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Add to My Citations To Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens
2? February 1867 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: NPV, UCCL 00119)
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New York, Feb.

Dear Mollie—

I have tried several times to see your man here, but have not caught him in. His place is three miles from my rooms, & it is like Orion’s thoughtlessness to put business in my hands when he knows I abhor everything in the nature of business & don’t even attend to my own. I will have to get even with him for this, somehow. He could have this all attended to by writing to the man instead of to me. Time presses me mighty hard, here, & you know it destroys a whole day to make only a single visit in New York. However, Judge Dixson stays within 3 blocks of the Bowling-green, & he is going to attend to it for you. He will do it right, too, & I would be apt to do it wrong.1

I am going down to Washington next week, I think, & shall be there a month, no doubt.2

Several newspaper men have called on me & made me good offers—a little above what they pay anybody [else. ] in my line—but I have not closed with any of them yet.3 The Californians in town have almost [ p ] induced me to lecture, but I’ll not do it yet. I won’t until I have got my cards [stocked ]to suit me. It is too hazardous a business for a stranger. I am not going to rush headlong in & make a fiasco of the thing when I may possibly make a success of it by going a little slow.

Give a “God bless you” to all my old friends if any still abide in Keokuk, & receive thou my blessing also, my sister.

Yr Bro


Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens’s “rooms” at the Metropolitan Hotel during January were not “three miles,” but only one and a half miles north of Bowling Green. By 2 February, however, Clemens had moved further uptown, for he mentioned in an Alta dispatch of that date that he was living “in East Sixteenth street,” an address that would put him easily two and a half miles from Bowling Green. In the same dispatch, he also said that “Judge Dixson ... of Carson” was then in the city, and he groused that in New York you could not “accomplish anything in the way of business, you cannot even pay a friendly call, without devoting a whole day to it. . . . Many business men only give audience from eleven to one; therefore, if you miss those hours your affair must go over till next day” (SLC 1867 [MT00525]). The contents of the dispatch and of this letter are so similar that it seems likely Clemens wrote both on about the same date. Orion’s “business” presumably concerned his stock in the Mount Blanc Gold and Silver Consolidated Mining Company, which operated its mine at American Flat, near Virginia City, and maintained a secretary (or agent) in New York—Edmund G. Sheppard, whose office was at 2 Bowling Green. In July of the previous year, while still in California, Orion had asked for an “advance” against what the trustees expected to receive for one-half of his stock in the mine, in order to pay for the trip home and for whatever arrangements he was attempting to make concerning the Clemens family’s Tennessee land (Wilson 1866, 923; OC to Joseph A. Byers, 12 July 66, author’s copy, CU-MARK). He and Mollie arrived in New York on 19 September, where they had a “wandering, sight-seeing stay of a few days.” Orion may then have visited Sheppard (as he had promised trustee Joseph A. Byers he would) in order to reassure Sheppard that his motive for selling was not skepticism about the mine itself—a necessary step, since that had been his reason in 1864 for resigning as president of the company (“Passengers Arrived,” New York Tribune, 20 Sept 66, 3; OC 1866; OC to L. G. A. Coursolles, 26 Aug 64, author’s copy, CU-MARK). Orion spent all of January and February in Tennessee, attending to the family property there (OC 1867 [bib10318], OC 1867 [bib10319] 1867 [bib10320]). Presumably his expenses now obliged him to ask for another advance against part or all of his remaining stock. He may have asked for Clemens’s help through Mollie, who was staying with her parents in Keokuk. Clemens, in turn, entrusted this delicate matter to a friend: Judge Edward C. Dixon of Carson City. Orion had known Dixon well since at least August 1862, when they were both elected trustees of Carson’s First Presbyterian Church. Dixon had served as probate judge of Ormsby County from December 1861 until July 1863, when he resigned on being appointed county commissioner; and in 1864 he represented Lander County in the territorial House of Representatives (Angel, 215, 529; “The Territorial Legislature,” Virginia City Evening Bulletin, 8 Jan 64, 3).

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2 Clemens did not go to Washington, but remained in New York until his departure for St. Louis on 3 March (SLC 1867 [MT00533]). He implied in a later letter that one aim of this February plan was to “gouge” a government office for Orion out of Senator William M. Stewart (7 June 67 to JLC and family).

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3 Within a month, however, Clemens had “closed” with at least three such offers. On 3 March the Sunday Mercury published “The Winner of the Medal” by “that prince of humorous sightseers, Mark Twain, whose contributions to California light-literature have gained him a front-rank position among the sparkling wits of the Land of Gold” (SLC 1867 [MT00512]). It was to be the first of seven sketches Mark Twain published in the Mercury that year, the last being “Jim Wolf and the Tom-Cats,” published on 14 July. Clemens recalled in 1900 that “early in 1867” he was “offered a large sum to write something for the Sunday Mercury, & I answered with the tale of ‘Jim Wolf & the Cats’”—evidently forgetting the other six sketches, which show the strain of adjusting to an eastern audience. He also remembered that he “collected the money for it—twenty-five dollars,” which “seemed over-pay.” It seems a fair surmise that publishers William Cauldwell and Horace P. Whitney paid Mark Twain twenty-five dollars for each of the seven sketches in their Sunday Mercury, which had a circulation of about 65,000 at this time (Wilson 1866, 173, 750, 1082; Rowell, 177; SLC 1900, 30; see also SLC 1867 [MT00519], 1867 [MT00523], 1867 [MT00528], 1867 [MT00531], 1867 [MT00543], 1867 [MT00545]). On 5 March the sturdy and profitable Evening Express published “Barnum’s First Speech in Congress” on page one. Nothing is known of Mark Twain’s arrangements, if any, with editor and publisher James and Erastus Brooks, and nothing else by Mark Twain has been found in the Express, which had a circulation of under 5,000 (SLC 1867 [MT00513]; Wilson 1866, 127, 750; Rowell, 172). On 7 March the New York Weekly announced that it had “made an engagement with the celebrated ‘Mark Twain,’ the California wit and humorist, who will furnish us with a series of his inimitable papers.” Beginning with the following issue it published five of Mark Twain’s letters from the Sandwich Islands (the last on 27 June), without mentioning that they had already been published in the Sacramento Union. Clemens classed the New York Weekly among the papers that paid “splendidly,” but nothing more precise is known about what proprietors Francis S. Street and Francis S. Smith offered him for the opportunity to reprint some of his work. Street and Smith, however, made no secret about their “liberal use of money in securing the best literary talent,” or about the Weekly’s circulation, which was, for example, publicly attested at 92,695 copies for the 16 May issue (1 June 67 to JLC and family; Street and Smith’s New York Weekly: “Another New Engagement,” 7 Mar 67, 4; “A Galaxy of Talent,” 6 June 67, 4; “Our Circulation!” 13 June 67, 4).

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyph MS, Jean Webster McKinney Family Papers, Vassar College Library (NPV).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L2, 10–12; MTBus, 90–91, dated “Feb. [1867].”

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee McKinney Family Papers, pp. 512–14.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

else.[period doubtful]

p[partly formed]

stocked • [sic]