Jump to Content

Add to My Citations To Charles Warren Stoddard
23 April 1867 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCCL 00124)
Click to add citation to My Citations.

westminster hotel, cor. of irving place and
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem space16th st. new yorkem spaceroberts & palmer proprs

April 23, 1867.

My Dear Old Boy—

You see I have quit the Metropolitan, but I have got a hundred times better hotel.

I got your most welcome letter, to-day, & am so glad to hear you are going to publish.1 Send a copy, with your Ortograft in it, to me, care of Samuel Pepper of Gaylord & Leavenworth, Bankers, St Louis, Mo., & I will send you my book, which will be published day after to-morrow.2 I suppose I shall sail for Palestine just about the time you receive this—June 8.

I want to endorse your book, because Im know all about poetry & I know you can write the genuine article. Your book will be a success—your book shall be a success—& I will destroy any man that says the contrary. How’s that? There is nothing mean about [ me. ] I wrote a sublime poem—“He Done His Level Best”—& what credit did I ever get for [it?—None. ] Bret left it out of the Outcroppings. I never will write another poem. I am not appreciated.3 But that don’t set me against other poets., Charley, like it might have done with other men, & so I will back up your book just as strong as I know how. Count on me to-day, to-morrow & all the time. And I don’t say it in a whisper, but I say it strong.

{Signed & sworn to}—

Mark Twain

I haven’t seen Miss Carmichael, but I hope I shall, soon.4

I was talking with Willie Winter, the talented reviewer of the Tribune & the Saturday Review, yesterday, & he said a lady had given him some of your poems, in MSS., & he, supposing they had not been published (I think she told him they had not,) printed them as original & got scissors for it in the San F. papers. Then he apologised in print, or explained, & the San F. papers scouted his explanation as a shabby falsehood. He is one of the finest young men on the press anywhere, & it is a pity to throw away his good will & his really great influence. The Cal. papers ought to let these papers here borrow from us occasionally,—it wouldn’t actually help the Cal. paper to receive credit, & it does help us to be copied, with signature attached.5

How is Bret? He is publishing with a Son of a Bitch who will swindle him, & he may print that opinion if he chooses, with my name signed to it. I don’t know how his book is coming on—we of Bohemia keep away from Carleton’s.6

I The papers here say I am going to lecture shortly, & I may. I don’t know yet.7

Write to me, sure, care of Mr Pepper, St Louis (I mean to have my letters forwarded to Europe.)

Good-bye, & God bless you,
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spacemy boy,

Mark Twain

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
1 Stoddard (1843–1909) and Clemens probably met in San Francisco in 1864 or 1865, when both were writing for the Californian. Stoddard first published his poems in 1861, at the age of seventeen, by submitting them anonymously (as “Pip Pepperpod”) to the Golden Era. On their strength, Thomas Starr King encouraged him to pursue a literary career, and all the editors of the Californian, particularly Bret Harte and James F. Bowman, published his work frequently. Harte had, in fact, selected and edited the contents of the volume referred to here—Stoddard’s first book—a slim, elegantly printed octavo, illustrated by William Keith, called simply Poems. As early as 12 January the Californian reported that Stoddard, “the most richly gifted of our rising California poets, is about to publish in a handsome volume, a selection from the pieces which, during several years past he has contributed to literary papers of the State, together with others that have never been published.” The book was supposed to issue “about the first of May”; A. Roman and Company did not publish it, however, until August. The Californian gave the book unqualified praise, but several other journals called Stoddard’s verse imitative and superficial (Walker, 76–77, 228–32; Californian 6: “Stoddard’s Poems,” 12 Jan 67, 8; “Charles Warren Stoddard’s Poems,” 9 Mar 67, 4; Californian 7: “Charles Warren Stoddard’s Poems,” 24 Aug 67, 8; “A Californian Poet,” 31 Aug 67, 8).

