Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910)

Contents:
Author: Mark Twain

XLVI. Letters 1907-08.
A Degree from Oxford. The New Home at Redding

The author, J. Howard Moore, sent a copy of his book, The Universal Kinship, with a letter in which he said: "Most humorists have no anxiety except to glorify themselves and add substance to their pocket-books by making their readers laugh. You have shown, on many occasions, that your mission is not simply to antidote the melancholy of a world, but includes a real and intelligent concern for the general welfare of your fellowman."

The Universal Kinship was the kind of a book that Mark Twain appreciated, as his acknowledgment clearly shows.

To Mr. J. Howard Moore:

Feb. 2, ’07. DEAR MR. MOORE, The book has furnished me several days of deep pleasure and satisfaction; it has compelled my gratitude at the same time, since it saves me the labor of stating my own long-cherished opinions and reflections and resentments by doing it lucidly and fervently and irascibly for me.

There is one thing that always puzzles me: as inheritors of the mentality of our reptile ancestors we have improved the inheritance by a thousand grades; but in the matter of the morals which they left us we have gone backward as many grades. That evolution is strange, and to me unaccountable and unnatural. Necessarily we started equipped with their perfect and blemishless morals; now we are wholly destitute; we have no real, morals, but only artificial ones—morals created and preserved by the forced suppression of natural and hellish instincts. Yet we are dull enough to be vain of them. Certainly we are a sufficiently comical invention, we humans.

Sincerely Yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

Mark Twain’s own books were always being excommunicated by some
librarian, and the matter never failed to invite the attention and
amusement of the press, and the indignation of many correspondents.
Usually the books were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the morals of which
were not regarded as wholly exemplary. But in 1907 a small library,
in a very small town, attained a day’s national notoriety by putting
the ban on Eve’s Diary, not so much on account of its text as for
the chaste and exquisite illustrations by Lester Ralph. When the
reporters came in a troop to learn about it, the author said: "I
believe this time the trouble is mainly with the pictures. I did
not draw them. I wish I had—they are so beautiful."

Just at this time, Dr. William Lyon Phelps, of Yale, was giving a
literary talk to the Teachers’ Club, of Hartford, dwelling on the
superlative value of Mark Twain’s writings for readers old and
young. Mrs. F. G. Whitmore, an old Hartford friend, wrote Clemens
of the things that Phelps had said, as consolation for Eve’s latest
banishment. This gave him a chance to add something to what he had
said to the reporters.

To Mrs. Whitmore, in Hartford:

Feb. 7, 1907. DEAR MRS. WHITMORE,—But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me. But even if it angered me such words as those of Professor Phelps would take the sting all out. Nobody attaches weight to the freaks of the Charlton Library, but when a man like Phelps speaks, the world gives attention. Some day I hope to meet him and thank him for his courage for saying those things out in public. Custom is, to think a handsome thing in private but tame it down in the utterance.

I hope you are all well and happy; and thereto I add my love.
Sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

In May, 1907, Mark Twain was invited to England to receive from
Oxford the degree of Literary Doctor. It was an honor that came to
him as a sort of laurel crown at the end of a great career, and
gratified him exceedingly. To Moberly Bell, of the London Times,
he expressed his appreciation. Bell had been over in April and
Clemens believed him concerned in the matter.

To Moberly Bell, in London:

21 FIFTH AVENUE, May 3, ’07 DEAR MR. BELL,—Your hand is in it! and you have my best thanks. Although I wouldn’t cross an ocean again for the price of the ship that carried me, I am glad to do it for an Oxford degree. I shall plan to sail for England a shade before the middle of June, so that I can have a few days in London before the 26th.
Sincerely,
S. L. CLEMENS.

He had taken a house at Tuxedo for the summer, desiring to be near
New York City, and in the next letter he writes Mr. Rogers
concerning his London plans. We discover, also, in this letter that
he has begun work on the Redding home and the cost is to come
entirely out of the autobiographical chapters then running in the
North American Review. It may be of passing interest to note here
that he had the usual house-builder’s fortune. He received thirty
thousand dollars for the chapters; the house cost him nearly double
that amount.

