Of Literature (Entire)
William Dean Howells

Part 6 out of 15

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!"


Absolute devotion to the day of her death,
Absolutely, so positively, so almost aggressively truthful
Abstract, the air-drawn, afflicted me like physical discomforts
Act officiously, not officially
Addressed to their tenderness out of his tenderness
Always sumptuously providing out of his destitution
Amiable perception, and yet with a sort of remote absence
Amuse him, even when they wronged him
Amusingly realized the situation to their friends
Anglo-American genius for ugliness
Appeal, which he had come to recognize as invasive
Appeared to have no grudge left
Backed their credulity with their credit
Bayard Taylor: incomparable translation of Faust
Became gratefully strange
Best talkers are willing that you should talk if you like
But now I remember that he gets twenty dollars a month"
Candle burning on the table for the cigars
Celia Thaxter
Charles Reade
Charles F. Browne
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
Collective opacity
Confidence I have nearly always felt when wrong
Could make us feel that our faults were other people's
Could easily believe now that it was some one else who saw it
Could only by chance be caught in earnest about anything
Couldn't fire your revolver without bringing down a two volumer
Dawn upon him through a cloud of other half remembered faces
Death of the joy that ought to come from work
Death's vague conjectures to the broken expectations of life
Despair broke in laughter
Despised the avoidance of repetitions out of fear of tautology
Did not feel the effect I would so willingly have experienced
Dinner was at the old-fashioned Boston hour of two
Discomfort which mistaken or blundering praise
Dollars were of so much farther flight than now
Edmund Quincy
Edward Everett Hale
Either to deny the substance of things unseen, or to affirm it
Enjoying whatever was amusing in the disadvantage to himself
Espoused the theory of Bacon's authorship of Shakespeare
Ethical sense, not the aesthetical sense
Everlasting rock of human credulity and folly
Expectation of those who will come no more
Express the appreciation of another's fit word
Feigned the gratitude which I could see that he expected
Fell either below our pride or rose above our purse
Felt that this was my misfortune more than my fault
Few men last over from one reform to another
First dinner served in courses that I had sat down to
Flowers with which we garland our despair in that pitiless hour
Forbearance of a wise man content to bide his time
Forebore to speak needlessly to him, or to shake his hand
Found life was not all poetry
Francis Parkman
Gay laugh comes across the abysm of the years
Generous lover of all that was excellent in literature
George William Curtis
Giggle which Charles Lamb found the best thing in life
Give him your best wine
Got out of it all the fun there was in it
Greeting of great impersonal cordiality
Grieving that there could be such ire in heavenly minds
Hard of hearing on one side. But it isn't deafness
Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Autocrat clashed upon homeopathy
Hate of hate, the scorn of scorn, The love of love
He was not bored because he would not be
He did not care much for fiction
He was not constructive; he was essentially observant
He had no time to make money
He was a youth to the end of his days
He did not paw you with his hands to show his affection
Heroic lies
His remembrance absolutely ceased with an event
His readers trusted and loved him
His enemies suffered from it almost as much as his friends
His coming almost killed her, but it was worth it
His plays were too bad for the stage, or else too good for it
Hollowness, the hopelessness, the unworthiness of life
Honest men are few when it comes to themselves
I find this young man worthy
I believe neither in heroes nor in saints
I did not know, and I hated to ask
If he was half as bad, he would have been too bad to be
If he was not there to your touch, it was no fault of his
In the South there was nothing but a mistaken social ideal
Incredible in their insipidity
Industrial slavery
Insatiable English fancy for the wild America no longer there
Intellectual poseurs
It is well to hold one's country to her promises
It was mighty pretty, as Pepys would say
Jane Austen
Julia Ward Howe
Left him to do what the cat might
Lie, of course, and did to save others from grief or harm
Liked being with you, not for what he got, but for what he gave
Liked to find out good things and great things for himself
Literary dislikes or contempts
Livy Clemens: nthe loveliest person I have ever seen
Long breath was not his; he could not write a novel
Looked as if Destiny had sat upon it
Love of freedom and the hope of justice
Love and gratitude are only semi-articulate at the best
Made all men trust him when they doubted his opinions
Man who may any moment be out of work is industrially a slave
Man who had so much of the boy in him
Marriages are what the parties to them alone really know
Mellow cordial of a voice that was like no other
Memory will not be ruled
Men who took themselves so seriously as that need
Men's lives ended where they began, in the keeping of women
Met with kindness, if not honor
Might so far forget myself as to be a novelist
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
Napoleonic height which spiritually overtops the Alps
Nearly nothing as chaos could be
Never saw a man more regardful of negroes
Never saw a dead man whom he did not envy
Never paid in anything but hopes of paying
No man ever yet told the truth about himself
No time to make money
No man more perfectly sensed and more entirely abhorred slavery
Not quite himself till he had made you aware of his quality
Not a man who cared to transcend; he liked bounds
Not much patience with the unmanly craving for sympathy
Not much of a talker, and almost nothing of a story-teller
Not possible for Clemens to write like anybody else
Now death has come to join its vague conjectures
NYC, a city where money counts for more and goes for less
Odious hilarity, without meaning and without remission
Offers mortifyingly mean, and others insultingly vague
Old man's tendency to revert to the past
Old man's disposition to speak of his infirmities
One could be openly poor in Cambridge without open shame
Only one concerned who was quite unconcerned
Ought not to call coarse without calling one's self prudish
Pathos of revolt from the colorless rigidities
Person who wished to talk when he could listen
Plain-speaking or Rude Speaking
Pointed the moral in all they did
Polite learning hesitated his praise
Praised it enough to satisfy the author
Praised extravagantly, and in the wrong place
Put your finger on the present moment and enjoy it
Quarrel was with error, and not with the persons who were in it
Quebec was a bit of the seventeenth century
Reformers, who are so often tedious and ridiculous
Remember the dinner-bell
Reparation due from every white to every black man
Secret of the man who is universally interesting
Seen through the wrong end of the telescope
Shackles of belief worn so long
Shy of his fellow-men, as the scholar seems always to be
So refined, after the gigantic coarseness of California
Some superstition, usually of a hygienic sort
Sometimes they sacrificed the song to the sermon
Sought the things that he could agree with you upon
Spare his years the fatigue of recalling your identity
Standards were their own, and they were satisfied with them
Study in a corner by the porch
Stupidly truthful
The world is well lost whenever the world is wrong
The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it
Things common to all, however peculiar in each
Those who have sorrowed deepest will understand this best
Times when a man's city was a man's country
Tired themselves out in trying to catch up with him
True to an ideal of life rather than to life itself
Turn of the talk toward the mystical
Used to ingratitude from those he helped
Vacuous vulgarity of its texts
Visited one of the great mills
Walter-Scotticized, pseudo-chivalry of the Southern ideal
Wasted face, and his gay eyes had the death-look
We have never ended before, and we do not see how we can end
Welcome me, and make the least of my shyness and strangeness
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
When to be an agnostic was to be almost an outcast
Whether every human motive was not selfish
Whitman's public use of his privately written praise
Wit that tries its teeth upon everything
Women's rights
Wonder why we hate the past so--"It's so damned humiliating!"
Wonderful to me how it should remain so unintelligible
Work gives the impression of an uncommon continuity
Wrote them first and last in the spirit of Dickens