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
2 Samuel Pepper and his brother-in-law, Mark Leavenworth (b. 1827 or 1828), were clerk and captain, respectively, of the John J. Roe when Clemens was its cub pilot. They left the river in June 1864 to form the St. Louis banking firm of Gaylord, Leavenworth, and Company with Samuel A. Gaylord, formerly of Erastus Gaylord and Sons. The Missouri Democrat characterized them as “well and favorably known steamboatmen,” noting that Leavenworth had for “a long time commanded the steamer John J. Roe, and later, the steamer Champion.” Pepper (and a fourth partner, James E. Kelso) had “both occupied positions which have given them a very extensive business acquaintance, not only in our city, but in every city of the Mississippi Valley” (St. Louis Census 1860, 180; “A New Banking House,” St. Louis Missouri Democrat, 21 June 64, 1; Edwards 1867, 363). Stoddard did send Clemens a copy of Poems, autographed “Mark Twain ǀ with the love of his ǀ faithful friend— ǀ Chas. Warren Stoddard” (ViU, quoted in Gribben, 2:667). The Jumping Frog, although announced for the trade on 25 April, was not in bookstores until 1 May. No copy inscribed to Stoddard has been found.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
3 On 17 June 1865 Mark Twain published “He Done His Level Best” in his third Californian “Answers to Correspondents” column, where it appeared as a contribution from Simon Wheeler of Sonora, written in praise of a certain parson who had “busted and gone home to the States”:

Was he a mining on the flat—

He done it with a zest;

Was he a leading of the choir—

He done his level best....

The object of ridicule here becomes clearer from what Mark Twain said as the avuncular editor of the column: he would encourage Wheeler to “continue writing” were it not that “the poet crop is unusually large and rank in California this year” ( ET&S2, 187–96). Bret Harte’s Outcroppings: Being Selections of California Verse (1865) had drawn venomous reviews from some of those whose work had been omitted from it, and was indirectly responsible for May Wentworth’s Poetry of the Pacific (1867), originally conceived as containing at least one poem by every poet in California. Harte answered critics of Outcroppings in several ways, one of which was an editorial acknowledging that some poems of merit, including “He Done His Level Best,” had been “wrongfully overlooked in the volume” (L1, 330–31 n. 7; Harte, 8). In fact, early in 1866 Clemens and Harte were itching for a chance to burlesque Poetry of the Pacific, plans for which were already being discussed in the press, long before it actually issued: “We know all the tribe of California poets, & understand their different styles, & I think we can just make them get up & howl” (SLC to JLC and PAM, 20 Jan 66, L1, 328–29; “More ‘Outcroppings,’” San Francisco Examiner, 12 Jan 66, 3).

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
4 Sarah Elizabeth Carmichael (1838–1901), a poet, was the daughter of Mormon parents, who in 1850 had settled in Salt Lake City. Although she had been publishing poems since 1858, Clemens doubtless knew her work from a small volume issued “for private circulation,” which announced itself as “published with the consent—somewhat reluctantly given—of the authoress, by a devoted circle of her friends and admirers,” who intended to “secure for her poems a more extended acquaintance and recognition.” It was probably Bret Harte who reviewed Poems in the 14 July 1866 Californian, shortly before Clemens returned from the Sandwich Islands, describing it as worthy of “a broader and more public approbation than is modestly asked” and as having been “prettily gotten up by Towne & Bacon, somewhat in the style of Whittier’s Snow-Bound.” “Miss Carmichael” (as Clemens calls her) had in fact married Dr. Jonathan M. Williamson, a former army surgeon, on 4 November 1866 at Fort Bridger, Utah Territory. Shortly thereafter the couple traveled overland to New York, where she reportedly intended “to make arrangements for the publication of her new work on Mormonism,” a project her husband urged upon her. On 23 March the New York Round Table announced that “Miss Carmichael, the Mormon poetess, who apostatized in favor of a husband exclusively hers, is about to publish a book on her life in Salt Lake City.” But the book on Mormonism was evidently never published; within a year the poet’s health deteriorated and her literary career came to a premature end (Carmichael, v; “Poems by Sarah E. Carmichael,”Californian 5 [14 July 66]: 12; Murphy, 53–54, 60, 62–66; Salt Lake City Union Vedette: “Gone East,” 3 Nov 66, 3; “Married,” 6 Nov 66, 2; “On Dit,” 21 Jan 67, 3; “Literariana,” Round Table 5 [23 Mar 67]: 189).

