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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 1: 1900 - 1907|
CCXXXV. A Summer in New Hampshire
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|He took for the summer a house at Dublin, New Hampshire, the home of
Henry Copley Greene, Lone Tree Hill, on the Monadnock slope. It was in a
lovely locality, and for neighbors there were artists, literary people,
and those of kindred pursuits, among them a number of old friends.
Colonel Higginson had a place near by, and Abbott H. Thayer, the painter,
and George de Forest Brush, and the Raphael Pumpelly family, and many
Colonel Higginson wrote Clemens a letter of welcome as soon as the news
got out that he was going to Dublin; and Clemens, answering, said:
I early learned that you would be my neighbor in the summer & I
rejoiced, recognizing in you & your family a large asset. I hope
for frequent intercourse between the two households. I shall have
my youngest daughter with me. The other one will go from the rest-
cure in this city to the rest-cure in Norfolk, Connecticut; & we
shall not see her before autumn. We have not seen her since the
middle of October.
Jean, the younger daughter, went to Dublin & saw the house & came
back charmed with it. I know the Thayers of old--manifestly there
is no lack of attractions up there. Mrs. Thayer and I were
shipmates in a wild excursion perilously near 40 years ago.
Aldrich was here half an hour ago, like a breeze from over the
fields, with the fragrance still upon his spirit. I am tired
wanting for that man to get old.
They went to Dublin in May, and became at once a part of the summer
colony which congregated there. There was much going to and fro among
the different houses, pleasant afternoons in the woods, mountain-climbing
for Jean, and everywhere a spirit of fine, unpretentious comradeship.
The Copley Greene house was romantically situated, with a charming
outlook. Clemens wrote to Twichell:
We like it here in the mountains, in the shadows of Monadnock. It
is a woody solitude. We have no near neighbors. We have neighbors
and I can see their houses scattered in the forest distances, for we
live on a hill. I am astonished to find that I have known 8 of
these 14 neighbors a long time; 10 years is the shortest; then seven
beginning with 25 years & running up to 37 years' friendship. It is
the most remarkable thing I ever heard of.
This letter was written in July, and he states in it that he has turned
out one hundred thousand words of a large manuscript. . It was a
fantastic tale entitled "3,000 Years among the Microbes," a sort of
scientific revel--or revelry--the autobiography of a microbe that had
been once a man, and through a failure in a biological experiment
transformed into a cholera germ when the experimenter was trying to turn
him into a bird. His habitat was the person of a disreputable tramp
named Blitzowski, a human continent of vast areas, with seething microbic
nations and fantastic life problems. It was a satire, of course--
Gulliver's Lilliput outdone--a sort of scientific, socialistic,
He tired of it before it reached completion, though not before it had
attained the proportions of a book of size. As a whole it would hardly
have added to his reputation, though it is not without fine and humorous
passages, and certainly not without interest. Its chief mission was to
divert him mentally that summer during, those days and nights when he
would otherwise have been alone and brooding upon his loneliness.--[For
extracts from "3,000 Years among the Microbes" see Appendix V, at the end
of this work.]
MARK TWAIN'S SUGGESTED TITLE-PAGE FOR HIS MICROBE BOOK:
AMONG THE MICROBES
By a Microbe
added by the same Hand
7000 years later
Translated from the Original
His inability to reproduce faces in his mind's eye he mourned as an
increasing calamity. Photographs were lifeless things, and when he tried
to conjure up the faces of his dead they seemed to drift farther out of
reach; but now and then kindly sleep brought to him something out of that
treasure-house where all our realities are kept for us fresh and fair,
perhaps for a day when we may claim them again. Once he wrote to Mrs.
SUSY DEAR,--I have had a lovely dream. Livy, dressed in black, was
sitting up in my bed (here) at my right & looking as young & sweet
as she used to when she was in health. She said, "What is the name
of your sweet sister?" I said," Pamela." "Oh yes, that is it, I
thought it was--(naming a name which has escaped me) won't you write
it down for me?" I reached eagerly for a pen & pad, laid my hands
upon both, then said to myself, "It is only a dream," and turned
back sorrowfully & there she was still. The conviction flamed
through me that our lamented disaster was a dream, & this a reality.
