My Mark Twain
William Dean Howells

This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]


by William Dean Howells



It was in the little office of James T. Fields, over the bookstore of
Ticknor & Fields, at 124 Tremont Street, Boston, that I first met my
friend of now forty-four years, Samuel L. Clemens. Mr. Fields was then
the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and I was his proud and glad
assistant, with a pretty free hand as to manuscripts, and an unmanacled
command of the book-notices at the end of the magazine. I wrote nearly
all of them myself, and in 1869 I had written rather a long notice of a
book just winning its way to universal favor. In this review I had
intimated my reservations concerning the 'Innocents Abroad', but I had
the luck, if not the sense, to recognize that it was such fun as we had
not had before. I forget just what I said in praise of it, and it does
not matter; it is enough that I praised it enough to satisfy the author.
He now signified as much, and he stamped his gratitude into my memory
with a story wonderfully allegorizing the situation, which the mock
modesty of print forbids my repeating here. Throughout my long
acquaintance with him his graphic touch was always allowing itself a
freedom which I cannot bring my fainter pencil to illustrate. He had the
Southwestern, the Lincolnian, the Elizabethan breadth of parlance, which
I suppose one ought not to call coarse without calling one's self
prudish; and I was often hiding away in discreet holes and corners the
letters in which he had loosed his bold fancy to stoop on rank
suggestion; I could not bear to burn them, and I could not, after the
first reading, quite bear to look at them. I shall best give my feeling
on this point by saying that in it he was Shakespearian, or if his ghost
will not suffer me the word, then he was Baconian.

At the time of our first meeting, which must have been well toward the
winter, Clemens (as I must call him instead of Mark Twain, which seemed
always somehow to mask him from my personal sense) was wearing a sealskin
coat, with the fur out, in the satisfaction of a caprice, or the love of
strong effect which he was apt to indulge through life. I do not know
what droll comment was in Fields's mind with respect to this garment,
but probably he felt that here was an original who was not to be brought
to any Bostonian book in the judgment of his vivid qualities. With his
crest of dense red hair, and the wide sweep of his flaming mustache,
Clemens was not discordantly clothed in that sealskin coat, which
afterward, in spite of his own warmth in it, sent the cold chills through
me when I once accompanied it down Broadway, and shared the immense
publicity it won him. He had always a relish for personal effect, which
expressed itself in the white suit of complete serge which he wore in his
last years, and in the Oxford gown which he put on for every possible
occasion, and said he would like to wear all the time. That was not
vanity in him, but a keen feeling for costume which the severity of our
modern tailoring forbids men, though it flatters women to every excess in
it; yet he also enjoyed the shock, the offence, the pang which it gave
the sensibilities of others. Then there were times he played these
pranks for pure fun, and for the pleasure of the witness. Once I
remember seeing him come into his drawing-room at Hartford in a pair of
white cowskin slippers, with the hair out, and do a crippled colored
uncle to the joy of all beholders. Or, I must not say all, for I
remember also the dismay of Mrs. Clemens, and her low, despairing cry of,
"Oh, Youth!" That was her name for him among their friends, and it
fitted him as no other would, though I fancied with her it was a
shrinking from his baptismal Samuel, or the vernacular Sam of his earlier
companionships. He was a youth to the end of his days, the heart of a
boy with the head of a sage; the heart of a good boy, or a bad boy, but
always a wilful boy, and wilfulest to show himself out at every, time for
just the boy he was.


There is a gap in my recollections of Clemens, which I think is of a year
or two, for the next thing I remember of him is meeting him at a lunch in
Boston, given us by that genius of hospitality, the tragically destined
Ralph Keeler, author of one of the most unjustly forgotten books,
'Vagabond Adventures', a true bit of picaresque autobiography. Keeler
never had any money, to the general knowledge, and he never borrowed, and
he could not have had credit at the restaurant where he invited us to
feast at his expense. There was T. B. Aldrich, there was J. T. Fields,
much the oldest of our company, who had just freed himself from the
trammels of the publishing business, and was feeling his freedom in every
word; there was Bret Harte, who had lately come East in his princely
progress from California; and there was Clemens. Nothing remains to me
of the happy time but a sense of idle and aimless and joyful talk-play,
beginning and ending nowhere, of eager laughter, of countless good
stories from Fields, of a heat-lightning shimmer of wit from Aldrich,
of an occasional concentration of our joint mockeries upon our host,
who took it gladly; and amid the discourse, so little improving, but so
full of good fellowship, Bret Harte's fleeting dramatization of Clemens's
mental attitude toward a symposium of Boston illuminates. "Why,
fellows," he spluttered, "this is the dream of Mark's life," and I
remember the glance from under Clemens's feathery eyebrows which betrayed
his enjoyment of the fun. We had beefsteak with mushrooms, which in
recognition of their shape Aldrich hailed as shoe-pegs, and to crown the
feast we had an omelette souse, which the waiter brought in as flat as a
pancake, amid our shouts of congratulations to poor Keeler, who took them
with appreciative submission. It was in every way what a Boston literary
lunch ought not to have been in the popular ideal which Harte attributed
to Clemens.

Our next meeting was at Hartford, or, rather, at Springfield, where
Clemens greeted us on the way to Hartford. Aldrich was going on to be
his guest, and I was going to be Charles Dudley Warner's, but Clemens had
come part way to welcome us both. In the good fellowship of that cordial
neighborhood we had two such days as the aging sun no longer shines on in
his round. There was constant running in and out of friendly houses
where the lively hosts and guests called one another by their Christian
names or nicknames, and no such vain ceremony as knocking or ringing at
doors. Clemens was then building the stately mansion in which he
satisfied his love of magnificence as if it had been another sealskin
coat, and he was at the crest of the prosperity which enabled him to
humor every whim or extravagance. The house was the design of that most
original artist, Edward Potter, who once, when hard pressed by
incompetent curiosity for the name of his style in a certain church,
proposed that it should be called the English violet order of
architecture; and this house was so absolutely suited to the owner's
humor that I suppose there never was another house like it; but its
character must be for recognition farther along in these reminiscences.
The vividest impression which Clemens gave us two ravenous young Boston
authors was of the satisfying, the surfeiting nature of subscription
publication. An army of agents was overrunning the country with the
prospectuses of his books, and delivering them by the scores of thousands
in completed sale. Of the 'Innocents Abroad' he said, "It sells right
along just like the Bible," and 'Roughing It' was swiftly following,
without perhaps ever quite overtaking it in popularity. But he lectured
Aldrich and me on the folly of that mode of publication in the trade
which we had thought it the highest success to achieve a chance in.
"Anything but subscription publication is printing for private
circulation," he maintained, and he so won upon our greed and hope that
on the way back to Boston we planned the joint authorship of a volume
adapted to subscription publication. We got a very good name for it, as
we believed, in Memorable Murders, and we never got farther with it, but
by the time we reached Boston we were rolling in wealth so deep that we
could hardly walk home in the frugal fashion by which we still thought it
best to spare car fare; carriage fare we did not dream of even in that


The visits to Hartford which had begun with this affluence continued
without actual increase of riches for me, but now I went alone, and in
Warner's European and Egyptian absences I formed the habit of going to
Clemens. By this time he was in his new house, where he used to give me
a royal chamber on the ground floor, and come in at night after I had
gone to bed to take off the burglar alarm so that the family should not
be roused if anybody tried to get in at my window. This would be after
we had sat up late, he smoking the last of his innumerable cigars, and
soothing his tense nerves with a mild hot Scotch, while we both talked
and talked and talked, of everything in the heavens and on the earth,
and the waters under the earth. After two days of this talk I would come
away hollow, realizing myself best in the image of one of those locust-
shells which you find sticking to the bark of trees at the end of summer.
Once, after some such bout of brains, we went down to New York together,
and sat facing each other in the Pullman smoker without passing a
syllable till we had occasion to say, "Well, we're there." Then, with
our installation in a now vanished hotel (the old Brunswick, to be
specific), the talk began again with the inspiration of the novel
environment, and went on and on. We wished to be asleep, but we could
not stop, and he lounged through the rooms in the long nightgown which he
always wore in preference to the pajamas which he despised, and told the
story of his life, the inexhaustible, the fairy, the Arabian Nights
story, which I could never tire of even when it began to be told over
again. Or at times he would reason high--

"Of Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,"

walking up and down, and halting now and then, with a fine toss and slant
of his shaggy head, as some bold thought or splendid joke struck him.

He was in those days a constant attendant at the church of his great
friend, the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, and at least tacitly far from the
entire negation he came to at last. I should say he had hardly yet
examined the grounds of his passive acceptance of his wife's belief,
for it was hers and not his, and he held it unscanned in the beautiful
and tender loyalty to her which was the most moving quality of his most
faithful soul. I make bold to speak of the love between them, because
without it I could not make him known to others as he was known to me.
It was a greater part of him than the love of most men for their wives,
and she merited all the worship he could give her, all the devotion, all
the implicit obedience, by her surpassing force and beauty of character.
She was in a way the loveliest person I have ever seen, the gentlest, the
kindest, without a touch of weakness; she united wonderful tact with
wonderful truth; and Clemens not only accepted her rule implicitly, but
he rejoiced, he gloried in it. I am not sure that he noticed all her
goodness in the actions that made it a heavenly vision to others, he so
had the habit of her goodness; but if there was any forlorn and helpless
creature in the room Mrs. Clemens was somehow promptly at his side or
hers; she was always seeking occasion of kindness to those in her
household or out of it; she loved to let her heart go beyond the reach of
her hand, and imagined the whole hard and suffering world with compassion
for its structural as well as incidental wrongs. I suppose she had her
ladyhood limitations, her female fears of etiquette and convention, but
she did not let them hamper the wild and splendid generosity with which
Clemens rebelled against the social stupidities and cruelties. She had
been a lifelong invalid when he met her, and he liked to tell the
beautiful story of their courtship to each new friend whom he found
capable of feeling its beauty or worthy of hearing it. Naturally, her
father had hesitated to give her into the keeping of the young strange
Westerner, who had risen up out of the unknown with his giant reputation
of burlesque humorist, and demanded guaranties, demanded proofs. "He
asked me," Clemens would say, "if I couldn't give him the names of people
who knew me in California, and when it was time to hear from them I heard
from him. 'Well, Mr. Clemens,' he said, 'nobody seems to have a very
good word for you.' I hadn't referred him to people that I thought were
going to whitewash me. I thought it was all up with me, but I was
disappointed. 'So I guess I shall have to back you myself.'"

Whether this made him faithfuler to the trust put in him I cannot say,
but probably not; it was always in him to be faithful to any trust, and
in proportion as a trust of his own was betrayed he was ruthlessly and
implacably resentful. But I wish now to speak of the happiness of that
household in Hartford which responded so perfectly to the ideals of the
mother when the three daughters, so lovely and so gifted, were yet little
children. There had been a boy, and "Yes, I killed him," Clemens once
said, with the unsparing self-blame in which he would wreak an unavailing
regret. He meant that he had taken the child out imprudently, and the
child had taken the cold which he died of, but it was by no means certain
this was through its father's imprudence. I never heard him speak of his
son except that once, but no doubt in his deep heart his loss was
irreparably present. He was a very tender father and delighted in the
minds of his children, but he was wise enough to leave their training
altogether to the wisdom of their mother. He left them to that in
everything, keeping for himself the pleasure of teaching them little
scenes of drama, learning languages with them, and leading them in
singing. They came to the table with their parents, and could have set
him an example in behavior when, in moments of intense excitement, he
used to leave his place and walk up and down the room, flying his napkin
and talking and talking.

It was after his first English sojourn that I used to visit him, and he
was then full of praise of everything English: the English personal
independence and public spirit, and hospitality, and truth. He liked to
tell stories in proof of their virtues, but he was not blind to the
defects of their virtues: their submissive acceptance of caste, their
callousness with strangers; their bluntness with one another. Mrs.
Clemens had been in a way to suffer socially more than he, and she
praised the English less. She had sat after dinner with ladies who
snubbed and ignored one another, and left her to find her own amusement
in the absence of the attention with which Americans perhaps cloy their
guests, but which she could not help preferring. In their successive
sojourns among them I believe he came to like the English less and she
more; the fine delight of his first acceptance among them did not renew
itself till his Oxford degree was given him; then it made his cup run
over, and he was glad the whole world should see it.

His wife would not chill the ardor of his early Anglomania, and in this,
as in everything, she wished to humor him to the utmost. No one could
have realized more than she his essential fineness, his innate nobleness.
Marriages are what the parties to them alone really know them to be, but
from the outside I should say that this marriage was one of the most
perfect. It lasted in his absolute devotion to the day of her death,
that delayed long in cruel suffering, and that left one side of him in
lasting night. From Florence there came to me heartbreaking letters from
him about the torture she was undergoing, and at last a letter saying she
was dead, with the simple-hearted cry, "I wish I was with Livy." I do
not know why I have left saying till now that she was a very beautiful
woman, classically regular in features, with black hair smooth over her
forehead, and with tenderly peering, myopia eyes, always behind glasses,
and a smile of angelic kindness. But this kindness went with a sense of
humor which qualified her to appreciate the self-lawed genius of a man
who will be remembered with the great humorists of all time, with
Cervantes, with Swift, or with any others worthy his company; none of
them was his equal in humanity.


Clemens had appointed himself, with the architect's connivance, a
luxurious study over the library in his new house, but as his children
grew older this study, with its carved and cushioned arm-chairs, was
given over to them for a school-room, and he took the room above his
stable, which had been intended for his coachman. There we used to talk
together, when we were not walking and talking together, until he
discovered that he could make a more commodious use of the billiard-room
at the top of his house, for the purposes of literature and friendship.
It was pretty cold up there in the early spring and late fall weather
with which I chiefly associate the place, but by lighting up all the gas-
burners and kindling a reluctant fire on the hearth we could keep it well
above freezing. Clemens could also push the balls about, and, without
rivalry from me, who could no more play billiards than smoke, could win
endless games of pool, while he carried points of argument against
imaginable differers in opinion. Here he wrote many of his tales and
sketches, and for anything I know some of his books. I particularly
remember his reading me here his first rough sketch of Captain
Stormfield's Visit to Heaven, with the real name of the captain, whom I
knew already from his many stories about him.

