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Add to My Citations To Harriet Lewis
10 January 1869 • Galesburg, Ill.
(MS: CtY-BR, UCCL 00226)
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Galesburg, Jan. 10.1

Miss Harriet Lewis2

{No, that is too cold for a breaking heart—}

Dear Hattie—It cannot but be painful, I may even go [ f ] so far as to say harrowing, to me, to say that which I am about to say. And yet the words must be [spoken. ] I feel that it would be criminal to remain longer silent. And yet I come to the task with deep humiliation. I would avoid it if I could. Or if you were an unprotected female. But it must out. I grieve to say there has been a mistake. Af I did not know my own heart. After following you like your shadow for weeks—after sighing at you, driving out with you, looking unutterable things at you—after dreaming about you, night after night, & playing solitary cribbage with you day after day—after rejoicing in your coming & grieving at your going, since all sunshine seemed to go with you—after hungering for you to that degree that for two days I ate nothing at all but you—after longing for you & yearning for you, & taking little delight in any presence but yours—& after writing all those twenty double-postage letters to you, lo! at last I wake up & find it was not you after all! I never was so surprised at anything in all my life. You never will be able to believe that it is Miss Langdon instead of you—& yet upon my word & honor it [is. I ] am not joking with you, my late idol.—I am serious. These words will break your [heart—I ] feel they will—alas! I know they will—but if they don’t damage your appetite, Mr. Langdon is the one to grieve, not you. A broken heart won’t set you back any.

Try to bear up under this calamity. O, [ grieving ] sad heart, there is a great community of [ genro generous ] souls in good Elmira, & you shall not sorrow all in vain. Trot out your wasted form” & plead for sympathy. And if this fail, the [dining-room ] is left. Wend thither, weeping mourner, & augment the butcher’s bills as in the good old happy time. Bail out your tears & smile again. Don’t pass any more sleepy days & nights on my account.—it isn’t complimentary to me. And you were unusually distraught & sleepy of late, I take it, for you dated your letter “December” ins 4, instead of January. I know what that indicates. If you will look through those twenty letters you will find that I was in a perfectly awful state of mind whenever I dated one of them as insanely as that.

It grieves me to the heart to be compelled to inflict pain, but there is no help for it, & so you will have to go to Mr. Langdon & explain to him frankly what I meant by such conduct as those—& confess to him, for me, that it was the other young lady instead of you. And I wish you would tell her, also, for otherwise she will never suspect it, all my conversations with her having been strictly devoted to the weather. Come—move along lively, now!

But do you know, I can’t account for Charley’s [retircence ]? He used to write to me very faithfully. But do you know really & truly he never has answered one of those twenty letters?.3 Never. But However, hard-heartedness does not affect me. I am so forgiving. Many people would feel hurt, & break off the correspondence—but I forgive him—I forgive him, & shall go on writing to him every day just the same. I shall move him after a while, no doubt. If these letters have grown monotonous to Charley & have ceased to interest him, I am grieved, I—I am truly grieved—for I do not know any other way to write “Miss Olivia L. Langdon—Present” but just that way. If I could write it in any other way so as to thrill him with enthusiasm, I certainly would.

Are you well, my poor Victim? How is your haggard face? What do you take for it? Try “S. T.—1860—X.”4 And have you hollow eyes, too?—or is most of the holler in your mouth? I am sorry for you, my wilted [geranium ].

And next you’ll fade, I suppose—they all do, that get in your fix—& then you’ll pass out, along with Sweet Lily L Dale, & Sweet Belle Mahone, & the rest of the tribe5—& there’ll be some ghastly old sea-sickening sentimental songs ground out about you & about the place where you prefer to be planted, & all that sort of bosh. Do be sensible & don’t.

But deserted & [broken-hearted ] mourner as you are, you are a good girl; & you are with those who love you & would [make ] your life peaceful & happy though your heart were really torn & bleeding, & freighted with griefs that were no counterfeit. You are where you deserve to be—beyond the pale & law reach & lawful jurisdiction of wasting sadnesses & heart aches [and ] where no trouble [graver than a ] passing, fancied ill, is like to come to you. And there I hope to find you when I come again, you well-balanced, pleasant-spirited, excellent girl, whom I love to hold in warm & honest friendship.

[Sincerely ],

[Saml. ] L. Clemens.

