The Ultimate Mark Twain Reference

Mark Twain Chronology

Excerpt - Volume One (1835-1885) 

( 1884 photo not in print volume )

 Chasing after Stage Plays – Cable & Mumps – Lobbying for International Copyright Canvassing Huck – Duncan’s Lawsuit – April Fools! – Poor Doc Taft Tuscaloosa Pirates – Rah for Cleveland! Twins of Genius Hit the Road – The Children’s P&P Play


1884 – An interesting inscription by Sam made sometime during the year, place unknown:

Some people can smoke to excess. Let them beware. There are others who cannot smoke to excess because there isn’t time enough in a day which contains 24 hours [MTP].

January – As early as this month and as late as Dec. 1887, Sam inscribed the back side of his photograph to Mrs. Pemberton-Hinks: Quarrels begun with roses breed no bloodshed! / Sincerely Yours / S. L. Clemens / Mark Twain / To / Mrs. Pemberton-Hinks. /Hartford, Saturday [illegible chars.] (It is a most damaged & piratical looking picture, & nothing can excuse it but the fact that it is the only one left on the place SLC) [MTP]. 

Sam re-read “the second volume of Pepys” [Jan. 14 to House]. After immersing himself in Sandwich Islands material, He began a book about Bill Ragsdale, a half-caste interpreter who contracted leprosy and exiled himself to the leper colony on Molokai [Emerson 160].

January 2 Wednesday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Charles Webster. He wanted to nail down a producer and actor for the new play he’d written with Howells, “Colonel Sellers as a Scientist.” He also had written a dramatization of Tom Sawyer he wished to have produced.

If the book business interferes with the dramatic business, drop the former—for it doesn’t pay salt; & I want the latter rushed. …

I have been talking with Barrett, & he thinks it will be a mistake on Raymond’s part if he lets this play go to somebody else, & a mistake on my part at the same time.

Sam directed Webster to offer John T. Raymond license to act in the play for $400 per week; he also suggested Jimmy Lewis or Nat Goodwin if Raymond refused to pay that much. (Note: in that day, actors preferred to license or pay for a play; they could then keep receipts over and above the amount paid, sometimes with additional royalties due.)

Now I want to come down & see somebody play, the minute you can name me a man [MTBus 230-1].

** Wrote to Sam: Orion Clemens, Herbert H. Winslow [MTP].

 January 3 Thursday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Charles R. Deacon, secretary of the Clover Club of Philadelphia. He had been invited to a dinner on Jan. 17, but “business & social complications” made him regretfully decline [MTP]. Note: The Clover Club was a dancing club formed in 1881. It was famous for its distinguished guests and for its humorous way of entertaining them.

January 4 Friday – Sam wrote a one-liner from Hartford to James N. Kimball, giving him “liberty to use that chapter about the Empress” [MTP]. Could this have been the Mormon leader? Doubtful. The chapter about the Empress may have been one from A Tramp Abroad.

In the evening from 7 to 10, the Ladies of Benevolent Society of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church held a reception for Rev. and Mrs Joseph Twichell. From Twichell’s journal, it is obvious that the congregation gathered to help the Twichells out of a spot, perhaps financial, or personal:

A charming time we had at this reception. Almost all our people came to greet us and we were filled with a new sense of the delightfulness of the pastoral relation, also of its sacredness and high privilege especially (i.e. as regards delightfulness) in such circumstances as ours [Yale, copy at MTP].

January 5 Saturday – ** Charles Webster wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 5 and 6 Sunday – The gathering of fifty or so of the Clemens’ Hartford friends took place over this weekend, but the Howellses could not come due to their son John’s scarlet fever [MTHL 2: 465n2].

January 7 MondayLivy sent out invitations from her and Sam to John Day and Alice Hooker Day, requesting the pleasure of their:

company to meet Mr. & Mrs. T.B. Aldrich on Wednesday evening, Jan 9th at 8 o’clock [MTP].

Sam wrote from Hartford to Howells. His son, John Howells, had a touch of scarlet fever.

The bare suggestion of scarlet fever in the family makes me shudder; I believe I would almost rather have Osgood publish a book for me [MTHL 2: 460].