We had a peculiar pleasure in looking off from the high windows on the
pretty Hartford landscape, and down from them into the tops of the trees
clothing the hillside by which his house stood. We agreed that there was
a novel charm in trees seen from such a vantage, far surpassing that of
the farther scenery. He had not been a country boy for nothing; rather
he had been a country boy, or, still better, a village boy, for
everything that Nature can offer the young of our species, and no aspect
of her was lost on him. We were natives of the same vast Mississippi
Valley; and Missouri was not so far from Ohio but that we were akin in
our first knowledges of woods and fields as we were in our early
parlance. I had outgrown the use of mine through my greater bookishness,
but I gladly recognized the phrases which he employed for their lasting
juiciness and the long-remembered savor they had on his mental palate.

I have elsewhere sufficiently spoken of his unsophisticated use of words,
of the diction which forms the backbone of his manly style. If I mention
my own greater bookishness, by which I mean his less quantitative
reading, it is to give myself better occasion to note that he was always
reading some vital book. It might be some out-of-the-way book, but it
had the root of the human matter in it: a volume of great trials; one of
the supreme autobiographies; a signal passage of history, a narrative of
travel, a story of captivity, which gave him life at first-hand. As I
remember, he did not care much for fiction, and in that sort he had
certain distinct loathings; there were certain authors whose names he
seemed not so much to pronounce as to spew out of his mouth. Goldsmith
was one of these, but his prime abhorrence was my dear and honored prime
favorite, Jane Austen. He once said to me, I suppose after he had been
reading some of my unsparing praises of her--I am always praising her,
"You seem to think that woman could write," and he forbore withering me
with his scorn, apparently because we had been friends so long, and he
more pitied than hated me for my bad taste. He seemed not to have any
preferences among novelists; or at least I never heard him express any.
He used to read the modern novels I praised, in or out of print; but I do
not think he much liked reading fiction. As for plays, he detested the
theatre, and said he would as lief do a sum as follow a plot on the
stage. He could not, or did not, give any reasons for his literary
abhorrences, and perhaps he really had none. But he could have said very
distinctly, if he had needed, why he liked the books he did. I was away
at the time of his great Browning passion, and I know of it chiefly from
hearsay; but at the time Tolstoy was doing what could be done to make me
over Clemens wrote, "That man seems to have been to you what Browning was
to me." I do not know that he had other favorites among the poets, but
he had favorite poems which he liked to read to you, and he read, of
course, splendidly. I have forgotten what piece of John Hay's it was
that he liked so much, but I remembered how he fiercely revelled in the
vengefulness of William Morris's 'Sir Guy of the Dolorous Blast,' and how
he especially exalted in the lines which tell of the supposed speaker's
joy in slaying the murderer of his brother:

"I am threescore years and ten,
And my hair is 'nigh turned gray,
But I am glad to think of the moment when
I took his life away."

Generally, I fancy his pleasure in poetry was not great, and I do not
believe he cared much for the conventionally accepted masterpieces of
literature. He liked to find out good things and great things for
himself; sometimes he would discover these in a masterpiece new to him
alone, and then, if you brought his ignorance home to him, he enjoyed it,
and enjoyed it the more the more you rubbed it in.

Of all the literary men I have known he was the most unliterary in his
make and manner. I do not know whether he had any acquaintance with
Latin, but I believe not the least; German he knew pretty well, and
Italian enough late in life to have fun with it; but he used English in
all its alien derivations as if it were native to his own air, as if it
had come up out of American, out of Missourian ground. His style was
what we know, for good and for bad, but his manner, if I may difference
the two, was as entirely his own as if no one had ever written before.
I have noted before this how he was not enslaved to the consecutiveness
in writing which the rest of us try to keep chained to. That is, he
wrote as he thought, and as all men think, without sequence, without an
eye to what went before or should come after. If something beyond or
beside what he was saying occurred to him, he invited it into his page,
and made it as much at home there as the nature of it would suffer him.
Then, when he was through with the welcoming of this casual and
unexpected guest, he would go back to the company he was entertaining,
and keep on with what he had been talking about. He observed this manner
in the construction of his sentences, and the arrangement of his
chapters, and the ordering or disordering of his compilations.--[Nowhere
is this characteristic better found than in Twain's 'Autobiography,' it
was not a "style" it was unselfconscious thought D.W.]--I helped him
with a Library of Humor, which he once edited, and when I had done my
work according to tradition, with authors, times, and topics carefully
studied in due sequence, he tore it all apart, and "chucked" the pieces
in wherever the fancy, for them took him at the moment. He was right: we
were not making a text-book, but a book for the pleasure rather than the
instruction of the reader, and he did not see why the principle on which
he built his travels and reminiscences and tales and novels should not
apply to it; and I do not now see, either, though at the time it
confounded me. On minor points he was, beyond any author I have known,
without favorite phrases or pet words. He utterly despised the avoidance
of repetitions out of fear of tautology. If a word served his turn
better than a substitute, he would use it as many times in a page as he


At that time I had become editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and I had
allegiances belonging to the conduct of what was and still remains the
most scrupulously cultivated of our periodicals. When Clemens began to
write for it he came willingly under its rules, for with all his
wilfulness there never was a more biddable man in things you could show
him a reason for. He never made the least of that trouble which so
abounds for the hapless editor from narrower-minded contributors. If you
wanted a thing changed, very good, he changed it; if you suggested that a
word or a sentence or a paragraph had better be struck out, very good,
he struck it out. His proof-sheets came back each a veritable "mush of
concession," as Emerson says. Now and then he would try a little
stronger language than 'The Atlantic' had stomach for, and once when I
sent him a proof I made him observe that I had left out the profanity.
He wrote back: "Mrs. Clemens opened that proof, and lit into the room
with danger in her eye. What profanity? You see, when I read the
manuscript to her I skipped that." It was part of his joke to pretend a
violence in that gentlest creature which the more amusingly realized the
situation to their friends.

I was always very glad of him and proud of him as a contributor, but I
must not claim the whole merit, or the first merit of having him write
for us. It was the publisher, the late H. O. Houghton, who felt the
incongruity of his absence from the leading periodical of the country,
and was always urging me to get him to write. I will take the credit of
being eager for him, but it is to the publisher's credit that he tried,
so far as the modest traditions of 'The Atlantic' would permit, to meet
the expectations in pay which the colossal profits of Clemens's books
might naturally have bred in him. Whether he was really able to do this
he never knew from Clemens himself, but probably twenty dollars a page
did not surfeit the author of books that "sold right along just like the

We had several short contributions from Clemens first, all of capital
quality, and then we had the series of papers which went mainly to the
making of his great book, 'Life on the Mississippi'. Upon the whole I
have the notion that Clemens thought this his greatest book, and he was
supported in his opinion by that of the 'portier' in his hotel at Vienna,
and that of the German Emperor, who, as he told me with equal respect for
the preference of each, united in thinking it his best; with such far-
sundered social poles approaching in its favor, he apparently found
himself without standing for opposition. At any rate, the papers won
instant appreciation from his editor and publisher, and from the readers
of their periodical, which they expected to prosper beyond precedent in
its circulation. But those were days of simpler acceptance of the
popular rights of newspapers than these are, when magazines strictly
guard their vested interests against them. 'The New York Times' and the
'St. Louis Democrat' profited by the advance copies of the magazine sent
them to reprint the papers month by month. Together they covered nearly
the whole reading territory of the Union, and the terms of their daily
publication enabled them to anticipate the magazine in its own restricted
field. Its subscription list was not enlarged in the slightest measure,
and The Atlantic Monthly languished on the news-stands as undesired as


It was among my later visits to Hartford that we began to talk up the
notion of collaborating a play, but we did not arrive at any clear
intention, and it was a telegram out of the clear sky that one day
summoned me from Boston to help with a continuation of Colonel Sellers.
I had been a witness of the high joy of Clemens in the prodigious triumph
of the first Colonel Sellers, which had been dramatized from the novel of
'The Gilded Age.' This was the joint work of Clemens and Charles Dudley
Warner, and the story had been put upon the stage by some one in Utah,
whom Clemens first brought to book in the courts for violation of his
copyright, and then indemnified for such rights as his adaptation of the
book had given him. The structure of the play as John T. Raymond gave it
was substantially the work of this unknown dramatist. Clemens never
pretended, to me at any rate, that he had the least hand in it; he
frankly owned that he was incapable of dramatization; yet the vital part
was his, for the characters in the play were his as the book embodied
them, and the success which it won with the public was justly his.
This he shared equally with the actor, following the company with an
agent, who counted out the author's share of the gate money, and sent him
a note of the amount every day by postal card. The postals used to come
about dinner-time, and Clemens would read them aloud to us in wild

One hundred and fifty dollars--two hundred dollars--three hundred dollars
were the gay figures which they bore, and which he flaunted in the air
before he sat down at table, or rose from it to brandish, and then,
flinging his napkin into his chair, walked up and down to exult in.

By-and-by the popularity, of the play waned, and the time came when he
sickened of the whole affair, and withdrew his agent, and took whatever
gain from it the actor apportioned him. He was apt to have these sudden
surceases, following upon the intensities of his earlier interest; though
he seemed always to have the notion of making something more of Colonel
Sellers. But when I arrived in Hartford in answer to his summons,
I found him with no definite idea of what he wanted to do with him.
I represented that we must have some sort of plan, and he agreed that we
should both jot down a scenario overnight and compare our respective
schemes the next morning. As the author of a large number of little
plays which have been privately presented throughout the United States
and in parts of the United Kingdom, without ever getting upon the public
stage except for the noble ends of charity, and then promptly getting off
it, I felt authorized to make him observe that his scheme was as nearly
nothing as chaos could be. He agreed hilariously with me, and was
willing to let it stand in proof of his entire dramatic inability.
At the same time he liked my plot very much, which ultimated Sellers,
according to Clemens's intention, as a man crazed by his own inventions
and by his superstition that he was the rightful heir to an English
earldom. The exuberant nature of Sellers and the vast range of his
imagination served our purpose in other ways. Clemens made him a
spiritualist, whose specialty in the occult was materialization;
he became on impulse an ardent temperance reformer, and he headed a
procession of temperance ladies after disinterestedly testing the
deleterious effects of liquor upon himself until he could not walk
straight; always he wore a marvellous fire-extinguisher strapped on his
back, to give proof in any emergency of the effectiveness of his
invention in that way.

We had a jubilant fortnight in working the particulars of these things
out. It was not possible for Clemens to write like anybody else, but I
could very easily write like Clemens, and we took the play scene and
scene about, quite secure of coming out in temperamental agreement.
The characters remained for the most part his, and I varied them only to
make them more like his than, if possible, he could. Several years
after, when I looked over a copy of the play, I could not always tell my
work from his; I only knew that I had done certain scenes. We would work
all day long at our several tasks, and then at night, before dinner, read
them over to each other. No dramatists ever got greater joy out of their
creations, and when I reflect that the public never had the chance of
sharing our joy I pity the public from a full heart. I still believe
that the play was immensely funny; I still believe that if it could once
have got behind the footlights it would have continued to pack the house
before them for an indefinite succession of nights. But this may be my

At any rate, it was not to be. Raymond had identified himself with
Sellers in the play-going imagination, and whether consciously or
unconsciously we constantly worked with Raymond in our minds. But before
this time bitter displeasures had risen between Clemens and Raymond, and
Clemens was determined that Raymond should never have the play. He first
offered it to several other actors, who eagerly caught it, only to give
it back with the despairing renunciation, "That is a Raymond play." We
tried managers with it, but their only question was whether they could
get Raymond to do it. In the mean time Raymond had provided himself with
a play for the winter--a very good play, by Demarest Lloyd; and he was in
no hurry for ours. Perhaps he did not really care for it perhaps he knew
when he heard of it that it must come to him in the end. In the end it
did, from my hand, for Clemens would not meet him. I found him in a mood
of sweet reasonableness, perhaps the more softened by one of those
lunches which our publisher, the hospitable James R. Osgood, was always
bringing people together over in Boston. He said that he could not do
the play that winter, but he was sure that he should like it, and he had
no doubt he would do it the next winter. So I gave him the manuscript,
in spite of Clemens's charges, for his suspicions and rancors were such
that he would not have had me leave it for a moment in the actor's hands.
But it seemed a conclusion that involved success and fortune for us.
In due time, but I do not remember how long after, Raymond declared
himself delighted with the piece; he entered into a satisfactory
agreement for it, and at the beginning of the next season he started with
it to Buffalo, where he was to give a first production. At Rochester he
paused long enough to return it, with the explanation that a friend had
noted to him the fact that Colonel Sellers in the play was a lunatic, and
insanity was so serious a thing that it could not be represented on the
stage without outraging the sensibilities of the audience; or words to
that effect. We were too far off to allege Hamlet to the contrary, or
King Lear, or to instance the delight which generations of readers
throughout the world had taken in the mad freaks of Don Quixote.
Whatever were the real reasons of Raymond for rejecting the play, we had
to be content with those he gave, and to set about getting it into other
hands. In this effort we failed even more signally than before, if that
were possible. At last a clever and charming elocutionist, who had long
wished to get himself on the stage, heard of it and asked to see it.
We would have shown it to any one by this time, and we very willingly
showed it to him. He came to Hartford and did some scenes from it for
us. I must say he did them very well, quite as well as Raymond could
have done them, in whose manner he did them. But now, late toward
spring, the question was where he could get an engagement with the play,
and we ended by hiring a theatre in New York for a week of trial

Clemens came on with me to Boston, where we were going to make some
changes in the piece, and where we made them to our satisfaction, but not
to the effect of that high rapture which we had in the first draft.
He went back to Hartford, and then the cold fit came upon me, and "in
visions of the night, in slumberings upon the bed," ghastly forms of
failure appalled me, and when I rose in the morning I wrote him: "Here is
a play which every manager has put out-of-doors and which every actor
known to us has refused, and now we go and give it to an elocutioner.
We are fools." Whether Clemens agreed with me or not in my conclusion,
he agreed with me in my premises, and we promptly bought our play off the
stage at a cost of seven hundred dollars, which we shared between us.
But Clemens was never a man to give up. I relinquished gratis all right
and title I had in the play, and he paid its entire expenses for a week
of one-night stands in the country. It never came to New York; and yet I
think now that if it had come, it would have succeeded. So hard does the
faith of the unsuccessful dramatist in his work die.


