The Boys' Life of Mark Twain
Albert Bigelow Paine
Part 3 out of 5
"Very well; the Bible says: `If any man require thee to walk a mile, go
with him Twain.'"
The walk was taken.
Mark Twain returned to California at the end of July, and went down to
Sacramento. It was agreed that a special bill should be made for the
"How much do you think it ought to be, Mark?" asked one of the
Clemens said: "Oh, I'm a modest man; I don't want the whole "Union"
office; call it a hundred dollars a column."
There was a general laugh. The bill was made out at that figure, and he
took it to the office for payment.
"The cashier didn't faint," he wrote many years later, "but he came
rather near it. He sent for the proprietors, and they only laughed in
their jolly fashion, and said it was robbery, but `no matter, pay it.
It's all right.' The best men that ever owned a paper." 
 "My Debut as a Literary Person."
MARK TWAIN, LECTURER
In spite of the success of his Sandwich Island letters, Samuel Clemens
felt, on his return to San Francisco, that his future was not bright. He
was not a good, all-round newspaper man--he was special correspondent and
sketch-writer, out of a job.
He had a number of plans, but they did not promise much. One idea was to
make a book from his Hawaiian material. Another was to write magazine
articles, beginning with one on the Hornet disaster. He did, in fact,
write the Hornet article, and its prompt acceptance by "Harper's
Magazine" delighted him, for it seemed a start in the right direction. A
third plan was to lecture on the islands.
This prospect frightened him. He had succeeded in his "Third House"
address of two years before, but then he had lectured without charge and
for a church benefit. This would be a different matter.
One of the proprietors of a San Francisco paper, Col. John McComb, of the
"Alta California," was strong in his approval of the lecture idea.
"Do it, by all means," he said. "Take the largest house in the city, and
charge a dollar a ticket."
Without waiting until his fright came back, Mark Twain hurried to the
manager of the Academy of Music, and engaged it for a lecture to be given
October 2d (1866), and sat down and wrote his announcement. He began by
stating what he would speak upon, and ended with a few absurdities, such
A SPLENDID ORCHESTRA
is in town, but has not been engaged.
A DEN OF FEROCIOUS WILD BEASTS
will be on exhibition in the next block.
A GRAND TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION
may be expected; in fact, the public are privileged to
expect whatever they please.
Doors open at 7 o'clock. The trouble to begin at 8 o'clock.
Mark Twain was well known in San Francisco, and was pretty sure to have a
good house. But he did not realize this, and, as the evening approached,
his dread of failure increased. Arriving at the theater, he entered by
the stage door, half expecting to find the place empty. Then, suddenly,
he became more frightened than ever; peering from the wings, he saw that
the house was jammed--packed from the footlights to the walls!
Terrified, his knees shaking, his tongue dry, he managed to emerge, and
was greeted with a roar, a crash of applause that nearly finished him.
Only for an instant--reaction followed; these people were his friends,
and he was talking to them. He forgot to be afraid, and, as the applause
came in great billows that rose ever higher, he felt himself borne with
it as on a tide of happiness and success. His evening, from beginning to
end, was a complete triumph. Friends declared that for descriptive
eloquence, humor, and real entertainment nothing like his address had
ever been delivered. The morning papers were enthusiastic.
Mark Twain no longer hesitated as to what he should do now. He would
lecture. The book idea no longer attracted him; the appearance of the
"Hornet" article, signed, through a printer's error, "Mark Swain," cooled
his desire to be a magazine contributor. No matter--lecturing was the
thing. Dennis McCarthy, who had sold his interest in the "Enterprise,"
was in San Francisco. Clemens engaged this honest, happy-hearted
Irishman as manager, and the two toured California and Nevada with
Those who remember Mark Twain as a lecturer in that early day say that on
entering he would lounge loosely across the platform, his manuscript--
written on wrapping-paper and carried under his arm--looking like a
ruffled hen. His delivery they recall as being even more quaint and
drawling than in later life. Once, when his lecture was over, an old man
came up to him and said:
"Be them your natural tones of eloquence?"
In those days it was thought proper that a lecturer should be introduced,
and Clemens himself used to tell of being presented by an old miner, who
"Ladies and gentlemen, I know only two things about this man: the first
is that he's never been in jail, and the second is, I don't know why."
When he reached Virginia, his old friend Goodman said, "Sam, you don't
need anybody to introduce you," and he suggested a novel plan. That
night, when the curtain rose, it showed Mark Twain seated at a piano,
playing and singing, as if still cub pilot on the "John J. Roe:"
"Had an old horse whose name was Methusalem,
Took him down and sold him in Jerusalem,
A long time ago."
Pretending to be surprised and startled at the burst of applause, he
sprang up and began to talk. How the audience enjoyed it!
Mark Twain continued his lecture tour into December, and then, on the
15th of that month, sailed by way of the Isthmus of Panama for New York.
He had made some money, and was going home to see his people. He had
planned to make a trip around the world later, contributing a series of
letters to the "Alta California," lecturing where opportunity afforded.
He had been on the Coast five and a half years, and to his professions of
printing and piloting had added three others--mining, journalism, and
lecturing. Also, he had acquired a measure of fame. He could come back
to his people with a good account of his absence and a good heart for the
But it seems now only a chance that he arrived at all. Crossing the
Isthmus, he embarked for New York on what proved to be a cholera ship.
For a time there were one or more funerals daily. An entry in his diary
"Since the last two hours all laughter, all levity, has ceased on the
ship--a settled gloom is upon the faces of the passengers.
"But the winter air of the North checked the contagion, and there
were no new cases when New York City was reached."
Clemens remained but a short time in New York, and was presently in St.
Louis with his mother and sister. They thought he looked old, but he had
not changed in manner, and the gay banter between mother and son was soon
as lively as ever. He was thirty-one now, and she sixty-four, but the
years had made little difference. She petted him, joked with him, and
scolded him. In turn, he petted and comforted and teased her. She
decided he was the same Sam and always would be--a true prophecy.
He visited Hannibal and lectured there, receiving an ovation that would
have satisfied even Tom Sawyer. In Keokuk he lectured again, then
returned to St. Louis to plan his trip around the world.
He was not to make a trip around the world, however--not then. In St.
Louis he saw the notice of the great "Quaker City" Holy Land excursion--
the first excursion of the kind ever planned--and was greatly taken with
the idea. Impulsive as always, he wrote at once to the "Alta
California," proposing that they send him as their correspondent on this
grand ocean picnic. The cost of passage was $1.200, and the "Alta"
hesitated, but Colonel McComb, already mentioned, assured his associates
that the investment would be sound. The "Alta" wrote, accepting Mark
Twain's proposal, and agreed to pay twenty dollars each for letters.
Clemens hurried to New York to secure a berth, fearing the passenger-list
might be full. Furthermore, with no one of distinction to vouch for him,
according to advertised requirements, he was not sure of being accepted.
Arriving in New York, he learned from an "Alta" representative that
passage had already been reserved for him, but he still doubted his
acceptance as one of the distinguished advertised company. His mind was
presently relieved on this point. Waiting his turn at the booking-desk,
he heard a newspaper man inquire:
"What notables are going?"
A clerk, with evident pride, rattled off the names:
"Lieutenant-General Sherman, Henry Ward Beecher, and Mark Twain; also,
probably, General Banks."
It was very pleasant to hear the clerk say that. Not only was he
accepted, but billed as an attraction.
The "Quaker City" would not sail for two months yet, and during the
period of waiting Mark Twain was far from idle. He wrote New York
letters to the "Alta," and he embarked in two rather important ventures--
he published his first book and he delivered a lecture in New York City.
Both these undertakings were planned and carried out by friends from the
Coast. Charles Henry Webb, who had given up his magazine to come East,
had collected "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other
Sketches," and, after trying in vain to find a publisher for them,
brought them out himself, on the 1st of May, 1867. It seems curious
now that any publisher should have declined the little volume, for the
sketches, especially the frog story, had been successful, and there was
little enough good American humor in print. However, publishing was a
matter not lightly undertaken in those days.
Mark Twain seems to have been rather pleased with the appearance of his
first book. To Bret Harte he wrote:
The book is out and is handsome. It is full of . . . errors....but be a
friend and say nothing about those things. When my hurry is over, I will
send you a copy to pizen the children with.
The little cloth-and-gold volume, so valued by book-collectors to-day,
contained the frog story and twenty-six other sketches, some of which are
still preserved in Mark Twain's collected works. Most of them were not
Mark Twain's best literature, but they were fresh and readable and suited
the taste of that period. The book sold very well, and, while it did not
bring either great fame or fortune to its author, it was by no means a
The "hurry" mentioned in Mark Twain's letter to Bret Harte related to his
second venture--that is to say, his New York lecture, an enterprise
managed by an old Comstock friend, Frank Fuller, ex-Governor of Utah.
Fuller, always a sanguine and energetic person, had proposed the lecture
idea as soon as Mark Twain arrived in New York. Clemens shook his head.
"I have no reputation with the general public here," he said. "We
couldn't get a baker's dozen to hear me."
But Fuller insisted, and eventually engaged the largest hall in New York,
the Cooper Union. Full of enthusiasm and excitement, he plunged into the
business of announcing and advertising his attraction, and inventing
schemes for the sale of seats. Clemens caught Fuller's enthusiasm by
spells, but between times he was deeply depressed. Fuller had got up a
lot of tiny hand-bills, and had arranged to hang bunches of these in the
horse-cars. The little dangling clusters fascinated Clemens, and he rode
about to see if anybody else noticed them. Finally, after a long time, a
passenger pulled off one of the bills and glanced at it. A man with him
"Who's Mark Twain?"
"Goodness knows! I don't."
The lecturer could not ride any farther. He hunted up his patron.
"Fuller," he groaned, "there isn't a sign--a ripple of interest."
Fuller assured him that things were "working underneath," and would be
all right. But Clemens wrote home: "Everything looks shady, at least, if
not dark." And he added that, after hiring the largest house in New
York, he must play against Schuyler Colfax, Ristori, and a double troupe
of Japanese jugglers, at other places of amusement.
When the evening of the lecture approached and only a few tickets had
been sold, the lecturer was desperate.
"Fuller," he said, "there'll be nobody in Cooper Union that night but you
and me. I am on the verge of suicide. I would commit suicide if I had
the pluck and the outfit. You must paper the house, Fuller. You must
send out a flood of complimentaries!"
