue of
the ship's library, and selected some memoirs of the Countess of Cardigan
for his reading. He asked also for the second volume of Carlyle's French
Revolution, which he had with him. But we ran immediately into the more
humid, more oppressive air of the Gulf Stream, and his breathing became
at first difficult, then next to impossible. There were two large port-
holes, which I opened; but presently he suggested that it would be better
outside. It was only a step to the main-deck, and no passengers were
there. I had a steamer-chair brought, and with Claude supported him to
it and bundled him with rugs; but it had grown damp and chilly, and his
breathing did not improve. It seemed to me that the end might come at
any moment, and this thought was in his mind, too, for once in the effort
for breath he managed to say:
"I am going--I shall be gone in a moment."
Breath came; but I realized then that even his cabin was better than
this. I steadied him back to his berth and shut out most of that deadly
dampness. He asked for the "hypnotic 'injunction" (for his humor never
left him), and though it was not yet the hour prescribed I could not deny
it. It was impossible for him to lie down, even to recline, without
great distress. The opiate made him drowsy, and he longed for the relief
of sleep; but when it seemed about to possess him the struggle for air
would bring him upright.
During the more comfortable moments he spoke quite in the old way, and
time and again made an effort to read, and reached for his pipe or a
cigar which lay in the little berth hammock at his side. I held the
match, and he would take a puff or two with satisfaction. Then the peace
of it would bring drowsiness, and while I supported him there would come
a few moments, perhaps, of precious sleep. Only a few moments, for the
devil of suffocation was always lying in wait to bring him back for fresh
tortures. Over and over again this was repeated, varied by him being
steadied on his feet or sitting on the couch opposite the berth. In
spite of his suffering, two dominant characteristics remained--the sense
of humor, and tender consideration for another.
Once when the ship rolled and his hat fell from the hook, and made the
circuit of the cabin floor, he said:
"The ship is passing the hat."
Again he said:
"I am sorry for you, Paine, but I can't help it--I can't hurry this dying
business. Can't you give me enough of the hypnotic injunction to put an
end to me?"
He thought if I could arrange the pillows so he could sit straight up it
would not be necessary to support him, and then I could sit on the couch
and read while he tried to doze. He wanted me to read Jude, he said, so
we could talk about it. I got all the pillows I could and built them up
around him, and sat down with the book, and this seemed to give him
contentment. He would doze off a little and then come up with a start,
his piercing, agate eyes searching me out to see if I was still there.
Over and over--twenty times in an hour--this was repeated. When I could
deny him no longer I administered the opiate, but it never completely
possessed him or gave him entire relief.
As I looked at him there, so reduced in his estate, I could not but
remember all the labor of his years, and all the splendid honor which the
world had paid to him. Something of this may have entered his mind, too,
for once, when I offered him some of the milder remedies which we had
brought, he said:
"After forty years of public effort I have become just a target for
The program of change from berth to the floor, from floor to the couch,
from the couch back to the berth among the pillows, was repeated again
and again, he always thinking of the trouble he might be making, rarely
uttering any complaint; but once he said:
"I never guessed that I was not going to outlive John Bigelow." And
"This is such a mysterious disease. If we only had a bill of particulars
we'd have something to swear at."
Time and again he picked up Carlyle or the Cardigan Memoirs, and read, or
seemed to read, a few lines; but then the drowsiness would come and the
book would fall. Time and again he attempted to smoke, or in his drowse
simulated the motion of placing a cigar to his lips and puffing in the
Two dreams beset him in his momentary slumber--one of a play in which the
title-role of the general manager was always unfilled. He spoke of this
now and then when it had passed, and it seemed to amuse him. The other
was a discomfort: a college assembly was attempting to confer upon him
some degree which he did not want. Once, half roused, he looked at me
searchingly and asked:
"Isn't there something I can resign and be out of all this? They keep
trying to confer that degree upon me and I don't want it." Then
realizing, he said: "I am like a bird in a cage: always expecting to get
out, and always beaten back by the wires." And, somewhat later: "Oh, it
is such a mystery, and it takes so long."
Toward the evening of the first day, when it grew dark outside, he asked:
"How long have we been on this voyage?"
I answered that this was the end of the first day.
"How many more are there?" he asked.
"Only one, and two nights."
"We'll never make it," he said. "It's an eternity."
"But we must on Clara's account," I told him, and I estimated that Clara
would be more than half-way across the ocean by now.
"It is a losing race," he said; "no ship can outsail death."
It has been written--I do not know with what proof--that certain great
dissenters have recanted with the approach of death--have become weak,
and afraid to ignore old traditions in the face of the great mystery.
I wish to write here that Mark Twain, as he neared the end, showed never
a single tremor of fear or even of reluctance. I have dwelt upon these
hours when suffering was upon him, and death the imminent shadow, in
order to show that at the end he was as he had always been, neither more
nor less, and never less than brave.
Once, during a moment when he was comfortable and quite himself, he said,
"When I seem to be dying I don't want to be stimulated back to life. I
want to be made comfortable to go."
There was not a vestige of hesitation; there was no grasping at straws,
no suggestion of dread.
Somehow those two days and nights went by. Once, when he was partially
relieved by the opiate, I slept, while Claude watched; and again, in the
fading end of the last night, when we had passed at length into the cold,
bracing northern air, and breath had come back to him, and with it sleep.
Relatives, physicians, and news-gatherers were at the dock to welcome
him. He was awake, and the northern air had brightened him, though it
was the chill, I suppose, that brought on the pains in his breast, which,
fortunately, he had escaped during the voyage. It was not a prolonged
attack, and it was, blessedly, the last one.
An invalid-carriage had been provided, and a compartment secured on the
afternoon express to Redding--the same train that had taken him there two
years before. Dr. Robert H. Halsey and Dr. Edward Quintard attended him,
and he made the journey really in cheerful comfort, for he could breathe
now, and in the relief came back old interests. Half reclining on the
couch, he looked through the afternoon papers. It happened curiously
that Charles Harvey Genung, who, something more than four years earlier,
had been so largely responsible for my association with Mark Twain, was
on the same train, in the same coach, bound for his country-place at New
Lounsbury was waiting with the carriage, and on that still, sweet April
evening we drove him to Stormfield much as we had driven him two years
before. Now and then he mentioned the apparent backwardness of the
season, for only a few of the trees were beginning to show their green.
As we drove into the lane that led to the Stormfield entrance, he said:
"Can we see where you have built your billiard-room?"
The gable showed above the trees, and I pointed it out to him.
"It looks quite imposing," he said.
I think it was the last outside interest he ever showed in anything.
He had been carried from the ship and from the train, but when we drew up
to Stormfield, where Mrs. Paine, with Katie Leary and others of the
household, was waiting to greet him, he stepped from the carriage alone
with something of his old lightness, and with all his old courtliness,
and offered each one his hand. Then, in the canvas chair which we had
brought, Claude and I carried him up-stairs to his room and delivered him
to the physicians, and to the comforts and blessed air of home. This was
Thursday evening, April 14, 1910.