There is an incident of this time so characteristic of both men that I
will yield to the temptation of giving it here. After I had gone to
Hartford in response to Clemens's telegram, Matthew Arnold arrived in
Boston, and one of my family called on his, to explain why I was not at
home to receive his introduction: I had gone to see Mark Twain. "Oh, but
he doesn't like that sort of thing, does he?" "He likes Mr. Clemens very
much," my representative answered, "and he thinks him one of the greatest
men he ever knew." I was still Clemens's guest at Hartford when Arnold
came there to lecture, and one night we went to meet him at a reception.
While his hand laxly held mine in greeting, I saw his eyes fixed
intensely on the other side of the room. "Who-who in the world is that?"
I looked and said, "Oh, that is Mark Twain." I do not remember just how
their instant encounter was contrived by Arnold's wish, but I have the
impression that they were not parted for long during the evening, and the
next night Arnold, as if still under the glamour of that potent presence,
was at Clemens's house. I cannot say how they got on, or what they made
of each other; if Clemens ever spoke of Arnold, I do not recall what he
said, but Arnold had shown a sense of him from which the incredulous
sniff of the polite world, now so universally exploded, had already
perished. It might well have done so with his first dramatic vision of
that prodigious head. Clemens was then hard upon fifty, and he had kept,
as he did to the end, the slender figure of his youth, but the ashes of
the burnt-out years were beginning to gray the fires of that splendid
shock of red hair which he held to the height of a stature apparently
greater than it was, and tilted from side to side in his undulating walk.
He glimmered at you from the narrow slits of fine blue-greenish eyes,
under branching brows, which with age grew more and more like a sort of
plumage, and he was apt to smile into your face with a subtle but amiable
perception, and yet with a sort of remote absence; you were all there for
him, but he was not all there for you.


I shall, not try to give chronological order to my recollections of him,
but since I am just now with him in Hartford I will speak of him in
association with the place. Once when I came on from Cambridge he
followed me to my room to see that the water was not frozen in my bath,
or something of the kind, for it was very cold weather, and then
hospitably lingered. Not to lose time in banalities I began at once from
the thread of thought in my mind. "I wonder why we hate the past so,"
and he responded from the depths of his own consciousness, "It's so
damned humiliating," which is what any man would say of his past if he
were honest; but honest men are few when it comes to themselves. Clemens
was one of the few, and the first of them among all the people I have
known. I have known, I suppose, men as truthful, but not so promptly, so
absolutely, so positively, so almost aggressively truthful. He could
lie, of course, and did to save others from grief or harm; he was, not
stupidly truthful; but his first impulse was to say out the thing and
everything that was in him. To those who can understand it will not be
contradictory of his sense of humiliation from the past, that he was not
ashamed for anything he ever did to the point of wishing to hide it. He
could be, and he was, bitterly sorry for his errors, which he had enough
of in his life, but he was not ashamed in that mean way. What he had
done he owned to, good, bad, or indifferent, and if it was bad he was
rather amused than troubled as to the effect in your mind. He would not
obtrude the fact upon you, but if it were in the way of personal history
he would not dream of withholding it, far less of hiding it.

He was the readiest of men to allow an error if he were found in it. In
one of our walks about Hartford, when he was in the first fine flush of
his agnosticism, be declared that Christianity had done nothing to
improve morals and conditions, and that the world under the highest pagan
civilization was as well off as it was under the highest Christian
influences. I happened to be fresh from the reading of Charles Loring
Brace's 'Gesta Christi'; or, 'History of Humane Progress', and I could
offer him abundant proofs that he was wrong. He did not like that
evidently, but he instantly gave way, saying be had not known those
things. Later be was more tolerant in his denials of Christianity, but
just then he was feeling his freedom from it, and rejoicing in having
broken what he felt to have been the shackles of belief worn so long.
He greatly admired Robert Ingersoll, whom he called an angelic orator,
and regarded as an evangel of a new gospel--the gospel of free thought.
He took the warmest interest in the newspaper controversy raging at the
time as to the existence of a hell; when the noes carried the day, I
suppose that no enemy of perdition was more pleased. He still loved his
old friend and pastor, Mr. Twichell, but he no longer went to hear him
preach his sage and beautiful sermons, and was, I think, thereby the
greater loser. Long before that I had asked him if he went regularly to
church, and he groaned out: "Oh yes, I go. It 'most kills me, but I go,"
and I did not need his telling me to understand that he went because his
wife wished it. He did tell me, after they both ceased to go, that it
had finally come to her saying, "Well, if you are to be lost, I want to
be lost with you." He could accept that willingness for supreme
sacrifice and exult in it because of the supreme truth as he saw it.
After they had both ceased to be formal Christians, she was still grieved
by his denial of immortality, so grieved that he resolved upon one of
those heroic lies, which for love's sake he held above even the truth,
and he went to her, saying that he had been thinking the whole matter
over, and now he was convinced that the soul did live after death. It
was too late. Her keen vision pierced through his ruse, as it did when
he brought the doctor who had diagnosticated her case as organic disease
of the heart, and, after making him go over the facts of it again with
her, made him declare it merely functional.

To make an end of these records as to Clemens's beliefs, so far as I knew
them, I should say that he never went back to anything like faith in the
Christian theology, or in the notion of life after death, or in a
conscious divinity. It is best to be honest in this matter; he would
have hated anything else, and I do not believe that the truth in it can
hurt any one. At one period he argued that there must have been a cause,
a conscious source of things; that the universe could not have come by
chance. I have heard also that in his last hours or moments he said, or
his dearest ones hoped he had said, something about meeting again. But
the expression, of which they could not be certain, was of the vaguest,
and it was perhaps addressed to their tenderness out of his tenderness.
All his expressions to me were of a courageous, renunciation of any hope
of living again, or elsewhere seeing those he had lost. He suffered
terribly in their loss, and he was not fool enough to try ignoring his
grief. He knew that for this there were but two medicines; that it would
wear itself out with the years, and that meanwhile there was nothing for
it but those respites in which the mourner forgets himself in slumber.
I remember that in a black hour of my own when I was called down to see
him, as he thought from sleep, he said with an infinite, an exquisite
compassion, "Oh, did I wake you, did I wake, you?" Nothing more, but the
look, the voice, were everything; and while I live they cannot pass from
my sense.


He was the most caressing of men in his pity, but he had the fine
instinct, which would have pleased Lowell, of never putting his hands on
you--fine, delicate hands, with taper fingers, and pink nails, like a
girl's, and sensitively quivering in moments of emotion; he did not paw
you with them to show his affection, as so many of us Americans are apt
to do. Among the half-dozen, or half-hundred, personalities that each of
us becomes, I should say that Clemens's central and final personality was
something exquisite. His casual acquaintance might know him, perhaps,
from his fierce intensity, his wild pleasure in shocking people with his
ribaldries and profanities, or from the mere need of loosing his
rebellious spirit in that way, as anything but exquisite, and yet that
was what in the last analysis he was. They might come away loathing or
hating him, but one could not know him well without realizing him the
most serious, the most humane, the most conscientious of men. He was
Southwestern, and born amid the oppression of a race that had no rights
as against ours, but I never saw a man more regardful of negroes. He had
a yellow butler when I first began to know him, because he said he could
not bear to order a white man about, but the terms of his ordering George
were those of the softest entreaty which command ever wore. He loved to
rely upon George, who was such a broken reed in some things, though so
stanch in others, and the fervent Republican in politics that Clemens
then liked him to be. He could interpret Clemens's meaning to the public
without conveying his mood, and could render his roughest answer smooth
to the person denied his presence. His general instructions were that
this presence was to be denied all but personal friends, but the soft
heart of George was sometimes touched by importunity, and once he came up
into the billiard-room saying that Mr. Smith wished to see Clemens. Upon
inquiry, Mr. Smith developed no ties of friendship, and Clemens said,
"You go and tell Mr. Smith that I wouldn't come down to see the Twelve
Apostles." George turned from the threshold where he had kept himself,
and framed a paraphrase of this message which apparently sent Mr. Smith
away content with himself and all the rest of the world.

The part of him that was Western in his Southwestern origin Clemens kept
to the end, but he was the most desouthernized Southerner I ever knew.
No man more perfectly sensed and more entirely abhorred slavery, and no
one has ever poured such scorn upon the second-hand, Walter-Scotticized,
pseudo-chivalry of the Southern ideal. He held himself responsible for
the wrong which the white race had done the black race in slavery, and he
explained, in paying the way of a negro student through Yale, that he was
doing it as his part of the reparation due from every white to every
black man. He said he had never seen this student, nor ever wished to
see him or know his name; it was quite enough that he was a negro. About
that time a colored cadet was expelled from West Point for some point of
conduct "unbecoming an officer and gentleman," and there was the usual
shabby philosophy in a portion of the press to the effect that a negro
could never feel the claim of honor. The man was fifteen parts white,
but, "Oh yes," Clemens said, with bitter irony, "it was that one part
black that undid him." It made him a "nigger" and incapable of being a
gentleman. It was to blame for the whole thing. The fifteen parts white
were guiltless.

Clemens was entirely satisfied with the result of the Civil War, and he
was eager to have its facts and meanings brought out at once in history.
He ridiculed the notion, held by many, that "it was not yet time" to
philosophize the events of the great struggle; that we must "wait till
its passions had cooled," and "the clouds of strife had cleared away."
He maintained that the time would never come when we should see its
motives and men and deeds more clearly, and that now, now, was the hour
to ascertain them in lasting verity. Picturesquely and dramatically he
portrayed the imbecility of deferring the inquiry at any point to the
distance of future years when inevitably the facts would begin to put on

He had powers of sarcasm and a relentless rancor in his contempt which
those who knew him best appreciated most. The late Noah Brooks, who had
been in California at the beginning of Clemens's career, and had
witnessed the effect of his ridicule before he had learned to temper it,
once said to me that he would rather have any one else in the world down
on him than Mark Twain. But as Clemens grew older he grew more merciful,
not to the wrong, but to the men who were in it. The wrong was often the
source of his wildest drolling. He considered it in such hopelessness of
ever doing it justice that his despair broke in laughter.


I go back to that house in Hartford, where I was so often a happy guest,
with tenderness for each of its endearing aspects. Over the chimney in
the library which had been cured of smoking by so much art and science,
Clemens had written in perennial brass the words of Emerson, "The
ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it," and he gave his
guests a welcome of the simplest and sweetest cordiality: but I must not
go aside to them from my recollections of him, which will be of
sufficient garrulity, if I give them as fully as I wish. The windows of
the library looked northward from the hillside above which the house
stood, and over the little valley with the stream in it, and they showed
the leaves of the trees that almost brushed them as in a Claude Lorraine
glass. To the eastward the dining-room opened amply, and to the south
there was a wide hall, where the voices of friends made themselves heard
as they entered without ceremony and answered his joyous hail. At the
west was a little semicircular conservatory of a pattern invented by Mrs.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, and adopted in most of the houses of her kindly
neighborhood. The plants were set in the ground, and the flowering vines
climbed up the sides and overhung the roof above the silent spray of a
fountain companied by callas and other water-loving lilies. There, while
we breakfasted, Patrick came in from the barn and sprinkled the pretty
bower, which poured out its responsive perfume in the delicate accents of
its varied blossoms. Breakfast was Clemens's best meal, and he sat
longer at his steak and coffee than at the courses of his dinner;
luncheon was nothing to him, unless, as might happen, he made it his
dinner, and reserved the later repast as the occasion of walking up and
down the room, and discoursing at large on anything that came into his
head. Like most good talkers, he liked other people to have their say;
he did not talk them down; he stopped instantly at another's remark and
gladly or politely heard him through; he even made believe to find
suggestion or inspiration in what was said. His children came to the
table, as I have told, and after dinner he was apt to join his fine tenor
to their trebles in singing.

Fully half our meetings were at my house in Cambridge, where he made
himself as much at home as in Hartford. He would come ostensibly to stay
at the Parker House, in Boston, and take a room, where he would light the
gas and leave it burning, after dressing, while he drove out to Cambridge
and stayed two or three days with us. Once, I suppose it was after a
lecture, he came in evening dress and passed twenty-four hours with us in
that guise, wearing an overcoat to hide it when we went for a walk.
Sometimes he wore the slippers which he preferred to shoes at home, and
if it was muddy, as it was wont to be in Cambridge, he would put a pair
of rubbers over them for our rambles. He liked the lawlessness and our
delight in allowing it, and he rejoiced in the confession of his hostess,
after we had once almost worn ourselves out in our pleasure with the
intense talk, with the stories and the laughing, that his coming almost
killed her, but it was worth it.

In those days he was troubled with sleeplessness, or, rather, with
reluctant sleepiness, and he had various specifics for promoting it.
At first it had been champagne just before going to bed, and we provided
that, but later he appeared from Boston with four bottles of lager-beer
under his arms; lager-beer, he said now, was the only thing to make you
go to sleep, and we provided that. Still later, on a visit I paid him at
Hartford, I learned that hot Scotch was the only soporific worth
considering, and Scotch-whiskey duly found its place on our sideboard.
One day, very long afterward, I asked him if he were still taking hot
Scotch to make him sleep. He said he was not taking anything. For a
while he had found going to bed on the bath-room floor a soporific; then
one night he went to rest in his own bed at ten o'clock, and had gone
promptly to sleep without anything. He had done the like with the like
effect ever since. Of course, it amused him; there were few experiences
of life, grave or gay, which did not amuse him, even when they wronged

He came on to Cambridge in April, 1875, to go with me to the centennial
ceremonies at Concord in celebration of the battle of the Minute Men with
the British troops a hundred years before. We both had special
invitations, including passage from Boston; but I said, Why bother to go
into Boston when we could just as well take the train for Concord at the
Cambridge station? He equally decided that it would be absurd; so we
breakfasted deliberately, and then walked to the station, reasoning of
many things as usual. When the train stopped, we found it packed inside
and out. People stood dense on the platforms of the cars; to our
startled eyes they seemed to project from the windows, and unless memory
betrays me they lay strewn upon the roofs like brakemen slain at the post
of duty.