"Very well," said Fuller. "What we want this time is reputation, anyway--
money is secondary. I'll put you before the choicest and most
intelligent audience that was ever gathered in New York City."
Fuller immediately sent out complimentary tickets to the school-teachers
of New York and Brooklyn---a general invitation to come and hear Mark
Twain's great lecture on the Sandwich Islands. There was nothing to do
after that but wait results.
Mark Twain had lost faith--he did not believe anybody in New York would
come to hear him even on a free ticket. When the night arrived, he drove
with Fuller to the Cooper Union half an hour before the lecture was to
begin. Forty years later he said:
"I couldn't keep away. I wanted to see that vast Mammoth Cave, and
die. But when we got near the building, I saw all the streets were
blocked with people and that traffic had stopped. I couldn't
believe that these people were trying to get to the Cooper
Institute--but they were; and when I got to the stage, at last, the
house was jammed full--packed; there wasn't room enough left for a
"I was happy and I was excited beyond expression. I poured the
Sandwich Islands out on those people, and they laughed and shouted
to my entire content. For an hour and fifteen minutes I was in
So in its way this venture was a success. It brought Mark Twain a good
deal of a reputation in New York, even if no financial profit, though, in
spite of the flood of complimentaries, there was a cash return of
something like three hundred dollars. This went a good way toward paying
the expenses, while Fuller, in his royal way, insisted on making up the
deficit, declaring he had been paid for everything in the fun and joy of
"Mark," he said, "it's all right. The fortune didn't come, but it will.
The fame has arrived; with this lecture and your book just out, you are
going to be the most-talked-of man in the country. Your letters to the
"Alta" and the "Tribune" will get the widest reception of any letters of
travel ever written."
AN INNOCENT ABROAD, AND HOME AGAIN
It was early in May--the 6th--that Mark Twain had delivered his Cooper
Union lecture, and a month later, June 8, 1867, he sailed on the "Quaker
City," with some sixty-six other "pilgrims," on the great Holy Land
excursion, the story of which has been so fully and faithfully told in
"The Innocent Abroad."
What a wonderful thing it must have seemed in that time for a party of
excursionists to have a ship all to themselves to go a-gipsying in from
port to port of antiquity and romance! The advertised celebrities did
not go, none of them but Mark Twain, but no one minded, presently, for
Mark Twain's sayings and stories kept the company sufficiently
entertained, and sometimes he would read aloud to his fellow-passengers
from the newspaper letters he was writing, and invite comment and
criticism. That was entertainment for them, and it was good for him, for
it gave him an immediate audience, always inspiring to an author.
Furthermore, the comments offered were often of the greatest value,
especially suggestions from one Mrs. Fairbanks, of Cleveland, a middle-
aged, cultured woman, herself a correspondent for her husband's paper,
the "Herald". It requires not many days for acquaintances to form on
shipboard, and in due time a little group gathered regularly each
afternoon to hear Mark Twain read what he had written of their day's
doings, though some of it he destroyed later because Mrs. Fairbanks
thought it not his best.
All of the "pilgrims" mentioned in "The Innocents Abroad" were real
persons. "Dan" was Dan Slote, Mark Twain's room-mate; the Doctor who
confused the guides was Dr. A. Reeves Jackson, of Chicago; the poet
Lariat was Bloodgood H. Cutter, an eccentric from Long Island; "Jack" was
Jack Van Nostrand, of New Jersey; and "Moult" and "Blucher" and "Charlie"
were likewise real, the last named being Charles J. Langdon, of Elmira,
N. Y., a boy of eighteen, whose sister would one day become Mark Twain's
It has been said that Mark Twain first met Olivia Langdon on the "Quaker
City," but this is not quite true; he met only her picture--the original
was not on that ship. Charlie Langdon, boy fashion, made a sort of hero
of the brilliant man called Mark Twain, and one day in the Bay of Smyrna
invited him to his cabin and exhibited his treasures, among them a dainty
miniature of a sister at home, Olivia, a sweet, delicate creature whom
the boy worshiped.
Samuel Clemens gazed long at the exquisite portrait and spoke of it
reverently, for in the sweet face he seemed to find something spiritual.
Often after that he came to young Langdon's cabin to look at the pictured
countenance, in his heart dreaming of a day when he might learn to know
We need not follow in detail here the travels of the "pilgrims" and their
adventures. Most of them have been fully set down in "The Innocents
Abroad," and with not much elaboration, for plenty of amusing things were
happening on a trip of that kind, and Mark Twain's old note-books are
full of the real incidents that we find changed but little in the book.
If the adventures of Jack, Dan, and the Doctor are embroidered here and
there, the truth is always there, too.
Yet the old note-books have a very intimate interest of their own. It is
curious to be looking through them to-day, trying to realize that those
penciled memoranda were the fresh first impressions that would presently
grow into the world's most delightful book of travel; that they were set
down in the very midst of that historic little company that frolicked
through Italy and climbed wearily the arid Syrian hills.
It required five months for the "Quaker City" to make the circuit of the
Mediterranean and return to New York. Mark Twain in that time
contributed fifty two or three letters to the "Alta California" and six
to the "New York Tribune," or an average of nearly three a week--a vast
amount of labor to be done in the midst of sight-seeing. And what
letters of travel they were! The most remarkable that had been written
up to that time. Vivid, fearless, full of fresh color, humor, poetry,
they came as a revelation to a public weary of the tiresome descriptive
drivel of that day. They preached a new gospel in travel literature--the
gospel of seeing honestly and speaking frankly--a gospel that Mark Twain
would continue to preach during the rest of his career.
Furthermore, the letters showed a great literary growth in their author.
No doubt the cultivated associations of the ship, the afternoon reading
aloud of his work, and Mrs. Fairbanks's advice had much to do with this.
But we may believe, also, that the author's close study of the King James
version of the Old Testament during the weeks of travel through Palestine
exerted a powerful influence upon his style. The man who had recited
"The Burial of Moses" to Joe Goodman, with so much feeling, could not
fail to be mastered by the simple yet stately Bible phrase and imagery.
Many of the fine descriptive passages in "The Innocents Abroad" have
something almost Biblical in their phrasing. The writer of this memoir
heard in childhood "The Innocents Abroad" read aloud, and has never
forgotten the poetic spell that fell upon him as he listened to a
paragraph written of Tangier:
"Here is a crumbled wall that was old when Columbus discovered
America; old when Peter the Hermit roused the knightly men of the
Middle Ages to arm for the first Crusade; old when Charlemagne and
his paladins beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants
and genii in the fabled days of the olden time; old when Christ and
His disciples walked the earth; stood where it stands to-day when
the lips of Memnon were vocal and men bought and sold in the streets
of ancient Thebes."
Mark Twain returned to America to find himself, if not famous, at least
in very high repute. The "Alta" and "Tribune" letters had carried his
name to every corner of his native land. He was in demand now. To his
mother he wrote:
"I have eighteen offers to lecture, at $100 each, in various parts of
the Union--have declined them all . . . . Belong on the
"Tribune" staff and shall write occasionally. Am offered the same
berth to-day on the 'Herald,' by letter."
He was in Washington at this time, having remained in New York but one
day. He had accepted a secretaryship from Senator Stewart of Nevada, but
this arrangement was a brief one. He required fuller freedom for his
Washington correspondence and general literary undertakings.
He had been in Washington but a few days when he received a letter that
meant more to him than he could possibly have dreamed at the moment. It
was from Elisha Bliss, Jr., manager of the American Publishing Company,
of Hartford, Connecticut, and it suggested gathering the Mediterranean
travel-letters into a book. Bliss was a capable, energetic man, with a
taste for humor, and believed there was money for author and publisher in
The proposition pleased Mark Twain, who replied at once, asking for
further details as to Bliss's plan. Somewhat later he made a trip to
Hartford, and the terms for the publication of "The Innocents Abroad"
were agreed upon. It was to be a large illustrated book for subscription
sale, and the author was to receive five per cent of the selling price.
Bliss had offered him the choice between this royalty and ten thousand
dollars cash. Though much tempted by the large sum to be paid in hand,
Mark Twain decided in favor of the royalty plan--"the best business
judgment I ever displayed," he used to say afterward. He agreed to
arrange the letters for book publication, revising and rewriting where
necessary, and went back to Washington well pleased. He did not realize
that his agreement with Bliss marked the beginning of one of the most
notable publishing connections in American literary history.
OLIVIA LANGDON. WORK ON THE "INNOCENTS"
Certainly this was a momentous period in Mark Twain's life. It was a
time of great events, and among them was one which presently would come
to mean more to him than all the rest--the beginning of his acquaintance
with Olivia Langdon.
One evening in late December when Samuel Clemens had come to New York to
visit his old "Quaker City" room-mate, Dan Slote, he found there other
ship comrades, including Jack Van Nostrand and Charlie Langdon. It was a
joyful occasion, but one still happier followed it. Young Langdon's
father and sister Olivia were in New York, and an evening or two later
the boy invited his distinguished "Quaker City" shipmate to dine with
them at the old St. Nicholas Hotel. We may believe that Samuel Clemens
went willingly enough. He had never forgotten the September day in the
Bay of Smyrna when he had first seen the sweet-faced miniature--now, at
last he looked upon the reality.
Long afterward he said: "It was forty years ago. From that day to this
she has never been out of my mind."
Charles Dickens gave a reading that night at Steinway Hall. The Langdons
attended, and Samuel Clemens with them. He recalled long after that
Dickens wore a black velvet coat with a fiery-red flower in his
buttonhole, and that he read the storm scene from "David Copperfield"--
the death of James Steerforth; but he remembered still more clearly the
face and dress and the slender, girlish figure of Olivia Langdon at his
Olivia Langdon was twenty-two years old at this time, delicate as the
miniature he had seen, though no longer in the fragile health of her
girlhood. Gentle, winning, lovable, she was the family idol, and Samuel
Clemens was no less her worshiper from the first moment of their meeting.
Miss Langdon, on her part, was at first rather dazed by the strange,
brilliant, handsome man, so unlike anything she had known before. When
he had gone, she had the feeling that something like a great meteor had
crossed her sky. To her brother, who was eager for her good opinion of
his celebrity, she admitted her admiration, if not her entire approval.
Her father had no doubts. With a keen sense of humor and a deep
knowledge of men, Jervis Langdon was from that first evening the devoted
champion of Mark Twain. Clemens saw Miss Langdon again during the
holidays, and by the week's end he had planned to visit Elmira--soon.