To H. H. Rogers, in New York:

TUXEDO PARK,
May 29, ’07. DEAR ADMIRAL,—Why hang it, I am not going to see you and Mrs. Rogers at all in England! It is a great disappointment. I leave there a month from now—June 29. No, I shall see you; for by your itinerary you are most likely to come to London June 21st or along there. So that is very good and satisfactory. I have declined all engagements but two—Whitelaw Reid (dinner) June 21, and the Pilgrims (lunch), June 25. The Oxford ceremony is June 26. I have paid my return passage in the Minnesomething, but it is just possible that I may want to stay in England a week or two longer—I can’t tell, yet. I do very much want to meet up with the boys for the last time.

I have signed the contract for the building of the house on my Connecticut farm and specified the cost limit, and work has been begun. The cost has to all come out of a year’s instalments of Autobiography in the N. A. Review.

Clara, is winning her way to success and distinction with sure and steady strides. By all accounts she is singing like a bird, and is not afraid on the concert stage any more.

Tuxedo is a charming place; I think it hasn’t its equal anywhere.

Very best wishes to you both.
S. L. C.

The story of Mark Twain’s extraordinary reception and triumph in
England has been told. —[Mark Twain; A Biography, chaps. cclvi-
cclix]— It was, in fact, the crowning glory of his career. Perhaps
one of the most satisfactory incidents of his sojourn was a dinner
given to him by the staff of Punch, in the historic offices at 10
Bouverie Street where no other foreign visitor had been thus
honored—a notable distinction. When the dinner ended, little joy
Agnew, daughter of the chief editor, entered and presented to the
chief guest the original drawing of a cartoon by Bernard Partridge,
which had appeared on the front page of Punch. In this picture the
presiding genius of the paper is offering to Mark Twain health, long
life, and happiness from "The Punch Bowl."

A short time after his return to America he received a pretty
childish letter from little Miss Agnew acknowledging a photograph he
had sent her, and giving a list of her pets and occupations. Such a
letter always delighted Mark Twain, and his pleasure in this one is
reflected in his reply.

To Miss Joy Agnew, in London:

TUXEDO PARK, NEW YORK. Unto you greetings and salutation and worship, you dear, sweet little rightly-named Joy! I can see you now almost as vividly as I saw you that night when you sat flashing and beaming upon those sombre swallow-tails.

"Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky."

Oh, you were indeed the only one—there wasn’t even the remotest chance of competition with you, dear! Ah, you are a decoration, you little witch!

The idea of your house going to the wanton expense of a flower garden!— aren’t you enough? And what do you want to go and discourage the other flowers for? Is that the right spirit? is it considerate? is it kind? How do you suppose they feel when you come around—looking the way you look? And you so pink and sweet and dainty and lovely and supernatural? Why, it makes them feel embarrassed and artificial, of course; and in my opinion it is just as pathetic as it can be. Now then you want to reform—dear—and do right.

Well certainly you are well off, Joy:

3 bantams; 3 goldfish; 3 doves; 6 canaries; 2 dogs; 1 cat;

All you need, now, to be permanently beyond the reach of want, is one more dog—just one more good, gentle, high principled, affectionate, loyal dog who wouldn’t want any nobler service than the golden privilege of lying at your door, nights, and biting everything that came along—and I am that very one, and ready to come at the dropping of a hat.

Do you think you could convey my love and thanks to your "daddy" and Owen Seaman and those other oppressed and down-trodden subjects of yours, you darling small tyrant?

On my knees! These—with the kiss of fealty from your other subject—

MARK TWAIN

Elinor Glyn, author of Three Weeks and other erotic tales, was in
America that winter and asked permission to call on Mark Twain. An
appointment was made and Clemens discussed with her, for an hour or
more, those crucial phases of life which have made living a complex
problem since the days of Eve in Eden. Mrs. Glyn had never before
heard anything like Mark Twain’s wonderful talk, and she was anxious
to print their interview. She wrote what she could remember of it
and sent it to him for approval. If his conversation had been
frank, his refusal was hardly less so.

