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!"