But fate managed differently. He was not to see Elmira for the better
part of a year.
He returned to his work in Washington--the preparation of the book and
his newspaper correspondence. It was in connection with the latter that
he first met General Grant, then not yet President. The incident,
characteristic of both men, is worth remembering. Mark Twain had called
by permission, elated with the prospect of an interview. But when he
looked into the square, smileless face of the soldier he found himself,
for the first time in his life, without anything particular to say.
Grant nodded slightly and waited. His caller wished something would
happen. It did. His inspiration returned.
"General," he said, "I seem to be slightly embarrassed. Are you?"
Grant's severity broke up in laughter. There were no further
Work on the book did not go so well. There were many distractions in
Washington, and Clemens did not like the climate there. Then he found
the "Alta" had copyrighted his letters and were reluctant to allow him to
use them. He decided to sail at once for San Francisco. If he could
arrange the "Alta" matter, he would finish his work there. He did, in
fact, carry out this plan, and all difficulties vanished on his arrival.
His old friend Colonel McComb obtained for him free use of the "Alta"
letters. The way was now clear for his book. His immediate need of
funds, however, induced him to lecture. In May he wrote Bliss:
"I lectured here on the trip (the Quaker City excursion) the other
night; $1,600 in gold in the house; every seat taken and paid for
He settled down to work now with his usual energy, editing and rewriting,
and in two months had the big manuscript ready for delivery.
Mark Twain's friends urged him to delay his return to "the States" long
enough to make a lecture tour through California and Nevada. He must
give his new lecture, they told him, to his old friends. He agreed, and
was received at Virginia City, Carson, and elsewhere like a returning
conqueror. He lectured again in San Francisco just before sailing.
The announcement of his lecture was highly original. It was a hand-bill
supposed to have been issued by the foremost citizens of San Francisco, a
mock protest against his lecture, urging him to return to New York
without inflicting himself on them again. On the same bill was printed
his reply. In it he said:
"I will torment the people if I want to. It only costs them $1
apiece, and, if they can't stand it, what do they stay here for?"
He promised positively to sail on July 6th if they would let him talk
just this once.
There was a good deal more of this drollery on the bill, which ended with
the announcement that he would appear at the Mercantile Library on July
2d. It is unnecessary to say that the place was jammed on that evening.
It was probably the greatest lecture event San Francisco has ever known.
Four days later, July 6, 1868, Mark Twain sailed, via Aspinwall, for New
York, and on the 28th delivered the manuscript of "The Innocents Abroad,
or the New Pilgrim's Progress," to his Hartford publisher.
THE VISIT TO ELMIRA AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Samuel Clemens now decided to pay his long-deferred visit to the Langdon
home in Elmira. Through Charlie Langdon he got the invitation renewed,
and for a glorious week enjoyed the generous hospitality of the beautiful
Langdon home and the society of fair Olivia Langdon--Livy, as they called
her--realizing more and more that for him there could never be any other
woman in the world. He spoke no word of this to her, but on the morning
of the day when his visit would end he relieved himself to Charlie
Langdon, much to the young man's alarm. Greatly as he admired Mark Twain
himself, he did not think him, or, indeed, any man, good enough for
"Livy," whom he considered little short of a saint. Clemens was to take
a train that evening, but young Langdon said, when he recovered:
"Look here, Clemens, there's a train in half an hour. I'll help you
catch it. Don't wait until tonight; go now!"
Mark Twain shook his head.
"No, Charlie," he said, in his gentle drawl. "I want to enjoy your
hospitality a little longer. I promise to be circumspect, and I'll go
That night after dinner, when it was time to take the train, a light two-
seated wagon was at the gate. Young Langdon and his guest took the back
seat, which, for some reason, had not been locked in its place. The
horse started with a quick forward spring, and the seat with its two
occupants described a circle and landed with force on the cobbled street.
Neither passenger was seriously hurt--only dazed a little for the moment.
But to Mark Twain there came a sudden inspiration. Here was a chance to
prolong his visit. When the Langdon household gathered with
restoratives, he did not recover at once, and allowed himself to be
supported to an arm-chair for further remedies. Livy Langdon showed
He was not allowed to go, now, of course; he must stay until it was
certain that his recovery was complete. Perhaps he had been internally
injured. His visit was prolonged two weeks, two weeks of pure happiness,
and when he went away he had fully resolved to win Livy Langdon for his
Mark Twain now went to Hartford to look after his book proofs, and there
for the first time met the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, who would become his
closest friend. The two men, so different in many ways, always had the
fondest admiration for each other; each recognized in the other great
courage, humanity, and sympathy. Clemens would gladly have remained in
Hartford that winter. Twichell presented him to many congenial people,
including Charles Dudley Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and other writing
folk. But flattering lecture offers were made him, and he could no
He called his new lecture "The Vandal Abroad," it being chapters from the
forthcoming book, and it was a great success everywhere. His houses were
crowded; the newspapers were enthusiastic. His delivery was described as
a "long, monotonous drawl, with fun invariably coming in at the end of a
sentence--after a pause." He began to be recognized everywhere--to have
great popularity. People came out on the street to see him pass.
Many of his lecture engagements were in central New York, no great
distance from Elmira. He had a standing invitation to visit the Langdon
home, and went when he could. His courtship, however, was not entirely
smooth. Much as Mr. Langdon honored his gifts and admired him
personally, he feared that his daughter, who had known so little of life
and the outside world, and the brilliant traveler, lecturer, author,
might not find happiness in marriage. Many absurd stories have been told
of Mark Twain's first interview with Jervis Langdon on this subject, but
these are without foundation. It was an earnest discussion on both
sides, and left Samuel Clemens rather crestfallen, though not without
hope. More than once the subject was discussed between the two men that
winter as the lecturer came and went, his fame always growing. In time
the Langdon household had grown to feel that he belonged to them. It
would be only a step further to make him really one of the family.
There was no positive engagement at first, for it was agreed between
Clemens and Jervis Langdon that letters should be sent by Mr. Langdon to
those who had known his would-be son-in-law earlier, with inquiries as to
his past conduct and general character. It was a good while till answers
to these came, and when they arrived Samuel Clemens was on hand to learn
the result. Mr. Langdon had a rather solemn look when they were alone
Clemens asked, "You've heard from those gentlemen out there?"
"Yes, and from another gentlemen I wrote to concerning you."
"They don't appear to have been very enthusiastic, from your manner."
"Well, yes, some of them were."
"I suppose I may ask what particular form their emotion took."
"Oh, yes, yes; they agree unanimously that you are a brilliant, able man-
-a man with a future, and that you would make about the worst husband on
The applicant had a forlorn look. "There is nothing very evasive about
that," he said.
"Haven't you any other friend that you could suggest?"
"Apparently none whose testimony would be valuable."
Jervis Langdon held out his hand.
"You have at least one," he said. "I believe in you. I know you better
then they do."
The engagement of Samuel Langhorne Clemens and Olivia Lewis Langdon was
ratified next day, February 4, 1869. To Jane Clemens her son wrote:
"She is a little body, but she hasn't her peer in Christendom."
THE NEW BOOK AND A WEDDING
Clemens closed his lecture tour in March with a profit of something more
than eight thousand dollars. He had intended to make a spring tour of
California, but went to Elmira instead. The revised proofs of his book
were coming now, and he and gentle Livy Langdon read them together.
Samuel Clemens realized presently that the girl he had chosen had a
delicate literary judgment. She became all at once his editor, a
position she held until her death. Her refining influence had much to do
with Mark Twain's success, then and later, and the world owes her a debt
of gratitude. Through that first pleasant summer these two worked at the
proofs and planned for their future, and were very happy indeed.
It was about the end of July when the big book appeared at last, and its
success was startling. Nothing like it had ever been known before. Mark
Twain's name seemed suddenly to be on every tongue--his book in
everybody's hands. From one end of the country to the other, readers
were hailing him as the greatest humorist and descriptive writer of
modern times. By the first of the year more than thirty thousand volumes
had been sold. It was a book of travel; its lowest price was three and a
half dollars; the record has not been equaled since. In England also
large editions had been issued, and translations into foreign languages
were under way. It was and is a great book, because it is a human book--
a book written straight from the heart.
If Mark Twain had not been famous before, he was so now. Indeed, it is
doubtful if any other American author was so widely known and read as the
author of "The Innocents Abroad" during that first half-year after its
Yet for some reason he still did not regard himself as a literary man.
He was a journalist, and began to look about for a paper which he could
buy-his idea being to establish a business and a home. Through Mr.
Langdon's assistance, he finally obtained an interest in the "Buffalo
Express," and the end of the year 1869 found him established as its
associate editor, though still lecturing here and there, because his
wedding-day was near at hand and there must be no lack of funds.
It was the 2d of February, 1870, that Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon
were married. A few days before, he sat down one night and wrote to
Jim Gillis, away out in the Tuolumne Hills, and told him of all his good
fortune, recalling their days at Angel's Camp, and the absurd frog story,
which he said had been the beginning of his happiness. In the five years
since then he had traveled a long way, but he had not forgotten.
On the morning of his wedding-day Mark Twain received from his publisher
a check for four thousand dollars, his profit from three months' sales of
the book, a handsome sum.
The wedding was mainly a family affair. Twichell and his wife came over
from Hartford--Twichell to assist Thomas K. Beecher in performing the
ceremony. Jane Clemens could not come, nor Orion and his wife; but
Pamela, a widow now, and her daughter Annie, grown to a young lady,
arrived from St. Louis. Not more than one hundred guests gathered in the
stately Langdon parlors that in future would hold so much history for
Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon--so much of the story of life and death
that thus made its beginning there. Then, at seven in the evening, they
were married, and the bride danced with her father, and the Rev. Thomas
Beecher declared she wore the longest gloves he had ever seen.
It was the next afternoon that the wedding-party set out for Buffalo.
Through a Mr. Slee, an agent of Mr. Langdon's, Clemens had engaged, as he
supposed, a boarding-house, quiet and unpretentious, for he meant to
start his married life modestly. Jervis Langdon had a plan of his own
for his daughter, but Clemens had received no inkling of it, and had full
faith in the letter which Slee had written, saying that a choice and
inexpensive boarding-house had been secured. When, about nine o'clock
that night, the party reached Buffalo, they found Mr. Slee waiting at the
station. There was snow, and sleighs had been ordered. Soon after
starting, the sleigh of the bride and groom fell behind and drove about
rather aimlessly, apparently going nowhere in particular. This disturbed
the groom, who thought they should arrive first and receive their guests.