To Mrs. Elinor Glyn, in New York:

Jan. 22, ’08. DEAR MRS. GLYN, It reads pretty poorly—I get the sense of it, but it is a poor literary job; however, it would have to be that because nobody can be reported even approximately, except by a stenographer. Approximations, synopsized speeches, translated poems, artificial flowers and chromos all have a sort of value, but it is small. If you had put upon paper what I really said it would have wrecked your type-machine. I said some fetid, over-vigorous things, but that was because it was a confidential conversation. I said nothing for print. My own report of the same conversation reads like Satan roasting a Sunday school. It, and certain other readable chapters of my autobiography will not be published until all the Clemens family are dead—dead and correspondingly indifferent. They were written to entertain me, not the rest of the world. I am not here to do good—at least not to do it intentionally. You must pardon me for dictating this letter; I am sick a-bed and not feeling as well as I might.
Sincerely Yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

Among the cultured men of England Mark Twain had no greater admirer,
or warmer friend, than Andrew Lang. They were at one on most
literary subjects, and especially so in their admiration of the life
and character of Joan of Arc. Both had written of her, and both
held her to be something almost more than mortal. When, therefore,
Anatole France published his exhaustive biography of the maid of
Domremy, a book in which he followed, with exaggerated minuteness
and innumerable footnotes, every step of Joan’s physical career at
the expense of her spiritual life, which he was inclined to cheapen,
Lang wrote feelingly, and with some contempt, of the performance,
inviting the author of the Personal Recollections to come to the
rescue of their heroine. "Compare every one of his statements with
the passages he cites from authorities, and make him the laughter of
the world" he wrote. "If you are lazy about comparing I can make
you a complete set of what the authorities say, and of what this
amazing novelist says that they say. When I tell you that he thinks
the Epiphany (January 6, Twelfth Night) is December 25th—Christmas
Day-you begin to see what an egregious ass he is. Treat him like
Dowden, and oblige"—a reference to Mark Twain’s defense of Harriet
Shelley, in which he had heaped ridicule on Dowden’s Life of the
Poet—a masterly performance; one of the best that ever came from
Mark Twain’s pen.

Lang’s suggestion would seem to have been a welcome one.

To Andrew Lang, in London:

NEW YORK, April 25, 1908. DEAR MR. LANG,—I haven’t seen the book nor any review of it, but only not very-understandable references to it—of a sort which discomforted me, but of course set my interest on fire. I don’t want to have to read it in French—I should lose the nice shades, and should do a lot of gross misinterpreting, too. But there’ll be a translation soon, nicht wahr? I will wait for it. I note with joy that you say: "If you are lazy about comparing, (which I most certainly am), I can make you a complete set of what the authorities say, and of what this amazing novelist says that they say."

Ah, do it for me! Then I will attempt the article, and (if I succeed in doing it to my satisfaction,) will publish it. It is long since I touched a pen (3 « years), and I was intending to continue this happy holiday to the gallows, but—there are things that could beguile me to break this blessed Sabbath.
Yours very sincerely,
S. L. CLEMENS.

Certainly it is an interesting fact that an Englishman—one of the
race that burned Joan—should feel moved to defend her memory
against the top-heavy perversions of a distinguished French author.

But Lang seems never to have sent the notes. The copying would have
been a tremendous task, and perhaps he never found the time for it.
We may regret to-day that he did not, for Mark Twain’s article on
the French author’s Joan would have been at least unique.

Samuel Clemens could never accustom himself to the loss of his wife.
From the time of her death, marriage-which had brought him his
greatest joy in life-presented itself to him always with the thought
of bereavement, waiting somewhere just behind. The news of an
approaching wedding saddened him and there was nearly always a
somber tinge in his congratulations, of which the following to a
dear friend is an example:

To Father Fitz-Simon, in Washington:

June 5, ’08. DEAR FATHER FITZ-SIMON,—Marriage—yes, it is the supreme felicity of life, I concede it. And it is also the supreme tragedy of life. The deeper the love the surer the tragedy. And the more disconsolating when it comes.