Whether this was really so or not, it is certain that the train presented
an impenetrable front even to our imagination, and we left it to go its
way without the slightest effort to board. We remounted the fame-worn
steps of Porter's Station, and began exploring North Cambridge for some
means of transportation overland to Concord, for we were that far on the
road by which the British went and came on the day of the battle. The
liverymen whom we appealed to received us, some with compassion, some
with derision, but in either mood convinced us that we could not have
hired a cat to attempt our conveyance, much less a horse, or vehicle of
any description. It was a raw, windy day, very unlike the exceptionally
hot April day when the routed redcoats, pursued by the Colonials, fled
panting back to Boston, with "their tongues hanging out like dogs,"
but we could not take due comfort in the vision of their discomfiture;
we could almost envy them, for they had at least got to Concord. A swift
procession of coaches, carriages, and buggies, all going to Concord,
passed us, inert and helpless, on the sidewalk in the peculiarly cold mud
of North Cambridge. We began to wonder if we might not stop one of them
and bribe it to take us, but we had not the courage to try, and Clemens
seized the opportunity to begin suffering with an acute indigestion,
which gave his humor a very dismal cast. I felt keenly the shame of
defeat, and the guilt of responsibility for our failure, and when a gay
party of students came toward us on the top of a tally ho, luxuriously
empty inside, we felt that our chance had come, and our last chance.
He said that if I would stop them and tell them who I was they would
gladly, perhaps proudly, give us passage; I contended that if with his
far vaster renown he would approach them, our success would be assured.
While we stood, lost in this "contest of civilities," the coach passed
us, with gay notes blown from the horns of the students, and then Clemens
started in pursuit, encouraged with shouts from the merry party who could
not imagine who was trying to run them down, to a rivalry in speed. The
unequal match could end only in one way, and I am glad I cannot recall
what he said when he came back to me. Since then I have often wondered
at the grief which would have wrung those blithe young hearts if they
could have known that they might have had the company of Mark Twain to
Concord that day and did not.

We hung about, unavailingly, in the bitter wind a while longer, and then
slowly, very slowly, made our way home. We wished to pass as much time
as possible, in order to give probability to the deceit we intended to
practise, for we could not bear to own ourselves baffled in our boasted
wisdom of taking the train at Porter's Station, and had agreed to say
that we had been to Concord and got back. Even after coming home to my
house, we felt that our statement would be wanting in verisimilitude
without further delay, and we crept quietly into my library, and made up
a roaring fire on the hearth, and thawed ourselves out in the heat of it
before we regained our courage for the undertaking. With all these
precautions we failed, for when our statement was imparted to the
proposed victim she instantly pronounced it unreliable, and we were left
with it on our hands intact. I think the humor of this situation was
finally a greater pleasure to Clemens than an actual visit to Concord
would have been; only a few weeks before his death he laughed our defeat
over with one of my family in Bermuda, and exulted in our prompt


From our joint experience in failing I argue that Clemens's affection for
me must have been great to enable him to condone in me the final
defection which was apt to be the end of our enterprises. I have fancied
that I presented to him a surface of such entire trustworthiness that he
could not imagine the depths of unreliability beneath it; and that never
realizing it, he always broke through with fresh surprise but unimpaired
faith. He liked, beyond all things, to push an affair to the bitter end,
and the end was never too bitter unless it brought grief or harm to
another. Once in a telegraph office at a railway station he was treated
with such insolent neglect by the young lady in charge, who was
preoccupied in a flirtation with a "gentleman friend," that emulous of
the public spirit which he admired in the English, he told her he should
report her to her superiors, and (probably to her astonishment) he did
so. He went back to Hartford, and in due time the poor girl came to me
in, terror and in tears; for I had abetted Clemens in his action, and had
joined my name to his in his appeal to the authorities. She was
threatened with dismissal unless she made full apology to him and brought
back assurance of its acceptance. I felt able to give this, and, of
course, he eagerly approved; I think he telegraphed his approval.
Another time, some years afterward, we sat down together in places near
the end of a car, and a brakeman came in looking for his official note-
book. Clemens found that he had sat down upon it, and handed it to him;
the man scolded him very abusively, and came back again and again, still
scolding him for having no more sense than to sit down on a note-book.
The patience of Clemens in bearing it was so angelic that I saw fit to
comment, "I suppose you will report this fellow." "Yes," he answered,
slowly and sadly. "That's what I should have done once. But now I
remember that he gets twenty dollars a month."

Nothing could have been wiser, nothing tenderer, and his humanity was
not for humanity alone. He abhorred the dull and savage joy of the
sportsman in a lucky shot, an unerring aim, and once when I met him in
the country he had just been sickened by the success of a gunner in
bringing down a blackbird, and he described the poor, stricken, glossy
thing, how it lay throbbing its life out on the grass, with such pity as
he might have given a wounded child. I find this a fit place to say that
his mind and soul were with those who do the hard work of the world, in
fear of those who give them a chance for their livelihoods and underpay
them all they can. He never went so far in socialism as I have gone, if
he went that way at all, but he was fascinated with Looking Backward and
had Bellamy to visit him; and from the first he had a luminous vision of
organized labor as the only present help for working-men. He would show
that side with such clearness and such force that you could not say
anything in hopeful contradiction; he saw with that relentless insight of
his that with Unions was the working-man's only present hope of standing
up like a man against money and the power of it. There was a time when I
was afraid that his eves were a little holden from the truth; but in the
very last talk I heard from him I found that I was wrong, and that this
great humorist was as great a humanist as ever. I wish that all the
work-folk could know this, and could know him their friend in life as he
was in literature; as he was in such a glorious gospel of equality as the
'Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.'


Whether I will or no I must let things come into my story thoughtwise, as
he would have let them, for I cannot remember them in their order. One
night, while we were giving a party, he suddenly stormed in with a friend
of his and mine, Mr. Twichell, and immediately began to eat and drink of
our supper, for they had come straight to our house from walking to
Boston, or so great a part of the way as to be a-hungered and a-thirst.
I can see him now as he stood up in the midst of our friends, with his
head thrown back, and in his hand a dish of those escalloped oysters
without which no party in Cambridge was really a party, exulting in the
tale of his adventure, which had abounded in the most original characters
and amusing incidents at every mile of their progress. They had broken
their journey with a night's rest, and they had helped themselves
lavishly out by rail in the last half; but still it had been a mighty
walk to do in two days. Clemens was a great walker, in those years, and
was always telling of his tramps with Mr. Twichell to Talcott's Tower,
ten miles out of Hartford. As he walked of course he talked, and of
course he smoked. Whenever he had been a few days with us, the whole
house had to be aired, for he smoked all over it from breakfast to
bedtime. He always went to bed with a cigar in his mouth, and sometimes,
mindful of my fire insurance, I went up and took it away, still burning,
after he had fallen asleep. I do not know how much a man may smoke and
live, but apparently he smoked as much as a man could, for he smoked

He did not care much to meet people, as I fancied, and we were greedy of
him for ourselves; he was precious to us; and I would not have exposed
him to the critical edge of that Cambridge acquaintance which might not
have appreciated him at, say, his transatlantic value. In America his
popularity was as instant as it was vast. But it must be acknowledged
that for a much longer time here than in England polite learning
hesitated his praise. In England rank, fashion, and culture rejoiced in
him. Lord mayors, lord chief justices, and magnates of many kinds were
his hosts; he was desired in country houses, and his bold genius
captivated the favor of periodicals which spurned the rest of our nation.
But in his own country it was different. In proportion as people thought
themselves refined they questioned that quality which all recognize in
him now, but which was then the inspired knowledge of the simple-hearted
multitude. I went with him to see Longfellow, but I do not think
Longfellow made much of him, and Lowell made less. He stopped as if with
the long Semitic curve of Clemens's nose, which in the indulgence of his
passion for finding every one more or less a Jew he pronounced
unmistakably racial. It was two of my most fastidious Cambridge friends
who accepted him with the English, the European entirety--namely, Charles
Eliot Norton and Professor Francis J. Child. Norton was then newly back
from a long sojourn abroad, and his judgments were delocalized. He met
Clemens as if they had both been in England, and rejoiced in his bold
freedom from environment, and in the rich variety and boundless reach of
his talk. Child was of a personal liberty as great in its fastidious way
as that of Clemens himself, and though he knew him only at second hand,
he exulted in the most audacious instance of his grotesquery, as I shall
have to tell by-and-by, almost solely. I cannot say just why Clemens
seemed not to hit the favor of our community of scribes and scholars, as
Bret Harte had done, when he came on from California, and swept them
before him, disrupting their dinners and delaying their lunches with
impunity; but it is certain he did not, and I had better say so.

I am surprised to find from the bibliographical authorities that it was
so late as 1875 when he came with the manuscript of Tom Sawyer, and asked
me to read it, as a friend and critic, and not as an editor. I have an
impression that this was at Mrs. Clemens's instance in his own
uncertainty about printing it. She trusted me, I can say with a
satisfaction few things now give me, to be her husband's true and cordial
adviser, and I was so. I believe I never failed him in this part, though
in so many of our enterprises and projects I was false as water through
my temperamental love of backing out of any undertaking. I believe this
never ceased to astonish him, and it has always astonished me; it appears
to me quite out of character; though it is certain that an undertaking,
when I have entered upon it, holds me rather than I it. But however this
immaterial matter may be, I am glad to remember that I thoroughly liked
Tom Sawyer, and said so with every possible amplification. Very likely,
I also made my suggestions for its improvement; I could not have been a
real critic without that; and I have no doubt they were gratefully
accepted and, I hope, never acted upon. I went with him to the horse-car
station in Harvard Square, as my frequent wont was, and put him aboard a
car with his MS. in his hand, stayed and reassured, so far as I counted,
concerning it. I do not know what his misgivings were; perhaps they were
his wife's misgivings, for she wished him to be known not only for the
wild and boundless humor that was in him, but for the beauty and
tenderness and "natural piety"; and she would not have had him judged by
a too close fidelity to the rude conditions of Tom Sawyer's life. This
is the meaning that I read into the fact of his coming to me with those


Clemens had then and for many years the habit of writing to me about what
he was doing, and still more of what he was experiencing. Nothing struck
his imagination, in or out of the daily routine, but he wished to write
me of it, and he wrote with the greatest fulness and a lavish
dramatization, sometimes to the length of twenty or forty pages, so that
I have now perhaps fifteen hundred pages of his letters. They will no
doubt some day be published, but I am not even referring to them in these
records, which I think had best come to the reader with an old man's
falterings and uncertainties. With his frequent absences and my own
abroad, and the intrusion of calamitous cares, the rich tide of his
letters was more and more interrupted. At times it almost ceased, and
then it would come again, a torrent. In the very last weeks of his life
he burst forth, and, though too weak himself to write, he dictated his
rage with me for recommending to him a certain author whose truthfulness
he could not deny, but whom he hated for his truthfulness to sordid and
ugly conditions. At heart Clemens was romantic, and he would have had
the world of fiction stately and handsome and whatever the real world was
not; but he was not romanticistic, and he was too helplessly an artist
not to wish his own work to show life as he had seen it. I was preparing
to rap him back for these letters when I read that he had got home to
die; he would have liked the rapping back.

He liked coming to Boston, especially for those luncheons and dinners in
which the fertile hospitality of our publisher, Osgood, abounded. He
dwelt equidistant from Boston and New York, and he had special friends in
New York, but he said he much preferred coming to Boston; of late years
he never went there, and he had lost the habit of it long before he came
home from Europe to live in New York. At these feasts, which were often
of after-dinner-speaking measure, he could always be trusted for
something of amazing delightfulness. Once, when Osgood could think of no
other occasion for a dinner, he gave himself a birthday dinner, and asked
his friends and authors. The beautiful and splendid trooper-like blaring
was there, and I recall how in the long, rambling speech in which Clemens
went round the table hitting every head at it, and especially visiting
Osgood with thanks for his ingenious pretext for our entertainment,
he congratulated blaring upon his engineering genius and his hypnotic
control of municipal governments. He said that if there was a plan for
draining a city at a cost of a million, by seeking the level of the water
in the down-hill course of the sewers, blaring would come with a plan to
drain that town up-hill at twice the cost and carry it through the Common
Council without opposition. It is hard to say whether the time was
gladder at these dinners, or at the small lunches at which Osgood and
Aldrich and I foregathered with him and talked the afternoon away till
well toward the winter twilight.

He was a great figure, and the principal figure, at one of the first of
the now worn-out Authors' Readings, which was held in the Boston Museum
to aid a Longfellow memorial. It was the late George Parsons Lathrop
(everybody seems to be late in these sad days) who imagined the reading,
but when it came to a price for seats I can always claim the glory of
fixing it at five dollars. The price if not the occasion proved
irresistible, and the museum was packed from the floor to the topmost
gallery. Norton presided, and when it came Clemens's turn to read he
introduced him with such exquisite praises as he best knew how to give,
but before he closed he fell a prey to one of those lapses of tact which
are the peculiar peril of people of the greatest tact. He was reminded
of Darwin's delight in Mark Twain, and how when he came from his long
day's exhausting study, and sank into bed at midnight, he took up a
volume of Mark Twain, whose books he always kept on a table beside him,
and whatever had been his tormenting problem, or excess of toil, he felt
secure of a good night's rest from it. A sort of blank ensued which
Clemens filled in the only possible way. He said he should always be
glad that he had contributed to the repose of that great man, whom
science owed so much, and then without waiting for the joy in every
breast to burst forth, he began to read. It was curious to watch his
triumph with the house. His carefully studied effects would reach the
first rows in the orchestra first, and ripple in laughter back to the
standees against the wall, and then with a fine resurgence come again to
the rear orchestra seats, and so rise from gallery to gallery till it
fell back, a cataract of applause from the topmost rows of seats. He was
such a practised speaker that he knew all the stops of that simple
instrument man, and there is no doubt that these results were accurately
intended from his unerring knowledge. He was the most consummate public
performer I ever saw, and it was an incomparable pleasure to hear him
lecture; on the platform he was the great and finished actor which he
probably would not have been on the stage. He was fond of private
theatricals, and liked to play in them with his children and their
friends, in dramatizations of such stories of his as 'The Prince and the
Pauper;' but I never saw him in any of these scenes. When he read his
manuscript to you, it was with a thorough, however involuntary,
recognition of its dramatic qualities; he held that an actor added fully
half to the character the author created. With my own hurried and half-
hearted reading of passages which I wished to try on him from unprinted
chapters (say, out of 'The Undiscovered Country' or 'A Modern Instance')
he said frankly that my reading could spoil anything. He was realistic,
but he was essentially histrionic, and he was rightly so. What we have
strongly conceived we ought to make others strongly imagine, and we ought
to use every genuine art to that end.