He criticized Slee for selecting a house that was so hard to find, and
when they turned at last into Delaware Avenue, Buffalo's finest street,
and stopped before a handsome house, he was troubled concerning the
richness of the locality.
They were on the steps when the door opened and a perfect fairyland of
lights and decoration was revealed within. The friends who had gone
ahead came out with greetings to lead in the bride and groom. Servants
hurried forward to take bags and wraps. They were ushered inside; they
were led through beautiful rooms, all newly appointed and garnished. The
bridegroom was dazed, unable to understand the meaning of it all--the
completeness of their possession. At last his young wife put her hand
upon his arm.
"Don't you understand, Youth?" she said--that was always her name for
him. "Don't you understand? It is ours, all ours--everything--a gift
But still he could not quite grasp it, and Mr. Langdon brought a little
box and, opening it, handed them the deeds.
Nobody quite remembers what was the first remark that Samuel Clemens
made, but either then or a little later he said:
"Mr. Langdon, whenever you are in Buffalo, if it's twice a year, come
right here. Bring your bag and stay overnight if you want to. It
sha'n't cost you a cent."
MARK TWAIN IN BUFFALO
Mark Twain remained less than two years in Buffalo--a period of much
In the beginning, prospects could hardly have been brighter. His
beautiful home seemed perfect. At the office he found work to his hand,
and enjoyed it. His co-editor, J. W. Larned, who sat across the table
from him, used to tell later how Mark enjoyed his work as he went along--
the humor of it--frequently laughing as some new absurdity came into his
mind. He was not very regular in his arrivals, but he worked long hours
and turned in a vast amount of "copy"--skits, sketches, editorials, and
comments of a varied sort. Not all of it was humorous; he would stop
work any time on an amusing sketch to attack some abuse or denounce an
injustice, and he did it in scorching words that made offenders pause.
Once, when two practical jokers had sent in a marriage notice of persons
not even contemplating matrimony, he wrote:
"This deceit has been practised maliciously by a couple of men whose
small souls will escape through their pores some day if they do not
varnish their hides."
In May he considerably increased his income by undertaking a department
called "Memoranda" for the new "Galaxy" magazine. The outlook was now so
promising that to his lecture agent, James Redpath, he wrote:
"DEAR RED: I'm not going to lecture any more forever. I've got
things ciphered down to a fraction now. I know just about what it
will cost to live, and I can make the money without lecturing.
Therefore, old man, count me out."
And in a second letter:
"I guess I'm out of the field permanently. Have got a lovely wife, a
lovely house bewitchingly furnished, a lovely carriage, and a
coachman whose style and dignity are simply awe-inspiring, nothing
less; and I'm making more money than necessary, by considerable, and
therefore why crucify myself nightly on the platform! The
subscriber will have to be excused, for the present season, at
The little household on Delaware Avenue was indeed a happy place during
those early months. Neither Clemens nor his wife in those days cared
much for society, preferring the comfort of their own home. Once when a
new family moved into a house across the way they postponed calling until
they felt ashamed. Clemens himself called first. One Sunday morning he
noticed smoke pouring from an upper window of their neighbor's house.
The occupants, seated on the veranda, evidently did not suspect their
danger. Clemens stepped across to the gate and, bowing politely, said:
"My name is Clemens; we ought to have called on you before, and I
beg your pardon for intruding now in this informal way, but your
house is on fire."
It was at the moment when life seemed at its best that shadows gathered.
Jervis Langdon had never accepted his son-in-law's playful invitation to
"bring his bag and stay overnight," and now the time for it was past. In
the spring his health gave way. Mrs. Clemens, who adored him, went to
Elmira to be at his bedside. Three months of lingering illness brought
the end. His death was a great blow to Mrs. Clemens, and the strain of
watching had been very hard. Her own health, never robust, became poor.
A girlhood friend, who came to cheer her with a visit, was taken down
with typhoid fever. Another long period of anxiety and nursing ended
with the young woman's death in the Clemens home.
To Mark Twain and his wife it seemed that their bright days were over.
The arrival of little Langdon Clemens, in November, brought happiness,
but his delicate hold on life was so uncertain that the burden of anxiety
Amid so many distractions Clemens found his work hard. His "Memoranda"
department in the "Galaxy" must be filled and be bright and readable.
His work at the office could not be neglected. Then, too, he had made a
contract with Bliss for another book "Roughing It"--and he was trying to
get started on that.
He began to chafe under the relentless demands of the magazine and
newspaper. Finally he could stand it no longer. He sold his interest in
the "Express," at a loss, and gave up the "Memoranda." In the closing
number (April, 1871) he said:
"For the last eight months, with hardly an interval, I have had for
my fellows and comrades, night and day, doctors and watchers of the
sick! During these eight months death has taken two members of my
home circle and malignantly threatened two others. All this I have
experienced, yet all the time have been under contract to furnish
humorous matter, once a month, for this magazine .... To be a
pirate on a low salary and with no share of the profits in the
business used to be my idea of an uncomfortable occupation, but I
have other views now. To be a monthly humorist in a cheerless time
AT WORK ON "ROUGHING IT"
The Clemens family now went to Elmira, to Quarry Farm--a beautiful
hilltop place, overlooking the river and the town--the home of Mrs.
Clemens's sister, Mrs. Theodore Crane. They did not expect to return to
Buffalo, and the house there was offered for sale. For them the sunlight
had gone out of it.
Matters went better at Quarry Farm. The invalids gained strength; work
on the book progressed. The Clemenses that year fell in love with the
place that was to mean so much to them in the many summers to come.
Mark Twain was not altogether satisfied, however, with his writing. He
was afraid it was not up to his literary standard. His spirits were at
low ebb when his old first editor, Joe Goodman, came East and stopped off
at Elmira. Clemens hurried him out to the farm, and, eagerly putting the
chapters of "Roughing It" into his hands, asked him to read them.
Goodman seated himself comfortably by a window, while the author went
over to a table and pretended to write, but was really watching Goodman,
who read page after page solemnly and with great deliberation. Presently
Mark Twain could stand it no longer. He threw down his pen, exclaiming:
"I knew it! I knew it! I've been writing nothing but rot. You have sat
there all this time reading without a smile--but I am not wholly to
blame. I have been trying to write a funny book with dead people and
sickness everywhere. Oh, Joe, I wish I could die myself!"
"Mark," said Goodman, "I was reading critically, not for amusement, and
so far as I have read, and can judge, this is one of the best things you
have ever written. I have found it perfectly absorbing. You are doing a
That was enough. Clemens knew that Goodman never spoke idly of such
matters. The author of "Roughing It" was a changed man--full of
enthusiasm, eager to go on. He offered to pay Goodman a salary to stay
and furnish inspiration. Goodman declined the salary, but remained for
several weeks, and during long walks which the two friends took over the
hills gave advice, recalled good material, and was a great help and
comfort. In May, Clemens wrote to Bliss that he had twelve hundred
manuscript pages of the new book written and was turning out from thirty
to sixty-five per day. He was in high spirits. The family health had
improved--once more prospects were bright. He even allowed Redpath to
persuade him to lecture again during the coming season. Selling his
share of the "Express" at a loss had left Mark Twain considerably in debt
and lecture profits would furnish the quickest means of payment.
When the summer ended the Clemens family took up residence in Hartford,
Connecticut, in the fine old Hooker house, on Forest Street. Hartford
held many attractions for Mark Twain. His publishers were located there,
also it was the home of a distinguished group of writers, and of the Rev.
"Joe" Twichell. Neither Clemens nor his wife had felt that they could
return to Buffalo. The home there was sold--its contents packed and
shipped. They did not see it again.
His book finished, Mark Twain lectured pretty steadily that winter, often
in the neighborhood of Boston, which was lecture headquarters. Mark
Twain enjoyed Boston. In Redpath's office one could often meet and "swap
stories" with Josh Billings (Henry W. Shaw) and Petroleum V. Nasby (David
R. Locke)--well-known humorists of that day--while in the strictly
literary circle there were William Dean Howells, Thomas Bailey Aldrich,
Bret Harte (who by this time had become famous and journeyed eastward),
and others of their sort. They were all young and eager and merry, then,
and they gathered at luncheons in snug corners and talked gaily far into
the dimness of winter afternoons. Harte had been immediately accorded a
high place in the Boston group. Mark Twain as a strictly literary man
was still regarded rather doubtfully by members of the older set--the
Brahmins, as they were called--but the young men already hailed him
joyfully, reveling in the fine, fearless humor of his writing, his
wonderful talk, his boundless humanity.
Mark Twain closed his lecture season in February (1872), and during the
same month his new book, "Roughing It," came from the press. He disliked
the lecture platform, and he felt that he could now abandon it. He had
made up his loss in Buffalo and something besides. Furthermore, the
advance sales on his book had been large.
"Roughing It," in fact, proved a very successful book. Like "The
Innocents Abroad," it was the first of its kind, fresh in its humor and
description, true in its picture of the frontier life he had known. In
three months forty thousand copies had been sold, and now, after more
than forty years, it is still a popular book. The life it describes is
all gone-the scenes are changed. It is a record of a vanished time--a
delightful history--as delightful to-day as ever.
Eighteen hundred and seventy-two was an eventful year for Mark Twain. In
March his second child, a little girl whom they named Susy, was born, and
three months later the boy, Langdon, died. He had never been really
strong, and a heavy cold and diphtheria brought the end.
Clemens did little work that summer. He took his family to Saybrook,
Connecticut, for the sea air, and near the end of August, when Mrs.
Clemens had regained strength and courage, he sailed for England to
gather material for a book on English life and customs. He felt very
friendly toward the English, who had been highly appreciative of his
writings, and he wished their better acquaintance. He gave out no word
of the book idea, and it seems unlikely that any one in England ever
suspected it. He was there three months, and beyond some notebook
memoranda made during the early weeks of his stay he wrote not a line.
He was too delighted with everything to write a book--a book of his kind.
In letters home he declared the country to be as beautiful as fairyland.
By all classes attentions were showered upon him--honors such as he had
never received even in America. W. D. Howells writes:
"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, that spurned the rest of our nation."
He could not make a book--a humorous book--out of these people and their
country; he was too fond of them.