THE RETURN TO THE INVISIBLE
There would be two days more before Ossip and Clara Gabrilowitsch could
arrive. Clemens remained fairly bright and comfortable during this
interval, though he clearly was not improving. The physicians denied him
the morphine, now, as he no longer suffered acutely. But he craved it,
and once, when I went in, he said, rather mournfully:
"They won't give me the subcutaneous any more."
It was Sunday morning when Clara came. He was cheerful and able to talk
quite freely. He did not dwell upon his condition, I think, but spoke
rather of his plans for the summer. At all events, he did not then
suggest that he counted the end so near; but a day later it became
evident to all that his stay was very brief. His breathing was becoming
heavier, though it seemed not to give him much discomfort. His
articulation also became affected. I think the last continuous talking
he did was to Dr. Halsey on the evening of April 17th--the day of Clara's
arrival. A mild opiate had been administered, and he said he wished to
talk himself to sleep. He recalled one of his old subjects, Dual
Personality, and discussed various instances that flitted through his
mind--Jekyll and Hyde phases in literature and fact. He became drowsier
as he talked. He said at last:
"This is a peculiar kind of disease. It does not invite you to read; it
does not invite you to be read to; it does not invite you to talk, nor to
enjoy any of the usual sick-room methods of treatment. What kind of a
disease is that? Some kinds of sicknesses have pleasant features about
them. You can read and smoke and have only to lie still."
And a little later he added:
"It is singular, very singular, the laws of mentality--vacuity. I put
out my hand to reach a book or newspaper which I have been reading most
glibly, and it isn't there, not a suggestion of it."
He coughed violently, and afterward commented:
"If one gets to meddling with a cough it very soon gets the upper hand
and is meddling with you. That is my opinion--of seventy-four years'
The news of his condition, everywhere published, brought great heaps of
letters, but he could not see them. A few messages were reported to him.
At intervals he read a little. Suetonius and Carlyle lay on the bed
beside him, and he would pick them up as the spirit moved him and read a
paragraph or a page. Sometimes, when I saw him thus-the high color still
in his face, and the clear light in his eyes--I said: "It is not reality.
He is not going to die." On Tuesday, the 19th, he asked me to tell Clara
to come and sing to him. It was a heavy requirement, but she somehow
found strength to sing some of the Scotch airs which he loved, and he
seemed soothed and comforted. When she came away he bade her good-by,
saying that he might not see her again.
But he lingered through the next day and the next. His mind was
wandering a little on Wednesday, and his speech became less and less
articulate; but there were intervals when he was quite clear, quite
vigorous, and he apparently suffered little. We did not know it, then,
but the mysterious messenger of his birth-year, so long anticipated by
him, appeared that night in the sky.--[The perihelion of Halley's Comet
for 1835 was November 16th; for 1910 it was April 20th.]
On Thursday morning, the 21st, his mind was generally clear, and it was
said by the nurses that he read a little from one of the volumes on his
bed, from the Suetonius, or from one of the volumes of Carlyle. Early in
the forenoon he sent word by Clara that he wished to see me, and when I
came in he spoke of two unfinished manuscripts which he wished me to
"throw away," as he briefly expressed it, for he had not many words left
now. I assured him that I would take care of them, and he pressed my
hand. It was his last word to me.
Once or twice that morning he tried to write some request which he could
not put into intelligible words.
And once he spoke to Gabrilowitsch, who, he said, could understand him
better than the others. Most of the time he dozed.
Somewhat after midday, when Clara was by him, he roused up and took her
hand, and seemed to speak with less effort.
"Good-by," he said, and Dr. Quintard, who was standing near, thought he
added: "If we meet"--but the words were very faint. He looked at her for
a little while, without speaking, then he sank into a doze, and from it
passed into a deeper slumber, and did not heed us any more.
Through that peaceful spring afternoon the life-wave ebbed lower and
lower. It was about half past six, and the sun lay just on the horizon
when Dr. Quintard noticed that the breathing, which had gradually become
more subdued, broke a little. There was no suggestion of any struggle.
The noble head turned a little to one side, there was a fluttering sigh,
and the breath that had been unceasing through seventy-four tumultuous
years had stopped forever.
He had entered into the estate envied so long. In his own words--the
words of one of his latest memoranda:
"He had arrived at the dignity of death--the only earthly dignity that is
not artificial--the only safe one. The others are traps that can beguile
"Death--the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose
peace and whose refuge are for all--the soiled and the pure--the rich and
the poor--the loved and the unloved."
THE LAST RITES
It is not often that a whole world mourns. Nations have often mourned a
hero--and races--but perhaps never before had the entire world really
united in tender sorrow for the death of any man.
In one of his aphorisms he wrote: "Let us endeavor so to live that when
we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." And it was thus that
Mark Twain himself had lived.
No man had ever so reached the heart of the world, and one may not even
attempt to explain just why. Let us only say that it was because he was
so limitlessly human that every other human heart, in whatever sphere or
circumstance, responded to his touch. From every remote corner of the
globe the cables of condolence swept in; every printed sheet in
Christendom was filled with lavish tribute; pulpits forgot his heresies
and paid him honor. No king ever died that received so rich a homage as
his. To quote or to individualize would be to cheapen this vast
We took him to New York to the Brick Church, and Dr. Henry van Dyke spoke
only a few simple words, and Joseph Twichell came from Hartford and
delivered brokenly a prayer from a heart wrung with double grief, for
Harmony, his wife, was nearing the journey's end, and a telegram that
summoned him to her death-bed came before the services ended.
Mark Twain, dressed in the white he loved so well, lay there with the
nobility of death upon him, while a multitude of those who loved him
passed by and looked at his face for the last time. The flowers, of
which so many had been sent, were banked around him; but on the casket
itself lay a single laurel wreath which Dan Beard and his wife had woven
from the laurel which grows on Stormfield hill. He was never more
beautiful than as he lay there, and it was an impressive scene to see
those thousands file by, regard him for a moment gravely, thoughtfully,
and pass on. All sorts were there, rich and poor; some crossed
themselves, some saluted, some paused a little to take a closer look; but
no one offered even to pick a flower. Howells came, and in his book he
I looked a moment at the face I knew so well; and it was patient
with the patience I had so often seen in it: something of a puzzle,
a great silent dignity, an assent to what must be from the depths of
a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the
unwise took for the whole of him.
That night we went with him to Elmira, and next day--a somber day of
rain--he lay in those stately parlors that had seen his wedding-day, and
where Susy had lain, and Mrs. Clemens, and Jean, while Dr. Eastman spoke
the words of peace which separate us from our mortal dead. Then in the
quiet, steady rain of that Sunday afternoon we laid him beside those
others, where he sleeps well, though some have wished that, like De Soto,
he might have been laid to rest in the bed of that great river which must
always be associated with his name.