And so I congratulate you. Not perfunctorily, not lukewarmly, but with a fervency and fire that no word in the dictionary is strong enough to convey. And in the same breath and with the same depth and sincerity, I grieve for you. Not for both of you and not for the one that shall go first, but for the one that is fated to be left behind. For that one there is no recompense.—For that one no recompense is possible.

There are times—thousands of times—when I can expose the half of my mind, and conceal the other half, but in the matter of the tragedy of marriage I feel too deeply for that, and I have to bleed it all out or shut it all in. And so you must consider what I have been through, and am passing through and be charitable with me.

Make the most of the sunshine! and I hope it will last long—ever so long.

I do not really want to be present; yet for friendship’s sake and because I honor you so, I would be there if I could.
Most sincerely your friend,
S. L. CLEMENS.

The new home at Redding was completed in the spring of 1908, and on
the 18th of June, when it was entirely fitted and furnished, Mark
Twain entered it for the first time. He had never even seen the
place nor carefully examined plans which John Howells had made for
his house. He preferred the surprise of it, and the general
avoidance of detail. That he was satisfied with the result will be
seen in his letters. He named it at first "Innocence at Home";
later changing this title to "Stormfield."

The letter which follows is an acknowledgment of an interesting
souvenir from the battle-field of Tewksbury (1471), and some relics
of the Cavalier and Roundhead Regiments encamped at Tewksbury in
1643.

To an English admirer:

INNOCENCE AT HOME, REDDING, CONNECTICUT,
Aug. 15, ’08. DEAR SIR,—I highly prize the pipes, and shall intimate to people that "Raleigh" smoked them, and doubtless he did. After a little practice I shall be able to go further and say he did; they will then be the most interesting features of my library’s decorations. The Horse-shoe is attracting a good deal of attention, because I have intimated that the conqueror’s horse cast it; it will attract more when I get my hand in and say he cast it, I thank you for the pipes and the shoe; and also for the official guide, which I read through at a single sitting. If a person should say that about a book of mine I should regard it as good evidence of the book’s interest.
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

In his philosophy, What Is Man?, and now and again in his other
writings, we find Mark Twain giving small credit to the human mind
as an originator of ideas. The most original writer of his time, he
took no credit for pure invention and allowed none to others. The
mind, he declared, adapted, consciously or unconsciously; it did not
create. In a letter which follows he elucidates this doctrine. The
reference in it to the "captain" and to the kerosene, as the reader
may remember, have to do with Captain "Hurricane" Jones and his
theory of the miracles of "Isaac and of the prophets of Baal," as
expounded in Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion.

By a trick of memory Clemens gives The Little Duke as his suggestion
for The Prince and the Pauper; he should have written The Prince and
the Page, by the same author.

To Rev. F. Y. Christ, in New York:

REDDING, CONN., Aug., ’08. DEAR SIR,—You say "I often owe my best sermons to a suggestion received in reading or from other exterior sources." Your remark is not quite in accordance with the facts. We must change it to—"I owe all my thoughts, sermons and ideas to suggestions received from sources outside of myself. The simplified English of this proposition is—"No man’s brains ever originated an idea." It is an astonishing thing that after all these ages the world goes on thinking the human brain machinery can originate a thought.

It can’t. It never has done it. In all cases, little and big, the thought is born of a suggestion; and in all cases the suggestions come to the brain from the outside. The brain never acts except from exterior impulse.

A man can satisfy himself of the truth of this by a single process,—let him examine every idea that occurs to him in an hour; a day; in a week —in a lifetime if he please. He will always find that an outside something suggested the thought, something which he saw with his eyes or heard with his ears or perceived by his touch—not necessarily to-day, nor yesterday, nor last year, nor twenty years ago, but sometime or other. Usually the source of the suggestion is immediately traceable, but sometimes it isn’t.