by William Dean Howells

Man of Letters in Business
Confessions of a Summer Colonist
The Young Contributor
Last Days in a Dutch Hotel
Anomalies of the Short Story
Spanish Prisoners of War
American Literary Centers
Standard Household Effect Co.
Notes of a Vanished Summer
Worries of a Winter Walk
Summer Isles of Eden
Wild Flowers of the Asphalt
A Circus in the Suburbs
A She Hamlet
The Midnight Platoon
The Beach at Rockaway
Sawdust in the Arena
At a Dime Museum
American Literature in Exile
The Horse Show
The Problem of the Summer
Aesthetic New York Fifty-odd Years Ago
From New York into New England
The Art of the Adsmith
The Psychology of Plagiarism
Puritanism in American Fiction
The What and How in Art
Politics in American Authors
"Floating down the River on the O-hi-o"

LITERATURE AND LIFE--The Man of Letters as a Man of Business

by William Dean Howells


Perhaps the reader may not feel in these papers that inner solidarity
which the writer is conscious of; and it is in this doubt that the writer
wishes to offer a word of explanation. He owns, as he must, that they
have every appearance of a group of desultory sketches and essays,
without palpable relation to one another, or superficial allegiance to
any central motive. Yet he ventures to hope that the reader who makes
his way through them will be aware, in the retrospect, of something like
this relation and this allegiance.