Sam was still trying to find a producer for their play, “Colonel Sellers as a Scientist.” He also had been working on a book about Bill Ragsdale, interpreter to the Hawaiian Parliament, who Sam had met on his 1866 trip to the islands. Sam decided later not to publish the book. Only a seventeen-page fragment of the book survives.

My billiard table is stacked up with books relating to the Sandwich Islands; the walls are upholstered with scraps of paper penciled with notes drawn from them. I have saturated myself with knowledge of that unimaginably beautiful land & that most strange & fascinating people. And I have begun a story. Its hidden motive will illustrate a but-little considered fact in human nature: that the religious folly you are born in you will die in…[460-1].

Sam also wrote to Charles Webster.

Am Pub check for $1081.32 received. I see they’ve sold 4,500 old books in the past 3 months. I wish to God Osgood could sell half as many new ones.

I suppose we shall find that Raymond has not lost his right to that old play [MTBus 232].

** James Sutherland wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 9 Wednesday – The Clemenses entertained the Aldriches in the evening. Livy sent out invitations a few days before (see Jan. 7 entry). The Aldriches stayed with Sam and Livy for a few days (see Jan. 14 to House) [MTP].

Howells wrote to Sam about plays and the improving condition of his son John. [MTP]. (See Jan. 18 entry for reply.)

** Charles Webster wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 11 Friday – ** Wrote to Sam: Karl Gerhardt (to Sam and Livy); Charles Webster [MTP].

January 12 Saturday – ** Charles Dudley Warner wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 14 Monday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Edward House. Sam advised,  there was “no course …left you for Koto’s protection but the marriage,” given the “precarious” nature of House’s health. Evidently his adopted Japanese daughter was in a family way and he sought Sam’s advice. He also asked Sam to suggest reading material and Sam gave this summary of his current reading:

In English, the middle portion of the Bread Winners; all of Clarissa Harlowe; the closing chapters of Pamela; the third volume of Saint-Simon; the fourth volume of Evelyn; the second volume of Pepys; the second volume of The Autobiography of a Whore; the third volume of Geike’s Hours with the Bible; & in German, the second volume of Schiller (the poems, I mean), the third volume of the Thirty-Years’ War; & the concluding chapters of Das Geheimniss der Alten Mamsell; in French, the tenth volume of Sain’t-Simon, and the fifth volume of Casanova. There—if none of this happy variety strikes you, you must be dam hard to please. I’m not a good person to apply to, because I seldom or never read anything that is new; & never read anything through, be it new or old [MTP].

Sam also wrote to Joe Goodman, a letter which has been lost [MTP Goodman to Sam, Jan. 22, 1884]

** James R. Osgood wrote to Sam [MTP].

Sam also wrote to an unidentified person:

Stephen—nothing became of Stephen; at least nothing had yet become of him up to a recent date. Stephen still lives; & his other name is Strother Wiley P.O. address, St. Louis; & if you wish to be beguiled, you have a chance [MTP]. (See Feb. 13, 1875 entry for more on Strother Nimrod Wiley)

January 16 Wednesday – ** Charles Webster wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 17 Thursday – Sam wrote from Hartford to James R. Osgood. Sam was still somewhat apologetic.

My Dear Osgood—

 I have thought, and thought; and as a result, I wish to accept the kind offer which you made yesterday, if you are willing to let me. I hope you can and will stop on your way up. I am not well content with myself over yesterday’s talk, yet I do assure that I never meant to be unjust toward you in a single word or thought./ Truly Yours/ S.L. Clemens [MTLTP 166].

It’s not clear just what Osgood had offered, but note 1 of the cited source says it “probably involves the removal of JRO [Osgood] from the subscription selling” of Sam’s books. Sam probably owed money on the production costs of LM; Osgood may have offered settlement.

Sam also wrote a one-liner to Charles Webster that he’d received a “Slote check for $773…” [MTP].

** Wrote to Sam: Charles Webster; Worden & Co. [MTP].

January 18 Friday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Howells, who wrote Sam on Jan. 9 about possibilities writing plays. Henry Nash Smith observes that Howells became as stage-struck as Sam during this period, though he often insisted he preferred writing novels. Nash adds that Howells translated or adapted or wrote thirty-six dramas, including a musical comedy [MTHL 2: 463n2].

