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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol I, Part 2: 1866 - 1875|
LXX. Innocents at Home - and "The Innocents Abroad"
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|He was in Jacksonville, Illinois, at the end of January (1869), and in a
letter to Bliss states that he will be in Elmira two days later, and asks
that proofs of the book be sent there. He arrived at the Langdon home,
anxious to hear the reports that would make him, as the novels might say,
"the happiest or the most miserable of men." Jervis Langdon had a rather
solemn look when they were alone together. Clemens asked:
"You've heard from those gentlemen out there?"
"Yes, and from another gentleman I wrote concerning you."
"They don't appear to have been very enthusiastic, from your manner."
"Well, yes, some of them were."
"I suppose I may ask what particular form their emotion took?"
"Oh yes, yes; they agree unanimously that you are a brilliant, able man,
a man with a future, and that you would make about the worst husband on
The applicant for favor had a forlorn look.
"There's nothing very evasive about that," he said:
There was a period of reflective silence. It was probably no more than a
few seconds, but it seemed longer.
"Haven't you any other friend that you could suggest?" Langdon said.
"Apparently none whose testimony would be valuable."
Jervis Langdon held out his hand. "You have at least one," he said.
"I believe in you. I know you better than they do."
And so came the crown of happiness. The engagement of Samuel Langhorne
Clemens and Olivia Lewis Langdon was ratified next day, February 4, 1869.
But if the friends of Mark Twain viewed the idea of the carnage with
scant favor, the friends of Miss Langdon regarded it with genuine alarm.
Elmira was a conservative place--a place of pedigree and family
tradition; that a stranger, a former printer, pilot, miner, wandering
journalist and lecturer, was to carry off the daughter of one of the
oldest and wealthiest families, was a thing not to be lightly permitted.
The fact that he had achieved a national fame did not count against other
considerations. The social protest amounted almost to insurrection, but
it was not availing. The Langdon family had their doubts too, though of
a different sort. Their doubts lay in the fear that one, reared as their
daughter had been, might be unable to hold a place as the wife of this
intellectual giant, whom they felt that the world was preparing to honor.
That this delicate, sheltered girl could have the strength of mind and
body for her position seemed hard to believe. Their faith overbore such
questionings, and the future years proved how fully it was justified.
To his mother Samuel Clemens wrote:
She is only a little body, but she hasn't her peer in Christendom.
I gave her only a plain gold engagement ring, when fashion
imperatively demands a two-hundred-dollar diamond one, and told her
it was typical of her future life-namely, that she would have to
flourish on substance, rather than luxuries (but you see I know the
girl--she don't care anything about luxuries).... She spends no
money but her astral year's allowance, and spends nearly every cent
of that on other people. She will be a good, sensible little wife,
without any airs about her. I don't make intercession for her
beforehand, and ask you to love her, for there isn't any use in
that--you couldn't help it if you were to try. I warn you that
whoever comes within the fatal influence of her beautiful nature is
her willing slave forevermore.
To Mrs. Crane, absent in March, her father wrote:
DEAR SUE,--I received your letter yesterday with a great deal of
pleasure, but the letter has gone in pursuit of one S. L. Clemens,
who has been giving us a great deal of trouble lately. We cannot
have a joy in our family without a feeling, on the part of the
little incorrigible in our family, that this wanderer must share it,
so, as soon as read, into her pocket and off upstairs goes your
letter, and in the next two minutes into the mail, so it is
impossible for me now to refer to it, or by reading it over gain an
inspiration in writing you. . .
Clemens closed his lecture tour in March, and went immediately to
Elmira. He had lectured between fifty and sixty times, with a return of
something more than $8,000, not a bad aggregate for a first season on the
circuit. He had planned to make a spring tour to California, but the
attraction at Elmira was of a sort that discouraged distant travel.
Furthermore, he disliked the platform, then and always. It was always a
temptation to him because of its quick and abundant return, but it was
none the less distasteful. In a letter of that spring he wrote:
I most cordially hate the lecture field. And after all, I shudder
to think I may never get out of it. In all conversation with Gough,
and Anna Dickinson, Nasby, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Wendell Phillips,
and the other old stagers, I could not observe that they ever
expected or hoped to get out of the business. I don't want to get
wedded to it as they are.
He declined further engagements on the excuse that he must attend to
getting out his book. The revised proofs were coming now, and he and
gentle Livy Langdon read them together. He realized presently that with
her sensitive nature she had also a keen literary perception. What
he lacked in delicacy--and his lack was likely to be large enough in that
direction--she detected, and together they pruned it away. She became
his editor during those happy courtship days--a position which she held
to her death. The world owed a large debt of gratitude to Mark Twain's
wife, who from the very beginning--and always, so far as in her strength
she was able--inspired him to give only his worthiest to the world,
whether in written or spoken word, in counsel or in deed. Those early
days of their close companionship, spiritual and mental, were full of
revelation to Samuel Clemens, a revelation that continued from day to
day, and from year to year, even to the very end.
The letter to Bliss and the proofs were full of suggested changes that
would refine and beautify the text. In one of them he settles the
question of title, which he says is to be:
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD
THE NEW PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
and we may be sure that it was Olivia Langdon's voice that gave the
deciding vote for the newly adopted chief title, which would take any
suggestion of irreverence out of the remaining words.
The book was to have been issued in the spring, but during his wanderings
proofs had been delayed, and there was now considerable anxiety about it,
as the agencies had become impatient for the canvass. At the end of
April Clemens wrote: "Your printers are doing well. I will hurry the
proofs"; but it was not until the early part of June that the last
chapters were revised and returned. Then the big book, at last
completed, went to press on an edition of twenty thousand, a large number
for any new book, even to-day.
In later years, through some confusion of circumstance, Mark Twain was
led to believe that the publication of The Innocents Abroad was long and
unnecessarily delayed. But this was manifestly a mistake. The book went
to press in June. It was a big book and a large edition. The first copy
was delivered July 20 (1869), and four hundred and seventeen bound
volumes were shipped that month. Even with the quicker mechanical
processes of to-day a month or more is allowed for a large book between
the final return of proofs and the date of publication. So it is only
another instance of his remembering, as he once quaintly put it, "the
thing that didn't happen."--[In an article in the North American Review
(September 21, 1906) Mr. Clemens stated that he found it necessary to
telegraph notice that he would bring suit if the book was not immediately
issued. In none of the letters covering this period is there any
suggestion of delay on the part of the publishers, and the date of the
final return of proofs, together with the date of publication, preclude
the possibility of such a circumstance. At some period of his life he
doubtless sent, or contemplated sending, such a message, and this fact,
through some curious psychology, became confused in his mind with the
first edition of The Innocents Abroad.]