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Add to My Citations To Ellen G. Cutler
23 May 1864 • Virginia City, Nev. Terr.
(MTL, 1:97–98 UCCL 00080)
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[Virginia, May 23rd, 1864. ]

[Mrs. W. K. Cutler:] 1

[Madam— ]I address a lady in every sense of the term. Mrs. Clemens has informed me of everything that has occurred in Carson in connection with that unfortunate item of mine about the Sanitary Funds accruing from the ball, and from what I can understand, you are almost the only lady in your city who has understood the circumstances under which my fault was committed, or who has shown any disposition to be lenient with me. Had the note of the ladies been properly worded, I would have published an ample apology instantly—and possibly I might even have done so anyhow, had that note arrived at any other time—but it came at a moment when I was in the midst of what ought to have been a deadly quarrel with the publishers of the Union, and I could not come out and make public apologies to any one at such a time. It is bad policy to do it even now (as challenges have already passed between myself and a proprietor of the Union, and the matter is still in abeyance,) but I suppose I had better say a word or two to show the ladies that I did not wilfully and maliciously do them a wrong.2

But my chief object, Mrs. Cutler, in writing you this note (and you will pardon the liberty I have taken,) was to thank you very kindly and sincerely for the consideration you have shown me in this matter, and for your continued friendship for Mollie while others are disposed to withdraw theirs on account of a fault for which I alone am responsible.

Very truly yours,

[Sam. L. Clemens. ]

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Ellen G. (Mrs. William K.) Cutler was president of the Carson City Sanitary Ball committee. She had earned some celebrity in Nevada and California for the “entertainments” at which she sang ballads and read from authors as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Robert Browning, and Orpheus C. Kerr. Widely applauded as a “charming and cultivated woman,” Mrs. Cutler was said to have “no superior on the coast” (“Mrs. Cutler’s Concert and Readings,” San Francisco Evening Bulletin, 18 Dec 62, 5; Angel, 220; Nevada City [Calif.] Transcript: “Ballad Singing and Readings,” 11 June 63, 3; “Sierra Seminary,” 27 Dec 63, 2).

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2 On 24 May Clemens published the following article in the Enterprise:

“Miscegenation.”—We published a rumor, the other day, that the moneys collected at the Carson Fancy Dress Ball were to be diverted from the Sanitary Fund and sent forward to aid a “miscegenation” or some other sort of Society in the East. We also stated that the rumor was a hoax. And it was—we were perfectly right. However, four ladies are offended. We cannot quarrel with ladies—the very thought of such a thing is repulsive; neither can we consent to offend them—even unwittingly—without being sorry for the misfortune, and seeking their forgiveness, which is a kindness we hope they will not refuse. We intended no harm, as they would understand easily enough if they knew the history of this offense of ours, but we must suppress that history, since it would rather be amusing than otherwise, and the amusement would be at our expense. We have no love for that kind of amusement—and the same trait belongs to human nature generally. One lady complained that we should at least have answered the note they sent us. It is true. There is small excuse for our neglect of a common politeness like that, yet we venture to apologize for it, and will still hope for pardon, just the same. We have noticed one thing in this whole business—and also in many an instance which has gone before it—and that is, that we resemble the majority of our species in the respect that we are very apt to get entirely in the wrong, even when there is no seeming necessity for it; but to offset this vice, we claim one of the virtues of our species, which is that we are ready to repair such wrongs when we discover them. (SLC 1864, 3:146)

Despite the public and private apologies from Clemens, the 18 May letter from the Sanitary Ball committee was published on three consecutive days at the end of May by the Virginia City Union (see 20 May 64 to MEC, n. 2).

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyph MTL, 1:97–98.

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L1, 296–297; none known except the copy-text. Paine observed in 1917 that the letter had “never before been published” (MTL, 1:97).


glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

Virginia, May 23rd, 1864. • Virginia, May 23rd, 1864.

Mrs. W. K. Cutler: • Mrs. W. K. Cutler:

Madam— • Madam,—

Sam. L. Clemens. • Sam. L. Clemens.