Raymond still biting. Shall hear more, very soon.Charley W. stupidly forgot I told him to contract for the scissors [grape shears that Howell’s father invented]. He will now attend to this [MTHL 2: 464].

In Boston, Howells wrote to Sam about seeing Marshall Mallory, who lusted after the Sellers as Scientist play. Howells would not show him the play:

He now wishes you to tell him simply your terms for either or both plays, and said it might be worth his while to try to meet them [MTHL 2: 464-5].

** Wrote to Sam: James R. Osgood [MTP].

January 19 SaturdayPhillip Shirley, a fellow-passenger of Sam’s on his spring, 1868 return voyage to New York, submitted two of Sam’s poems to The Wasp, a short-lived San Francisco publication. The verses ran on this day [The Twainian, July-Aug. 1946, p3-4]. Camfield lists these as “Ye Equinoctial Storm,” and “Tragic Tidings” [bibliog.].

** Worden & Co. wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 20 Sunday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Howells, who wrote Jan.18 of the Mallory brothers nearly begging for details about the Sellers play or the “romantic and picturesque play” (about Bill Ragsdale and leprosy). Howells wrote that Marshall Mallory wished Sam would “tell him simply your terms for either or both plays, and said it might be worth his while to try to meet them.” Sam responded that the Sellers play wasn’t a Madison Square piece.

Let the Madison Square nibble—by the time they work themselves up to a fair rate of remuneration we can have a play ready for them [MTHL 2: 465].

Sam also offered caution about Johnny Howells scarlet fever, and advised keeping Johnny in bed an extra six weeks. He reminded Howells of his man Patrick’s child and the loss of hearing possible from scarlet fever.

Sam also wrote to Charles Webster:

You can come up here, Monday or Tuesday & make contract with Am Pub Co for Huck Finn, & then go on to Boston & reach an understanding about the N.Y. office. I shall put off the Library of Humor, & publish Finn first [MTP]. Note: Of course, Sam would end up self-publishing Huckleberry Finn under Webster & Co. 

** Wrote to Sam: Stephen C. Massett; The Hartford Assessor’s Office [MTP].

January 22 TuesdayJoe Goodman, in California, telegraphed, then wrote a long letter to Sam, pleading for a piece for his new publication, The San Franciscan.

Dear Mark—

Your disfavor of the 30th net[?] and 14th inst. Came today. It was the first setback to my hopes that I have encountered since our scheme was afoot. I had counted so confidently upon our catching the inspiration of our old Washoe days and coming to the fore. The slogan has raised the remnants of the old clan on this coast, and they are gathering enthusiastically. Daggett’s first contribution came from the Hawaiian Islands today; Fitch responds from Arizona, and sends the watchword on to his wife at Denver; Goodwin hails from Salt Lake, Sam Davis from Carson, awhile Dan de Quille wafts us a greeting from the old home nest on the Comstock; –

“You alone break from the race and the freemen; You alone sink to the rear and the slaves!”

It mustn’t be, Sam; we want no lost leader in arms; and such it would be if you fold yourself in silence. I don’t care that your effort be super-excellent, or excellent, or even good; that rests between you and your God; but I do want your name to complete the goodly fellowship of the Table Round.

Joe also related that John McComb was the new warden of the State Prison at Folsom and passed on McComb’s suggestion for topics for Sam:

He laughed in his old quiet, hearty way, and said: “Tell him to write the story of his fencing and boxing experiences at Chauvel’s gymnasium in Virginia; or, if he like better, the history of his attempt to learn Spanish in this city.” I hadn’t time to ask explanation of the second proposition; you may recall it, however. McCrellish, you know, is dead. Woodworth busted, and the Alta is now a Democratic railroad organ.

 Note: Woodworth was probably Joseph Woodworth, who led the rush into Washoe after the Comstock silver strike [Mack 22]. Frederick MacCrellish was a proprietor of the Alta in 1867 [MTL 1: 17n1].

Goodman was a fair writer in his day. Now excited and confident about the opportunities of a new newspaper he prophesied success in great style:

We shall hit square from the shoulder at everybody and every thing that deserves to be hit; and if we can only make it as attractive as it will be aggressive there will be no more question of its success than there would of that of a show comprising John L. Sullivan and the Jersey Lily [MTP].