There came a time when the lecturing which had been the joy of his prime
became his loathing, loathing unutterable, and when he renounced it with
indescribable violence. Yet he was always hankering for those fleshpots
whose savor lingered on his palate and filled his nostrils after his
withdrawal from the platform. The Authors' Readings when they had won
their brief popularity abounded in suggestion for him. Reading from
one's book was not so bad as giving a lecture written for a lecture's
purpose, and he was willing at last to compromise. He had a magnificent
scheme for touring the country with Aldrich and Mr. G. W. Cable and
myself, in a private car, with a cook of our own, and every facility for
living on the fat of the land. We should read only four times a week, in
an entertainment that should not last more than an hour and a half. He
would be the impresario, and would guarantee us others at least seventy-
five dollars a day, and pay every expense of the enterprise, which he
provisionally called the Circus, himself. But Aldrich and I were now no
longer in those earlier thirties when we so cheerfully imagined
'Memorable Murders' for subscription publication; we both abhorred public
appearances, and, at any rate, I was going to Europe for a year. So the
plan fell through except as regarded Mr. Cable, who, in his way, was as
fine a performer as Clemens, and could both read and sing the matter of
his books. On a far less stupendous scale they two made the rounds of
the great lecturing circuit together. But I believe a famous lecture-
manager had charge of them and travelled with them.

He was a most sanguine man, a most amiable person, and such a believer in
fortune that Clemens used to say of him, as he said of one of his early
publishers, that you could rely upon fifty per cent. of everything he
promised. I myself many years later became a follower of this hopeful
prophet, and I can testify that in my case at least he was able to keep
ninety-nine, and even a hundred, per cent. of his word. It was I who was
much nearer failing of mine, for I promptly began to lose sleep from the
nervous stress of my lecturing and from the gratifying but killing
receptions afterward, and I was truly in that state from insomnia which
Clemens recognized in the brief letter I got from him in the Western
city, after half a dozen wakeful nights. He sardonically congratulated
me on having gone into "the lecture field," and then he said: "I know
where you are now. You are in hell."

It was this perdition which he re-entered when he undertook that round-
the-world lecturing tour for the payment of the debts left to him by the
bankruptcy of his firm in the publishing business. It was not purely
perdition for him, or, rather, it was perdition for only one-half of him,
the author-half; for the actor-half it was paradise. The author who
takes up lecturing without the ability to give histrionic support to the
literary reputation which he brings to the crude test of his reader's
eyes and ears, invokes a peril and a misery unknown to the lecturer who
has made his first public from the platform. Clemens was victorious on
the platform from the beginning, and it would be folly to pretend that he
did not exult in his triumphs there. But I suppose, with the wearing
nerves of middle life, he hated more and more the personal swarming of
interest upon him, and all the inevitable clatter of the thing. Yet he
faced it, and he labored round our tiresome globe that he might pay the
uttermost farthing of debts which he had not knowingly contracted, the
debts of his partners who had meant well and done ill, not because they
were evil, but because they were unwise, and as unfit for their work as
he was. "Pay what thou owest." That is right, even when thou owest it
by the error of others, and even when thou owest it to a bank, which had
not lent it from love of thee, but in the hard line of business and thy

Clemens's behavior in this matter redounded to his glory among the
nations of the whole earth, and especially in this nation, so wrapped in
commerce and so little used to honor among its many thieves. He had
behaved like Walter Scott, as millions rejoiced to know, who had not
known how Walter Scott had behaved till they knew it was like Clemens.
No doubt it will be put to his credit in the books of the Recording
Angel, but what the Judge of all the Earth will say of it at the Last Day
there is no telling. I should not be surprised if He accounted it of
less merit than some other things that Clemens did and was: less than his
abhorrence of the Spanish War, and the destruction of the South-African
republics, and our deceit of the Filipinos, and his hate of slavery, and
his payment of his portion of our race's debt to the race of the colored
student whom he saw through college, and his support of a poor artist for
three years in Paris, and his loan of opportunity to the youth who became
the most brilliant of our actor-dramatists, and his eager pardon of the
thoughtless girl who was near paying the penalty of her impertinence with
the loss of her place, and his remembering that the insolent brakeman got
so few dollars a month, and his sympathy for working-men standing up to
money in their Unions, and even his pity for the wounded bird throbbing
out its little life on the grass for the pleasure of the cruel fool who
shot it. These and the thousand other charities and beneficences in
which he abounded, openly or secretly, may avail him more than the
discharge of his firm's liabilities with the Judge of all the Earth, who
surely will do right, but whose measures and criterions no man knows, and
I least of all men.

He made no great show of sympathy with people in their anxieties, but it
never failed, and at a time when I lay sick for many weeks his letters
were of comfort to those who feared I might not rise again. His hand was
out in help for those who needed help, and in kindness for those who
needed kindness. There remains in my mind the dreary sense of a long,
long drive to the uttermost bounds of the South End at Boston, where he
went to call upon some obscure person whose claim stretched in a
lengthening chain from his early days in Missouri--a most inadequate
person, in whose vacuity the gloom of the dull day deepened till it was
almost too deep for tears. He bore the ordeal with grim heroism, and
silently smoked away the sense of it, as we drove back to Cambridge, in
his slippered feet, sombrely musing, sombrely swearing. But he knew he
had done the right, the kind thing, and he was content. He came the
whole way from Hartford to go with me to a friendless play of mine, which
Alessandro Salvini was giving in a series of matinees to houses never
enlarging themselves beyond the count of the brave two hundred who sat it
through, and he stayed my fainting spirit with a cheer beyond flagons,
joining me in my joke at the misery of it, and carrying the fun farther.

Before that he had come to witness the aesthetic suicide of Anna
Dickinson, who had been a flaming light of the political platform in the
war days, and had been left by them consuming in a hapless ambition for
the theatre. The poor girl had had a play written especially for her,
and as Anne Boleyn she ranted and exhorted through the five acts, drawing
ever nearer the utter defeat of the anticlimax. We could hardly look at
each other for pity, Clemens sitting there in the box he had taken, with
his shaggy head out over the corner and his slippered feet curled under
him: he either went to a place in his slippers or he carried them with
him, and put them on as soon as he could put off his boots. When it was
so that we could not longer follow her failure and live, he began to talk
of the absolute close of her career which the thing was, and how probably
she had no conception that it was the end. He philosophized the
mercifulness of the fact, and of the ignorance of most of us, when
mortally sick or fatally wounded. We think it is not the end, because we
have never ended before, and we do not see how we can end. Some can push
by the awful hour and live again, but for Anna Dickinson there could be,
and was, no such palingenesis. Of course we got that solemn joy out of
reading her fate aright which is the compensation of the wise spectator
in witnessing the inexorable doom of others.


When Messrs. Houghton & Mifflin became owners of The Atlantic Monthly,
Mr. Houghton fancied having some breakfasts and dinners, which should
bring the publisher and the editor face to face with the contributors,
who were bidden from far and near. Of course, the subtle fiend of
advertising, who has now grown so unblushing bold, lurked under the
covers at these banquets, and the junior partner and the young editor had
their joint and separate fine anguishes of misgiving as to the taste and
the principle of them; but they were really very simple-hearted and
honestly meant hospitalities, and they prospered as they ought, and gave
great pleasure and no pain. I forget some of the "emergent occasions,"
but I am sure of a birthday dinner most unexpectedly accepted by
Whittier, and a birthday luncheon to Mrs. Stowe, and I think a birthday
dinner to Longfellow; but the passing years have left me in the dark as
to the pretext of that supper at which Clemens made his awful speech, and
came so near being the death of us all. At the breakfasts and luncheons
we had the pleasure of our lady contributors' company, but that night
there were only men, and because of our great strength we survived.

I suppose the year was about 1879, but here the almanac is unimportant,
and I can only say that it was after Clemens had become a very valued
contributor of the magazine, where he found himself to his own great
explicit satisfaction. He had jubilantly accepted our invitation, and
had promised a speech, which it appeared afterward he had prepared with
unusual care and confidence. It was his custom always to think out his
speeches, mentally wording them, and then memorizing them by a peculiar
system of mnemonics which he had invented. On the dinner-table a certain
succession of knife, spoon, salt-cellar, and butter-plate symbolized a
train of ideas, and on the billiard-table a ball, a cue, and a piece of
chalk served the same purpose. With a diagram of these printed on the
brain he had full command of the phrases which his excogitation had
attached to them, and which embodied the ideas in perfect form. He
believed he had been particularly fortunate in his notion for the speech
of that evening, and he had worked it out in joyous self-reliance.
It was the notion of three tramps, three deadbeats, visiting a California
mining-camp, and imposing themselves upon the innocent miners as
respectively Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver
Wendell, Holmes. The humor of the conception must prosper or must fail
according to the mood of the hearer, but Clemens felt sure of compelling
this to sympathy, and he looked forward to an unparalleled triumph.

But there were two things that he had not taken into account. One was
the species of religious veneration in which these men were held by those
nearest them, a thing that I should not be able to realize to people
remote from them in time and place. They were men of extraordinary
dignity, of the thing called presence, for want of some clearer word,
so that no one could well approach them in a personally light or trifling
spirit. I do not suppose that anybody more truly valued them or more
piously loved them than Clemens himself, but the intoxication of his
fancy carried him beyond the bounds of that regard, and emboldened him to
the other thing which he had not taken into account-namely, the immense
hazard of working his fancy out before their faces, and expecting them to
enter into the delight of it. If neither Emerson, nor Longfellow, nor
Holmes had been there, the scheme might possibly have carried, but even
this is doubtful, for those who so devoutly honored them would have
overcome their horror with difficulty, and perhaps would not have
overcome it at all.

The publisher, with a modesty very ungrateful to me, had abdicated his
office of host, and I was the hapless president, fulfilling the abhorred.
function of calling people to their feet and making them speak. When I
came to Clemens I introduced him with the cordial admiring I had for him
as one of my greatest contributors and dearest friends. Here, I said,
in sum, was a humorist who never left you hanging your head for having
enjoyed his joke; and then the amazing mistake, the bewildering blunder,
the cruel catastrophe was upon us. I believe that after the scope of the
burlesque made itself clear, there was no one there, including the
burlesquer himself, who was not smitten with a desolating dismay. There
fell a silence, weighing many tons to the square inch, which deepened
from moment to moment, and was broken only by the hysterical and blood-
curdling laughter of a single guest, whose name shall not be handed down
to infamy. Nobody knew whether to look at the speaker or down at his
plate. I chose my plate as the least affliction, and so I do not know
how Clemens looked, except when I stole a glance at him, and saw him
standing solitary amid his appalled and appalling listeners, with his
joke dead on his hands. From a first glance at the great three whom his
jest had made its theme, I was aware of Longfellow sitting upright, and
regarding the humorist with an air of pensive puzzle, of Holmes busily
writing on his menu, with a well-feigned effect of preoccupation, and of
Emerson, holding his elbows, and listening with a sort of Jovian oblivion
of this nether world in that lapse of memory which saved him in those
later years from so much bother. Clemens must have dragged his joke to
the climax and left it there, but I cannot say this from any sense of the
fact. Of what happened afterward at the table where the immense, the
wholly innocent, the truly unimagined affront was offered, I have no
longer the least remembrance. I next remember being in a room of the
hotel, where Clemens was not to sleep, but to toss in despair, and
Charles Dudley Warner's saying, in the gloom, "Well, Mark, you're a funny
fellow." It was as well as anything else he could have said, but Clemens
seemed unable to accept the tribute.

I stayed the night with him, and the next morning, after a haggard
breakfast, we drove about and he made some purchases of bric-a-brac for
his house in Hartford, with a soul as far away from bric-a-brac as ever
the soul of man was. He went home by an early train, and he lost no time
in writing back to the three divine personalities which he had so
involuntarily seemed to flout. They all wrote back to him, making it as
light for him as they could. I have heard that Emerson was a good deal
mystified, and in his sublime forgetfulness asked, Who was this gentleman
who appeared to think he had offered him some sort of annoyance! But I
am not sure that this is accurate. What I am sure of is that Longfellow,
a few days after, in my study, stopped before a photograph of Clemens and
said, "Ah, he is a wag!" and nothing more. Holmes told me, with deep
emotion, such as a brother humorist might well feel, that he had not lost
an instant in replying to Clemens's letter, and assuring him that there
had not been the least offence, and entreating him never to think of the
matter again. "He said that he was a fool, but he was God's fool,"
Holmes quoted from the letter, with a true sense of the pathos and the
humor of the self-abasement.

To me Clemens wrote a week later, "It doesn't get any better; it burns
like fire." But now I understand that it was not shame that burnt, but
rage for a blunder which he had so incredibly committed. That to have
conceived of those men, the most dignified in our literature, our
civilization, as impersonable by three hoboes, and then to have imagined
that he could ask them personally to enjoy the monstrous travesty, was a
break, he saw too late, for which there was no repair. Yet the time
came, and not so very long afterward, when some mention was made of the
incident as a mistake, and he said, with all his fierceness, "But I don't
admit that it was a mistake," and it was not so in the minds of all
witnesses at second hand. The morning after the dreadful dinner there
came a glowing note from Professor Child, who had read the newspaper
report of it, praising Clemens's burlesque as the richest piece of humor
in the world, and betraying no sense of incongruity in its perpetration
in the presence of its victims. I think it must always have ground in
Clemens's soul, that he was the prey of circumstances, and that if he had
some more favoring occasion he could retrieve his loss in it by giving
the thing the right setting. Not more than two or three years ago, he
came to try me as to trying it again at a meeting of newspaper men in
Washington. I had to own my fears, while I alleged Child's note on the
other hand, but in the end he did not try it with the newspaper men. I
do not know whether he has ever printed it or not, but since the thing
happened I have often wondered how much offence there really was in it.
I am not sure but the horror of the spectators read more indignation into
the subjects of the hapless drolling than they felt. But it must have
been difficult for them to bear it with equanimity. To be sure, they
were not themselves mocked; the joke was, of course, beside them;
nevertheless, their personality was trifled with, and I could only end by
reflecting that if I had been in their place I should not have liked it
myself. Clemens would have liked it himself, for he had the heart for
that sort of wild play, and he so loved a joke that even if it took the
form of a liberty, and was yet a good joke, he would have loved it. But
perhaps this burlesque was not a good joke.


