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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol II, Part 2: 1886 - 1900|
CLXXXI. Nauheim and the Prince of Wales
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|Clemens was able to write pretty steadily that summer in Nauheim and
turned off a quantity of copy. He completed several short articles and
stories, and began, or at least continued work on, two books--'Tom Sawyer
Abroad' and 'Those Extraordinary Twins'--the latter being the original
form of 'Pudd'nhead Wilson'. As early as August 4th he wrote to Hall
that he had finished forty thousand words of the "Tom Sawyer" story, and
that it was to be offered to some young people's magazine, Harper's Young
People or St. Nicholas; but then he suddenly decided that his narrative
method was altogether wrong. To Hall on the 10th he wrote:
I have dropped that novel I wrote you about because I saw a more
effective way of using the main episode--to wit, by telling it
through the lips of Huck Finn. So I have started Huck Finn & Tom
Sawyer (still 15 years old) & their friend the freed slave Jim
around the world in a stray balloon, with Huck as narrator, &
somewhere after the end of that great voyage he will work in that
original episode & then nobody will suspect that a whole book has
been written & the globe circumnavigated merely to get that episode
in in an effective (& at the same time apparently unintentional)
way. I have written 12,000 words of this new narrative, & find that
the humor flows as easily as the adventures & surprises--so I shall
go along and make a book of from 50,000 to 100,000 words.
It is a story for boys, of course, & I think it will interest any
boy between 8 years & 80.
When I was in New York the other day Mrs. Dodge, editor of St.
Nicholas, wrote and offered me $5,000 for (serial right) a story for
boys 50,000 words long. I wrote back and declined, for I had other
matter in my mind then.
I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write
so that it will not only interest boys, but will also strongly
interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges
Now, this story doesn't need to be restricted to a child's magazine
--it is proper enough for any magazine, I should think, or for a
syndicate. I don't swear it, but I think so.
Proposed title--New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
He was full of his usual enthusiasm in any new undertaking, and writes of
the Extraordinary Twins:
By and by I shall have to offer (for grown folks' magazine) a novel
entitled, 'Those Extraordinary Twins'. It's the howling farce I
told you I had begun awhile back. I laid it aside to ferment while
I wrote Tom Sawyer Abroad, but I took it up again on a little
different plan lately, and it is swimming along satisfactorily now.
I think all sorts of folks will read it. It is clear out of the
common order--it is a fresh idea--I don't think it resembles
anything in literature.
He was quite right; it did not resemble anything in literature, nor did
it greatly resemble literature, though something at least related to
literature would eventually grow out of it.
In a letter written many years afterward by Frank Mason, then consul-
general at Frankfort, he refers to "that happy summer at Nauheim." Mason
was often a visitor there, and we may believe that his memory of the
summer was justified. For one thing, Clemens himself was in better
health and spirits and able to continue his work. But an even greater
happiness lay in the fact that two eminent physicians had pronounced Mrs.
Clemens free from any organic ills. To Orion, Clemens wrote:
We are in the clouds because the bath physicians say positively that
Livy has no heart disease but has only weakness of the heart muscles
and will soon be well again. That was worth going to Europe to find
It was enough to change the whole atmosphere of the household, and
financial worries were less considered. Another letter to Orion relates
The Twichells have been here four days & we have had good times with
them. Joe & I ran over to Homburg, the great pleasure-resort,
Saturday, to dine with friends, & in the morning I went walking in
the promenade & met the British ambassador to the Court of Berlin
and he introduced me to the Prince of Wales. I found him a most
unusually comfortable and unembarrassing Englishman.
Twichell has reported Mark Twain's meeting with the Prince (later Edward
VII) as having come about by special request of the latter, made through
the British ambassador. "The meeting," he says, "was a most cordial one
on both sides, and presently the Prince took Mark Twain's arm and the two
marched up and down, talking earnestly together, the Prince, solid,
erect, and soldierlike, Clemens weaving along in his curious, swinging
gait in a full tide of talk, and brandishing a sun-umbrella of the most
When they parted Clemens said:
"It has been, indeed, a great pleasure to meet your Royal Highness."
The Prince answered:
"And it is a pleasure, Mr. Clemens, to have met you--again."
Clemens was puzzled to reply.
"Why," he said, "have we met before?"
The Prince smiled happily.
"Oh yes," he said; "don't you remember that day on the Strand when you
were on the top of a bus and I was heading a procession and you had on
your new overcoat with flap-pockets?"--[See chap. clxiii, "A Letter to
the Queen of England."]
It was the highest compliment he could have paid, for it showed that he
had read, and had remembered all those years. Clemens expressed to
Twichell regret that he had forgotten to mention his visit to the
Prince's sister, Louise, in Ottawa, but he had his opportunity at a
dinner next day. Later the Prince had him to supper and they passed an
entire evening together.
There was a certain uneasiness in the Nauheim atmosphere that year, for
the cholera had broken out at Hamburg, and its victims were dying at a
terrific rate. It was almost impossible to get authentic news as to the
spread of the epidemic, for the German papers were curiously conservative
in their reports. Clemens wrote an article on the subject but concluded
not to print it. A paragraph will convey its tenor.
What I am trying to make the reader understand is the strangeness of
the situation here--a mighty tragedy being played upon a stage that
is close to us, & yet we are as ignorant of its details as we should
be if the stage were in China. We sit "in front," & the audience is
in fact the world; but the curtain is down, & from behind it we hear
only an inarticulate murmur. The Hamburg disaster must go into
history as the disaster without a history.
He closes with an item from a physician's letter--an item which he says
"gives you a sudden and terrific sense of the situation there."
For in a line it flashes before you--this ghastly picture--a thing
seen by the physician: a wagon going along the street with five sick
people in it, and with them four dead ones.