MARK TWAIN'S RELIGION
There is such a finality about death; however interesting it may be as an
experience, one cannot discuss it afterward with one's friends. I have
thought it a great pity that Mark Twain could not discuss, with Howells
say, or with Twichell, the sensations and the particulars of the change,
supposing there be a recognizable change, in that transition of which we
have speculated so much, with such slender returns. No one ever debated
the undiscovered country more than he. In his whimsical, semi-serious
fashion he had considered all the possibilities of the future state--
orthodox and otherwise--and had drawn picturesquely original conclusions.
He had sent Captain Stormfield in a dream to report the aspects of the
early Christian heaven. He had examined the scientific aspects of the
more subtle philosophies. He had considered spiritualism,
transmigration, the various esoteric doctrines, and in the end he had
logically made up his mind that death concludes all, while with that less
logical hunger which survives in every human heart he had never ceased to
expect an existence beyond the grave. His disbelief and his pessimism
were identical in their structure. They were of his mind; never of his
Once a woman said to him:
"Mr. Clemens, you are not a pessimist, you only think you are." And she
might have added, with equal force and truth:
"You are not a disbeliever in immortality; you only think you are."
Nothing could have conveyed more truly his attitude toward life and
death. His belief in God, the Creator, was absolute; but it was a God
far removed from the Creator of his early teaching. Every man builds his
God according to his own capacities. Mark Twain's God was of colossal
proportions--so vast, indeed, that the constellated stars were but
molecules in His veins--a God as big as space itself.
Mark Twain had many moods, and he did not always approve of his own God;
but when he altered his conception, it was likely to be in the direction
of enlargement--a further removal from the human conception, and the
problem of what we call our lives.
In 1906 he wrote:--[See also 1870, chap. lxxviii; 1899, chap. ccv; and
various talks, 1906-07, etc.]
Let us now consider the real God, the genuine God, the great God,
the sublime and supreme God, the authentic Creator of the real
universe, whose remotenesses are visited by comets only comets unto
which incredible distant Neptune is merely an out post, a Sandy Hook
to homeward-bound specters of the deeps of space that have not
glimpsed it before for generations--a universe not made with hands
and suited to an astronomical nursery, but spread abroad through the
illimitable reaches of space by the flat of the real God just
mentioned, by comparison with whom the gods whose myriads infest the
feeble imaginations of men are as a swarm of gnats scattered and
lost in the infinitudes of the empty sky.
At an earlier period-the date is not exactly fixable, but the stationery
used and the handwriting suggest the early eighties--he set down a few
concisely written pages of conclusions--conclusions from which he did
not deviate materially in after years. The document follows:
I believe in God the Almighty.
I do not believe He has ever sent a message to man by anybody, or
delivered one to him by word of mouth, or made Himself visible to
mortal eyes at any time in any place.
I believe that the Old and New Testaments were imagined and written
by man, and that no line in them was authorized by God, much less
inspired by Him.
I think the goodness, the justice, and the mercy of God are
manifested in His works: I perceive that they are manifested toward
me in this life; the logical conclusion is that they will be
manifested toward me in the life to come, if there should be one.
I do not believe in special providences. I believe that the
universe is governed by strict and immutable laws: If one man's
family is swept away by a pestilence and another man's spared it is
only the law working: God is not interfering in that small matter,
either against the one man or in favor of the other.
I cannot see how eternal punishment hereafter could accomplish any
good end, therefore I am not able to believe in it. To chasten a
man in order to perfect him might be reasonable enough; to
annihilate him when he shall have proved himself incapable of
reaching perfection might be reasonable enough; but to roast him
forever for the mere satisfaction of seeing him roast would not be
reasonable--even the atrocious God imagined by the Jews would tire
of the spectacle eventually.
There may be a hereafter and there may not be. I am wholly
indifferent about it. If I am appointed to live again I feel sure
it will be for some more sane and useful purpose than to flounder
about for ages in a lake of fire and brimstone for having violated a
confusion of ill-defined and contradictory rules said (but not
evidenced) to be of divine institution. If annihilation is to
follow death I shall not be aware of the annihilation, and therefore
shall not care a straw about it.
I believe that the world's moral laws are the outcome of the world's
experience. It needed no God to come down out of heaven to tell men
that murder and theft and the other immoralities were bad, both for
the individual who commits them and for society which suffers from
If I break all these moral laws I cannot see how I injure God by it,
for He is beyond the reach of injury from me--I could as easily
injure a planet by throwing mud at it. It seems to me that my
misconduct could only injure me and other men. I cannot benefit God
by obeying these moral laws--I could as easily benefit the planet by
withholding my mud. (Let these sentences be read in the light of
the fact that I believe I have received moral laws only from man-
none whatever from God.) Consequently I do not see why I should be
either punished or rewarded hereafter for the deeds I do here.
If the tragedies of life shook his faith in the goodness and justice and
the mercy of God as manifested toward himself, he at any rate never
questioned that the wider scheme of the universe was attuned to the
immutable law which contemplates nothing less than absolute harmony. I
never knew him to refer to this particular document; but he never
destroyed it and never amended it, nor is it likely that he would have
done either had it been presented to him for consideration even during
the last year of his life.
He was never intentionally dogmatic. In a memorandum on a fly-leaf of
Moncure D. Conway's Sacred Anthology he wrote:
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly
teaches me to suspect that my own is also.
MARK TWAIN, 19th Cent. A.D.
And in another note:
I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or
to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his
hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion maybe. But
it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life hence it is a
valuable possession to him.
Mark Twain's religion was a faith too wide for doctrines--a benevolence
too limitless for creeds. From the beginning he strove against
oppression, sham, and evil in every form. He despised meanness; he
resented with every drop of blood in him anything that savored of
persecution or a curtailment of human liberties. It was a religion
identified with his daily life and his work. He lived as he wrote, and
he wrote as he believed. His favorite weapon was humor--good-humor--with
logic behind it. A sort of glorified truth it was truth wearing a smile
of gentleness, hence all the more quickly heeded.
"He will be remembered with the great humorists of all time," says
Howells, "with Cervantes, with Swift, or with any others worthy of his
company; none of them was his equal in humanity."
Mark Twain understood the needs of men because he was himself supremely
human. In one of his dictations he said:
I have found that there is no ingredient of the race which I do not
possess in either a small or a large way. When it is small, as compared
with the same ingredient in somebody else, there is still enough of it
for all the purposes of examination.