England fairly reveled in Mark Twain. At one of the great banquets, a
roll of the distinguished guests was called, and the names properly
applauded. Mark Twain, busily engaged in low conversation with his
neighbor, applauded without listening, vigorously or mildly, as the
others led. Finally a name was followed by a great burst of long and
vehement clapping. This must be some very great person indeed, and Mark
Twain, not to be outdone in his approval, stoutly kept his hands going
when all others had finished.
"Whose name was that we were just applauding?" he asked of his neighbor.
But it was no matter; they took it all as one of his jokes. He was a
wonder and a delight to them. Whatever he did or said was to them
supremely amusing. When, on one occasion, a speaker humorously referred
to his American habit of carrying a cotton umbrella, his reply that he
did so "because it was the only kind of an umbrella that an Englishman
wouldn't steal," was repeated all over England next day as one of the
finest examples of wit since the days of Swift.
He returned to America at the end of November; promising to come back and
lecture to them the following year.
 From "My Mark Twain," by W. D. Howells.
A NEW BOOK AND NEW ENGLISH TRIUMPHS
But if Mark Twain could find nothing to write of in England, he found no
lack of material in America. That winter in Hartford, with Charles
Dudley Warner, he wrote "The Gilded Age." The Warners were neighbors,
and the families visited back and forth. One night at dinner, when the
two husbands were criticizing the novels their wives were reading, the
wives suggested that their author husbands write a better one. The
challenge was accepted. On the spur of the moment Warner and Clemens
agreed that they would write a book together, and began it immediately.
Clemens had an idea already in mind. It was to build a romance around
that lovable dreamer, his mother's cousin, James Lampton, whom the reader
will recall from an earlier chapter. Without delay he set to work and
soon completed the first three hundred and ninety-nine pages of the new
story. Warner came over and, after listening to its reading, went home
and took up the story. In two months the novel was complete, Warner
doing most of the romance, Mark Twain the character parts. Warner's
portion was probably pure fiction, but Mark Twain's chapters were full of
Judge Hawkins and wife were Mark Twain's father and mother; Washington
Hawkins, his brother Orion. Their doings, with those of James Lampton as
Colonel Sellers, were, of course, elaborated, but the story of the
Tennessee land, as told in that book, is very good history indeed. Laura
Hawkins, however, was only real in the fact that she bore the name of
Samuel Clemens's old playmate. "The Gilded Age," published later in the
year, was well received and sold largely. The character of Colonel
Sellers at once took a place among the great fiction characters of the
world, and is probably the best known of any American creation. His
watchword, "There's millions in it!" became a byword.
The Clemenses decided to build in Hartford. They bought a plot of land
on Farmington Avenue, in the literary neighborhood, and engaged an
architect and builder. By spring, the new house was well under way, and,
matters progressing so favorably, the owners decided to take a holiday
while the work was going on. Clemens had been eager to show England to
his wife; so, taking little Sissy, now a year old, they sailed in May, to
be gone half a year.
They remained for a time in London--a period of honors and entertainment.
If Mark Twain had been a lion on his first visit, he was hardly less than
royalty now. His rooms at the Langham Hotel were like a court. The
nation's most distinguished men--among them Robert Browning, Sir John
Millais, Lord Houghton, and Sir Charles Dilke--came to pay their
respects. Authors were calling constantly. Charles Reade and Wilkie
Collins could not get enough of Mark Twain. Reade proposed to join with
him in writing a novel, as Warner had done. Lewis Carroll did not call,
being too timid, but they met the author of "Alice in Wonderland" one
night at a dinner, "the shyest full-grown man, except Uncle Remiss, I
ever saw," Mark Twain once declared.
Little Sissy and her father thrived on London life, but it wore on Mrs.
Clemens. At the end of July they went quietly to Edinburgh, and settled
at Veitch's Hotel, on George Street. The strain of London life had been
too much for Mrs. Clemens, and her health became poor. Unacquainted in
Edinburgh, Clemens only remembered that Dr. John Brown, author of "Rab
and His Friends," lived there. Learning the address, he walked around to
23 Rutland Street, and made himself known. Doctor Brown came forthwith,
and Mrs. Clemens seemed better from the moment of his arrival.
The acquaintance did not end there. For a month the author of "Rab" and
the little Clemens family were together daily. Often they went with him
to make his round of visits. He was always leaning out of the carriage
to look at dogs. It was told of him that once when he suddenly put his
head from a carriage window he dropped back with a disappointed look.
"Who was it?" asked his companion. "Some one you know?"
"No, a dog I don't know."
Dr. John was beloved by everybody in Scotland, and his story of "Rab" had
won him a world-wide following. Children adored him. Little Susy and he
were playmates, and he named her "Megalopis," a Greek term, suggested by
her great, dark eyes.
Mark Twain kept his promise to lecture to a London audience. On the 13th
of October, in the Queen's Concert Rooms, Hanover Square, he gave "Our
Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands." The house was packed. Clemens
was not introduced. He appeared on the platform in evening dress,
assuming the character of a manager, announcing a disappointment. Mr.
Clemens, he said, had fully expected to be present. He paused, and loud
murmurs arose from the audience. He lifted his hand and the noise
subsided. Then he added, "I am happy to say that Mark Twain is present
and will now give his lecture." The audience roared its approval.
He continued his lectures at Hanover Square through the week, and at no
time in his own country had he won such a complete triumph. He was the
talk of the streets. The papers were full of him. The "London Times"
declared his lectures had only whetted the public appetite for more. His
manager, George Dolby (formerly manager for Charles Dickens), urged him
to remain and continue the course through the winter. Clemens finally
agreed that he would take his family back to America and come back
himself within the month. This plan he carried out. Returning to
London, he lectured steadily for two months in the big Hanover Square
rooms, giving his "Roughing It" address, and it was only toward the end
that his audience showed any sign of diminishing. There is probably no
other such a lecture triumph on record.
Mark Twain was at the pinnacle of his first glory: thirty-six, in full
health, prosperous, sought by the world's greatest, hailed in the highest
places almost as a king. Tom Sawyer's dreams of greatness had been all
too modest. In its most dazzling moments his imagination had never led
him so far.
BEGINNING "TOM SAWYER"
It was at the end of January, 1874, when Mark Twain returned to America.
His reception abroad had increased his prestige at home. Howells and
Aldrich came over from Boston to tell him what a great man he had become-
-to renew those Boston days of three years before--to talk and talk of
all the things between the earth and sky. And Twichell came in, of
course, and Warner, and no one took account of time, or hurried, or
worried about anything at all.
"We had two such days as the aging sun no longer shines on in his round,"
wrote Howells, long after, and he tells how he and Aldrich were so
carried away with Clemens's success in subscription publication that on
the way back to Boston they planned a book to sell in that way. It was
to be called "Twelve Memorable Murders," and they had made two or three
fortunes from it by the time they reached Boston.
"But the project ended there. We never killed a single soul," Howells
once confessed to the writer of this memoir.
At Quarry Farm that summer Mark Twain began the writing of "The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer." He had been planning for some time to set
down the story of those far-off days along the river-front at Hannibal,
with John Briggs, Tom Blankenship, and the rest of that graceless band,
and now in the cool luxury of a little study which Mrs. Crane had built
for him on the hillside he set himself to spin the fabric of his youth.
The study was a delightful place to work. It was octagonal in shape,
with windows on all sides, something like a pilot-house. From any
direction the breeze could come, and there were fine views. To Twichell
"It is a cozy nest, and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three
or four chairs, and when the storm sweeps down the remote valley and
the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond, and the rain beats on
the roof over my head, imagine the luxury of it!"
He worked steadily there that summer. He would begin mornings, soon
after breakfast, keeping at it until nearly dinner-time, say until five
or after, for it was not his habit to eat the midday meal. Other members
of the family did not venture near the place; if he was wanted urgently,
a horn was blown. His work finished, he would light a cigar and,
stepping lightly down the stone flight that led to the house-level, he
would find where the family had assembled and read to them his day's
work. Certainly those were golden days, and the tale of Tom and Huck and
Joe Harper progressed. To Dr. John Brown, in Scotland, he wrote:
"I have been writing fifty pages of manuscript a day, on an average,
for some time now, .. . . and consequently have been so wrapped
up in it and dead to everything else that I have fallen mighty short
But the inspiration of Tom and Huck gave out when the tale was half
finished, or perhaps it gave way to a new interest. News came one day
that a writer in San Francisco, without permission, had dramatized "The
Gilded Age," and that it was being played by John T. Raymond, an actor of
much power. Mark Twain had himself planned to dramatize the character of
Colonel Sellers and had taken out dramatic copyright. He promptly
stopped the California production, then wrote the dramatist a friendly
letter, and presently bought the play of him, and set in to rewrite it.
It proved a great success. Raymond played it for several years. Colonel
Sellers on the stage became fully as popular as in the book, and very
THE NEW HOME
The new home in Hartford was ready that autumn--the beautiful house
finished, or nearly finished, the handsome furnishings in place. It was
a lovely spot. There were trees and grass--a green, shady slope that
fell away to a quiet stream. The house itself, quite different from the
most of the houses of that day, had many wings and balconies, and toward
the back a great veranda that looked down the shaded slope. The kitchen
was not at the back. As Mark Twain was unlike any other man that ever
lived, so his house was not like other houses. When asked why he built
the kitchen toward the street, he said:
"So the servants can see the circus go by without running into the
But this was probably his afterthought. The kitchen wing extended toward
Farmington Avenue, but it was a harmonious detail of the general plan.
Many frequenters have tried to express the charm of Mark Twain's
household. Few have succeeded, for it lay not in the house itself, nor
in its furnishings, beautiful as these things were, but in the
personality of its occupants--the daily round of their lives--the
atmosphere which they unconsciously created. From its wide entrance-hall
and tiny, jewel like conservatory below to the billiard-room at the top
of the house, it seemed perfectly appointed, serenely ordered, and full
of welcome. The home of one of the most unusual and unaccountable
personalities in the world was filled with gentleness and peace. It was
Mrs. Clemens who was chiefly responsible. She was no longer the half-
timid, inexperienced girl he had married. Association, study, and travel
had brought her knowledge and confidence. When the great ones of the
world came to visit America's most picturesque literary figure, she gave
welcome to them, and filled her place at his side with such sweet grace
that those who came to pay their dues to him often returned to pay still
greater devotion to his companion. William Dean Howells, so often a
visitor there, once said to the writer:
"Words cannot express Mrs. Clemens--her fineness, her delicate,
wonderful tact." And again, "She was not only a beautiful soul, but
a woman of singular intellectual power."
