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Add to My CitationsContract for Ah Sin

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This is a transcription of Clemens’s record copy of the contract he prepared with the assistance of his lawyer, Charles E. Perkins, in December 1876 (11 Dec 76, 20 Dec 76, both to Perkins). The original is in the Mark Twain Papers. The entire document, including signatures, is in an unidentified hand, doubtless a clerk employed by Perkins. Nothing is known of the copy or copies of the contract actually signed by Clemens, Bret Harte, and Charles T. Parsloe, Jr., the actor engaged for the title role of Ah Sin.

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This agreement made by and between Samuel L Clemens, and [Brett] Harte of the first part, and Charles T. Parsloe of the second part, Witnesseth

The said Clemens and Harte hereby give and convey to said Parsloe the exclusive right to perform or cause to be performed the play composed by said Clemens and Harte and called “Ah Sin” throughout the whole world. The said right to continue during his life; upon the following conditions and agreements, viz

The said parties of the first part and second part are to share equally in the gross profits of the performance of the said play, after deducting therefrom only the expenses of printing and posting and the usual salary or percentage of any dramatic agency that may be employed to make contracts with managers, and no additional actors or advance agents are to be employed by said Parsloe at any expense to the parties of the first part unless two out of the three shall approve thereof, in which case the expenses arising from such engagement are also to be deducted from the gross profits before the said division—

If said Clemens and Harte shall so desire, they may send an agent to travel with said Parsloe who shall have the right to examine all contracts made by said Parsloe made in relation to said play, and all statements of profits made to him by managers of theatres and others, which agent shall be paid by said Clemens and Harte or if they desire, said Parsloe shall send to said Clemens or any person designated by him weekly statements of the gross profits certified to by the managers of theatres where said play is performed, and of the expenses hereinbefore agreed to be deducted therefrom, and shall also send weekly to said Clemens or person designated by him the shares of said profits so accrueing to said Clemens and said Harte.

The said Clemens and Harte may adopt either of these methods and change from one to the other at their option

If any person shall be found in infringing the rights of said parties by acting said play, legal steps to prevent the same shall be taken, whenever any two of the three parties shall so agree which proceedings shall be at the joint expense of the three—

And the said Parsloe hereby agrees with said Clemens and Harte that during the continuance of this agreement he will not play or perform in any other play or performance except in the aforesaid play of “Ah Sin” provided that if at any time the weekly net profits of the three parties shall have diminished to an average of three hundred and fifty dollars per week during the whole period of six consecutive months of said play the said Parsloe shall be at liberty to play in any other public play or entertainment but until such condition of things arises if said Parsloe shall without the written consent of said Clemens and Harte play in any other public play or entertainment then the said Clemens and Harte may at their option terminate this agreement by notice in writing and the same shall thereupon become null and void, and said Parsloe further agrees with said Clemens and Harte that if he shall during the existence of this agreement so play in any other piece without their consent or before the receipts shall decrease as aforesaid, that then whether said Clemens and Harte shall choose to terminate this agreement or not, he will pay to them the sum of twenty five thousand dollars not as a penalty but as damages sustained by said Clemens and Harte by his breach of this agreement liquidated and agreed upon as the actual damages so sustained by them

The said Clemens hereby agrees with said Parsloe to advance the said Parsloe the sum of not exceeding one thousand dollars for the payment of expenses of putting the said play on the stage for its first performance

And the said Parsloe and Harte hereby agree to pay to said Clemens two-thirds of such sums so advanced out of the shares of said Parsloe and Harte in the net profits hereinbefore mentioned of said performance of said play but if the said Parsloe shall receive no such profits or not enough to repay the said advances then said Parsloe shall not be obliged to repay any part of said sum so advanced but the said Harte shall be bound to repay to said Clemens one-third of such advances whether there are any profits arising from said performance or not

If said Parsloe shall in acting said play add or suffer to be added any thing to the words or business of said play he agrees to pay to said Clemens and Harte twenty five dollars for each and every time he so uses or suffers to be used such addition after said Clemens and Harte have given him notice of their disapproval of such additions


Samuel L Clemens.

Hartford Dec 30 ’76

[Brett] Harte

New York Jany 5 ’77

Chas Thos Parsloe

New York Jany 5 ’77

Textual Commentary

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphTranscribed here is Clemens’s record copy of the contract for the production and performance of Ah Sin, the play he coauthored with Bret Harte. The third party to the contract was Charles T. Parsloe, Jr., the actor who played the title role. The contract was drafted in December 1876, at Clemens’s direction, by his Hartford lawyer, Charles E. Perkins. This copy (including signatures) was made by an unidentified amanuensis, evidently Perkins’s clerk. It is in the Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphSee Mark Twain Papers in Description of Provenance.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

Brett • [sic]

Brett • [sic]