However, if you will examine every thought that occurs to you for the next two days, you will find that in at least nine cases out of ten you can put your finger on the outside suggestion—And that ought to convince you that No. 10 had that source too, although you cannot at present hunt it down and find it.

The idea of writing to me would have had to wait a long time if it waited until your brain originated it. It was born of an outside suggestion— Sir Thomas and my old Captain.

The hypnotist thinks he has invented a new thing—suggestion. This is very sad. I don’t know where my captain got his kerosene idea. (It was forty-one years ago, and he is long ago dead.) But I know that it didn’t originate in his head, but it was born from a suggestion from the outside.

Yesterday a guest said, "How did you come to think of writing ’The Prince and the Pauper?’ I didn’t. The thought came to me from the outside— suggested by that pleasant and picturesque little history-book, Charlotte M. Yonge’s "Little Duke," I doubt if Mrs. Burnett knows whence came to her the suggestion to write "Little Lord Fauntleroy," but I know; it came to her from reading "The Prince and the Pauper." In all my life I have never originated an idea, and neither has she, nor anybody else.

Man’s mind is a clever machine, and can work up materials into ingenious fancies and ideas, but it can’t create the material; none but the gods can do that. In Sweden I saw a vast machine receive a block of wood, and turn it into marketable matches in two minutes. It could do everything but make the wood. That is the kind of machine the human mind is. Maybe this is not a large compliment, but it is all I can afford.....
Your friend and well-wisher
S. L. CLEMENS.

To Mrs. H. H. Rogers, in Fair Hawn, Mass.:

REDDING, CONN, Aug. 12, 1908. DEAR MRS. ROGERS, I believe I am the wellest man on the planet to-day, and good for a trip to Fair Haven (which I discussed with the Captain of the New Bedford boat, who pleasantly accosted me in the Grand Central August 5) but the doctor came up from New York day before yesterday, and gave positive orders that I must not stir from here before frost. It is because I was threatened with a swoon, 10 or 12 days ago, and went to New York a day or two later to attend my nephew’s funeral and got horribly exhausted by the heat and came back here and had a bilious collapse. In 24 hours I was as sound as a nut again, but nobody believes it but me.

This is a prodigiously satisfactory place, and I am so glad I don’t have to go back to the turmoil and rush of New York. The house stands high and the horizons are wide, yet the seclusion is perfect. The nearest public road is half a mile away, so there is nobody to look in, and I don’t have to wear clothes if I don’t want to. I have been down stairs in night-gown and slippers a couple of hours, and have been photographed in that costume; but I will dress, now, and behave myself.

That doctor had half an idea that there is something the matter with my brain. . . Doctors do know so little and they do charge so much for it. I wish Henry Rogers would come here, and I wish you would come with him. You can’t rest in that crowded place, but you could rest here, for sure! I would learn bridge, and entertain you, and rob you.
With love to you both,
Ever yours,
S. L. C.

In the foregoing letter we get the first intimation of Mark Twain’s
failing health. The nephew who had died was Samuel E. Moffett, son
of Pamela Clemens. Moffett, who was a distinguished journalist—an
editorial writer on Collier’s Weekly, a man beloved by all who knew
him—had been drowned in the surf off the Jersey beach.

To W. D. Howells, Kittery Point, Maine:

Aug. 12, ’08. DEAR HOWELLS,—Won’t you and Mrs. Howells and Mildred come and give us as many days as you can spare, and examine John’s triumph? It is the most satisfactory house I am acquainted with, and the most satisfactorily situated.

But it is no place to work in, because one is outside of it all the time, while the sun and the moon are on duty. Outside of it in the loggia, where the breezes blow and the tall arches divide up the scenery and frame it.