I said, "How blessed it is, how blessed it is, it was all a dream,
only a dream!" She only smiled and did not ask what dream I meant,
which surprised me. She leaned her head against mine & kept saying,
"I was perfectly sure it was a dream; I never would have believed it
wasn't." I think she said several things, but if so they are gone
from my memory. I woke & did not know I had been dreaming. She was
gone. I wondered how she could go without my knowing it, but I did
not spend any thought upon that. I was too busy thinking of how
vivid & real was the dream that we had lost her, & how unspeakably
blessed it was to find that it was not true & that she was still
ours & with us.
He had the orchestrelle moved to Dublin, although it was no small
undertaking, for he needed the solace of its harmonies; and so the days
passed along, and he grew stronger in body and courage as his grief
drifted farther behind him. Sometimes, in the afternoon or in the
evening; when the neighbors had come in for a little while, he would walk
up and down and talk in his old, marvelous way of all the things on land
and sea, of the past and of the future, "Of Providence, foreknowledge,
will, and fate," of the friends he had known and of the things he had
done, of the sorrow and absurdities of the world.
It was the same old scintillating, incomparable talk of which Howells
"We shall never know its like again. When he dies it will die with him."
It was during the summer at Dublin that Clemens and Rogers together made
up a philanthropic ruse on Twichell. Twichell, through his own prodigal
charities, had fallen into debt, a fact which Rogers knew. Rogers was a
man who concealed his philanthropies when he could, and he performed many
of them of which the world will never know: In this case he said:
"Clemens, I want to help Twichell out of his financial difficulty. I
will supply the money and you will do the giving. Twichell must think it
comes from you."
Clemens agreed to this on the condition that he be permitted to leave a
record of the matter for his children, so that he would not appear in a
false light to them, and that Twichell should learn the truth of the
gift, sooner or later. So the deed was done, and Twichell and his wife
lavished their thanks upon Clemens, who, with his wife, had more than
once been their benefactors, making the deception easy enough now.
Clemens writhed under these letters of gratitude, and forwarded them to
Clara in Norfolk, and later to Rogers himself. He pretended to take
great pleasure in this part of the conspiracy, but it was not an unmixed
delight. To Rogers he wrote:
I wanted her [Clara] to see what a generous father she's got. I
didn't tell her it was you, but by and by I want to tell her, when I
have your consent; then I shall want her to remember the letters. I
want a record there, for my Life when I am dead, & must be able to
furnish the facts about the Relief-of-Lucknow-Twichell in case I
fall suddenly, before I get those facts with your consent, before
the Twichells themselves.
I read those letters with immense pride! I recognized that I had
scored one good deed for sure on my halo account. I haven't had
anything that tasted so good since the stolen watermelon.
P. S.-I am hurrying them off to you because I dasn't read them
again! I should blush to my heels to fill up with this unearned
gratitude again, pouring out of the thankful hearts of those poor
swindled people who do not suspect you, but honestly believe I gave
Mr. Rogers hastily replied:
MY DEAR CLEMENS,--The letters are lovely. Don't breathe. They are
so happy! It would be a crime to let them think that you have in
any way deceived them. I can keep still. You must. I am sending
you all traces of the crime, so that you may look innocent and tell
the truth, as you usually do when you think you can escape
detection. Don't get rattled.
Seriously. You have done a kindness. You are proud of it, I know.
You have made your friends happy, and you ought to be so glad as to
cheerfully accept reproof from your conscience. Joe Wadsworth and I
once stole a goose and gave it to a poor widow as a Christmas
present. No crime in that. I always put my counterfeit money on
the plate. "The passer of the sasser" always smiles at me and I get
credit for doing generous things. But seriously again, if you do
feel a little uncomfortable wait until I see you before you tell
anybody. Avoid cultivating misery. I am trying to loaf ten solid
days. We do hope to see you soon.
The secret was kept, and the matter presently (and characteristically)
passed out of Clemens's mind altogether. He never remembered to tell
Twichell, and it is revealed here, according to his wish.
The Russian-Japanese war was in progress that summer, and its settlement
occurred in August. The terms of it did not please Mark Twain. When a
newspaper correspondent asked him for an expression of opinion on the
subject he wrote:
Russia was on the highroad to emancipation from an insane and
intolerable slavery. I was hoping there would be no peace until
Russian liberty was safe. I think that this was a holy war, in the
best and noblest sense of that abused term, and that no war was ever
charged with a higher mission.
I think there can be no doubt that that mission is now defeated and
Russia's chain riveted; this time to stay. I think the Tsar will
now withdraw the small humanities that have been forced from him,
and resume his medieval barbarisms with a relieved spirit and an
immeasurable joy. I think Russian liberty has had its last chance
and has lost it.