With his strength he had inherited the weaknesses of our kind. With him,
as with another, a myriad of dreams and schemes and purposes daily
flitted by. With him, as with another, the spirit of desire led him
often to a high mountain-top, and was not rudely put aside, but
lingeringly--and often invited to return. With him, as with another, a
crowd of jealousies and resentments, and wishes for the ill of others,
daily went seething and scorching along the highways of the soul. With
him, as with another, regret, remorse, and shame stood at the bedside
during long watches of the night; and in the end, with him, the better
thing triumphed--forgiveness and generosity and justice--in a word,
Humanity. Certain of his aphorisms and memoranda each in itself
constitutes an epitome of Mark Twain's creed. His paraphrase, "When in
doubt tell the truth," is one of these, and he embodied his whole
attitude toward Infinity when in one of his stray pencilings he wrote:
Why, even poor little ungodlike man holds himself responsible for the
welfare of his child to the extent of his ability. It is all that we
require of God.
Every life is a drama--a play in all its particulars; comedy, farce,
tragedy--all the elements are there. To examine in detail any life,
however conspicuous or obscure, is to become amazed not only at the
inevitable sequence of events, but at the interlinking of details, often
far removed, into a marvelously intricate pattern which no art can hope
to reproduce, and can only feebly imitate.
The biographer may reconstruct an episode, present a picture, or reflect
a mood by which the reader is enabled to feel something of the glow of
personality and know, perhaps, a little of the substance of the past. In
so far as the historian can accomplish this his work is a success. At
best his labor will be pathetically incomplete, for whatever its detail
and its resemblance to life, these will record mainly but an outward
expression, behind which was the mighty sweep and tumult of unwritten
thought, the overwhelming proportion of any life, which no other human
soul can ever really know.
Mark Twain's appearance on the stage of the world was a succession of
dramatic moments. He was always exactly in the setting. Whatever he
did, or whatever came to him, was timed for the instant of greatest
effect. At the end he was more widely observed and loved and honored
than ever before, and at the right moment and in the right manner he
How little one may tell of such a life as his! He traveled always such a
broad and brilliant highway, with plumes flying and crowds following
after. Such a whirling panorama of life, and death, and change! I have
written so much, and yet I have put so much aside--and often the best
things, it seemed afterward, perhaps because each in its way was best and
the variety infinite. One may only strive to be faithful--and I would
have made it better if I could.
LETTER FROM ORION CLEMENS TO MISS WOOD CONCERNING HENRY CLEMENS
(See Chapter xxvi)
KEOKUK, Iowa, October 3, 1858.
MISS WOOD,--My mother having sent me your kind letter, with a request
that myself and wife should write to you, I hasten to do so.
In my memory I can go away back to Henry's infancy; I see his large, blue
eyes intently regarding my father when he rebuked him for his credulity
in giving full faith to the boyish idea of planting his marbles,
expecting a crop therefrom; then comes back the recollection of the time
when, standing we three alone by our father's grave, I told them always
to remember that brothers should be kind to each other; afterward I see
Henry returning from school with his books for the last time. He must go
into my printing-office. He learned rapidly. A word of encouragement or
a word of discouragement told upon his organization electrically. I
could see the effects in his day's work. Sometimes I would say, "Henry!"
He would stand full front with his eyes upon mine--all attention. If I
commanded him to do something, without a word he was off instantly,
probably in a run. If a cat was to be drowned or shot Sam (though
unwilling yet firm) was selected for the work. If a stray kitten was to
be fed and taken care of Henry was expected to attend to it, and he would
faithfully do so. So they grew up, and many was the grave lecture
commenced by ma, to the effect that Sam was misleading and spoiling
Henry. But the lectures were never concluded, for Sam would reply with a
witticism, or dry, unexpected humor, that would drive the lecture clean
out of my mother's mind, and change it to a laugh. Those were happier
days. My mother was as lively as any girl of sixteen. She is not so
now. And sister Pamela I have described in describing Henry; for she was
his counterpart. The blow falls crushingly on her. But the boys grew
up--Sam a rugged, brave, quick-tempered, generous-hearted fellow, Henry
quiet, observing, thoughtful, leaning on Sam for protection; Sam and I
too leaning on him for knowledge picked up from conversation or books,
for Henry seemed never to forget anything, and devoted much of his
leisure hours to reading.
Henry is gone! His death was horrible! How I could have sat by him,
hung over him, watched day and night every change of expression, and
ministered to every want in my power that I could discover. This was
denied to me, but Sam, whose organization is such as to feel the utmost
extreme of every feeling, was there. Both his capacity of enjoyment and
his capacity of suffering are greater than mine; and knowing how it would
have affected me to see so sad a scene, I can somewhat appreciate Sam's
sufferings. In this time of great trouble, when my two brothers, whose
heartstrings have always been a part of my own, were suffering the utmost
stretch of mortal endurance, you were there, like a good angel, to aid
and console, and I bless and thank you for it with my whole heart. I
thank all who helped them then; I thank them for the flowers they sent to
Henry, for the tears that fell for their sufferings, and when he died,
and all of them for all the kind attentions they bestowed upon the poor
boys. We thank the physicians, and we shall always gratefully remember
the kindness of the gentleman who at so much expense to himself enabled
us to deposit Henry's remains by our father.
With many kind wishes for your future welfare, I remain your earnest
MARK TWAIN'S BURLESQUE OF CAPTAIN ISAIAH SELLERS
(See Chapter xxvii)
The item which served as a text for the "Sergeant Fathom" communication
was as follows:
VICKSBURG, May 4, 1859.
My opinion for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans: The water is
higher this far up than it has been since 1815. My opinion is that the
water will be four feet deep in Canal Street before the first of next
June. Mrs. Turner's plantation at the head of Big Black Island is all
under water, and it has not been since 1815.
I. SELLERS.--[Captain Sellers, as
in this case, sometimes signed
his own name to his
Our friend Sergeant Fathom, one of the oldest cub pilots on the river,
and now on the Railroad Line steamer Trombone, sends us a rather bad
account concerning the state of the river. Sergeant Fathom is a "cub" of
much experience, and although we are loath to coincide in his view of the
matter, we give his note a place in our columns, only hoping that his
prophecy will not be verified in this instance. While introducing the
Sergeant, "we consider it but simple justice (we quote from a friend of
his) to remark that he is distinguished for being, in pilot phrase,
'close,' as well as superhumanly 'safe.'" It is a well-known fact that
he has made fourteen hundred and fifty trips in the New Orleans and St.
Louis trade without causing serious damage to a steamboat. This
astonishing success is attributed to the fact that he seldom runs his
boat after early candle-light. It is related of the Sergeant that upon
one occasion he actually ran the chute of Glasscock's Island, down-
stream, in the night, and at a time, too, when the river was scarcely
more than bank full. His method of accomplishing this feat proves what
we have just said of his "safeness"--he sounded the chute first, and then
built a fire at the head of the island to run by. As to the Sergeant's
"closeness," we have heard it whispered that he once went up to the right
of the "Old Hen,"--[Glasscock's Island and the "Old Hen" were
phenomenally safe places.]--but this is probably a pardonable little
exaggeration, prompted by the love and admiration in which he is held by
various ancient dames of his acquaintance (for albeit the Sergeant may
have already numbered the allotted years of man, still his form is erect,
his step is firm, his hair retains its sable hue, and, more than all, he
hath a winning way about him, an air of docility and sweetness, if you
will, and a smoothness of speech, together with an exhaustless fund of
funny sayings; and, lastly, an overflowing stream, without beginning, or
middle, or end, of astonishing reminiscences of the ancient Mississippi,
which, taken together, form a 'tout ensemble' which is sufficient excuse
for the tender epithet which is, by common consent, applied to him by all
those ancient dames aforesaid, of "che-arming creature!"). As the
Sergeant has been longer on the river, and is better acquainted with it
than any other "cub" extant, his remarks are entitled to far more
consideration, and are always read with the deepest interest by high and
low, rich and poor, from "Kiho" to Kamschatka, for let it be known that
his fame extends to the uttermost parts of the earth:
R.R. Steamer Trombone, VICKSBURG, May 8, 1859.