P.S.—This is No. 22.6 Don’t [be ] foolish, now, & silent, merely because I believe that the other young lady is without her peer in all the world, but write again, please. [Tell ] me more of your wretchedness. I can make you perfectly miserable, & then you’ll feel splendid. I am equal to a good many correspondences.


[on back of page 1, used as a wrapper:]

Miss Hattie Lewis


Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens lectured in Galesburg on Saturday evening, 9 January (“‘Mark Twain,’” Peoria Transcript, 11 Jan 69, 3; Wallace, 17).

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2 Harriet Lewis (later Paff), Olivia Langdon’s first cousin and close contemporary, was the daughter of a brother or half-brother of Olivia Lewis Langdon. She had been visiting the Langdons since the spring of 1868. Clemens’s ally in his courtship, during his visits to Elmira she pretended to be the object of his attentions, a ruse intended to help preserve Olivia’s privacy. (Lewis enjoyed teasing Clemens and her cousin by feigning desolation at his preference of Olivia over herself: see L2, 249 n. 4, 338 n. 9.) In 1897 she recalled that her performance

did succeed in deceiving people, much to the amusement of us all. A friend had written me from Chicago asking if the report was true that was in one of the daily papers—that Mr. C—& I were engaged. I read the letter to O—and said I believed I would write M[r.] C—about the reports and the remarks that had been made because of his attentions to me, and how badly I felt that he had already written 20 letters to her and not one to me—that I was getting pale and emaciated etc—So we wrote the letter and received a reply. (Paff, 5–6)

Their joint effort has not been found. The present letter is Clemens’s reply and was still in Lewis’s possession as late as 1897.

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3See 2 Jan 69 to OLL, n. 12.

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4 This intriguing slogan lent a mysterious cachet to P. H. Drake’s Plantation Bitters, a stomach tonic sold by the quart and consisting largely of “St. Croix Rum.” It appeared “on fences, barns, billboards, and rocks, on mountainsides and at Niagara Falls” and was commonly believed to stand for “started trade in 1860 with ten dollars’ capital” (Carson, 42). Newspaper advertisements for Plantation Bitters explained:

They act with unerring power, and are taken with the pleasure of a beverage. They perform most wonderful cures on stubborn cases of Dyspepsia, Liver Complaint, Nervous Affections, Loss of Appetite, Intermittent Fevers, Diarrhea, Sour Stomach, Headache, Fever and Ague, Weakness, Mental Despondency, &c. As a morning appetizer and after-dinner tonic, they should be in every family. They are a delightful exhilerating stimulant without any subsequent stupefying reaction.

The product’s secret ingredient—“a native of Brazil, and as yet unknown to the commerce of the world,” but “used with great effect by the Brazilians, Spanish and Peruvian ladies to heighten their color and beauty”—was doubtless responsible for the “cheerfulness to the disposition, vigor to the appetite, and brilliancy to the complexion” that users allegedly experienced (“Plantation Bitters,” Cleveland Herald, 13 Jan 69, 4).

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5 “Lilly Dale” (1852), by H. S. Thompson, and “Belle Mahone,” by J. H. McNaughton, were popular songs lamenting the untimely deaths of beloved young women (Chapple, 299, 328–29; Mattfeld, 87).

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6 That is, the twenty-second of Clemens’s letters to Olivia. In fact, she docketed his 7 January letter from Rockford as the twenty-second, his 7 January letter from Chicago as the twenty-third, and his 12 January letter from El Paso as the twenty-fifth. His twenty-fourth letter, sent between 8 and 12 January, is now lost, but it may have enclosed this letter to Harriet Lewis, since Olivia was certainly intended to read both.

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (CtY-BR).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L3, 21–24; LLMT, 46–49.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphdonated to CtY in 1949 by Richard A. Wheeler and Ruth Wilcox Wheeler, niece of Harriet Lewis Paff.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

f[partly formed]

spoken. • [doubtful ‘spoken.; period followed by inkblot]

is. I • is.—|I

heart—I • heart——I

grieving[false ascenders/descenders]

genro generous • genroerous

dining-room • dining-|room

retircence • reti-| rcence

geranium • []eranium [torn]

broken-hearted • broken-|hearted

make • mak | make [rewritten for clarity]

and • a[n]d [torn]

graver than a • grave[r t]ha[n ♦] [torn and faded]

Sincerely • [Si]ncerely [torn]

Saml. • [S]aml. [torn]

be • [doubtful f be’; ‘f’ partly formed]

Tell • [Te♦l] [torn]