For my own part, if I am to identify myself with the writer who is here
on his defence, I have never been able to see much difference between
what seemed to me Literature and what seemed to me Life. If I did not
find life in what professed to be literature, I disabled its profession,
and possibly from this habit, now inveterate with me, I am never quite
sure of life unless I find literature in it. Unless the thing seen
reveals to me an intrinsic poetry, and puts on phrases that clothe it
pleasingly to the imagination, I do not much care for it; but if it will
do this, I do not mind how poor or common or squalid it shows at first
glance: it challenges my curiosity and keeps my sympathy. Instantly I
love it and wish to share my pleasure in it with some one else, or as
many ones else as I can get to look or listen. If the thing is something
read, rather than seen, I am not anxious about the matter: if it is like
life, I know that it is poetry, and take it to my heart. There can be no
offence in it for which its truth will not make me amends.

Out of this way of thinking and feeling about these two great things,
about Literature and Life, there may have arisen a confusion as to which
is which. But I do not wish to part them, and in their union I have
found, since I learned my letters, a joy in them both which I hope will
last till I forget my letters.

"So was it when my life began;
So is it, now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old."

It is the rainbow in the sky for me; and I have seldom seen a sky without
some bit of rainbow in it. Sometimes I can make others see it, sometimes
not; but I always like to try, and if I fail I harbor no worse thought of
them than that they have not had their eyes examined and fitted with
glasses which would at least have helped their vision.

As to the where and when of the different papers, in which I suppose
their bibliography properly lies, I need not be very exact. "The Man of
Letters as a Man of Business" was written in a hotel at Lakewood in the
May of 1892 or 1893, and pretty promptly printed in Scribner's Magazine;
"Confessions of a Summer Colonist" was done at York Harbor in the fall of
1898 for the Atlantic Monthly, and was a study of life at that pleasant
resort as it was lived-in the idyllic times of the earlier settlement,
long before motors and almost before private carriages; "American
Literary Centres," "American Literature in Exile," "Puritanism in
American Fiction," "Politics of American Authors," were, with three or
four other papers, the endeavors of the American correspondent of the
London Times's literary supplement, to enlighten the British
understanding as to our ways of thinking and writing eleven years ago,
and are here left to bear the defects of the qualities of their obsolete
actuality in the year 1899. Most of the studies and sketches are from an
extinct department of "Life and Letters" which I invented for Harper's
Weekly, and operated for a year or so toward the close of the nineteenth
century. Notable among these is the "Last Days in a Dutch Hotel," which
was written at Paris in 1897; it is rather a favorite of mine, perhaps
because I liked Holland so much; others, which more or less personally
recognize effects of sojourn in New York or excursions into New England,
are from the same department; several may be recalled by the longer-
memoried reader as papers from the "Editor's Easy Chair" in Harper's
Monthly; "Wild Flowers of the Asphalt" is the review of an ever-
delightful book which I printed in Harper's Bazar; "The Editor's
Relations with the Young Contributor" was my endeavor in Youth's
Companion to shed a kindly light from my experience in both seats upon
the too-often and too needlessly embittered souls of literary beginners.

So it goes as to the motives and origins of the collection which may
persist in disintegrating under the reader's eye, in spite of my well-
meant endeavors to establish a solidarity for it. The group at least
attests, even in this event, the wide, the wild, variety of my literary
production in time and space. From the beginning the journalist's
independence of the scholar's solitude and seclusion has remained with
me, and though I am fond enough of a bookish entourage, of the serried
volumes of the library shelves, and the inviting breadth of the library
table, I am not disabled by the hard conditions of a bedroom in a summer
hotel, or the narrow possibilities of a candle-stand, without a
dictionary in the whole house, or a book of reference even in the running
brooks outside.



I think that every man ought to work for his living, without exception,
and that, when he has once avouched his willingness to work, society
should provide him with work and warrant him a living. I do not think
any man ought to live by an art. A man's art should be his privilege,
when he has proven his fitness to exercise it, and has otherwise earned
his daily bread; and its results should be free to all. There is an
instinctive sense of this, even in the midst of the grotesque confusion
of our economic being; people feel that there is something profane,
something impious, in taking money for a picture, or a poem, or a statue.
Most of all, the artist himself feels this. He puts on a bold front with
the world, to be sure, and brazens it out as Business; but he knows very
well that there is something false and vulgar in it; and that the work
which cannot be truly priced in money cannot be truly paid in money.
He can, of course, say that the priest takes money for reading the
marriage service, for christening the new-born babe, and for saying the
last office for the dead; that the physician sells healing; that justice
itself is paid for; and that he is merely a party to the thing that is
and must be. He can say that, as the thing is, unless he sells his art
he cannot live, that society will leave him to starve if he does not hit
its fancy in a picture, or a poem, or a statue; and all this is bitterly
true. He is, and he must be, only too glad if there is a market for his
wares. Without a market for his wares he must perish, or turn to making
something that will sell better than pictures, or poems, or statues.
All the same, the sin and the shame remain, and the averted eye sees them
still, with its inward vision. Many will make believe otherwise, but I
would rather not make believe otherwise; and in trying to write of
Literature as Business I am tempted to begin by saying that Business is
the opprobrium of Literature.


