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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol II, Part 2: 1886 - 1900|
CLXXX. Many Wanderings
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|Mentone was warm and quiet, and Clemens worked when his arm permitted.
He was alone there with Mrs. Clemens, and they wandered about a good
deal, idling and picture-making, enjoying a sort of belated honeymoon.
Clemens wrote to Susy:
Joseph is gone to Nice to educate himself in kodaking--and to get the
pictures mounted which mama thinks she took here; but I noticed she
didn't take the plug out, as a rule. When she did she took nine pictures
on top of each other--composites.
They remained a month in Mentone, then went over to Pisa, and sent Joseph
to bring the rest of the party to Rome. In Rome they spent another
month--a period of sight-seeing, enjoyable, but to Clemens pretty
"I do not expect to be able to write any literature this year," he said
in a letter to Hall near the end of April. "The moment I take up my pen
my rheumatism returns."
Still he struggled along and managed to pile up a good deal of copy in
the course of weeks. From Rome to Florence, at the end of April, and so
pleasing was the prospect, and so salubrious the air of that ancient
city, that they resolved to engage residence there for the next winter.
They inspected accommodations of various kinds, and finally, through
Prof. Willard Fiske, were directed to the Villa Viviani, near Settignano,
on a hill to the eastward of Florence, with vineyard and olive-grove
sloping away to the city lying in a haze-a vision of beauty and peace.
They closed the arrangement for Viviani, and about the middle of May went
up to Venice for a fortnight of sight-seeing--a break in the travel back
to Germany. William Gedney Bunce, the Hartford artist, was in Venice,
and Sarah Orne Jewett and other home friends.
From Venice, by way of Lake Como and "a tangled route" (his note-book
says) to Lucerne, and so northward to Berlin and on to Bad Nauheim, where
they had planned to spend the summer. Clemens for some weeks had
contemplated a trip to America, for matters there seemed to demand his
personal attention. Summer arrangements for the family being now
concluded, he left within the week and set sail on the Havel for New
York. To Jean he wrote a cheerful good-by letter, more cheerful, we may
believe, than he felt.
BREMEN, 7.45 A.M., June 14, 1892.
DEAR JEAN CLEMENS,--I am up & shaved & got my clean shirt on & feel
mighty fine, & am going down to show off before I put on the rest of my
Perhaps mama & Mrs. Hague can persuade the Hauswirth to do right; but if
he don't you go down & kill his dog.
I wish you would invite the Consul-General and his ladies down to take
one of those slim dinners with mama, then he would complain to the
Clemens felt that his presence in America, was demanded by two things.
Hall's reports continued, as ever, optimistic; but the semi-annual
statements were less encouraging. The Library of Literature and some of
the other books were selling well enough; but the continuous increase of
capital required by a business conducted on the instalment plan had
steadily added to the firm's liabilities, while the prospect of a general
tightening in the money-market made the outlook not a particularly happy
one. Clemens thought he might be able to dispose of the Library or an
interest in it, or even of his share of the business itself, to some one
with means sufficient to put it on an easier financial footing. The
uncertainties of trade and the burden of increased debt had become a
nightmare which interfered with his sleep. It seemed hard enough to earn
a living with a crippled arm, without this heavy business care.
The second interest requiring attention was that other old one--the
machine. Clemens had left the matter in Paige's hands, and Paige, with
persuasive eloquence, had interested Chicago capital to a point where a
company had been formed to manufacture the type-setter in that city.
Paige reported that he had got several million dollars subscribed for the
construction of a factory, and that he had been placed on a salary as a
sort of general "consulting omniscient" at five thousand dollars a month.
Clemens, who had been negotiating again with the Mallorys for the
disposal of his machine royalties, thought it proper to find out just
what was going on. He remained in America less than two weeks, during
which he made a flying trip to Chicago and found that Paige's company
really had a factory started, and proposed to manufacture fifty machines.
It was not easy to find out the exact status of this new company, but
Clemens at least was hopeful enough of its prospects to call off the
negotiations with the Mallorys which had promised considerable cash in
hand. He had been able to accomplish nothing material in the publishing
situation, but his heart-to-heart talk with Hall for some reason had
seemed comforting. The business had been expanding; they would now
"concentrate." He returned on the Lahn, and he must have been in better
health and spirits, for it is said he kept the ship very merry during the
passage. He told many extravagantly amusing yarns; so many that a court
was convened to try him on the charge of "inordinate and unscientific
lying." Many witnesses testified, and his own testimony was so
unconvincing that the jury convicted him without leaving the bench. He
was sentenced to read aloud from his own works for a considerable period
every day until the steamer should reach port. It is said that he
faithfully carried out this part of the program, and that the proceeds
from the trial and the various readings amounted to something more than
six hundred dollars, which was turned over to the Seamen's Fund.
Clemens's arm was really much better, and he put in a good deal of spare
time during the trip writing an article on "All Sorts and Conditions of
Ships," from Noah's Ark down to the fine new Havel, then the latest word
in ship-construction. It was an article written in a happy vein and is
profitable reading to-day. The description of Columbus as he appeared on
the deck of his flag-ship is particularly rich and flowing:
If the weather was chilly he came up clad from plumed helmet to
spurred heel in magnificent plate-armor inlaid with arabesques of
gold, having previously warmed it at the galley fire. If the
weather was warm he came up in the ordinary sailor toggery of the
time-great slouch hat of blue velvet, with a flowing brush of snowy
ostrich-plumes, fastened on with a flashing cluster of diamonds and
emeralds; gold-embroidered doublet of green velvet, with slashed
sleeves exposing undersleeves of crimson satin; deep collar and cuff
ruffles of rich, limp lace; trunk hose of pink velvet, with big
knee-knots of brocaded yellow ribbon; pearl-tinted silk stockings,
clocked and daintily embroidered; lemon-colored buskins of unborn
kid, funnel-topped, and drooping low to expose the pretty stockings;
deep gauntlets of finest white heretic skin, from the factory of the
Holy Inquisition, formerly part of the person of a lady of rank;
rapier with sheath crusted with jewels and hanging from a broad
baldric upholstered with rubies and sapphires.