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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910|
Appendix M: Letter Written to Mrs. Clemens from Boston, November, 1874, Prophesying a Monarchy in Sixty-One Years
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|(See Chapter xcvii)
BOSTON, November 16, 1935.
DEAR LIVY,--You observe I still call this beloved old place by the name
it had when I was young. Limerick! It is enough to make a body sick.
The gentlemen-in-waiting stare to see me sit here telegraphing this
letter to you, and no doubt they are smiling in their sleeves. But let
them! The slow old fashions are good enough for me, thank God, and I
will none other. When I see one of these modern fools sit absorbed,
holding the end of a telegraph wire in his hand, and reflect that a
thousand miles away there is another fool hitched to the other end of it,
it makes me frantic with rage; and then I am more implacably fixed and
resolved than ever to continue taking twenty minutes to telegraph you
what I might communicate in ten seconds by the new way if I would so
debase myself. And when I see a whole silent, solemn drawing-room full
of idiots sitting with their hands on each other's foreheads "communing"
I tug the white hairs from my head and curse till my asthma brings me the
blessed relief of suffocation. In our old day such a gathering talked
pure drivel and "rot," mostly, but better that, a thousand times, than
these dreary conversational funerals that oppress our spirits in this mad
It is sixty years since I was here before. I walked hither then with my
precious old friend. It seems incredible now that we did it in two days,
but such is my recollection. I no longer mention that we walked back in
a single day, it makes me so furious to see doubt in the face of the
hearer. Men were men in those old times. Think of one of the puerile
organisms in this effeminate age attempting such a feat.
My air-ship was delayed by a collision with a fellow from China loaded
with the usual cargo of jabbering, copper-colored missionaries, and so I
was nearly an hour on my journey. But by the goodness of God thirteen of
the missionaries were crippled and several killed, so I was content to
lose the time. I love to lose time anyway because it brings soothing
reminiscences of the creeping railroad days of old, now lost to us
Our game was neatly played, and successfully. None expected us, of
course. You should have seen the guards at the ducal palace stare when I
said, "Announce his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin and the Right
Honorable the Earl of Hartford." Arrived within, we were all eyes to see
the Duke of Cambridge and his Duchess, wondering if we might remember
their faces and they ours. In a moment they came tottering in; he, bent
and withered and bald; she, blooming with wholesome old age. He peered
through his glasses a moment, then screeched in a reedy voice, "Come to
my arms! Away with titles--I'll know ye by no names but Twain and
Twichell!" Then fell he on our necks and jammed his trumpet in his ear,
the which we filled with shoutings to this effect: "God bless you, old
Howells, what is left of you!"
We talked late that night--none of your silent idiot "communings" for us
--of the olden time. We rolled a stream of ancient anecdotes over our
tongues and drank till the Lord Archbishop grew so mellow in the mellow
past that Dublin ceased to be Dublin to him, and resumed its sweeter,
forgotten name of New York. In truth he almost got back into his ancient
religion, too, good Jesuit as he has always been since O'Mulligan the
First established that faith in the empire.
And we canvassed everybody. Bailey Aldrich, Marquis of Ponkapog, came
in, got nobly drunk, and told us all about how poor Osgood lost his
earldom and was hanged for conspiring against the second Emperor; but he
didn't mention how near he himself came to being hanged, too, for
engaging in the same enterprise. He was as chaffy as he was sixty years
ago, too, and swore the Archbishop and I never walked to Boston; but
there was never a day that Ponkapog wouldn't lie, so be it by the grace
of God he got the opportunity.
The Lord High Admiral came in, a hale gentleman close upon seventy and
bronzed by the suns and storms of many climes and scarred by the wounds
got in many battles, and I told him how I had seen him sit in a high-
chair and eat fruit and cakes and answer to the name of Johnny. His
granddaughter (the eldest) is but lately married to the youngest of the
Grand Dukes, and so who knows but a day may come when the blood of the
Howellses may reign in the land? I must not forget to say, while I think
of it, that your new false teeth are done, my dear, and your wig. Keep
your head well bundled with a shawl till the latter comes, and so cheat
your persecuting neuralgias and rheumatisms. Would you believe it?--the
Duchess of Cambridge is deafer than you--deafer than her husband. They
call her to breakfast with a salvo of artillery; and usually when it
thunders she looks up expectantly and says, "Come in." But she has
become subdued and gentle with age and never destroys the furniture now,
except when uncommonly vexed. God knows, my dear, it would be a happy
thing if you and old Lady Harmony would imitate this spirit. But indeed
the older you grow the less secure becomes the furniture. When I throw
chairs through the window I have sufficient reason to back it. But you--
you are but a creature of passion.
The monument to the author of 'Gloverson and His Silent Partners' is
finished.--[Ralph Keeler. See chap. lxxxiii.]--It is the stateliest
and the costliest ever erected to the memory of any man. This noble
classic has now been translated into all the languages of the earth and
is adored by all nations and known to all creatures. Yet I have
conversed as familiarly with the author of it as I do with my own great-
I wish you could see old Cambridge and Ponkapog. I love them as dearly
as ever, but privately, my dear, they are not much improvement on idiots.
It is melancholy to hear them jabber over the same pointless anecdotes
three and four times of an evening, forgetting that they had jabbered
them over three or four times the evening before. Ponkapog still writes
poetry, but the old-time fire has mostly gone out of it. Perhaps his
best effort of late years is this:
O soul, soul, soul of mine!
Soul, soul, soul of throe!
Thy soul, my soul, two souls entwine,
And sing thy lauds in crystal wine!
This he goes about repeating to everybody, daily and nightly, insomuch
that he is become a sore affliction to all that know him.
But I must desist. There are draughts here everywhere and my gout is
something frightful. My left foot hath resemblance to a snuff-bladder.
God be with you.
These to Lady Hartford, in the earldom of Hartford, in the
upper portion of the city of Dublin.