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13 January, 2012
Mark Twain, A Biography Vol I, Part 1: 1835 - 1866|
L. Back to the Tumult
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|From the note-book:
February 25. Arrived in Stockton 5 P.m. Home again home again at
the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco--find letters from Artemus Ward
asking me to write a sketch for his new book of Nevada Territory
Travels which is soon to come out. Too late--ought to have got the
letters three months ago. They are dated early in November.
He was sorry not to oblige Ward, sorry also not to have representation in
his book. He wrote explaining the circumstance, and telling the story of
his absence. Steve Gillis, meantime, had returned to San Francisco, and
settled his difficulties there. The friends again took up residence
Mark Twain resumed his daily letters to the Enterprise, without further
annoyance from official sources. Perhaps there was a temporary truce in
that direction, though he continued to attack various abuses--civic,
private, and artistic--becoming a sort of general censor, establishing
for himself the title of the "Moralist of the Main." The letters were
reprinted in San Francisco and widely read. Now and then some one had
the temerity to answer them, but most of his victims maintained a
discreet silence. In one of these letters he told of the Mexican oyster,
a rather tough, unsatisfactory article of diet, which could not stand
criticism, and presently disappeared from the market. It was a mistake,
however, for him to attack an Alta journalist by the name of Evans.
Evans was a poet, and once composed an elegy with a refrain which ended:
Gone, gone, gone--
Gone to his endeavor;
Gone, gone, gone,
Forever and forever.
In the Enterprise letter following its publication Mark Twain referred to
this poem. He parodied the refrain and added, "If there is any criticism
to make on it I should say there is a little too much 'gone' and not
It was a more or less pointless witticism, but it had a humorous quotable
flavor, and it made Evans mad. In a squib in the Alta he retaliated:
Mark Twain has killed the Mexican oyster. We only regret that the
act was not inspired by a worthier motive. Mark Twain's sole reason
for attacking the Mexican oyster was because the restaurant that
sold them refused him credit.
A deadly thrust like that could not be parried in print. To deny or
recriminate would be to appear ridiculous. One could only sweat and
"Joe," he said to Goodman, who had come over for a visit, "my one object
in life now is to make enough money to stand trial and then go and murder
He wrote verses himself sometimes, and lightened his Enterprise letters
with jingles. One of these concerned Tom Maguire, the autocrat manager
of San Francisco theaters. It details Maguire's assault on one of his
Roused to ire,
Lighted on McDougal;
Tore his coat,
Clutched his throat,
And split him in the bugle.
For shame! oh, fie!
Will you thus skyugle?
Why curse and swear,
And rip and tear
The innocent McDougal?
Of bones bereft,
Almost, you've left
Vestvali, gentle Jew gal;
And now you've smashed
And almost hashed
The form of poor McDougall
Goodman remembers that Clemens and Gillis were together again on
California Street at this time, and of hearing them sing, "The Doleful
Ballad of the Rejected Lover," another of Mark Twain's compositions. It
was a wild, blasphemous outburst, and the furious fervor with which Mark
and Steve delivered it, standing side by side and waving their fists, did
not render it less objectionable. Such memories as these are set down
here, for they exhibit a phase of that robust personality, built of the
same primeval material from which the world was created--built of every
variety of material, in fact, ever incorporated in a human being--equally
capable of writing unprintable coarseness and that rarest and most tender
of all characterizations, the 'Recollections of JOAN of ARC'.