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
5 Since moving to New York from Boston in 1859, Winter had contributed to, and held various editorial positions with, such journals as Artemus Ward’s Vanity Fair, Henry Clapp’s New York Saturday Press, the New York Weekly Review, and the New York Round Table (subtitled A Saturday Review of Literature, Society, and Art—possibly the journal Clemens here calls the “Saturday Review”). From 1861 until 1867, Winter served as dramatic and literary critic on the New York Albion, signing himself “Mercutio.” In July 1865 he also became the theater critic for the New York Tribune, a position he held for most of his professional life. More recently he had become the “dramatic editor” of the New York Weekly Review, to which he was already a frequent contributor (“Personal,” New York World, 15 Feb 67, 4). The squabble over Stoddard’s poems began on 20 October 1866, and seems to have been entirely between the Weekly Review and the Californian, not San Francisco newspapers generally. The Californian objected to the Review’s publishing Stoddard’s “My Friend” in its 15 September issue under the heading “For the New York Weekly Review,” since the Californian had itself paid for and published the poem on 28 October 1865: “This is not the first instance in which poems of Mr. Stoddard, which first appeared in The Californian, have been republished as ‘original’ in the Review. We are quite at a loss as to the explanation of so singular a proceeding.” On 8 December, the Review published a “simple” explanation: “The two or three of Mr. Charles Warren Stoddard’s poems that have appeared in the Review were sent to us, in their author’s manuscript, by one of his friends in this city, with the intimation that Mr. Stoddard would like to have them published. We printed them, therefore, as contributions, not knowing that they had ever been published elsewhere. No person is in fault for a natural misunderstanding.” But on 5 January, the Californian still professed itself not satisfied: “Inasmuch as Mr. Stoddard never sent the manuscript of these poems to New York, or entrusted it to any person for that purpose, or intimated to any person his wish to have the poems published in the Review, the ‘explanation’ however ‘simple,’ still leaves a little mystery behind it.” On 30 June, some two months after his conversation with Clemens, Winter wrote (or replied, possibly) to Stoddard himself: “My sentiments towards you have ever been those of good-will and respect. Your poetry I have read—here and there in the papers—with much interest and gratification. Of you, personally, I have heard, from Mrs. [Ada] Clare, from Mark Twain, and from Mr. Webb, none but the kindest reports.... For my part, Mr. F. B. Harte and you are my peculiar favorites among the writers of the ‘Western Slope.’” Stoddard and Winter may both have been eager to indicate publicly that the misunderstanding had been resolved: when Stoddard’s Poems was published in August, the Californian was quick to note that the Weekly Review “declares its intention to ‘improve an early opportunity to review the book,’ and adds: ‘In Mr. Stoddard and in Mr. Frank Bret Harte, California has two writers of whom she ought to be proud;’ a proposition which will be very generally and cordially endorsed in literary circles.” And it soon quoted the 14 September issue of the Weekly Review, which alluded to Stoddard as “a young Californian, manifestly gifted with a pure spirit and a lively fancy, who has entered upon a career that is full of promise” (“‘My Friend,’” Californian 5 [20 Oct 66]: 8; “My Friend,” Weekly Review 17 [15 Sept 66]: 1; “My Friend,” Californian 3 [28 Oct 65]: 1; “An Explanation,” Weekly Review 17 [8 Dec 66]: 5; “An Explanation,” Californian 6 [5 Jan 67]: 8; Winter to [Stoddard], 30 June 67, Walpole Galleries, lot 287; “The New York Weekly Review ...,” Californian 7 [17 Aug 67]: 9; 7 [19 Oct 67]: 8). When reviewers in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Virginia City were more critical of Poems, the Californian replied:

A literary gentleman of New York, who holds a high position in the republic of letters, writes us, that Mr. Stoddard’s volume of poems is highly spoken of in literary circles. In the New York Weekly Review of September 28th, a critical journal of considerable authority, over half a column is devoted to a notice of the volume .... Such appreciation as this, on the part of a recognized critical authority, may well console Mr. Stoddard for the ungracious and unintelligent criticism of the Territorial Enterprise, and other provincial reviewers. (“Mr. Stoddard’s Poems,” Californian 7 [9 Nov 67]: 8)

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
6 Carleton did not issue Harte’s Condensed Novels until October. No evidence has been found that “Bohemia” avoided Carleton, but the meaning of the term itself was changing at this time. In 1869, Junius Henri Browne said that New York’s Bohemia had consisted of “fifteen or twenty journalists, the greater part of them young men of ability and culture,” who “had their rise and association about twelve years ago, and flourished up to the commencement of the War, which broke up the Bohemian fraternity, not only here, but in other cities.” And he suggested that the designation now meant “journalists generally, especially since the War correspondents during the Rebellion received the title.... Bohemian, particularly in New-York, has indeed come to be a sort of synonym for a newspaper writer” (Browne, 151–52).

