Mark Twain, a Biography

Author: Albert Bigelow Paine

CXLVI Distinguished Visitors

Meantime, while Howells had been in Hartford working at the play with Clemens, Matthew Arnold had arrived in Boston. On inquiring for Howells, at his home, the visitor was told that he had gone to see Mark Twain. Arnold was perhaps the only literary Englishman left who had not accepted Mark Twain at his larger value. He seemed surprised and said:

"Oh, but he doesn’t like that sort of thing, does he?"

To which Mrs. Howells replied:

"He likes Mr. Clemens very much, and he thinks him one of the greatest men he ever knew."

Arnold proceeded to Hartford to lecture, and one night Howells and Clemens went to meet him at a reception. Says Howells:

While his hand laxly held mine in greeting I saw his eyes fixed
intensely on the other side of the room. "Who—who in the world is
that?" I looked and said, "Oh, that is Mark Twain." I do not
remember just how their instant encounter was contrived by Arnold’s
wish; but I have the impression that they were not parted for long
during the evening, and the next night Arnold, as if still under the
glamour of that potent presence, was at Clemens’s house.

He came there to dine with the Twichells and the Rev. Dr. Edwin P. Parker. Dr. Parker and Arnold left together, and, walking quietly homeward, discussed the remarkable creature whose presence they had just left. Clemens had been at his best that night—at his humorous best. He had kept a perpetual gale of laughter going, with a string of comment and anecdote of a kind which Twichell once declared the world had never before seen and would never see again. Arnold seemed dazed by it, unable to come out from under its influence. He repeated some of the things Mark Twain had said; thoughtfully, as if trying to analyze their magic. Then he asked solemnly:

"And is he never serious?"

And Dr. Parker as solemnly answered:

"Mr. Arnold, he is the most serious man in the world." Dr. Parker, recalling this incident, remembered also that Protap Chunder Mazoomdar, a Hindoo Christian prelate of high rank, visited Hartford in 1883, and that his one desire was to meet Mark Twain. In some memoranda of this visit Dr. Parker has written:

I said that Mark Twain was a friend of mine, and we would
immediately go to his house. He was all eagerness, and I perceived
that I had risen greatly in this most refined and cultivated
gentleman’s estimation. Arriving at Mr. Clemens’s residence, I
promptly sought a brief private interview with my friend for his
enlightenment concerning the distinguished visitor, after which they
were introduced and spent a long while together. In due time
Mazoomdar came forth with Mark’s likeness and autograph, and as we
walked away his whole air and manner seemed to say, with Simeon of
old, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!"


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Chicago: Albert Bigelow Paine, "CXLVI Distinguished Visitors," Mark Twain, a Biography, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 in Mark Twain, a Biography (New York: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1894), Original Sources, accessed June 7, 2023,

MLA: Paine, Albert Bigelow. "CXLVI Distinguished Visitors." Mark Twain, a Biography, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, in Mark Twain, a Biography, Vol. 22, New York, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1894, Original Sources. 7 Jun. 2023.

Harvard: Paine, AB, 'CXLVI Distinguished Visitors' in Mark Twain, a Biography, ed. . cited in 1894, Mark Twain, a Biography, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 7 June 2023, from