The river from New Orleans up to Natchez is higher than it has been since
the niggers were executed (which was in the fall of 1813) and my opinion
is that if the rise continues at this rate the water will be on the roof
of the St. Charles Hotel before the middle of January. The point at
Cairo, which has not even been moistened by the river since 1813, is now
entirely under water.
However, Mr. Editor, the inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley should not
act precipitately and sell their plantations at a sacrifice on account of
this prophecy of mine, for I shall proceed to convince them of a great
fact in regard to this matter, viz.: that the tendency of the Mississippi
is to rise less and less high every year (with an occasional variation of
the rule), that such has been the case for many centuries, and eventually
that it will cease to rise at all. Therefore, I would hint to the
planters, as we say in an innocent little parlor game commonly called
"draw," that if they can only "stand the rise" this time they may enjoy
the comfortable assurance that the old river's banks will never hold a
"full" again during their natural lives.
In the summer of 1763 I came down the river on the old first Jubilee.
She was new then, however; a singular sort of a single-engine boat, with
a Chinese captain and a Choctaw crew, forecastle on her stern, wheels in
the center, and the jackstaff "nowhere," for I steered her with a window-
shutter, and when we wanted to land we sent a line ashore and "rounded
her to" with a yoke of oxen.
Well, sir, we wooded off the top of the big bluff above Selmathe only dry
land visible--and waited there three weeks, swapping knives and playing
"seven up" with the Indians, waiting for the river to fall. Finally, it
fell about a hundred feet, and we went on. One day we rounded to, and I
got in a horse-trough, which my partner borrowed from the Indians up
there at Selma while they were at prayers, and went down to sound around
No. 8, and while I was gone my partner got aground on the hills at
Hickman. After three days' labor we finally succeeded in sparring her
off with a capstan bar, and went on to Memphis. By the time we got there
the river had subsided to such an extent that we were able to land where
the Gayoso House now stands. We finished loading at Memphis, and loaded
part of the stone for the present St. Louis Court House (which was then
in process of erection), to be taken up on our return trip.
You can form some conception, by these memoranda, of how high the
water was in 1763. In 1775 it did not rise so high by thirty feet;
in 1790 it missed the original mark at least sixty-five feet; in
1797, one hundred and fifty feet; and in 1806, nearly two hundred and
fifty feet. These were "high-water" years. The "high waters" since then
have been so insignificant that I have scarcely taken the trouble to
notice them. Thus, you will perceive that the planters need not feel
uneasy. The river may make an occasional spasmodic effort at a flood,
but the time is approaching when it will cease to rise altogether.
In conclusion, sir, I will condescend to hint at the foundation of these
arguments: When me and De Soto discovered the Mississippi I could stand
at Bolivar Landing (several miles above "Roaring Waters Bar") and pitch a
biscuit to the main shore on the other side, and in low water we waded
across at Donaldsonville. The gradual widening and deepening of the
river is the whole secret of the matter.
MARK TWAIN'S EMPIRE CITY HOAX
(See Chapter xli)
THE LATEST SENSATION
A Victim to Jeremy Diddling Trustees--He Cuts his Throat from Ear to
Ear, Scalps his Wife, and Dashes Out the Brains of Six Helpless
From Abram Curry, who arrived here yesterday afternoon from Carson, we
learn the following particulars concerning a bloody massacre which was
committed in Ormsby County night before last. It seems that during the
past six months a man named P. Hopkins, or Philip Hopkins, has been
residing with his family in the old log-house just at the edge of the
great pine forest which lies between Empire City and Dutch Nick's. The
family consisted of nine children--five girls and four boys--the oldest
of the group, Mary, being nineteen years old, and the youngest, Tommy,
about a year and a half. Twice in the past two months Mrs. Hopkins,
while visiting Carson, expressed fears concerning the sanity of her
husband, remarking that of late he had been subject to fits of violence,
and that during the prevalence of one of these he had threatened to take
her life. It was Mrs. Hopkins's misfortune to be given to exaggeration,
however, and but little attention was given to what she said.
About 10 o'clock on Monday evening Hopkins dashed into Carson on
horseback, with his throat cut from ear to ear, and bearing in his hand a
reeking scalp, from which the warm, smoking blood was still dripping, and
fell in a dying condition in front of the Magnolia saloon. Hopkins
expired, in the course of five minutes, without speaking. The long, red
hair of the scalp he bore marked it as that of Mrs. Hopkins. A number of
citizens, headed by Sheriff Gasherie, mounted at once and rode down to
Hopkins's house, where a ghastly scene met their eyes. The scalpless
corpse of Mrs. Hopkins lay across the threshold, with her head split open
and her right hand almost severed from the wrist. Near her lay the ax
with which the murderous deed had been committed. In one of the bedrooms
six of the children were found, one in bed and the others scattered about
the floor. They were all dead. Their brains had evidently been dashed
out with a club, and every mark about them seemed to have been made with
a blunt instrument. The children must have struggled hard for their
lives, as articles of clothing and broken furniture were strewn about the
room in the utmost confusion. Julia and Emma, aged respectively fourteen
and seventeen, were found in the kitchen, bruised and insensible, but it
is thought their recovery is possible. The eldest girl, Mary, must have
sought refuge, in her terror, in the garret, as her body was found there
frightfully mutilated, and the knife with which her wounds had been
inflicted still sticking in her side. The two girls Julia and Emma, who
had recovered sufficiently to be able to talk yesterday morning, declare
that their father knocked them down with a billet of wood and stamped on
them. They think they were the first attacked. They further state that
Hopkins had shown evidence of derangement all day, but had exhibited no
violence. He flew into a passion and attempted to murder them because
they advised him to go to bed and compose his mind.