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
7 Although Clemens had discussed his New York lecture debut with Fuller in January (see pp. 5–6), he did not decide exactly when to lecture until shortly after writing this letter. In 1906 he recalled:

When I arrived in New York I found Fuller there in some kind of business.... He said I must take the biggest hall in New York and deliver that lecture of mine on the Sandwich Islands—said that people would be wild to hear me.... I knew better. I was well aware that New York had never heard of me ... yet that man almost persuaded me. (AD, 11 Apr 1906, CU-MARK, in MTA, 2:351–52)

In 1911 Fuller attributed the enthusiasm more to Clemens than to himself, and he reported a conversation that probably took place at least in part after Clemens’s return from St. Louis:

I was sitting in my private office at 57 Broadway one day when Mark Twain arrived in New York after his successful lectures in San Francisco, Sacramento, Virginia City, and St. Louis. He walked into my office and drawled out:

“Frank, I want to preach right here in New York, and it must be in the biggest hall to be found. I find it is the Cooper Union, and that it costs $70 for one evening, and I have got just $7.”

I told him he should have that big hall.... We started right away to interest the public in his lecture on the Sandwich Islands. We put advertisements in the papers calling on all citizens of the Pacific Coast to meet in the evening at the Metropolitan Hotel to take measures for stimulating interest in the lecture and to give him a big send-off. (Fuller, 5:10)

Clemens was probably not so urgent or decisive as Fuller remembered: the earliest notice of the lecture so far discovered appeared a week after Clemens’s return (“Mark Twain,” New York Times, 21 Apr 67, 5). In 1910 Fuller told Paine that Clemens had wanted Senator (formerly Governor) James W. Nye of Nevada “to accompany him to the platform and introduce him to the audience,” and that Clemens wrote Nye with this request. Having received no reply, on 21 April Clemens sent Fuller—by then officially his manager—to make the request in person:

I took a night train to Washington and saw Gov. Nye in his rooms at Willards. I made known my errand and he assented and invited me to sit right down and write a polite affirmative assent to an invitation which I could write after I returned to New York. I got his signature and rushed back to New York. (Fuller to A. B. Paine, 7 Dec 1910; Davis 1956, 1)

The promise Nye signed was dated 22 April. On 23 April, the Cooper Institute and the sixth of May were first mentioned publicly as the place and date of the lecture (“Personal,” New York World, 23 Apr 67, 4). And on 25 April, the New York Evening Post reported:

A large number of Californians now in this city have invited Mr. Samuel Clemmens, better known as “Mark Twain,” to deliver his lecture upon the Sandwich Islands prior to his departure for Europe. The invitation has been accepted, and the lecture will be given at Cooper Institute on Monday evening, May 6. (“Lecture by ‘Mark Twain,’” 25 Apr 67, 4)

On 27, 28, and 29 April, Fuller issued a summons in the advertising columns of (at least) the Evening Post, Tribune, Times, and Herald, designed to convene all Californians and to formalize their “call,” or invitation to Mark Twain:

Californians and all others interested in the success of the Lecture which MARK TWAIN has been invited to deliver at Cooper Institute, on Monday, May 6, are requested to meet at the Metropolitan Hotel, on Monday evening, April 29, at 7½ o’clock, to adopt measures for a united effort in the premises. By order of the Committee. (“Mark Twain’s Lecture,” New York Herald, 29 Apr 67, 1)

This was probably the same “committee” of dignitaries which had waited on Clemens shortly after his arrival in January. Clemens opened the 29 April meeting “with a brief address” described as “both witty and clever.... His manner has all of the freedom and independence of a true Californian, and he is irresistibly droll in his delivery.” A letter calling upon him to lecture “was signed by all present,” but the meeting itself was not widely or fully reported, except in the Tribune (“‘Mark Twain,’” New York Tribune, 30 Apr 67, 8).

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK). A photographic facsimile of the MS is on pp. 448–51. The MS consists of a folder of off-white wove paper, 5½ by 9 inches (14 by 22.8 cm), inscribed on all four pages in black ink, now faded to brown.

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L2, 29–35; Pourquoi 1880, 535.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee Tufts Collection, p. 517.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

me.[possibly me:]

it?—None. • it?—|None.