I think nothing has been gained by the peace that is remotely
comparable to what has been sacrificed by it. One more battle would
have abolished the waiting chains of billions upon billions of
unborn Russians, and I wish it could have been fought. I hope I am
mistaken, yet in all sincerity I believe that this peace is entitled
to rank as the most conspicuous disaster in political history.
It was the wisest public utterance on the subject--the deep, resonant
note of truth sounding amid a clamor of foolish joy-bells. It was the
message of a seer--the prophecy of a sage who sees with the clairvoyance
of knowledge and human understanding. Clemens, a few days later, was
invited by Colonel Harvey to dine with Baron Rosen and M. Sergius Witte;
but an attack of his old malady--rheumatism--prevented his acceptance.
His telegram of declination apparently pleased the Russian officials, for
Witte asked permission to publish it, and declared that he was going to
take it home to show to the Tsar. It was as follows:
To COLONEL HARVEY,--I am still a cripple, otherwise I should be more than
glad of this opportunity to meet the illustrious magicians who came here
equipped with nothing but a pen, & with it have divided the honors of the
war with the sword. It is fair to presume that in thirty centuries
history will not get done in admiring these men who attempted what the
world regarded as the impossible & achieved it.
But this was a modified form. His original draft would perhaps have been
less gratifying to that Russian embassy. It read:
To COLONEL HARVEY,--I am still a cripple, otherwise I should be more
than glad of this opportunity to meet those illustrious magicians
who with the pen have annulled, obliterated, & abolished every high
achievement of the Japanese sword and turned the tragedy of a
tremendous war into a gay & blithesome comedy. If I may, let me in
all respect and honor salute them as my fellow-humorists, I taking
third place, as becomes one who was not born to modesty, but by
diligence & hard work is acquiring it.
There was still another form, brief and expressive:
DEAR COLONEL,--No, this is a love-feast; when you call a lodge of sorrow
send for me.
Clemens's war sentiment was given the widest newspaper circulation, and
brought him many letters, most of them applauding his words. Charles
Francis Adams wrote him:
It attracted my attention because it so exactly expresses the views
I have myself all along entertained.
And this was the gist of most of the expressed sentiments which came to
Clemens wrote a number of things that summer, among them a little essay
entitled, "The Privilege of the Grave"--that is to say, free speech.
He was looking forward, he said, to the time when he should inherit that
privilege, when some of the things he had said, written and laid away,
could be published without damage to his friends or family. An article
entitled, "Interpreting the Deity," he counted as among the things to be
uttered when he had entered into that last great privilege. It is an
article on the reading of signs and auguries in all ages to discover the
intentions of the Almighty, with historical examples of God's judgments
and vindications. Here is a fair specimen. It refers to the chronicle
of Henry Huntington:
All through this book Henry exhibits his familiarity with the
intentions of God and with the reasons for the intentions.
Sometimes very often, in fact--the act follows the intention after
such a wide interval of time that one wonders how Henry could fit
one act out of a hundred to one intention, and get the thing right
every time, when there was such abundant choice among acts and
intentions. Sometimes a man offends the Deity with a crime, and is
punished for it thirty years later; meantime he has committed a
million other crimes: no matter, Henry can pick out the one that
brought the worms. Worms were generally used in those days for the
slaying of particularly wicked people. This has gone out now, but
in the old times it was a favorite. It always indicated a case of
"wrath." For instance:
"The just God avenging Robert Fitzhildebrand's perfidity, a worm
grew in his vitals which, gradually gnawing its way through his
intestines, fattened on the abandoned man till, tortured with
excruciating sufferings and venting himself in bitter moans, he was
by a fitting punishment brought to his end" (p. 400).
It was probably an alligator, but we cannot tell; we only know it
was a particular breed, and only used to convey wrath. Some
authorities think it was an ichthyosaurus, but there is much doubt.
The entire article is in this amusing, satirical strain, and might well
enough be printed to-day. It is not altogether clear why it was
withheld, even then.