Curry says Hopkins was about forty-two years of age, and a native of
western Pennsylvania; he was always affable and polite, and until very
recently no one had ever heard of his ill-treating his family. He had
been a heavy owner in the best mines of Virginia and Gold Hill, but when
the San Francisco papers exposed our game of cooking dividends in order
to bolster up our stocks he grew afraid and sold out, and invested an
immense amount in the Spring Valley Water Company, of San Francisco. He
was advised to do this by a relative of his, one of the editors of the
San Francisco Bulletin, who had suffered pecuniarily by the dividend-
cooking system as applied to the Daney Mining Company recently. Hopkins
had not long ceased to own in the various claims on the Comstock lead,
however, when several dividends were cooked on his newly acquired
property, their water totally dried up, and Spring Valley stock went down
to nothing. It is presumed that this misfortune drove him mad, and
resulted in his killing himself and the greater portion of his family.
The newspapers of San Francisco permitted this water company to go on
borrowing money and cooking dividends, under cover of which the cunning
financiers crept out of the tottering concern, leaving the crash to come
upon poor and unsuspecting stockholders, without offering to expose the
villainy at work. We hope the fearful massacre detailed above may prove
the saddest result of their silence.
NEWS-GATHERING WITH MARK TWAIN
Alfred Doten's son gives the following account of a reporting trip made
by his father and Mark Twain, when the two were on Comstock papers:
My father and Mark Twain were once detailed to go over to Como and write
up some new mines that had been discovered over there. My father was on
the Gold Hill News. He and Mark had not met before, but became promptly
acquainted, and were soon calling each other by their first names.
They went to a little hotel at Carson, agreeing to do their work there
together next morning. When morning came they set out, and suddenly on a
corner Mark stopped and turned to my father, saying:
"By gracious, Alf! Isn't that a brewery?"
"It is, Mark. Let's go in."
They did so, and remained there all day, swapping yarns, sipping beer,
and lunching, going back to the hotel that night.
The next morning precisely the same thing occurred. When they were on
the same corner, Mark stopped as if he had never been there before, and
"Good gracious, Alf ! Isn't that a brewery?"
"It is, Mark. Let's go in."
So again they went in, and again stayed all day.
This happened again the next morning, and the next. Then my father
became uneasy. A letter had come from Gold Hill, asking him where his
report of the mines was. They agreed that next morning they would really
begin the story; that they would climb to the top of a hill that
overlooked the mines, and write it from there.
But the next morning, as before, Mark was surprised to discover the
brewery, and once more they went in. A few moments later, however, a man
who knew all about the mines--a mining engineer connected with them--came
in. He was a godsend. My father set down a valuable, informing story,
while Mark got a lot of entertaining mining yarns out of him.
Next day Virginia City and Gold Hill were gaining information from my
father's article, and entertainment from Mark's story of the mines.
FROM MARK TWAIN'S FIRST LECTURE, DELIVERED OCTOBER 2, 1866
(See Chapter liv)
HAWAIIAN IMPORTANCE TO AMERICA
After a full elucidation of the sugar industry of the Sandwich Islands,
its profits and possibilities, he said:
I have dwelt upon this subject to show you that these islands have a
genuine importance to America--an importance which is not generally
appreciated by our citizens. They pay revenues into the United States
Treasury now amounting to over a half a million a year.
I do not know what the sugar yield of the world is now, but ten years
ago, according to the Patent Office reports, it was 800,000 hogsheads.
The Sandwich Islands, properly cultivated by go-ahead Americans, are
capable of providing one-third as much themselves. With the Pacific
Railroad built, the great China Mail Line of steamers touching at
Honolulu--we could stock the islands with Americans and supply a third of
the civilized world with sugar--and with the silkiest, longest-stapled
cotton this side of the Sea Islands, and the very best quality of rice
.... The property has got to fall to some heir, and why not the United
NATIVE PASSION FOR FUNERALS
They are very fond of funerals. Big funerals are their main weakness.
Fine grave clothes, fine funeral appointments, and a long procession are
things they take a generous delight in. They are fond of their chief and
their king; they reverence them with a genuine reverence and love them
with a warm affection, and often look forward to the happiness they will
experience in burying them. They will beg, borrow, or steal money
enough, and flock from all the islands, to be present at a royal funeral
on Oahu. Years ago a Kanaka and his wife were condemned to be hanged for
murder. They received the sentence with manifest satisfaction because it
gave an opening for a funeral, you know. All they care for is a funeral.
It makes but little difference to them whose it is; they would as soon
attend their own funeral as anybody else's. This couple were people of
consequence, and had landed estates. They sold every foot of ground they
had and laid it out in fine clothes to be hung in. And the woman
appeared on the scaffold in a white satin dress and slippers and fathoms
of gaudy ribbon, and the man was arrayed in a gorgeous vest, blue claw-
hammer coat and brass buttons, and white kid gloves. As the noose was
adjusted around his neck, he blew his nose with a grand theatrical
flourish, so as to show his embroidered white handkerchief. I never,
never knew of a couple who enjoyed hanging more than they did.
VIEW FROM HALEAKALA
It is a solemn pleasure to stand upon the summit of the extinct crater of
Haleakala, ten thousand feet above the sea, and gaze down into its awful
crater, 27 miles in circumference and ago feet deep, and to picture to
yourself the seething world of fire that once swept up out of the
tremendous abyss ages ago.
The prodigious funnel is dead and silent now, and even has bushes growing
far down in its bottom, where the deep-sea line could hardly have reached
in the old times, when the place was filled with liquid lava. These
bushes look like parlor shrubs from the summit where you stand, and the
file of visitors moving through them on their mules is diminished to a
detachment of mice almost; and to them you, standing so high up against
the sun, ten thousand feet above their heads, look no larger than a
This in the morning; but at three or four in the afternoon a thousand
little patches of white clouds, like handfuls of wool, come drifting
noiselessly, one after another, into the crater, like a procession of
shrouded phantoms, and circle round and round the vast sides, and settle
gradually down and mingle together until the colossal basin is filled to
the brim with snowy fog and all its seared and desolate wonders are
hidden from sight.
And then you may turn your back to the crater and look far away upon the
broad valley below, with its sugar-houses glinting like white specks in
the distance, and the great sugar-fields diminished to green veils amid
the lighter-tinted verdure around them, and abroad upon the limitless
ocean. But I should not say you look down; you look up at these things.
You are ten thousand feet above them, but yet you seem to stand in a
basin, with the green islands here and there, and the valleys and the
wide ocean, and the remote snow-peak of Mauna Loa, all raised up before
and above you, and pictured out like a brightly tinted map hung at the
ceiling of a room.
You look up at everything; nothing is below you. It has a singular and
startling effect to see a miniature world thus seemingly hung in mid-air.
But soon the white clouds come trooping along in ghostly squadrons and
mingle together in heavy masses a quarter of a mile below you and shut
out everything-completely hide the sea and all the earth save the
pinnacle you stand on. As far as the eye can reach, it finds nothing to
rest upon but a boundless plain of clouds tumbled into all manner of
fantastic shapes-a billowy ocean of wool aflame with the gold and purple
and crimson splendors of the setting sun! And so firm does this grand
cloud pavement look that you can hardly persuade yourself that you could
not walk upon it; that if you stepped upon it you would plunge headlong
and astonish your friends at dinner ten thousand feet below.