There were always visitors in the Clemens home. Above the mantel in the
library was written: "The ornament of a house is the friends that
frequent it," and the Clemens home never lacked of those ornaments, and
they were of the world's best. No distinguished person came to America
that did not pay a visit to Hartford and Mark Twain. Generally it was
not merely a call, but a stay of days. The welcome was always genuine,
the entertainment unstinted. George Warner, a close neighbor, once said:
"The Clemens house was the only one I have ever known where there
was never any preoccupation in the evenings and where visitors were
always welcome. Clemens was the best kind of a host; his evenings
after dinner were an unending flow of stories."
As for friends living near, they usually came and went at will, often
without the ceremony of knocking or formal leave-taking. The two Warner
famines were among these, the home of Charles Dudley Warner being only a
step away. Dr. and Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe were also close neighbors,
while the Twichell parsonage was not far. They were all like one great
family, of which Mark Twain's home was the central gathering-place.
"OLD TIMES," "SKETCHES," AND "TOM SAWYER"
The Rev. Joseph H. Twichell and Mark Twain used to take many long walks
together, and once they decided to walk from Hartford to Boston--about
one hundred miles. They decided to allow three days for the trip, and
really started one morning, with some luncheon in a basket, and a little
bag of useful articles. It was a bright, brisk November day, and they
succeeded in getting to Westford, a distance of twenty-eight miles, that
evening. But they were lame and foot-sore, and next morning, when they
had limped six miles or so farther, Clemens telegraphed to Redpath:
"We have made thirty-five miles in less than five days. This shows
the thing can be done. Shall finish now by rail. Did you have any
bets on us?"
He also telegraphed Howells that they were about to arrive in Boston, and
they did, in fact, reach the Howells home about nine o'clock, and found
excellent company--the Cambridge set--and a most welcome supper waiting.
Clemens and Twichell were ravenous. Clemens demanded food immediately.
"I can see him now as he stood up in the midst of our friends, with
his head thrown back, and in his hands a dish of those scalloped
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
The pedestrians returned to Hartford a day or two later--by train. It
was during another, though less extended, tour which Twichell and Clemens
made that fall, that the latter got his idea for a Mississippi book.
Howells had been pleading for something for the January "Atlantic," of
which he was now chief editor, but thus far Mark Twain's inspiration had
failed. He wrote at last, "My head won't go," but later, the same day,
he sent another hasty line.
"I take back the remark that I can't write for the January number,
for Twichell and I have had a long walk in the woods, and I got to
telling him about old Mississippi days of steam-boating glory and
grandeur as I saw them (during four years) from the pilot-house. He
said, 'What a virgin subject to hurl into a magazine!' I hadn't
thought of that before. Would you like a series of papers to run
through three months, or six, or nine--or about four months, say?"
Howells wrote at once, welcoming the idea. Clemens forthwith sent the
first instalment of that marvelous series of river chapters which rank
to-day among the very best of his work. As pictures of the vanished
Mississippi life they are so real, so convincing, so full of charm that
they can never grow old. As long as any one reads of the Mississippi
they will look up those chapters of Mark Twain's piloting days. When the
first number appeared, John Hay wrote:
"It is perfect; no more, no less. I don't see how you do it."
The "Old Times" chapter ran through seven numbers of the "Atlantic," and
show Mark Twain at his very best. They form now most of the early
chapters of "Life on the Mississippi." The remainder of that book was
added about seven years later.
Those were busy literary days for Mark Twain. Writing the river chapters
carried him back, and hardly had he finished them when he took up the
neglected story of "Tom and Huck," and finished that under full steam.
He at first thought of publishing it in the "Atlantic", but decided
against this plan. He sent Howells the manuscript to read, and received
the fullest praise. Howells wrote:
"It is altogether the best boy's story I ever read. It will be an
Clemens, however, delayed publication. He had another volume in press--a
collection of his sketches--among them the "Jumping Frog," and others of
his California days. The "Jumping Frog" had been translated into French,
and in this book Mark Twain published the French version and then a
literal retranslation of his own, which is one of the most amusing
features in the volume. As an example, the stranger's remark, "I don't
see no p'ints about that frog that's any better than any other frog," in
the literal retranslation becomes, "I no saw not that that frog had
nothing of better than each frog," and Mark Twain parenthetically adds,
"If that isn't grammar gone to seed, then I count myself no judge."
"Sketches New and Old" went very well, but the book had no such sale as
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," which appeared a year later, December,
1876. From the date of its issue it took its place as foremost of
American stories of boy life, a place that to this day it shares only
with "Huck Finn." Mark Twain's own boy life in the little drowsy town of
Hannibal, with John Briggs and Tom Blankenship--their adventures in and
about the cave and river--made perfect material. The story is full of
pure delight. The camp on the island is a picture of boy heaven. No boy
that reads it but longs for the woods and a camp-fire and some bacon
strips in the frying-pan. It is all so thrillingly told and so vivid.
We know certainly that it must all have happened. "The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer" has taken a place side by side with "Treasure Island."
Mark Twain was now regarded by many as the foremost American author.
Certainly he was the most widely known. As a national feature he rivaled
Niagara Falls. No civilized spot on earth that his name had not reached.
Letters merely addressed "Mark Twain" found their way to him. "Mark
Twain, United States," was a common superscription. "Mark Twain, The
World," also reached him without delay, while "Mark Twain, Somewhere,"
and "Mark Twain, Anywhere," in due time came to Hartford. "Mark Twain,
God Knows Where," likewise arrived promptly, and in his reply he said,
"He did." Then a letter addressed "The Devil Knows Where" also reached
him, and he answered, "He did, too." Surely these were the farthermost
limits of fame.
Countless anecdotes went the rounds of the press. Among them was one
which happened to be true:
Their near neighbor, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, was leaving for Florida
one morning, and Clemens ran over early to say good-by. On his return
Mrs. Clemens looked at him severely.
"Why, Youth," she said, "you haven't on any collar and tie."
He said nothing, but went to his room, wrapped up those items in a neat
package, which he sent over by a servant to Mrs. Stowe, with the line:
"Herewith receive a call from the rest of me."
Mrs. Stowe returned a witty note, in which she said he had discovered a
new principle--that of making calls by instalments, and asked whether in
extreme cases a man might not send his clothes and be himself excused.
Most of his work Mark Twain did at Quarry Farm. Each summer the family--
there were two little girls now, Susy and Clara--went to that lovely
place on the hilltop above Elmira, where there were plenty of green
fields and cows and horses and apple-trees, a spot as wonderful to them
as John Quarles's farm had been to their father, so long ago. All the
family loved Quarry Farm, and Mark Twain's work went more easily there.
His winters were not suited to literary creation--there were too many
social events, though once--it was the winter of '76--he wrote a play
with Bret Harte, who came to Hartford and stayed at the Clemens home
while the work was in progress. It was a Chinese play, "Ah Sin," and the
two had a hilarious time writing it, though the result did not prove much
of a success with the public. Mark Twain often tried plays--one with
Howells, among others--but the Colonel Sellers play was his only success.
Grand dinners, trips to Boston and New York, guests in his own home,
occupied much of Mark Twain's winter season. His leisure he gave to his
children and to billiards. He had a passion for the game, and at any
hour of the day or night was likely to be found in the room at the top of
the house, knocking the balls about alone or with any visitor that he had
enticed to that den. He mostly received his callers there, and impressed
them into the game. If they could play, well and good. If not, so much
the better; he could beat them extravagantly, and he took huge delight in
such contests. Every Friday evening a party of billiard lovers--Hartford
men--gathered and played, and told stories, and smoked, until the room
was blue. Clemens never tired of the game. He could play all night. He
would stay until the last man dropped from sheer weariness, and then go
on knocking the balls about alone.
But many evenings at home--early evenings--he gave to Susy and Clara.
They had learned his gift as a romancer and demanded the most startling
inventions. They would bring him a picture requiring him to fit a story
to it without a moment's delay. Once he was suddenly ordered by Clara to
make a story out of a plumber and a "bawgunstictor," which, on the whole,
was easier than some of their requirements. Along the book-shelves were
ornaments and pictures. A picture of a girl whom they called "Emeline"
was at one end, and at the other a cat. Every little while they
compelled him to make a story beginning with the cat and ending with
Emeline. Always a new story, and never the other way about. The
literary path from the cat to Emeline was a perilous one, but in time he
could have traveled it in his dreams.
It was now going on ten years since the publication of "The Innocents
Abroad," and there was a demand for another Mark Twain book of travel.
Clemens considered the matter, and decided that a walking-tour in Europe
might furnish the material he wanted. He spoke to his good friend, the
Rev. "Joe" Twichell, and invited him to become his guest on such an
excursion, because, as he explained, he thought he could "dig material
enough out of Joe to make it a sound investment." As a matter of fact,
he loved Twichell's companionship, and was always inviting him to share
his journeys--to Boston, to Bermuda, to Washington--wherever interest or
fancy led him. His plan now was to take the family to Germany in the
spring, and let Twichell join them later for a summer tramp down through
the Black Forest and Switzerland. Meantime the Clemens household took up
the study of German. The children had a German nurse--others a German
teacher. The household atmosphere became Teutonic. Of course it all
amused Mark Twain, as everything amused him, but he was a good student.
In a brief time he had a fair knowledge of every-day German and a
really surprising vocabulary. The little family sailed in April (1878),
and a few weeks later were settled in the Schloss Hotel, on a hill above
Heidelberg, overlooking the beautiful old castle, the ancient town, with
the Neckar winding down the hazy valley--as fair a view as there is in
Clemens found a room for his work in a small house not far from the
hotel. On the day of his arrival he had pointed out this house and said
he had decided to work there--that his room would be the middle one on
the third floor. Mrs. Clemens laughed, and thought the occupants of the
house might be surprised when he came over to take possession. They
amused themselves by watching "his people" and trying to make out what
they were like. One day he went over that way, and, sure enough, there
was a sign, "Furnished Rooms," and the one he had pointed out from the
hotel was vacant. It became his study forthwith.
The travelers were delighted with their location. To Howells, Clemens
"Our bedroom has two great glass bird-cages (inclosed balconies), one
looking toward the Rhine Valley and sunset, the other looking up the
Neckar cul de sac, and, naturally, we spent nearly all our time in
these. We have tables and chairs in them . . . . It must have
been a noble genius who devised this hotel. Lord! how blessed is
the repose, the tranquillity of this place! Only two sounds: the
happy clamor of the birds in the groves and the muffled music of the
Neckar tumbling over the opposing dikes. It is no hardship to lie
awake awhile nights, for thin subdued roar has exactly the sound of
a steady rain beating upon a roof. It is so healing to the spirit;
and it bears up the thread of one's imaginings as the accompaniment
bears up a song."