It’s a ghastly long distance to come, and I wouldn’t travel such a distance to see anything short of a memorial museum, but if you can’t come now you can at least come later when you return to New York, for the journey will be only an hour and a half per express-train. Things are gradually and steadily taking shape inside the house, and nature is taking care of the outside in her ingenious and wonderful fashion—and she is competent and asks no help and gets none. I have retired from New York for good, I have retired from labor for good, I have dismissed my stenographer and have entered upon a holiday whose other end is in the cemetery.
Yours ever,
MARK.

From a gentleman in Buffalo Clemens one day received a letter
inclosing an incompleted list of the world’s "One Hundred Greatest
Men," men who had exerted "the largest visible influence on the life
and activities of the race." The writer asked that Mark Twain
examine the list and suggest names, adding "would you include Jesus,
as the founder of Christianity, in the list?"

To the list of statesmen Clemens added the name of Thomas Paine; to
the list of inventors, Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. The
question he answered in detail.

To-----------, Buffalo, N. Y.

Private. REDDING, CONN, Aug. 28, ’08. DEAR SIR,—By "private," I mean don’t print any remarks of mine.

.................. I like your list.

The "largest visible influence."

These terms require you to add Jesus. And they doubly and trebly require you to add Satan. From A.D. 350 to A.D. 1850 these gentlemen exercised a vaster influence over a fifth part of the human race than was exercised over that fraction of the race by all other influences combined. Ninetynine hundredths of this influence proceeded from Satan, the remaining fraction of it from Jesus. During those 1500 years the fear of Satan and Hell made 99 Christians where love of God and Heaven landed one. During those 1500 years, Satan’s influence was worth very nearly a hundred times as much to the business as was the influence of all the rest of the Holy Family put together.

You have asked me a question, and I have answered it seriously and sincerely. You have put in Buddha—a god, with a following, at one time, greater than Jesus ever had: a god with perhaps a little better evidence of his godship than that which is offered for Jesus’s. How then, in fairness, can you leave Jesus out? And if you put him in, how can you logically leave Satan out? Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is the lightning that does the work.
Very truly yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

The "Children’s Theatre" of the next letter was an institution of
the New York East Side in which Mark Twain was deeply interested.
The children were most, if not all, of Hebrew parentage, and the
performances they gave, under the direction of Alice M. Herts, were
really remarkable. It seemed a pity that lack of funds should have
brought this excellent educational venture to an untimely end.

The following letter was in reply to one inclosing a newspaper
clipping reporting a performance of The Prince and the Pauper, given
by Chicago school children.

To Mrs. Hookway, in Chicago:
Sept., 1908. DEAR MRS. HOOKWAY,—Although I am full of the spirit of work this morning, a rarity with me lately—I must steal a moment or two for a word in person: for I have been reading the eloquent account in the Record- Herald and am pleasurably stirred, to my deepest deeps. The reading brings vividly back to me my pet and pride. The Children’s Theatre of the East side, New York. And it supports and re-affirms what I have so often and strenuously said in public that a children’s theatre is easily the most valuable adjunct that any educational institution for the young can have, and that no otherwise good school is complete without it.

It is much the most effective teacher of morals and promoter of good conduct that the ingenuity of man has yet devised, for the reason that its lessons are not taught wearily by book and by dreary homily, but by visible and enthusing action; and they go straight to the heart, which is the rightest of right places for them. Book morals often get no further than the intellect, if they even get that far on their spectral and shadowy pilgrimage: but when they travel from a Children’s Theatre they do not stop permanently at that halfway house, but go on home.

The children’s theatre is the only teacher of morals and conduct and high ideals that never bores the pupil, but always leaves him sorry when the lesson is over. And as for history, no other teacher is for a moment comparable to it: no other can make the dead heroes of the world rise up and shake the dust of the ages from their bones and live and move and breathe and speak and be real to the looker and listener: no other can make the study of the lives and times of the illustrious dead a delight, a splendid interest, a passion; and no other can paint a history-lesson in colors that will stay, and stay, and never fade.