Standing on that peak, with all the world shut out by that vast plain of
clouds, a feeling of loneliness comes over a man which suggests to his
mind the last man at the flood, perched high upon the last rock, with
nothing visible on any side but a mournful waste of waters, and the ark
departing dimly through the distant mists and leaving him to storm and
night and solitude and death!
NOTICE OF MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE
"THE TROUBLE IS OVER"
"The inimitable Mark Twain, delivered himself last night of his first
lecture on the Sandwich Islands, or anything else.
"Some time before the hour appointed to open his head the Academy of Music
(on Pine Street) was densely crowded with one of the most fashionable
audiences it was ever my privilege to witness during my long residence in
this city. The Elite of the town were there, and so was the Governor of
the State, occupying one of the boxes, whose rotund face was suffused
with a halo of mirth during the whole entertainment. The audience
promptly notified Mark by the usual sign--stamping--that the auspicious
hour had arrived, and presently the lecturer came sidling and swinging
out from the left of the stage. His very manner produced a generally
vociferous laugh from the assemblage. He opened with an apology, by
saying that he had partly succeeded in obtaining a band, but at the last
moment the party engaged backed out. He explained that he had hired a
man to play the trombone, but he, on learning that he was the only person
engaged, came at the last moment and informed him that he could not play.
This placed Mark in a bad predicament, and wishing to know his reasons
for deserting him at that critical moment, he replied, 'That he wasn't
going to make a fool of himself by sitting up there on the stage and
blowing his horn all by himself.' After the applause subsided, he
assumed a very grave countenance and commenced his remarks proper with
the following well-known sentence: 'When, in the course of human events,'
etc. He lectured fully an hour and a quarter, and his humorous sayings
were interspersed with geographical, agricultural, and statistical
remarks, sometimes branching off and reaching beyond, soaring, in the
very choicest language, up to the very pinnacle of descriptive power."
FROM "THE JUMPING FROG" BOOK (MARK TWAIN'S FIRST PUBLISHED VOLUME)
(See Chapters lviii and lix)
"Mark Twain" is too well known to the public to require a formal
introduction at my hands. By his story of the Frog he scaled the heights
of popularity at a single jump and won for himself the 'sobriquet' of The
Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope. He is also known to fame as The
Moralist of the Main; and it is not unlikely that as such he will go down
to posterity. It is in his secondary character, as humorist, however,
rather than in the primal one of moralist, that I aim to present him in
the present volume. And here a ready explanation will be found for the
somewhat fragmentary character of many of these sketches; for it was
necessary to snatch threads of humor wherever they could be found--very
often detaching them from serious articles and moral essays with which
they were woven and entangled. Originally written for newspaper
publication, many of the articles referred to events of the day, the
interest of which has now passed away, and contained local allusions,
which the general reader would fail to understand; in such cases excision
became imperative. Further than this, remark or comment is unnecessary.
Mark Twain never resorts to tricks of spelling nor rhetorical buffoonery
for the purpose of provoking a laugh; the vein of his humor runs too rich
and deep to make surface gliding necessary. But there are few who can
resist the quaint similes, keen satire, and hard, good sense which form
the staple of his writing.
FROM ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
"MORAL STATISTICIAN"--I don't want any of your statistics. I took your
whole batch and lit my pipe with it. I hate your kind of people. You
are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much
his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he
wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal
practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking
coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of
wine at dinner, etc., etc., etc. . . .
Of course you can save money by denying yourself all these vicious little
enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use
can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the
use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this
life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment, where is
the use in accumulating cash? It won't do for you to say that you can
use it to better purpose in furnishing good table, and in charities, and
in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people
who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you
stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and
hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor
wretch, seeing you in a good-humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you;
and in church you are always down on your knees, with your eyes buried in
the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give
the revenue-officers a true statement of your income. Now you all know
all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is the use
of your stringing out your miserable lives to a clean and withered old
age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless
to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be
always trying to seduce people into becoming as "ornery" and unlovable as
you are yourselves, by your ceaseless and villainous "moral statistics"?
Now, I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it, either;
but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming
petty vices whatever, and so I don't want to hear from you any more. I
think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week
about the degrading vice of smoking cigars and then came back, in my
absence, with your vile, reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried
off my beautiful parlor-stove.
FROM "A STRANGE DREAM"
(Example of Mark Twain's Early Descriptive Writing)
. . . In due time I stood, with my companion, on the wall of the vast
caldron which the natives, ages ago, named 'Hale mau mau'--the abyss
wherein they were wont to throw the remains of their chiefs, to the end
that vulgar feet might never tread above them. We stood there, at dead
of night, a mile above the level of the sea, and looked down a thousand
feet upon a boiling, surging, roaring ocean of fire!--shaded our eyes
from the blinding glare, and gazed far away over the crimson waves with a
vague notion that a supernatural fleet, manned by demons and freighted
with the damned, might presently sail up out of the remote distance;
started when tremendous thunder-bursts shook the earth, and followed with
fascinated eyes the grand jets of molten lava that sprang high up toward
the zenith and exploded in a world of fiery spray that lit up the somber
heavens with an infernal splendor.
"What is your little bonfire of Vesuvius to this?"
My ejaculation roused my companion from his reverie, and we fell into a
conversation appropriate to the occasion and the surroundings. We came
at last to speak of the ancient custom of casting the bodies of dead
chieftains into this fearful caldron; and my comrade, who is of the blood
royal, mentioned that the founder of his race, old King Kamehameha the
First--that invincible old pagan Alexander--had found other sepulture
than the burning depths of the 'Hale mau mau'. I grew interested at
once; I knew that the mystery of what became of the corpse of the warrior
king hail never been fathomed; I was aware that there was a legend
connected with this matter; and I felt as if there could be no more
fitting time to listen to it than the present. The descendant of the
The dead king was brought in royal state down the long, winding road that
descends from the rim of the crater to the scorched and chasm-riven plain
that lies between the 'Hale mau mau' and those beetling walls yonder in
the distance. The guards were set and the troops of mourners began the
weird wail for the departed. In the middle of the night came a sound of
innumerable voices in the air and the rush of invisible wings; the
funeral torches wavered, burned blue, and went out. The mourners and
watchers fell to the ground paralyzed by fright, and many minutes elapsed
before any one dared to move or speak; for they believed that the phantom
messengers of the dread Goddess of Fire had been in their midst. When at
last a torch was lighted the bier was vacant--the dead monarch had been
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD
(See Chapter lx)
NEW YORK "HERALD" EDITORIAL ON THE RETURN OF THE "QUAKER CITY"
PILGRIMAGE, NOVEMBER 19, 1867
In yesterday's Herald we published a most amusing letter from the pen of
that most amusing American genius, Mark Twain, giving an account of that
most amusing of all modern pilgrimages--the pilgrimage of the 'Quaker
City'. It has been amusing all through, this Quaker City affair. It
might have become more serious than amusing if the ship had been sold at
Jaffa, Alexandria, or Yalta, in the Black Sea, as it appears might have
happened. In such a case the passengers would have been more effectually
sold than the ship. The descendants of the Puritan pilgrims have,
naturally enough, some of them, an affection for ships; but if all that
is said about this religious cruise be true they have also a singularly
sharp eye to business. It was scarcely wise on the part of the pilgrims,
although it was well for the public, that so strange a genius as Mark
Twain should have found admission into the sacred circle. We are not
aware whether Mr. Twain intends giving us a book on this pilgrimage, but
we do know that a book written from his own peculiar standpoint, giving
an account of the characters and events on board ship and of the scenes
which the pilgrims witnessed, would command an almost unprecedented sale.