Literature is at once the most intimate and the most articulate of the
arts. It cannot impart its effect through the senses or the nerves as
the other arts can; it is beautiful only through the intelligence; it is
the mind speaking to the mind; until it has been put into absolute terms,
of an invariable significance, it does not exist at all. It cannot
awaken this emotion in one, and that in another; if it fails to express
precisely the meaning of the author, if it does not say him, it says
nothing, and is nothing. So that when a poet has put his heart, much or
little, into a poem, and sold it to a magazine, the scandal is greater
than when a painter has sold a picture to a patron, or a sculptor has
modelled a statue to order. These are artists less articulate and less
intimate than the poet; they are more exterior to their work; they are
less personally in it; they part with less of themselves in the dicker.
It does not change the nature of the case to say that Tennyson and
Longfellow and Emerson sold the poems in which they couched the most
mystical messages their genius was charged to bear mankind. They
submitted to the conditions which none can escape; but that does not
justify the conditions, which are none the less the conditions of
hucksters because they are imposed upon poets. If it will serve to make
my meaning a little clearer, we will suppose that a poet has been crossed
in love, or has suffered some real sorrow, like the loss of a wife or
child. He pours out his broken heart in verse that shall bring tears of
sacred sympathy from his readers, and an editor pays him a hundred
dollars for the right of bringing his verse to their notice. It is
perfectly true that the poem was not written for these dollars, but it is
perfectly true that it was sold for them. The poet must use his emotions
to pay his provision bills; he has no other means; society does not
propose to pay his bills for him. Yet, and at the end of the ends, the
unsophisticated witness finds the transaction ridiculous, finds it
repulsive, finds it shabby. Somehow he knows that if our huckstering
civilization did not at every moment violate the eternal fitness of
things, the poet's song would have been given to the world, and the poet
would have been cared for by the whole human brotherhood, as any man
should be who does the duty that every man owes it.

The instinctive sense of the dishonor which money-purchase does to art is
so strong that sometimes a man of letters who can pay his way otherwise
refuses pay for his work, as Lord Byron did, for a while, from a noble
pride, and as Count Tolstoy has tried to do, from a noble conscience.
But Byron's publisher profited by a generosity which did not reach his
readers; and the Countess Tolstoy collects the copyright which her
husband foregoes; so that these two eminent instances of protest against
business in literature may be said not to have shaken its money basis.
I know of no others; but there may be many that I am culpably ignorant
of. Still, I doubt if there are enough to affect the fact that
Literature is Business as well as Art, and almost as soon. At present
business is the only human solidarity; we are all bound together with
that chain, whatever interests and tastes and principles separate us,
and I feel quite sure that in writing of the Man of Letters as a Man of
Business I shall attract far more readers than I should in writing of him
as an Artist. Besides, as an artist he has been done a great deal
already; and a commercial state like ours has really more concern in him
as a business man. Perhaps it may sometime be different; I do not
believe it will till the conditions are different, and that is a long way


In the mean time I confidently appeal to the reader's imagination with
the fact that there are several men of letters among us who are such good
men of business that they can command a hundred dollars a thousand words
for all they write. It is easy to write a thousand words a day, and,
supposing one of these authors to work steadily, it can be seen that his
net earnings during the year would come to some such sum as the President
of the United States gets for doing far less work of a much more
perishable sort. If the man of letters were wholly a business man, this
is what would happen; he would make his forty or fifty thousand dollars a
year, and be able to consort with bank presidents, and railroad
officials, and rich tradesmen, and other flowers of our plutocracy on
equal terms. But, unfortunately, from a business point of view, he is
also an artist, and the very qualities that enable him to delight the
public disable him from delighting it uninterruptedly. "No rose blooms
right along," as the English boys at Oxford made an American collegian
say in a theme which they imagined for him in his national parlance; and
the man of letters, as an artist, is apt to have times and seasons when
he cannot blossom. Very often it shall happen that his mind will lie
fallow between novels or stories for weeks and months at a stretch; when
the suggestions of the friendly editor shall fail to fruit in the essays


Back to Full Books