It is my conviction that the children’s theatre is one of the very, very great inventions of the twentieth century; and that its vast educational value—now but dimly perceived and but vaguely understood—will presently come to be recognized. By the article which I have been reading I find the same things happening in the Howland School that we have become familiar with in our Children’s Theatre (of which I am President, and sufficiently vain of the distinction.) These things among others;

1. The educating history-study does not stop with the little players, but the whole school catches the infection and revels in it.

2. And it doesn’t even stop there; the children carry it home and infect the family with it—even the parents and grandparents; and the whole household fall to studying history, and bygone manners and customs and costumes with eager interest. And this interest is carried along to the studying of costumes in old book-plates; and beyond that to the selecting of fabrics and the making of clothes. Hundreds of our children learn, the plays by listening without book, and by making notes; then the listener goes home and plays the piece—all the parts! to the family. And the family are glad and proud; glad to listen to the explanations and analyses, glad to learn, glad to be lifted to planes above their dreary workaday lives. Our children’s theatre is educating 7,000 children—and their families. When we put on a play of Shakespeare they fall to studying it diligently; so that they may be qualified to enjoy it to the limit when the piece is staged.

3. Your Howland School children do the construction-work, stagedecorations, etc. That is our way too. Our young folks do everything that is needed by the theatre, with their own hands; scene-designing, scene-painting, gas-fitting, electric work, costume-designing—costume making, everything and all things indeed—and their orchestra and its leader are from their own ranks.

The article which I have been reading, says—speaking of the historical play produced by the pupils of the Howland School—

"The question naturally arises, What has this drama done for those who so enthusiastically took part?—The touching story has made a year out of the Past live for the children as could no chronology or bald statement of historical events; it has cultivated the fancy and given to the imagination strength and purity; work in composition has ceased to be drudgery, for when all other themes fall flat a subject dealing with some aspect of the drama presented never fails to arouse interest and a rapid pushing of pens over paper."

That is entirely true. The interest is not confined to the drama’s story, it spreads out all around the period of the story, and gives to all the outlying and unrelated happenings of that period a fascinating interest—an interest which does not fade out with the years, but remains always fresh, always inspiring, always welcome. History-facts dug by the job, with sweat and tears out of a dry and spiritless text-book—but never mind, all who have suffered know what that is. . .
I remain, dear madam,
Sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

Mark Twain had a special fondness for cats. As a boy he always
owned one and it generally had a seat beside him at the table.
There were cats at Quarry Farm and at Hartford, and in the house at
Redding there was a gray mother-cat named Tammany, of which he was
especially fond. Kittens capering about were his chief delight.
In a letter to a Chicago woman he tells how those of Tammany
assisted at his favorite game.

To Mrs. Mabel Larkin Patterson, in Chicago:

REDDING, CONNECTICUT,
Oct. 2, ’08. DEAR MRS. PATTERSON,—The contents of your letter are very pleasant and very welcome, and I thank you for them, sincerely. If I can find a photograph of my "Tammany" and her kittens, I will enclose it in this.

One of them likes to be crammed into a corner-pocket of the billiard table—which he fits as snugly as does a finger in a glove and then he watches the game (and obstructs it) by the hour, and spoils many a shot by putting out his paw and changing the direction of a passing ball. Whenever a ball is in his arms, or so close to him that it cannot be played upon without risk of hurting him, the player is privileged to remove it to anyone of the 3 spots that chances to be vacant.

Ah, no, my lecturing days are over for good and all.
Sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

The letter to Howells which follows was written a short time before
the passage of the copyright extension bill, which rendered Mark
Twain’s new plan, here mentioned, unneeded—at least for the time.

To W. D. Howells, in New York:

Monday, Oct. 26, ’08. Oh, I say! Where are you hiding, and why are you hiding? You promised to come here and you didn’t keep your word. (This sounds like astonishment—but don’t be misled by that.)

Come, fire up again on your fiction-mill and give us another good promise. And this time keep it—for it is your turn to be astonished. Come and stay as long as you possibly can. I invented a new copyright extension scheme last Friday, and sat up all night arranging its details. It will interest you. Yesterday I got it down on paper in as compact a form as I could. Harvey and I have examined the scheme, and to-morrow or next day he will send me a couple of copyright-experts to arrange about getting certain statistics for me.