There are varieties of genius peculiar to America. Of one of these
varieties Mark Twain is a striking specimen. For the development of his
peculiar genius he has never had a more fitting opportunity. Besides,
there are some things which he knows, and which the world ought to know,
about this last edition of the Mayflower.
MARK TWAIN AT THE CORRESPONDENTS CLUB, WASHINGTON
(See Chapter lxiii)
A EULOGY OF THE FAIR SEX
The Washington Correspondents Club held its anniversary on Saturday
night. Mr. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, responded to the toast,
"Woman, the pride of the professions and the jewel of ours." He said:
Mr. President,--I do not know why I should have been singled out to
receive the greatest distinction of the evening--for so the office of
replying to the toast to woman has been regarded in every age.
[Applause.] I do not know why I have received this distinction, unless it
be that I am a trifle less homely than the other members of the club.
But, be this as it may, Mr. President, I am proud of the position, and
you could not have chosen any one who would have accepted it more gladly,
or labored with a heartier good--will to do the subject justice, than I.
Because, Sir, I love the sex. [Laughter.] I love all the women, sir,
irrespective of age or color. [Laughter.]
Human intelligence cannot estimate what we owe to woman, sir. She sews
on our buttons [laughter]; she mends our clothes [laughter]; she ropes us
in at the church fairs; she confides in us; she tells us whatever she can
find out about the private affairs of the neighbors; she gives good
advice, and plenty of it; she gives us a piece of her mind sometimes--
and sometimes all of it; she soothes our aching brows; she bears our
children. (Ours as a general thing.)--[this last sentence appears in
Twain's published speeches and may have been added later. D.W.]
In all relations of life, sir, it is but just and a graceful tribute to
woman to say of her that she is a brick. [Great laughter.]
Wheresoever you place woman, sir--in whatsoever position or estate--she
is an ornament to that place she occupies, and a treasure to the world.
[Here Mr. Twain paused, looked inquiringly at his hearers, and remarked
that the applause should come in at this point. It came in. Mr. Twain
resumed his eulogy.] Look at the noble names of history! Look at
Cleopatra! Look at Desdemona! Look at Florence Nightingale! Look at
Joan of Arc! Look at Lucretia Borgia! [Disapprobation expressed.
"Well," said Mr. Twain, scratching his head, doubtfully, "suppose we let
Lucretia slide."] Look at Joyce Heth! Look at Mother Eve! I repeat,
sir, look at the illustrious names of history! Look at the Widow
Machree! Look at Lucy Stone! Look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton! Look at
George Francis Train! [Great laughter.] And, sir, I say with bowed head
and deepest veneration, look at the mother of Washington! She raised a
boy that could not lie--could not lie. [Applause.] But he never had any
chance. It might have been different with him if he had belonged to a
newspaper correspondents' club. [Laughter, groans, hisses, cries of "put
him out." Mark looked around placidly upon his excited audience, and
I repeat, sir, that in whatsoever position you place a woman she is an
ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart she has
few equals and no superior [laughter]; as a cousin she is convenient; as
a wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper she is precious; as a
wet nurse she has no equal among men! [Laughter.]
What, sir, would the people of this earth be without woman? They would
be scarce, sir. (Mighty scarce.)--[another line added later in the
published 'Speeches'. D.W.] Then let us cherish her, let us protect her,
let us give her our support, our encouragement, our sympathy--ourselves,
if we get a chance. [Laughter.]
But, jesting aside, Mr. President, woman is lovable, gracious, kind of
heart, beautiful; worthy of all respect, of all esteem, of all deference.
Not any here will refuse to drink her health right cordially, for each
and every one of us has personally known, loved, and honored the very
best one of them all--his own mother! [Applause.]
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR LECTURE OF JULY 2, 1868
(See Chapter lxvi)
THE PUBLIC TO MARK TWAIN-CORRESPONDENCE
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
MR. MARK TWAIN--DEAR SIR,--Hearing that you are about to sail for New
York in the P. M. S. S. Company's steamer of the 6th July, to publish a
book, and learning with the deepest concern that you propose to read a
chapter or two of that book in public before you go, we take this method
of expressing our cordial desire that you will not. We beg and implore
you do not. There is a limit to human endurance.
We are your personal friends. We have your welfare at heart. We desire
to see you prosper. And it is upon these accounts, and upon these only,
that we urge you to desist from the new atrocity you contemplate. Yours
60 names including: Bret Harte, Maj.-Gen. Ord, Maj.-Gen. Halleck,
The Orphan Asylum, and various Benevolent Societies, Citizens on
Foot and Horseback, and 1500 in the Steerage.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th
TO THE 1,500 AND OTHERS,--It seems to me that your course is entirely
unprecedented. Heretofore, when lecturers, singers, actors, and other
frauds have said they were about to leave town, you have always been the
very first people to come out in a card beseeching them to hold on for
just one night more, and inflict just one more performance on the public,
but as soon as I want to take a farewell benefit you come after me, with
a card signed by the whole community and the board of aldermen, praying
me not to do it. But it isn't of any use. You cannot move me from my
fell purpose. I will torment the people if I want to. I have a better
right to do it than these strange lecturers and orators that come here
from abroad. It only costs the public a dollar apiece, and if they can't
stand it what do they stay here for? Am I to go away and let them have
peace and quiet for a year and a half, and then come back and only
lecture them twice? What do you take me for?
No, gentlemen, ask of me anything else and I will do it cheerfully; but
do not ask me not to afflict the people. I wish to tell them all I know
about VENICE. I wish to tell them about the City of the Sea--that most
venerable, most brilliant, and proudest Republic the world has ever seen.
I wish to hint at what it achieved in twelve hundred years, and what it
lost in two hundred. I wish to furnish a deal of pleasant information,
somewhat highly spiced, but still palatable, digestible, and eminently
fitted for the intellectual stomach. My last lecture was not as fine as
I thought it was, but I have submitted this discourse to several able
critics, and they have pronounced it good. Now, therefore, why should I
Let me talk only just this once, and I will sail positively on the 6th of
July, and stay away until I return from China--two years.
Yours truly, MARK TWAIN.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 30th.
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