Clemens was oftenest at my house in Cambridge, but he was also sometimes
at my house in Belmont; when, after a year in Europe, we went to live in
Boston, he was more rarely with us. We could never be long together
without something out of the common happening, and one day something far
out of the common happened, which fortunately refused the nature of
absolute tragedy, while remaining rather the saddest sort of comedy. We
were looking out of my library window on that view of the Charles which I
was so proud of sharing with my all-but-next-door neighbor, Doctor
Holmes, when another friend who was with us called out with curiously
impersonal interest, "Oh, see that woman getting into the water!" This
would have excited curiosity and alarmed anxiety far less lively than
ours, and Clemens and I rushed downstairs and out through my basement and
back gate. At the same time a coachman came out of a stable next door,
and grappled by the shoulders a woman who was somewhat deliberately
getting down the steps to the water over the face of the embankment.
Before we could reach them he had pulled her up to the driveway, and
stood holding her there while she crazily grieved at her rescue. As soon
as he saw us he went back into his stable, and left us with the poor wild
creature on our hands. She was not very young and not very pretty, and
we could not have flattered ourselves with the notion of anything
romantic in her suicidal mania, but we could take her on the broad human
level, and on this we proposed to escort her up Beacon Street till we
could give her into the keeping of one of those kindly policemen whom our
neighborhood knew. Naturally there was no policeman known to us or
unknown the whole way to the Public Garden. We had to circumvent our
charge in her present design of drowning herself, and walk her past the
streets crossing Beacon to the river. At these points it needed
considerable reasoning to overcome her wish and some active manoeuvring
in both of us to enforce our arguments. Nobody else appeared to be
interested, and though we did not court publicity in the performance of
the duty so strangely laid upon us, still it was rather disappointing to
be so entirely ignored.

There are some four or five crossings to the river between 302 Beacon
Street and the Public Garden, and the suggestions at our command were
pretty well exhausted by the time we reached it. Still the expected
policeman was nowhere in sight; but a brilliant thought occurred to
Clemens. He asked me where the nearest police station was, and when I
told him, he started off at his highest speed, leaving me in sole charge
of our hapless ward. All my powers of suasion were now taxed to the
utmost, and I began attracting attention as a short, stout gentleman in
early middle life endeavoring to distrain a respectable female of her
personal liberty, when his accomplice had abandoned him to his wicked
design. After a much longer time than I thought I should have taken to
get a policeman from the station, Clemens reappeared in easy conversation
with an officer who had probably realized that he was in the company of
Mark Twain, and was in no hurry to end the interview. He took possession
of our captive, and we saw her no more. I now wonder that with our joint
instinct for failure we ever got rid of her; but I am sure we did, and
few things in life have given me greater relief. When we got back to my
house we found the friend we had left there quite unruffled and not much
concerned to know the facts of our adventure. My impression is that he
had been taking a nap on my lounge; be appeared refreshed and even gay;
but if I am inexact in these details he is alive to refute me.


A little after this Clemens went abroad with his family, and lived
several years in Germany. His letters still came, but at longer
intervals, and the thread of our intimate relations was inevitably
broken. He would write me when something I had written pleased him,
or when something signal occurred to him, or some political or social
outrage stirred him to wrath, and he wished to free his mind in pious
profanity. During this sojourn he came near dying of pneumonia in
Berlin, and he had slight relapses from it after coming home. In Berlin
also he had the honor of dining with the German Emperor at the table of
a cousin married to a high officer of the court. Clemens was a man to
enjoy such a distinction; he knew how to take it as a delegated
recognition from the German people; but as coming from a rather cockahoop
sovereign who had as yet only his sovereignty to value himself upon, he
was not very proud of it. He expressed a quiet disdain of the event as
between the imperiality and himself, on whom it was supposed to confer
such glory, crowning his life with the topmost leaf of laurel. He was in
the same mood in his account of an English dinner many years before,
where there was a "little Scotch lord" present, to whom the English
tacitly referred Clemens's talk, and laughed when the lord laughed, and
were grave when he failed to smile. Of all the men I have known he was
the farthest from a snob, though he valued recognition, and liked the
flattery of the fashionable fair when it came in his way. He would not
go out of his way for it, but like most able and brilliant men he loved
the minds of women, their wit, their agile cleverness, their sensitive
perception, their humorous appreciation, the saucy things they would say,
and their pretty, temerarious defiances. He had, of course, the keenest
sense of what was truly dignified and truly undignified in people; but he
was not really interested in what we call society affairs; they scarcely
existed for him, though his books witness how he abhorred the dreadful
fools who through some chance of birth or wealth hold themselves
different from other men.

Commonly he did not keep things to himself, especially dislikes and
condemnations. Upon most current events he had strong opinions, and he
uttered them strongly. After a while he was silent in them, but if you
tried him you found him in them still. He was tremendously worked up by
a certain famous trial, as most of us were who lived in the time of it.
He believed the accused guilty, but when we met some months after it was
over, and I tempted him to speak his mind upon it, he would only say.
The man had suffered enough; as if the man had expiated his wrong, and he
was not going to do anything to renew his penalty. I found that very
curious, very delicate. His continued blame could not come to the
sufferer's knowledge, but he felt it his duty to forbear it.

He was apt to wear himself out in the vehemence of his resentments; or,
he had so spent himself in uttering them that he had literally nothing
more to say. You could offer Clemens offences that would anger other men
and he did not mind; he would account for them from human nature; but if
he thought you had in any way played him false you were anathema and
maranatha forever. Yet not forever, perhaps, for by and-by, after years,
he would be silent. There were two men, half a generation apart in their
succession, whom he thought equally atrocious in their treason to him,
and of whom he used to talk terrifyingly, even after they were out of the
world. He went farther than Heine, who said that he forgave his enemies,
but not till they were dead. Clemens did not forgive his dead enemies;
their death seemed to deepen their crimes, like a base evasion, or a
cowardly attempt to escape; he pursued them to the grave; he would like
to dig them up and take vengeance upon their clay. So he said, but no
doubt he would not have hurt them if he had had them living before him.
He was generous without stint; he trusted without measure, but where his
generosity was abused, or his trust betrayed, he was a fire of vengeance,
a consuming flame of suspicion that no sprinkling of cool patience from
others could quench; it had to burn itself out. He was eagerly and
lavishly hospitable, but if a man seemed willing to batten on him, or in
any way to lie down upon him, Clemens despised him unutterably. In his
frenzies of resentment or suspicion he would not, and doubtless could
not, listen to reason. But if between the paroxysms he were confronted
with the facts he would own them, no matter how much they told against
him. At one period he fancied that a certain newspaper was hounding him
with biting censure and poisonous paragraphs, and he was filling himself
up with wrath to be duly discharged on the editor's head. Later, he
wrote me with a humorous joy in his mistake that Warner had advised him
to have the paper watched for these injuries. He had done so, and how
many mentions of him did I reckon he had found in three months? Just
two, and they were rather indifferent than unfriendly. So the paper was
acquitted, and the editor's life was spared. The wretch never knew how
near he was to losing it, with incredible preliminaries of obloquy, and a
subsequent devotion to lasting infamy.

His memory for favors was as good as for injuries, and he liked to return
your friendliness with as loud a band of music as could be bought or
bribed for the occasion. All that you had to do was to signify that you
wanted his help. When my father was consul at Toronto during Arthur's
administration, he fancied that his place was in danger, and he appealed
to me. In turn I appealed to Clemens, bethinking myself of his
friendship with Grant and Grant's friendship with Arthur. I asked him to
write to Grant in my father's behalf, but No, he answered me, I must come
to Hartford, and we would go on to New York together and see Grant
personally. This was before, and long before, Clemens became Grant's
publisher and splendid benefactor, but the men liked each other as such
men could not help doing. Clemens made the appointment, and we went to
find Grant in his business office, that place where his business
innocence was afterward so betrayed. He was very simple and very
cordial, and I was instantly the more at home with him, because his voice
was the soft, rounded, Ohio River accent to which my years were earliest
used from my steamboating uncles, my earliest heroes. When I stated my
business he merely said, Oh no; that must not be; he would write to Mr.
Arthur; and he did so that day; and my father lived to lay down his
office, when he tired of it, with no urgence from above.

It is not irrelevant to Clemens to say that Grant seemed to like finding
himself in company with two literary men, one of whom at least he could
make sure of, and unlike that silent man he was reputed, he talked
constantly, and so far as he might he talked literature. At least he
talked of John Phoenix, that delightfulest of the early Pacific Slope
humorists, whom he had known under his real name of George H. Derby, when
they were fellow-cadets at West Point. It was mighty pretty, as Pepys
would say, to see the delicate deference Clemens paid our plain hero, and
the manly respect with which he listened. While Grant talked, his
luncheon was brought in from some unassuming restaurant near by, and he
asked us to join him in the baked beans and coffee which were served us
in a little room out of the office with about the same circumstance as at
a railroad refreshment-counter. The baked beans and coffee were of about
the railroad-refreshment quality; but eating them with Grant was like
sitting down to baked beans and coffee with Julius Caesar, or Alexander,
or some other great Plutarchan captain. One of the highest satisfactions
of Clemens's often supremely satisfactory life was his relation to Grant.
It was his proud joy to tell how he found Grant about to sign a contract
for his book on certainly very good terms, and said to him that he would
himself publish the book and give him a percentage three times as large.
He said Grant seemed to doubt whether he could honorably withdraw from
the negotiation at that point, but Clemens overbore his scruples, and it
was his unparalleled privilege, his princely pleasure, to pay the author
a far larger check for his work than had ever been paid to an author
before. He valued even more than this splendid opportunity the sacred
moments in which their business brought him into the presence of the
slowly dying, heroically living man whom he was so befriending; and he
told me in words which surely lost none of their simple pathos through
his report how Grant described his suffering.

The prosperity, of this venture was the beginning of Clemens's adversity,
for it led to excesses of enterprise which were forms of dissipation.
The young sculptor who had come back to him from Paris modelled a small
bust of Grant, which Clemens multiplied in great numbers to his great
loss, and the success of Grant's book tempted him to launch on publishing
seas where his bark presently foundered. The first and greatest of his
disasters was the Life of Pope Leo XIII, which he came to tell me of,
when he had imagined it, in a sort of delirious exultation. He had no
words in which to paint the magnificence of the project, or to forecast
its colossal success. It would have a currency bounded only by the
number of Catholics in Christendom. It would be translated into every
language which was anywhere written or printed; it would be circulated
literally in every country of the globe, and Clemens's book agents would
carry the prospectuses and then the bound copies of the work to the ends
of the whole earth. Not only would every Catholic buy it, but every
Catholic must, as he was a good Catholic, as he hoped to be saved. It
was a magnificent scheme, and it captivated me, as it had captivated
Clemens; it dazzled us both, and neither of us saw the fatal defect in
it. We did not consider how often Catholics could not read, how often
when they could, they might not wish to read. The event proved that
whether they could read or not the immeasurable majority did not wish to
read the life of the Pope, though it was written by a dignitary of the
Church and issued to the world with every sanction from the Vatican.
The failure was incredible to Clemens; his sanguine soul was utterly
confounded, and soon a silence fell upon it where it had been so
exuberantly jubilant.


The occasions which brought us to New York together were not nearly so
frequent as those which united us in Boston, but there was a dinner given
him by a friend which remains memorable from the fatuity of two men
present, so different in everything but their fatuity. One was the sweet
old comedian Billy Florence, who was urging the unsuccessful dramatist
across the table to write him a play about Oliver Cromwell, and giving
the reasons why he thought himself peculiarly fitted to portray the
character of Cromwell. The other was a modestly millioned rich man who
was then only beginning to amass the moneys afterward heaped so high, and
was still in the condition to be flattered by the condescension of a yet
greater millionaire. His contribution to our gaiety was the verbatim
report of a call he had made upon William H. Vanderbilt, whom he had
found just about starting out of town, with his trunks actually in the
front hall, but who had stayed to receive the narrator. He had, in fact,
sat down on one of the trunks, and talked with the easiest friendliness,
and quite, we were given to infer, like an ordinary human being. Clemens
often kept on with some thread of the talk when we came away from a
dinner, but now he was silent, as if "high sorrowful and cloyed"; and it
was not till well afterward that I found he had noted the facts from the
bitterness with which he mocked the rich man, and the pity he expressed
for the actor.

He had begun before that to amass those evidences against mankind which
eventuated with him in his theory of what he called "the damned human
race." This was not an expression of piety, but of the kind contempt to
which he was driven by our follies and iniquities as he had observed them
in himself as well as in others. It was as mild a misanthropy, probably,
as ever caressed the objects of its malediction. But I believe it was
about the year 1900 that his sense of our perdition became insupportable
and broke out in a mixed abhorrence and amusement which spared no
occasion, so that I could quite understand why Mrs. Clemens should have
found some compensation, when kept to her room by sickness, in the
reflection that now she should not hear so much about "the damned human
race." He told of that with the same wild joy that he told of
overhearing her repetition of one of his most inclusive profanities, and
her explanation that she meant him to hear it so that he might know how
it sounded. The contrast of the lurid blasphemy with her heavenly
whiteness should have been enough to cure any one less grounded than he
in what must be owned was as fixed a habit as smoking with him. When I
first knew him he rarely vented his fury in that sort, and I fancy he was
under a promise to her which he kept sacred till the wear and tear of his
nerves with advancing years disabled him. Then it would be like him to
struggle with himself till he could struggle no longer and to ask his
promise back, and it would be like her to give it back. His profanity
was the heritage of his boyhood and young manhood in social conditions
and under the duress of exigencies in which everybody swore about as
impersonally as he smoked. It is best to recognize the fact of it, and I
do so the more readily because I cannot suppose the Recording Angel
really minded it much more than that Guardian. Angel of his. It
probably grieved them about equally, but they could equally forgive it.
Nothing came of his pose regarding "the damned human race" except his
invention of the Human Race Luncheon Club. This was confined to four
persons who were never all got together, and it soon perished of their

In the earlier days that I have more specially in mind one of the
questions that we used to debate a good deal was whether every human
motive was not selfish. We inquired as to every impulse, the noblest,
the holiest in effect, and he found them in the last analysis of selfish
origin. Pretty nearly the whole time of a certain railroad run from New
York to Hartford was taken up with the scrutiny of the self-sacrifice of
a mother for her child, of the abandon of the lover who dies in saving
his mistress from fire or flood, of the hero's courage in the field and
the martyr's at the stake. Each he found springing from the unconscious
love of self and the dread of the greater pain which the self-sacrificer
would suffer in-forbearing the sacrifice. If we had any time left from
this inquiry that day, he must have devoted it to a high regret that
Napoleon did not carry out his purpose of invading England, for then he
would have destroyed the feudal aristocracy, or "reformed the lords," as
it might be called now. He thought that would have been an incalculable
blessing to the English people and the world. Clemens was always
beautifully and unfalteringly a republican. None of his occasional
misgivings for America implicated a return to monarchy. Yet he felt
passionately the splendor of the English monarchy, and there was a time
when he gloried in that figurative poetry by which the king was phrased
as "the Majesty of England." He rolled the words deep-throatedly out,
and exulted in their beauty as if it were beyond any other glory of the
world. He read, or read at, English history a great deal, and one of the
by-products of his restless invention was a game of English Kings (like
the game of Authors) for children. I do not know whether he ever
perfected this, but I am quite sure it was not put upon the market. Very
likely he brought it to a practicable stage, and then tired of it, as he
was apt to do in the ultimation of his vehement undertakings.