He finished his Eve's Diary that summer, and wrote a story which was
originally planned to oblige Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske, to aid her in a
crusade against bullfighting in Spain. Mrs. Fiske wrote him that she had
read his dog story, written against the cruelties of vivisection, and
urged him to do something to save the horses that, after faithful
service, were sacrificed in the bull-ring. Her letter closed:
I have lain awake nights very often wondering if I dare ask you to
write a story of an old horse that is finally given over to the
bull-ring. The story you would write would do more good than all
the laws we are trying to have made and enforced for the prevention
of cruelty to animals in Spain. We would translate and circulate
the story in that country. I have wondered if you would ever write
With most devoted homage,
MINNIE MADDERN FISKE.
Clemens promptly replied:
DEAR MRS. FISKE, I shall certainly write the story. But I may not get it
to suit me, in which case it will go in the fire. Later I will try it
again--& yet again--& again. I am used to this. It has taken me twelve
years to write a short story--the shortest one I ever wrote, I think.--
[Probably "The Death Disk:"]--So do not be discouraged; I will stick to
this one in the same way.
S. L. CLEMENS.
It was an inspiring subject, and he began work on it immediately. Within
a month from the time he received Mrs. Fiske's letter he had written that
pathetic, heartbreaking little story, "A Horse's Tale," and sent it to
Harper's Magazine for illustration. In a letter written to Mr. Duneka at
the time, he tells of his interest in the narrative, and adds:
This strong interest is natural, for the heroine is my small
daughter Susy, whom we lost. It was not intentional--it was a good
while before I found it out, so I am sending you her picture to use
--& to reproduce with photographic exactness the unsurpassable
expression & all. May you find an artist who has lost an idol.
He explains how he had put in a good deal of work, with his secretary, on
the orchestrelle to get the bugle-calls.
We are to do these theatricals this evening with a couple of
neighbors for audience, and then pass the hat.
It is not one of Mark Twain's greatest stories, but its pathos brings the
tears, and no one can read it without indignation toward the custom which
it was intended to oppose. When it was published, a year later, Mrs.
Fiske sent him her grateful acknowledgments, and asked permission to have
it printed for pamphlet circulation in Spain.
A number of more or less notable things happened in this, Mark Twain's
seventieth year. There was some kind of a reunion going on in
California, and he was variously invited to attend. Robert Fulton, of
Nevada, was appointed a committee of one to invite him to Reno for a
great celebration which was to be held there. Clemens replied that he
remembered, as if it were but yesterday, when he had disembarked from the
Overland stage in front of the Ormsby Hotel, in Carson City, and told how
he would like to accept the invitation.
If I were a few years younger I would accept it, and promptly, and I
would go. I would let somebody else do the oration, but as for me I
would talk--just talk. I would renew my youth; and talk--and talk--and
talk--and have the time of my life! I would march the unforgotten and
unforgetable antiques by, and name their names, and give them reverent
hail and farewell as they passed--Goodman, McCarthy, Gillis, Curry,
Baldwin, Winters, Howard, Nye, Stewart, Neely Johnson, Hal Clayton,
North, Root--and my brother, upon whom be peace!--and then the
desperadoes, who made life a joy, and the "slaughter-house," a precious
possession: Sam Brown, Farmer Pete, Bill Mayfield, Six-fingered Jake,
Jack Williams, and the rest of the crimson discipleship, and so on, and
so on. Believe me, I would start a resurrection it would do you more
good to look at than the next one will, if you go on the way you are
Those were the days!--those old ones. They will come no more; youth will
come no more. They were so full to the brim with the wine of life; there
have been no others like them. It chokes me up to think of them. Would
you like me to come out there and cry? It would not beseem my white
Good-by. I drink to you all. Have a good time-and take an old man's
In reply to another invitation from H. H. Bancroft, of San Francisco, he
wrote that his wandering days were over, and that it was his purpose to
sit by the fire for the rest of his "remnant of life."
A man who, like me, is going to strike 70 on the 30th of next
November has no business to be flitting around the way Howells does
--that shameless old fictitious butterfly. (But if he comes don't
tell him I said it, for it would hurt him & I wouldn't brush a flake
of powder from his wing for anything. I only say it in envy of his
indestructible youth anyway. Howells will be 88 in October.)
And it was either then or on a similar occasion that he replied after
I have done more for San Francisco than any other of its old
residents. Since I left there it has increased in population fully
300,000. I could have done more--I could have gone earlier--it was
Which, by the way, is a perfect example of Mark Twain's humorous manner,
the delicately timed pause, and the afterthought. Most humorists would
have been contented to end with the statement, "I could have gone
earlier." Only Mark Twain could have added that final exquisite touch--
"it was suggested."