Twichell was summoned for August, and wrote back eagerly at the prospect:
"Oh, my! Do you realize, Mark, what a symposium it is to be? I do.
To begin with, I am thoroughly tired, and the rest will be worth
everything. To walk with you and talk with you for weeks together--
why, it's my dream of luxury!"
Meantime the struggle with the "awful German language" went on. Rosa,
the maid, was required to speak to the children only in German, though
little Clara at first would have none of it. Susy, two years older,
tried, and really made progress, but one day she said, pathetically:
"Mama, I wish Rosa was made in English."
But presently she was writing to "Aunt Sue" (Mrs. Crane) at Quarry Farm:
"I know a lot of German; everybody says I know a lot. I give you a
million dollars to see you, and you would give two hundred dollars
to see the lovely woods we see."
Twichell arrived August 1st. Clemens met him at Baden-Baden, and they
immediately set forth on a tramp through the Black Forest, excursioning
as they pleased and having a blissful time. They did not always walk.
They were likely to take a carnage or a donkey-cart, or even a train,
when one conveniently happened along. They did not hurry, but idled and
talked and gathered flowers, or gossiped with wayside natives--
picturesque peasants in the Black Forest costume. In due time they
crossed into Switzerland and prepared to conquer the Alps.
The name Mark Twain had become about as well known in Europe as it was in
America. His face, however, was less familiar. He was not often
recognized in these wanderings, and his pen-name was carefully concealed.
It was a relief to him not to be an object of curiosity and lavish
attention. Twichell's conscience now and then prompted him to reveal the
truth. In one of his letters home he wrote how a young man at a hotel
had especially delighted in Mark's table conversation, and how he
(Twichell) had later taken the young man aside and divulged the speaker's
"I could not forbear telling him who Mark was, and the mingled
surprise and pleasure his face exhibited made me glad I had done so."
They did not climb many of the Alps on foot. They did scale the Rigi,
after which Mark Twain was not in the best walking trim; though later
they conquered Gemmi Pass--no small undertaking--that trail that winds up
and up until the traveler has only the glaciers and white peaks and the
little high-blooming flowers for company.
All day long the friends would tramp and walk together, and when they did
not walk they would hire a diligence or any vehicle that came handy, but,
whatever their means of travel the joy of comradeship amid those superb
surroundings was the same.
In Twichell's letters home we get pleasant pictures of the Mark Twain of
"Mark, to-day, was immensely absorbed in flowers. He scrambled
around and gathered a great variety, and manifested the intensest
pleasure in them . . . . Mark is splendid to walk with amid such
grand scenery, for he talks so well about it, has such a power of
strong, picturesque expression. I wish you might have heard him
today. His vigorous speech nearly did justice to the things we saw."
And in another place:
"He can't bear to see the whip used, or to see a horse pull hard.
To-day when the driver clucked up his horse and quickened his pace a
little, Mark said, 'The fellow's got the notion that we were in a
Another extract refers to an incident which Mark Twain also mentions in
"A Tramp Abroad:" 
"Mark is a queer fellow. There is nothing so delights him as a
swift, strong stream. You can hardly get him to leave one when once
he is in the influence of its fascinations. To throw in stones and
sticks seems to afford him rapture."
Twichell goes on to tell how he threw some driftwood into a racing
torrent and how Mark went running down-stream after it, waving and
shouting in a sort of mad ecstasy.
When a piece went over a fall and emerged to view in the foam below, he
would jump up and down and yell. He acted just like a boy.
Boy he was, then and always. Like Peter Pan, he never really grew up--
that is, if growing up means to grow solemn and uninterested in play.
Climbing the Gorner Grat with Twichell, they sat down to rest, and a lamb
from a near-by flock ventured toward them. Clemens held out his hand and
called softly. The lamb ventured nearer, curious but timid.
It was a scene for a painter: the great American humorist on one side of
the game, and the silly little creature on the other, with the Matterhorn
for a background. Mark was reminded that the time he was consuming was
valuable, but to no purpose. The Gorner Grat could wait. He held on
with undiscouraged perseverance till he carried his point; the lamb
finally put its nose in Mark's hand, and he was happy all the rest of the
"In A Tramp Abroad" Mark Twain burlesques most of the walking-tour with
Harris (Twichell), feeling, perhaps, that he must make humor at whatever
cost. But to-day the other side of the picture seems more worth while.
That it seemed so to him, also, even at the time, we may gather from a
letter he sent after Twichell when it was all over and Twichell was on
his way home:
"DEAR OLD JOE,--It is actually all over! I was so low-spirited at
the station yesterday, and this morning, when I woke, I couldn't
seem to accept the dismal truth that you were really gone and the
pleasant tramping and talking at an end. Ah, my boy! It has been
such a rich holiday for me, and I feel under such deep and honest
obligations to you for coming. I am putting out of my mind all
memory of the time when I misbehaved toward you and hurt you; I am
resolved to consider it forgiven, and to store up and remember only
the charming hours of the journey and the times when I was not
unworthy to be with you and share a companionship which to me stands
first after Livy's."
Clemens had joined his family at Lausanne, and presently they journeyed
down into Italy, returning later to Germany--to Munich, where they lived
quietly with Fraulein Dahlweiner at No. 1a Karlstrasse, while he worked
on his new book of travel. When spring came they went to Paris, and
later to London, where the usual round of entertainment briefly claimed
them. It was the 3d of September, 1879, when they finally reached New
York. The papers said that Mark Twain had changed in his year and a half
of absence. He had, somehow, taken on a traveled look. One paper
remarked that he looked older than when he went to Germany, and that his
hair had turned quite gray.
 Chapter XXXIII.
"THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER"
They went directly to Quarry Farm, where Clemens again took up work on
his book, which he hoped to have ready for early publication. But his
writing did not go as well as he had hoped, and it was long after they
had returned to Hartford that the book was finally in the printer's
Meantime he had renewed work on a story begun two years before at Quarry
Farm. Browsing among the books there one summer day, he happened to pick
up "The Prince and the Page," by Charlotte M. Yonge. It was a story of a
prince disguised as a blind beggar, and, as Mark Twain read, an idea came
to him for an altogether different story, or play, of his own. He would
have a prince and a pauper change places, and through a series of
adventures learn each the trials and burdens of the other life. He
presently gave up the play idea, and began it as a story. His first
intention had been to make the story quite modern, using the late King
Edward VII. (then Prince of Wales) as his prince, but it seemed to him
that it would not do to lose a prince among the slums of modern London--
he could not make it seem real; so he followed back through history until
he came to the little son of Henry VIII., Edward Tudor, and decided that
he would do.
It was the kind of a story that Mark Twain loved to read and to write.
By the end of that first summer he had finished a good portion of the
exciting adventures of "The Prince and the Pauper," and then, as was
likely to happen, the inspiration waned and the manuscript was laid
But with the completion of "A Tramp Abroad"--a task which had grown
wearisome--he turned to the luxury of romance with a glad heart. To
Howells he wrote that he was taking so much pleasure in the writing that
he wanted to make it last.
"Did I ever tell you the plot of it? It begins at 9 A.M., January
27, 1547 . . . . My idea is to afford a realizing sense of the
exceeding severity of the laws of that day by inflicting some of
their penalties upon the king himself, and allowing him a chance to
see the rest of them applied to others."
Susy and Clara Clemens were old enough now to understand the story, and
as he finished the chapters he read them aloud to his small home
audience--a most valuable audience, indeed, for he could judge from its
eager interest, or lack of attention, just the measure of his success.
These little creatures knew all about the writing of books. Susy's
earliest recollection was "Tom Sawyer" read aloud from the manuscript.
Also they knew about plays. They could not remember a time when they did
not take part in evening charades--a favorite amusement in the Clemens
Mark Twain, who always loved his home and played with his children,
invented the charades and their parts for them, at first, but as they
grew older they did not need much help. With the Twichell and Warner
children they organized a little company for their productions, and
entertained the assembled households. They did not make any preparation
for their parts. A word was selected and the syllables of it whispered
to the little actors. Then they withdrew to the hall, where all sorts of
costumes had been laid out for the evening, dressed their parts, and each
group marched into the library, performed its syllable, and retired,
leaving the audience of parents to guess the answer. Now and then, even
at this early day, they gave little plays, and of course Mark Twain could
not resist joining them. In time the plays took the place of the
charades and became quite elaborate, with a stage and scenery, but we
shall hear of this later on.
"The Prince and the Pauper" came to an end in due season, in spite of the
wish of both author and audience for it to go on forever. It was not
published at once, for several reasons, the main one being that "A Tramp
Abroad" had just been issued from the press, and a second book might
interfere with its sale.
As it was, the "Tramp" proved a successful book--never as successful as
the "Innocents," for neither its humor nor its description had quite the
fresh quality of the earlier work. In the beginning, however, the sales
were large, the advance orders amounting to twenty-five thousand copies,
and the return to the author forty thousand dollars for the first year.
GENERAL GRANT AT HARTFORD
A third little girl came to the Clemens household during the summer of
1880. They were then at Quarry Farm, and Clemens wrote to his friend
"DEAR OLD JOE,--Concerning Jean Clemens, if anybody said he "didn't
see no p'ints about that frog that's any better than any other
frog," I should think he was convicting himself of being a pretty
poor sort of an observer. . . It is curious to note the change in
the stock-quotations of the Affection Board. Four weeks ago the
children put Mama at the head of the list right along, where she has
always been, but now:
"That is the way it stands now. Mama is become No. 2; I have dropped
from 4 and become No. 5. Some time ago it used to be nip and tuck
between me and the cats, but after the cats "developed" I didn't
stand any more show."
Those were happy days at Quarry Farm. The little new baby thrived on
that summer hilltop.
Also, it may be said, the cats. Mark Twain's children had inherited
his love for cats, and at the farm were always cats of all ages and
varieties. Many of the bed-time stories were about these pets--stories
invented by Mark Twain as he went along--stories that began anywhere and
ended nowhere, and continued indefinitely from evening to evening,
trailing off into dreamland.