Authors, publishers and the public have always been damaged by the copyright laws. The proposed amendment will advantage all three—the public most of all. I think Congress will pass it and settle the vexed question permanently.

I shall need your assent and the assent of about a dozen other authors. Also the assent of all the large firms of the 300 publishers. These authors and publishers will furnish said assent I am sure. Not even the pirates will be able to furnish a serious objection, I think.

Come along. This place seemed at its best when all around was summergreen; later it seemed at its best when all around was burning with the autumn splendors; and now once more it seems at its best, with the trees naked and the ground a painter’s palette.
Yours ever,
MARK.

Clemens was a great admirer of the sea stories of W. W. Jacobs and
generally kept one or more of this author’s volumes in reach of his
bed, where most of his reading was done. The acknowledgment that
follows was sent when he had finished Salthaven.

To W. W. Jacobs, in England:

REDDING, CONN,
Oct. 28, ’08. DEAR MR. JACOBS,—It has a delightful look. I will not venture to say how delightful, because the words would sound extravagant, and would thereby lose some of their strength and to that degree misrepresent me. It is my conviction that Dialstone Lane holds the supremacy over all purely humorous books in our language, but I feel about Salthaven as the Cape Cod poet feels about Simon Hanks:

"The Lord knows all things, great and small,
With doubt he’s not perplexed:
’Tis Him alone that knows it all
But Simon Hanks comes next."

The poet was moved by envy and malice and jealousy, but I am not: I place Salthaven close up next to Dialstone because I think it has a fair and honest right to that high position. I have kept the other book moving; I shall begin to hand this one around now.

And many thanks to you for remembering me.

This house is out in the solitudes of the woods and the hills, an hour and a half from New York, and I mean to stay in it winter and summer the rest of my days. I beg you to come and help occupy it a few days the next time you visit the U.S.
Sincerely yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

One of the attractions of Stormfield was a beautiful mantel in the
billiard room, presented by the Hawaiian Promotion Committee. It
had not arrived when the rest of the house was completed, but came
in time to be set in place early in the morning of the owner’s
seventy-third birthday. It was made of a variety of Hawaiian woods,
and was the work of a native carver, F. M. Otremba. Clemens was
deeply touched by the offering from those "western isles"—the
memory of which was always so sweet to him.

To Mr. Wood, in Hawaii:

Nov. 30, ’08. DEAR MR. WOOD,—The beautiful mantel was put in its place an hour ago, and its friendly "Aloha" was the first uttered greeting my 73rd birthday received. It is rich in color, rich in quality, and rich in decoration, therefore it exactly harmonizes with the taste for such things which was born in me and which I have seldom been able to indulge to my content. It will be a great pleasure to me, daily renewed, to have under my eye this lovely reminder of the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean, and I beg to thank the Committee for providing me that pleasure.
Sincerely Yours,
S. L. CLEMENS.

Contents:

Related Resources

Mark Twain

Download Options


Title: Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910)

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910)

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Mark Twain, "XLVI. Letters 1907–08. A Degree from Oxford. The New Home at Redding," Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910), ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Mark Twain’s Letters—Volume 6 (1907-1910) (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed November 14, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X6APJKJCQ6TRGR9.

MLA: Twain, Mark. "XLVI. Letters 1907–08. A Degree from Oxford. The New Home at Redding." Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910), edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Mark Twain’s Letters—Volume 6 (1907-1910), Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 14 Nov. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X6APJKJCQ6TRGR9.

Harvard: Twain, M, 'XLVI. Letters 1907–08. A Degree from Oxford. The New Home at Redding' in Mark Twain’s Letters— Vol. 6 (1907–1910), ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Mark Twain’s Letters—Volume 6 (1907-1910), A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 14 November 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X6APJKJCQ6TRGR9.