He satisfied the impassioned demand of his nature for incessant
activities of every kind by taking a personal as well as a pecuniary
interest in the inventions of others. At one moment "the damned human
race" was almost to be redeemed by a process of founding brass without
air bubbles in it; if this could once be accomplished, as I understood,
or misunderstood, brass could be used in art-printing to a degree
hitherto impossible. I dare say I have got it wrong, but I am not
mistaken as to Clemens's enthusiasm for the process, and his heavy losses
in paying its way to ultimate failure. He was simultaneously absorbed in
the perfection of a type-setting machine, which he was paying the
inventor a salary to bring to a perfection so expensive that it was
practically impracticable. We were both printers by trade, and I could
take the same interest in this wonderful piece of mechanism that he
could; and it was so truly wonderful that it did everything but walk and
talk. Its ingenious creator was so bent upon realizing the highest ideal
in it that he produced a machine of quite unimpeachable efficiency. But
it was so costly, when finished, that it could not be made for less than
twenty thousand dollars, if the parts were made by hand. This sum was
prohibitive of its introduction, unless the requisite capital could be
found for making the parts by machinery, and Clemens spent many months in
vainly trying to get this money together. In the mean time simpler
machines had been invented and the market filled, and his investment of
three hundred thousand dollars in the beautiful miracle remained
permanent but not profitable. I once went with him to witness its
performance, and it did seem to me the last word in its way, but it had
been spoken too exquisitely, too fastidiously. I never heard him devote
the inventor to the infernal gods, as he was apt to do with the geniuses
he lost money by, and so I think he did not regard him as a traitor.

In these things, and in his other schemes for the 'subiti guadagni' of
the speculator and the "sudden making of splendid names" for the
benefactors of our species, Clemens satisfied the Colonel Sellers nature
in himself (from which he drew the picture of that wild and lovable
figure), and perhaps made as good use of his money as he could. He did
not care much for money in itself, but he luxuriated in the lavish use of
it, and he was as generous with it as ever a man was. He liked giving it,
but he commonly wearied of giving it himself, and wherever he lived he
established an almoner, whom he fully trusted to keep his left hand
ignorant of what his right hand was doing. I believe he felt no finality
in charity, but did it because in its provisional way it was the only
thing a man could do. I never heard him go really into any sociological
inquiry, and I have a feeling that that sort of thing baffled and
dispirited him. No one can read The Connecticut Yankee and not be aware
of the length and breadth of his sympathies with poverty, but apparently
he had not thought out any scheme for righting the economic wrongs we
abound in. I cannot remember our ever getting quite down to a discussion
of the matter; we came very near it once in the day of the vast wave of
emotion sent over the world by 'Looking Backward,' and again when we were
all so troubled by the great coal strike in Pennsylvania; in considering
that he seemed to be for the time doubtful of the justice of the
workingman's cause. At all other times he seemed to know that whatever
wrongs the workingman committed work was always in the right.

When Clemens returned to America with his family, after lecturing round
the world, I again saw him in New York, where I so often saw him while he
was shaping himself for that heroic enterprise. He would come to me, and
talk sorrowfully over his financial ruin, and picture it to himself as
the stuff of some unhappy dream, which, after long prosperity, had
culminated the wrong way. It was very melancholy, very touching, but the
sorrow to which he had come home from his long journey had not that
forlorn bewilderment in it. He was looking wonderfully well, and when I
wanted the name of his elixir, he said it was plasmon. He was apt, for a
man who had put faith so decidedly away from him, to take it back and pin
it to some superstition, usually of a hygienic sort. Once, when he was
well on in years, he came to New York without glasses, and announced that
he and all his family, so astigmatic and myopic and old-sighted, had, so
to speak, burned their spectacles behind them upon the instruction of
some sage who had found out that they were a delusion. The next time he
came he wore spectacles freely, almost ostentatiously, and I heard from
others that the whole Clemens family had been near losing their eyesight
by the miracle worked in their behalf. Now, I was not surprised to learn
that "the damned human race" was to be saved by plasmon, if anything, and
that my first duty was to visit the plasmon agency with him, and procure
enough plasmon to secure my family against the ills it was heir to for
evermore. I did not immediately understand that plasmon was one of the
investments which he had made from "the substance of things hoped for,"
and in the destiny of a disastrous disappointment. But after paying off
the creditors of his late publishing firm, he had to do something with
his money, and it was not his fault if he did not make a fortune out of


For a time it was a question whether he should not go back with his
family to their old home in Hartford. Perhaps the father's and mother's
hearts drew them there all the more strongly because of the grief written
ineffaceably over it, but for the younger ones it was no longer the
measure of the world. It was easier for all to stay on indefinitely in
New York, which is a sojourn without circumstance, and equally the home
of exile and of indecision. The Clemenses took a pleasant, spacious
house at Riverdale, on the Hudson, and there I began to see them again on
something like the sweet old terms. They lived far more unpretentiously
than they used, and I think with a notion of economy, which they had
never very successfully practised. I recall that at the end of a certain
year in Hartford, when they had been saving and paying cash for
everything, Clemens wrote, reminding me of their avowed experiment, and
asking me to guess how many bills they had at New Year's; he hastened to
say that a horse-car would not have held them. At Riverdale they kept no
carriage, and there was a snowy night when I drove up to their handsome
old mansion in the station carryall, which was crusted with mud as from
the going down of the Deluge after transporting Noah and his family from
the Ark to whatever point they decided to settle at provisionally. But
the good talk, the rich talk, the talk that could never suffer poverty of
mind or soul, was there, and we jubilantly found ourselves again in our
middle youth. It was the mighty moment when Clemens was building his
engines of war for the destruction of Christian Science, which
superstition nobody, and he least of all, expected to destroy. It would
not be easy to say whether in his talk of it his disgust for the
illiterate twaddle of Mrs. Eddy's book, or his admiration of her genius
for organization was the greater. He believed that as a religious
machine the Christian Science Church was as perfect as the Roman Church
and destined to be, more formidable in its control of the minds of men.
He looked for its spread over the whole of Christendom, and throughout
the winter he spent at Riverdale he was ready to meet all listeners more
than half-way with his convictions of its powerful grasp of the average
human desire to get something for nothing. The vacuous vulgarity of its
texts was a perpetual joy to him, while he bowed with serious respect to
the sagacity which built so securely upon the everlasting rock of human
credulity and folly.

An interesting phase of his psychology in this business was not only his
admiration for the masterly, policy of the Christian Science hierarchy,
but his willingness to allow the miracles of its healers to be tried on
his friends and family, if they wished it. He had a tender heart for the
whole generation of empirics, as well as the newer sorts of scientitians,
but he seemed to base his faith in them largely upon the failure of the
regulars rather than upon their own successes, which also he believed in.
He was recurrently, but not insistently, desirous that you should try
their strange magics when you were going to try the familiar medicines.


The order of my acquaintance, or call it intimacy, with Clemens was this:
our first meeting in Boston, my visits to him in Hartford, his visits to
me in Cambridge, in Belmont, and in Boston, our briefer and less frequent
meetings in Paris and New York, all with repeated interruptions through
my absences in Europe, and his sojourns in London, Berlin, Vienna, and
Florence, and his flights to the many ends, and odds and ends, of the
earth. I will not try to follow the events, if they were not rather the
subjective experiences, of those different periods and points of time
which I must not fail to make include his summer at York Harbor, and his
divers residences in New York, on Tenth Street and on Fifth Avenue, at
Riverdale, and at Stormfield, which his daughter has told me he loved
best of all his houses and hoped to make his home for long years.

Not much remains to me of the week or so that we had together in Paris
early in the summer of 1904. The first thing I got at my bankers was a
cable message announcing that my father was stricken with paralysis, but
urging my stay for further intelligence, and I went about, till the final
summons came, with my head in a mist of care and dread. Clemens was very
kind and brotherly through it all. He was living greatly to his mind in
one of those arcaded little hotels in the Rue de Rivoli, and he was free
from all household duties to range with me. We drove together to make
calls of digestion at many houses where he had got indigestion through
his reluctance from their hospitality, for he hated dining out. But,
as he explained, his wife wanted him to make these visits, and he did it,
as he did everything she wanted. 'At one place, some suburban villa,
he could get no answer to his ring, and he "hove" his cards over the gate
just as it opened, and he had the shame of explaining in his
unexplanatory French to the man picking them up. He was excruciatingly
helpless with his cabmen, but by very cordially smiling and casting
himself on the drivers' mercy he always managed to get where he wanted.
The family was on the verge of their many moves, and he was doing some
small errands; he said that the others did the main things, and left him
to do what the cat might.

It was with that return upon the buoyant billow of plasmon, renewed in
look and limb, that Clemens's universally pervasive popularity began in
his own country. He had hitherto been more intelligently accepted or
more largely imagined in Europe, and I suppose it was my sense of this
that inspired the stupidity of my saying to him when we came to consider
"the state of polite learning" among us, "You mustn't expect people to
keep it up here as they do in England." But it appeared that his
countrymen were only wanting the chance, and they kept it up in honor of
him past all precedent. One does not go into a catalogue of dinners,
receptions, meetings, speeches, and the like, when there are more vital
things to speak of. He loved these obvious joys, and he eagerly strove
with the occasions they gave him for the brilliancy which seemed so
exhaustless and was so exhausting. His friends saw that he was wearing
himself out, and it was not because of Mrs. Clemens's health alone that
they were glad to have him take refuge at Riverdale. The family lived
there two happy, hopeless years, and then it was ordered that they should
change for his wife's sake to some less exacting climate. Clemens was
not eager to go to Florence, but his imagination was taken as it would
have been in the old-young days by the notion of packing his furniture
into flexible steel cages from his house in Hartford and unpacking it
from them untouched at his villa in Fiesole. He got what pleasure any
man could out of that triumph of mind over matter, but the shadow was
creeping up his life. One sunny afternoon we sat on the grass before the
mansion, after his wife had begun to get well enough for removal, and we
looked up toward a balcony where by-and-by that lovely presence made
itself visible, as if it had stooped there from a cloud. A hand frailly
waved a handkerchief; Clemens ran over the lawn toward it, calling
tenderly: "What? What?" as if it might be an asking for him instead of
the greeting it really was for me. It was the last time I saw her, if
indeed I can be said to have seen her then, and long afterward when I
said how beautiful we all thought her, how good, how wise, how
wonderfully perfect in every relation of life, he cried out in a breaking
voice: "Oh, why didn't you ever tell her? She thought you didn't like
her." What a pang it was then not to have told her, but how could we
have told her? His unreason endeared him to me more than all his wisdom.

To that Riverdale sojourn belong my impressions of his most violent anti-
Christian Science rages, which began with the postponement of his book,
and softened into acceptance of the delay till he had well-nigh forgotten
his wrath when it come out. There was also one of those joint episodes
of ours, which, strangely enough, did not eventuate in entire failure, as
most of our joint episodes did. He wrote furiously to me of a wrong
which had been done to one of the most helpless and one of the most
helped of our literary brethren, asking me to join with him in recovering
the money paid over by that brother's publisher to a false friend who had
withheld it and would not give any account of it. Our hapless brother
had appealed to Clemens, as he had to me, with the facts, but not asking
our help, probably because he knew he need not ask; and Clemens enclosed
to me a very taking-by-the-throat message which he proposed sending to
the false friend. For once I had some sense, and answered that this
would never do, for we had really no power in the matter, and I contrived
a letter to the recreant so softly diplomatic that I shall always think
of it with pride when my honesties no longer give me satisfaction, saying
that this incident had come to our knowledge, and suggesting that we felt
sure he would not finally wish to withhold the money. Nothing more,
practically, than that, but that was enough; there came promptly back a
letter of justification, covering a very substantial check, which we
hilariously forwarded to our beneficiary. But the helpless man who was
so used to being helped did not answer with the gladness I, at least,
expected of him. He acknowledged the check as he would any ordinary
payment, and then he made us observe that there was still a large sum due
him out of the moneys withheld. At this point I proposed to Clemens that
we should let the nonchalant victim collect the remnant himself. Clouds
of sorrow had gathered about the bowed head of the delinquent since we
began on him, and my fickle sympathies were turning his way from the
victim who was really to blame for leaving his affairs so unguardedly to
him in the first place. Clemens made some sort of grit assent, and we
dropped the matter. He was more used to ingratitude from those he helped
than I was, who found being lain down upon not so amusing as he found my
revolt. He reckoned I was right, he said, and after that I think we
never recurred to the incident. It was not ingratitude that he ever
minded; it was treachery, that really maddened him past forgiveness.


During the summer he spent at York Harbor I was only forty minutes away
at Kittery Point, and we saw each other often; but this was before the
last time at Riverdale. He had a wide, low cottage in a pine grove
overlooking York River, and we used to sit at a corner of the veranda
farthest away from Mrs. Clemens's window, where we could read our
manuscripts to each other, and tell our stories, and laugh our hearts out
without disturbing her. At first she had been about the house, and there
was one gentle afternoon when she made tea for us in the parlor, but that
was the last time I spoke with her. After that it was really a question
of how soonest and easiest she could be got back to Riverdale; but, of
course, there were specious delays in which she seemed no worse and
seemed a little better, and Clemens could work at a novel he had begun.
He had taken a room in the house of a friend and neighbor, a fisherman
and boatman; there was a table where he could write, and a bed where he
could lie down and read; and there, unless my memory has played me one of
those constructive tricks that people's memories indulge in, he read me
the first chapters of an admirable story. The scene was laid in a
Missouri town, and the characters such as he had known in boyhood; but as
often as I tried to make him own it, he denied having written any such
story; it is possible that I dreamed it, but I hope the MS. will yet be
found. Upon reflection I cannot believe that I dreamed it, and I cannot
believe that it was an effect of that sort of pseudomnemonics which I
have mentioned. The characters in the novel are too clearly outlined in
my recollection, together with some critical reservations of my own
concerning them. Not only does he seem to have read me those first
chapters, but to have talked them over with me and outlined the whole

I cannot say whether or not he believed that his wife would recover; he
fought the fear of her death to the end; for her life was far more
largely his than the lives of most men's wives are theirs. For his own
life I believe he would never have much cared, if I may trust a saying of
one who was so absolutely without pose as he was. He said that he never
saw a dead man whom he did not envy for having had it over and being done
with it. Life had always amused him, and in the resurgence of its
interests after his sorrow had ebbed away he was again deeply interested
in the world and in the human race, which, though damned, abounded in
subjects of curious inquiry. When the time came for his wife's removal
from York Harbor I went with him to Boston, where he wished to look up
the best means of her conveyance to New York. The inquiry absorbed him:
the sort of invalid car he could get; how she could be carried to the
village station; how the car could be detached from the eastern train at
Boston and carried round to the southern train on the other side of the
city, and then how it could be attached to the Hudson River train at New
York and left at Riverdale. There was no particular of the business
which he did not scrutinize and master, not only with his poignant
concern for her welfare, but with his strong curiosity as to how these
unusual things were done with the usual means. With the inertness that
grows upon an aging man he had been used to delegating more and more
things, but of that thing I perceived that he would not delegate the
least detail.