Joe also inquired again after Clara Spaulding: “My heart was full fain for her long years after I last saw her…” and warned Sam about “the clutches of that succubus—Kitty Barstow,” who Joe called a “natural-born beggar.”

January 24 Thursday – Sam wrote to Mary Mason Fairbanks  (Either on this date or 1881—See Jan. 24, 1881 entry).

** Edward L. Burlingame of Charles Scribner Co. wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 27 SundayGeorge W. Cable, visiting the Clemens home while on a reading tour, came down ill, probably with a case of the mumps, though Webster describes the illness as measles [234]. Kaplan describes it as a “fever and racking pains in his lower jaw” [254]. Sam hired a private nurse to care for his guest. The nurse and all three Clemens girls came down with the mumps [254]. Cable was nursed back to health but would be laid up at Sam’s until Feb. 15, preventing Sam from getting together with Howells to collaborate on plays [MTNJ 3: 47n107].

January 28 Monday – Sam wrote from Hartford to Charles Webster, again about the proposed play, Tom Sawyer. Webster was trying to find an actor to play the role of Tom, and Sam had definite (and rather inflexible) ideas about the money angles.

No, the actor must play Tom Sawyer till it is down to where it pays him only an average of $300 or $400 a month clear & above expenses, for a whole season. It’s important [MTBus 233].

Sam also telegraphed James B. Pond three times about Cable being sick and unable to give a reading [MTP]. Cable wrote his wife that it was just “little attack of neuralgia in that part of my face I make my living by, in short, my lower jaw—the part that wags, and the doctor, in order to make short work of it, has ordered me to keep my bed for twenty-four hours” [Turner, MT & GWC 25].

January 29 Tuesday – Sam wrote from Hartford to J.C. Blair (John Chalmers Blair 1848-1910?), of Huntington, Penn. “Your packets are an unspeakable convenience. They make authorship a pastime.” [MTP]. Note: In 1879 Blair started a tablet factory, which grew to a worldwide business, so Sam’s compliment probably had to do with writing tablets. Blair’s wife would name a hospital after him in 1911, which still operates.

Sam also sent a note to Charles Webster, asking him to search for a “small 31-page pamphlet” by Samuel Watson Royston, titled, The Enemy Conquered, a Love Triumphant [MTP]. Note: See Apr. 22, 1884 entry for Twichell’s surprise on this publication.

Cable was still suffering what he thought was “neuralgia of the jaw,” and wrote his wife that he hoped he’d be well enough to “be on the platform tomorrow night” [Turner, MT & GWC 26].

**Julian Magnus wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 30 Wednesday – Sam telegraphed from Hartford to Louise Cable:

Your husband will be out of bed by tomorrow S.L. Clemens [Turner, MT & GWC 28].

He also telegraphed James B. Pond twice in Cable’s behalf that he would be unable to read the following night [MTP].

Sam also wrote to Mary Mason Fairbanks.

Only a line, to say how glad I am, for dear Mollie’s sake—yes, & for yours; for you can’t be as indifferent to the thing as you seem. That’s all—I shall be cool & distant till you stop this dam nonsense of shirking Hartford every 3 months & then rushing home to apologize for it.

Sam mentioned that Cable “has been sick in the house several days”; He answered Mary’s question about the Bill Ragsdale, Sandwich Island novel with:

The novel? Yes, it’s serious; the scene is laid in the Sandwich Islands 65 years ago [before missionaries]; that is, the first part—second part is a number of years later” [MTP]. Note: Emerson reports, “Very little survives of what he wrote that January, only a few pages of description, although he had referred to it as finished. Nothing more was said about the manuscript” [160].

** Jeannette L. Gilder of The Critic wrote to Sam [MTP].

January 31 Thursday – Sam continued to entertain George W. Cable, down with a case of the mumps, and recovering slowly. Drugged with quinine, Cable had to dictate letters to his wife through either Livy or Lilly Warner. Cable told of enjoying Sam’s company and the:

…funny stories he tells the little Jean. Jean has a magnificent mental digestion, she must have a tiger in every story; and no tiger seems to her to be really worth the money unless he’s in a jungle [Turner, MT & GWC 28].

** Worden & Co. wrote to Sam [MTP].




 ** - Not all incomings were reviewed in the first edition of volume one, but were in volume two.