The great humorist cared less for dogs, though he was never unkind to
them, and once at the farm a gentle hound named Bones won his affection.
When the end of the summer came and Clemens, as was his habit, started
down the drive ahead of the carriage, Bones, half-way to the entrance,
was waiting for him. Clemens stooped down, put his arms about him, and
bade him an affectionate good-by.
Eighteen hundred and eighty was a Presidential year. Mark Twain was for
General Garfield, and made a number of remarkable speeches in his favor.
General Grant came to Hartford during the campaign, and Mark Twain was
chosen to make the address of welcome. Perhaps no such address of
welcome was ever made before. He began:
"I am among those deputed to welcome you to the sincere and cordial
hospitalities of Hartford, the city of the historic and revered
Charter Oak, of which most of the town is built."
He seemed to be at a loss what to say next, and, leaning over, pretended
to whisper to Grant. Then, as if he had been prompted by the great
soldier, he straightened up and poured out a fervid eulogy on Grant's
victories, adding, in an aside, as he finished, "I nearly forgot that
part of my speech," to the roaring delight of his hearers, while Grant
himself grimly smiled.
He then spoke of the General being now out of public employment, and how
grateful his country was to him, and how it stood ready to reward him in
Grant had smiled more than once during the speech, and when this sentence
came out at the end his composure broke up altogether, while the throng
shouted approval. Clemens made another speech that night at the opera-
house--a speech long remembered in Hartford as one of the great efforts
of his life.
A very warm friendship had grown up between Mark Twain and General Grant.
A year earlier, on the famous soldier's return from his trip around the
world, a great birthday banquet had been given him in Chicago, at which
Mark Twain's speech had been the event of the evening. The colonel who
long before had chased the young pilot-soldier through the Mississippi
bottoms had become his conquering hero, and Grant's admiration for
America's foremost humorist was most hearty. Now and again Clemens urged
General Grant to write his memoirs for publication, but the hero of many
battles was afraid to venture into the field of letters. He had no
confidence in his ability to write. He did not realize that the man who
had written "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer,"
and, later, "Let us have peace," was capable of English as terse and
forceful as the Latin of Caesar's Commentaries.
The "Prince and the Pauper," delayed for one reason and another, did not
make its public appearance until the end of 1881. It was issued by
Osgood, of Boston, and was a different book in every way from any that
Mark Twain had published before. Mrs. Clemens, who loved the story, had
insisted that no expense should be spared in its making, and it was,
indeed, a handsome volume. It was filled with beautiful pen-and-ink
drawings, and the binding was rich. The dedication to its two earliest
"To those good-mannered and agreeable
children, Susy and Clara Clemens."
The story itself was unlike anything in Mark Twain's former work. It was
pure romance, a beautiful, idyllic tale, though not without his touch of
humor and humanity on every page. And how breathlessly interesting it
is! We may imagine that first little audience--the "two good-mannered
and agreeable children," drawing up in their little chairs by the
fireside, hanging on every paragraph of the adventures of the wandering
prince and Tom Canty, the pauper king, eager always for more.
The story, at first, was not entirely understood by the reviewers. They
did not believe it could be serious. They expected a joke in it
somewhere. Some even thought they had found it. But it was not a joke,
it was just a simple tale--a beautiful picture of a long-vanished time.
One critic, wiser than the rest, said:
"The characters of those two boys, twin in spirit, will rank with the
purest and loveliest creations of child-life in the realm of
Mark Twain was now approaching the fullness of his fame and prosperity.
The income from his writing was large; Mrs. Clemens possessed a
considerable fortune of her own; they had no debts. Their home was as
perfectly appointed as a home could well be, their family life was ideal.
They lived in the large, hospitable way which Mrs. Clemens had known in
her youth, and which her husband, with his Southern temperament, loved.
Their friends were of the world's chosen, and they were legion in number.
There were always guests in the Clemens home--so many, indeed, were
constantly coming and going that Mark Twain said he was going to set up a
private 'bus to save carnage hire. Yet he loved it all dearly, and for
the most part realized his happiness.
Unfortunately, there were moments when he forgot that his lot was
satisfactory, and tried to improve it. His Colonel Sellers imagination,
inherited from both sides of his family, led him into financial
adventures which were generally unprofitable. There were no silver-mines
in the East into which to empty money and effort, as in the old Nevada
days, but there were plenty of other things--inventions, stock companies,
and the like.
When a man came along with a patent steam-generator which would save
ninety per cent. of the usual coal-supply, Mark Twain invested whatever
bank surplus he had at the moment, and saw that money no more forever.
After the steam-generator came a steam-pulley, a small affair, but
powerful enough to relieve him of thirty-two thousand dollars in a brief
A new method of marine telegraphy was offered him by the time his balance
had grown again, a promising contrivance, but it failed to return the
twenty-five thousand dollars invested in it by Mark Twain. The list of
such adventures is too long to set down here. They differ somewhat, but
there is one feature common to all--none of them paid. At last came a
chance in which there was really a fortune. A certain Alexander Graham
Bell, an inventor, one day appeared, offering stock in an invention for
carrying the human voice on an electric wire. But Mark Twain had grown
wise, he thought. Long after he wrote:
"I declined. I said I did not want any more to do with wildcat
speculation .... I said I didn't want it at any price. He (Bell)
became eager; and insisted I take five hundred dollars' worth. He
said he would sell me as much as I wanted for five hundred dollars;
offered to let me gather it up in my hands and measure it in a plug-
hat; said I could have a whole hatful for five hundred dollars. But
I was a burnt child, and resisted all these temptations--resisted
them easily; went off with my money, and next day lent five thousand
of it to a friend who was going to go bankrupt three days later."
It was the chance of fortune thus thrown away which, perhaps, led him to
take up later with an engraving process--an adventure which lasted
through several years and ate up a heavy sum. Altogether, these
experiences in finance cost Mark Twain a fair-sized fortune, though,
after all, they were as nothing compared with the great type-machine
calamity which we shall hear of in a later chapter.
BACK TO THE RIVER, WITH BIXBY
Fortunately, Mark Twain was not greatly upset by his losses. They
exasperated him for the moment, perhaps, but his violence waned
presently, and the whole matter was put aside forever. His work went on
with slight interference. Looking over his Mississippi chapters one day,
he was taken with a new interest in the river, and decided to make the
steamboat trip between St. Louis and New Orleans, to report the changes
that had taken place in his twenty-one years of absence. His Boston
publisher, Osgood, agreed to accompany him, and a stenographer was
engaged to take down conversations and comments.
At St. Louis they took passage on the steamer "Gold Dust"--Clemens under
an assumed name, though he was promptly identified. In his book he tells
how the pilot recognized him and how they became friends. Once, in later
years, he said:
"I spent most of my time up there with him. When we got down below
Cairo, where there was a big, full river--for it was high-water
season and there was no danger of the boat hitting anything so long
as she kept in the river--I had her most of the time on his watch.
He would lie down and sleep and leave me there to dream that the
years had not slipped away; that there had been no war, no mining
days, no literary adventures; that I was still a pilot, happy and
care-free as I had been twenty years before."
To heighten the illusion he had himself called regularly with the four-
o'clock watch, in order not to miss the mornings. The points along the
river were nearly all new to him, everything had changed, but during
high-water this mattered little. He was a pilot again--a young fellow in
his twenties, speculating on the problems of existence and reading his
fortunes in the stars. The river had lost none of its charm for him. To
Bixby he wrote:
"I'd rather be a pilot than anything else I've ever been in my life.
How do you run Plum Point?"
He met Bixby at New Orleans. Bixby was a captain now, on the splendid
new Anchor Line steamer "City of Baton Rouge," one of the last of the
fine river boats. Clemens made the return trip to St. Louis with Bixby
on the "Baton Rouge"--almost exactly twenty-five years from their first
trip together. To Bixby it seemed wonderfully like those old days back
in the fifties.
"Sam was making notes in his memorandum-book, just as he always did,"
said Bixby, long after, to the writer of this history.
Mark Twain decided to see the river above St. Louis. He went to Hannibal
to spend a few days with old friends. "Delightful days," he wrote home,
"loitering around all day long, and talking with grayheads who were boys
and girls with me thirty or forty years ago." He took boat for St. Paul
and saw the upper river, which he had never seen before. He thought the
scenery beautiful, but he found a sadness everywhere because of the decay
of the river trade. In a note-book entry he said: "The romance of
boating is gone now. In Hannibal the steamboatman is no longer a god."
He worked at the Mississippi book that summer at the farm, but did not
get on very well, and it was not until the following year (1883) that it
came from the press. Osgood published it, and Charles L. Webster, who
had married Mark Twain's niece, Annie (daughter of his sister Pamela),
looked after the agency sales. Mark Twain, in fact, was preparing to
become his own publisher, and this was the beginning. Webster was a man
of ability, and the book sold well.
"Life on the Mississippi" is one of Mark Twain's best books--one of those
which will live longest. The first twenty chapters are not excelled in
quality anywhere in his writings. The remainder of the book has an
interest of its own, but it lacks the charm of those memories of his
youth--the mellow light of other days which enhances all of his better
A READING-TOUR WITH CABLE
Every little while Mark Twain had a fever of play-writing, and it was
about this time that he collaborated with W. D. Howells on a second
Colonel Sellers play. It was a lively combination.
Once to the writer Howells said: "Clemens took one scene and I another.
We had loads of fun about it. We cracked our sides laughing over it
as we went along. We thought it mighty good, and I think to this day it
was mighty good."
But actors and managers did not agree with them. Raymond, who had played
the original Sellers, declared that in this play the Colonel had not
become merely a visionary, but a lunatic. The play was offered
elsewhere, and finally Mark Twain produced it at his own expense. But
perhaps the public agreed with Raymond, for the venture did not pay.
It was about a year after this (the winter of 1884-5) that Mark Twain
went back to the lecture platform--or rather, he joined with George W.
Cable in a reading-tour. Cable had been giving readings on his own
account from his wonderful Creole stories, and had visited Mark Twain in
Hartford. While there he had been taken down with the mumps, and it was
during his convalescence that the plan for a combined reading-tour had
been made. This was early in the year, and the tour was to begin in the
Cable, meantime, having quite recovered, conceived a plan to repay Mark
Twain's hospitality. It was to be an April-fool--a great complimentary
joke. A few days before the first of the month he had a "private and
confidential" circular letter printed, and mailed it to one hundred and
fifty of Mark Twain's friends and admirers in Boston, New York, and
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