He had meant never to go abroad again, but when it came time to go he did
not look forward to returning; he expected to live in Florence always
after that; they were used to the life and they had been happy there some
years earlier before he went with his wife for the cure of Nauheim. But
when he came home again it was for good and all. It was natural that he
should wish to live in New York, where they had already had a pleasant
year in Tenth Street. I used to see him there in an upper room, looking
south over a quiet open space of back yards where we fought our battles
in behalf of the Filipinos and the Boers, and he carried on his campaign
against the missionaries in China. He had not yet formed his habit of
lying for whole days in bed and reading and writing there, yet he was a
good deal in bed, from weakness, I suppose, and for the mere comfort of

My perspectives are not very clear, and in the foreshortening of events
which always takes place in our review of the past I may not always time
things aright. But I believe it was not until he had taken his house at
21 Fifth Avenue that he began to talk to me of writing his autobiography.
He meant that it should be a perfectly veracious record of his life and
period; for the first time in literature there should be a true history
of a man and a true presentation of the men the man had known. As we
talked it over the scheme enlarged itself in our riotous fancy. We said
it should be not only a book, it should be a library, not only a library,
but a literature. It should make good the world's loss through Omar's
barbarity at Alexandria; there was no image so grotesque, so extravagant
that we did not play with it; and the work so far as he carried it was
really done on a colossal scale. But one day he said that as to veracity
it was a failure; he had begun to lie, and that if no man ever yet told
the truth about himself it was because no man ever could. How far he had
carried his autobiography I cannot say; he dictated the matter several
hours each day; and the public has already seen long passages from it,
and can judge, probably, of the make and matter of the whole from these.
It is immensely inclusive, and it observes no order or sequence. Whether
now, after his death, it will be published soon or late I have no means
of knowing. Once or twice he said in a vague way that it was not to be
published for twenty years, so that the discomfort of publicity might be
minimized for all the survivors. Suddenly he told me he was not working
at it; but I did not understand whether he had finished it or merely
dropped it; I never asked.

We lived in the same city, but for old men rather far apart, he at Tenth
Street and I at Seventieth, and with our colds and other disabilities we
did not see each other often. He expected me to come to him, and I would
not without some return of my visits, but we never ceased to be friends,
and good friends, so far as I know. I joked him once as to how I was
going to come out in his autobiography, and he gave me some sort of
joking reassurance. There was one incident, however, that brought us
very frequently and actively together. He came one Sunday afternoon to
have me call with him on Maxim Gorky, who was staying at a hotel a few
streets above mine. We were both interested in Gorky, Clemens rather
more as a revolutionist and I as a realist, though I too wished the
Russian Tsar ill, and the novelist well in his mission to the Russian
sympathizers in this republic. But I had lived through the episode of
Kossuth's visit to us and his vain endeavor to raise funds for the
Hungarian cause in 1851, when we were a younger and nobler nation than
now, with hearts if not hands, opener to the "oppressed of Europe"; the
oppressed of America, the four or five millions of slaves, we did not
count. I did not believe that Gorky could get the money for the cause of
freedom in Russia which he had come to get; as I told a valued friend of
his and mine, I did not believe he could get twenty-five hundred dollars,
and I think now I set the figure too high. I had already refused to sign
the sort of general appeal his friends were making to our principles and
pockets because I felt it so wholly idle, and when the paper was produced
in Gorky's presence and Clemens put his name to it I still refused. The
next day Gorky was expelled from his hotel with the woman who was not his
wife, but who, I am bound to say, did not look as if she were not, at
least to me, who am, however, not versed in those aspects of human

I might have escaped unnoted, but Clemens's familiar head gave us away to
the reporters waiting at the elevator's mouth for all who went to see
Gorky. As it was, a hunt of interviewers ensued for us severally and
jointly. I could remain aloof in my hotel apartment, returning answer to
such guardians of the public right to know everything that I had nothing
to say of Gorky's domestic affairs; for the public interest had now
strayed far from the revolution, and centred entirely upon these. But
with Clemens it was different; he lived in a house with a street door
kept by a single butler, and he was constantly rung for. I forget how
long the siege lasted, but long enough for us to have fun with it. That
was the moment of the great Vesuvian eruption, and we figured ourselves
in easy reach of a volcano which was every now and then "blowing a cone
off," as the telegraphic phrase was. The roof of the great market in
Naples had just broken in under its load of ashes and cinders, and
crashed hundreds of people; and we asked each other if we were not sorry
we had not been there, where the pressure would have been far less
terrific than it was with us in Fifth Avenue. The forbidden butler came
up with a message that there were some gentlemen below who wanted to see

"How many?" he demanded.

"Five," the butler faltered.


The butler feigned uncertainty.

"What would you do?" he asked me.

"I wouldn't see them," I said, and then Clemens went directly down to
them. How or by what means he appeased their voracity I cannot say, but
I fancy it was by the confession of the exact truth, which was harmless
enough. They went away joyfully, and he came back in radiant
satisfaction with having seen them. Of course he was right and I wrong,
and he was right as to the point at issue between Gorky and those who had
helplessly treated him with such cruel ignominy. In America it is not
the convention for men to live openly in hotels with women who are not
their wives. Gorky had violated this convention and he had to pay the
penalty; and concerning the destruction of his efficiency as an emissary
of the revolution, his blunder was worse than a crime.


To the period of Clemens's residence in Fifth Avenue belongs his
efflorescence in white serge. He was always rather aggressively
indifferent about dress, and at a very early date in our acquaintance
Aldrich and I attempted his reform by clubbing to buy him a cravat.
But he would not put away his stiff little black bow, and until he
imagined the suit of white serge, he wore always a suit of black serge,
truly deplorable in the cut of the sagging frock. After his measure had
once been taken he refused to make his clothes the occasion of personal
interviews with his tailor; he sent the stuff by the kind elderly woman
who had been in the service of the family from the earliest days of his
marriage, and accepted the result without criticism. But the white serge
was an inspiration which few men would have had the courage to act upon.
The first time I saw him wear it was at the authors' hearing before the
Congressional Committee on Copyright in Washington. Nothing could have
been more dramatic than the gesture with which he flung off his long
loose overcoat, and stood forth in white from his feet to the crown of
his silvery head. It was a magnificent coup, and he dearly loved a coup;
but the magnificent speech which he made, tearing to shreds the venerable
farrago of nonsense about nonproperty in ideas which had formed the basis
of all copyright legislation, made you forget even his spectacularity.

It is well known how proud he was of his Oxford gown, not merely because
it symbolized the honor in which he was held by the highest literary body
in the world, but because it was so rich and so beautiful. The red and
the lavender of the cloth flattered his eyes as the silken black of the
same degree of Doctor of Letters, given him years before at Yale, could
not do. His frank, defiant happiness in it, mixed with a due sense of
burlesque, was something that those lacking his poet-soul could never
imagine; they accounted it vain, weak; but that would not have mattered
to him if he had known it. In his London sojourn he had formed the top-
hat habit, and for a while he lounged splendidly up and down Fifth Avenue
in that society emblem; but he seemed to tire of it, and to return kindly
to the soft hat of his Southwestern tradition.

He disliked clubs; I don't know whether he belonged to any in New York,
but I never met him in one. As I have told, he himself had formed the
Human Race Club, but as he never could get it together it hardly counted.
There was to have been a meeting of it the time of my only visit to
Stormfield in April of last year; but of three who were to have come I
alone came. We got on very well without the absentees, after finding
them in the wrong, as usual, and the visit was like those I used to have
with him so many years before in Hartford, but there was not the old
ferment of subjects. Many things had been discussed and put away for
good, but we had our old fondness for nature and for each other, who were
so differently parts of it. He showed his absolute content with his
house, and that was the greater pleasure for me because it was my son who
designed it. The architect had been so fortunate as to be able to plan
it where a natural avenue of savins, the closeknit, slender, cypress-like
cedars of New England, led away from the rear of the villa to the little
level of a pergola, meant some day to be wreathed and roofed with vines.
But in the early spring days all the landscape was in the beautiful
nakedness of the northern winter. It opened in the surpassing loveliness
of wooded and meadowed uplands, under skies that were the first days
blue, and the last gray over a rainy and then a snowy floor. We walked
up and down, up and down, between the villa terrace and the pergola, and
talked with the melancholy amusement, the sad tolerance of age for the
sort of men and things that used to excite us or enrage us; now we were
far past turbulence or anger. Once we took a walk together across the
yellow pastures to a chasmal creek on his grounds, where the ice still
knit the clayey banks together like crystal mosses; and the stream far
down clashed through and over the stones and the shards of ice. Clemens
pointed out the scenery he had bought to give himself elbow-room, and
showed me the lot he was going to have me build on. The next day we came
again with the geologist he had asked up to Stormfield to analyze its
rocks. Truly he loved the place, though he had been so weary of change
and so indifferent to it that he never saw it till he came to live in it.
He left it all to the architect whom he had known from a child in the
intimacy which bound our families together, though we bodily lived far
enough apart. I loved his little ones and he was sweet to mine and was
their delighted-in and wondered-at friend. Once and once again, and yet
again and again, the black shadow that shall never be lifted where it
falls, fell in his house and in mine, during the forty years and more
that we were friends, and endeared us the more to each other.


My visit at Stormfield came to an end with tender relucting on his part
and on mine. Every morning before I dressed I heard him sounding my name
through the house for the fun of it and I know for the fondness; and if I
looked out of my door, there he was in his long nightgown swaying up and
down the corridor, and wagging his great white head like a boy that
leaves his bed and comes out in the hope of frolic with some one. The
last morning a soft sugarsnow had fallen and was falling, and I drove
through it down to the station in the carriage which had been given him
by his wife's father when they were first married, and been kept all
those intervening years in honorable retirement for this final use. Its
springs had not grown yielding with time; it had rather the stiffness and
severity of age; but for him it must have swung low like the sweet
chariot of the negro "spiritual" which I heard him sing with such fervor,
when those wonderful hymns of the slaves began to make their way
northward. 'Go Down, Daniel', was one in which I can hear his quavering
tenor now. He was a lover of the things he liked, and full of a passion
for them which satisfied itself in reading them matchlessly aloud. No
one could read 'Uncle Remus' like him; his voice echoed the voices of the
negro nurses who told his childhood the wonderful tales. I remember
especially his rapture with Mr. Cable's 'Old Creole Days,' and the
thrilling force with which he gave the forbidding of the leper's brother
when the city's survey ran the course of an avenue through the cottage
where the leper lived in hiding: "Strit must not pass!"

Out of a nature rich and fertile beyond any I have known, the material
given him by the Mystery that makes a man and then leaves him to make
himself over, he wrought a character of high nobility upon a foundation
of clear and solid truth. At the last day he will not have to confess
anything, for all his life was the free knowledge of any one who would
ask him of it. The Searcher of hearts will not bring him to shame at
that day, for he did not try to hide any of the things for which he was
often so bitterly sorry. He knew where the Responsibility lay, and he
took a man's share of it bravely; but not the less fearlessly he left the
rest of the answer to the God who had imagined men.

It is in vain that I try to give a notion of the intensity with which he
pierced to the heart of life, and the breadth of vision with which he
compassed the whole world, and tried for the reason of things, and then
left trying. We had other meetings, insignificantly sad and brief; but
the last time I saw him alive 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.

Next I saw him dead, lying in his coffin amid those flowers with which we
garland our despair in that pitiless hour. After the voice of his old
friend Twichell had been lifted in the prayer which it wailed through in
broken-hearted supplication, 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 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. Emerson,
Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes--I knew them all and all the rest of our
sages, poets, seers, critics, humorists; they were like one another and
like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln
of our literature.


Absolute devotion to the day of her death,
Absolutely, so positively, so almost aggressively truthful
Addressed to their tenderness out of his tenderness
Amiable perception, and yet with a sort of remote absence
Amuse him, even when they wronged him
Amusingly realized the situation to their friends
But now I remember that he gets twenty dollars a month"
Christianity had done nothing to improve morals and conditions
Church: "Oh yes, I go It 'most kills me, but I go,"
Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature
Despair broke in laughter
Despised the avoidance of repetitions out of fear of tautology
Everlasting rock of human credulity and folly
Flowers with which we garland our despair in that pitiless hour
He did not care much for fiction
He did not paw you with his hands to show his affection
He was a youth to the end of his days
Heroic lies
His coming almost killed her, but it was worth it
Honest men are few when it comes to themselves
It was mighty pretty, as Pepys would say
Jane Austen
Left him to do what the cat might
Lie, of course, and did to save others from grief or harm
Liked to find out good things and great things for himself
Livy Clemens: nthe loveliest person I have ever seen
Marriages are what the parties to them alone really know
Mind and soul were with those who do the hard work of the world
Mock modesty of print forbids my repeating here
Most desouthernized Southerner I ever knew
Most serious, the most humane, the most conscientious of men
Nearly nothing as chaos could be
Never saw a dead man whom he did not envy
Never saw a man more regardful of negroes
No man ever yet told the truth about himself
No man more perfectly sensed and more entirely abhorred slavery
Not possible for Clemens to write like anybody else
Ought not to call coarse without calling one's self prudish
Polite learning hesitated his praise
Praised it enough to satisfy the author
Reparation due from every white to every black man
Shackles of belief worn so long
Some superstition, usually of a hygienic sort
Stupidly truthful
The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it
Used to ingratitude from those he helped
Vacuous vulgarity of its texts
Walter-Scotticized, pseudo-chivalry of the Southern ideal
We have never ended before, and we do not see how we can end
Well, if you are to be lost, I want to be lost with you
What he had done he owned to, good, bad, or indifferent
Whether every human motive was not selfish
Wonder why we hate the past so--"It's so damned humiliating!"


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