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Add to My Citations To Jane Lampton Clemens and Family
27 July 1870 • Elmira, N.Y.
(MS: NPV, UCCL 00492)
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Elmira, July 27.

Dear Folks—

Mr Langdon is getting along very well, & slowly progressing toward recovery., we think. But we still [sit up ] with him night & day.1

We are glad you are all so well satisfied in Fredonia.

But why is Margaret going?—what is the matter? You seem to take it for granted that we know all about it. If Margaret needs a nice new trunk, I want you to get her one, & a common dress & also a fine one for Sunday, & send the bill to [me. ] (and do not be stingy in the prices.) I am very sorry she is going away. I had hoped she would spend all her days with you.2

I am going to write a 600-page 8vo. book (like the last) for my publishers (it is a secret for a few days yet.) It will be about Nevada & California & must be finished Jan 1. I shall begin it about a month from now. By request, Orion has sent me his note-book of the Plains trip. Now I always thought that we used $600 of my money (& so we did), but I see no mention of it [here. I ]wonder if we ever had any settlement of that account. I suppose of course we had—else I would pay my indebtedness to Mollie with that sum & interest to date.3



P. S. The “Innocents Abroad” paid me 12 to $1500 a month—the next book will pay considerably more.4

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 In 1906 Clemens recalled:

Mrs. Clemens, her sister, (Susy Crane,) and I did all the nursing both day and night, during two months until the end. Two months of scorching, stifling heat. How much of the nursing did I do? My main watch was from midnight till four in the morning—nearly four hours. My other watch was a midday watch, and I think it was only three hours. The two sisters divided the remaining seventeen hours of the twenty-four between them, and each of them tried generously and persistently to swindle the other out of a part of her watch. The “on” watch could not be depended upon to call the “off” watch—excepting when I was the “on” watch.

I went to bed early every night, and tried to get sleep enough by midnight to fit me for my work, but it was always a failure. I went on watch sleepy and remained miserably sleepy and wretched straight along through the four hours. I can still see myself sitting by that bed in the melancholy stillness of the sweltering night, mechanically waving a palm-leaf over the drawn white face of the patient; I can still recall my noddings, my fleeting unconsciousnesses, when the fan would come to a standstill in my hand, and I would wake up with a start and a hideous shock. I can recall all the torture of my efforts to keep awake; I can recall the sense of the indolent march of time, and how the hands of the tall clock seemed not to move at all, but to stand still. Through the long vigil there was nothing to do but softly wave the fan—and the gentleness and monotony of the movement itself helped to make me sleepy. The malady was cancer of the stomach, and not curable. There were no medicines to give. It was a case of slow and steady perishing. At long intervals, the foam of champagne was administered to the patient, but no other nourishment, so far as I can remember. . . .

I was well and strong, but I was a man and afflicted with a man’s infirmity—lack of endurance. But neither of those young women was well nor strong, yet still I never found either of them sleepy or unalert when I came on watch; yet, as I have said, they divided seventeen hours of watching between them in every twenty-four. It is a marvelous thing. It filled me with wonder and admiration; also with shame, for my dull incompetency. Of course the physicians begged those daughters to permit the employment of professional nurses, but they would not consent. The mere mention of such a thing grieved them so that the matter was soon dropped, and not again referred to. (AD, 15 Feb 1906, CU-MARK, in MTA, 2:113–15)

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2 Margaret Theil, the family’s maid, reportedly “missed her St. Louis friends and finally decided to go back” (MTBus, 116).

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3 In fact, in the summer of 1861 Clemens had enough money saved from his piloting wages to advance Orion $400 for both of their stagecoach fares from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Carson City, Nevada Territory, and also to provide about another $800 for expenses (L1, 122; RI 1993, 574–75, 576). His indebtedness to Mollie Clemens has not been explained.

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4 Clemens was about to receive a fourth quarter statement of sales on The Innocents Abroad, as well as a summary statement of the entire first year’s sales, amounting to about 69,500 copies (5 Aug 70, 4 Sept 70, both to Bliss). Neither document has survived, but his five percent royalty, applied to existing bindery and sales records and using an average price of $4.00 per book, yields a total first year return of about $14,000, or about $1,167 per month. This is substantially consistent with Clemens’s 1906 recollection that he received “about twenty-two cents per volume,” which generates a royalty of $15,290, or about $1,274 per month (AD, 23 May 1906, CU-MARK, in MTE, 151–52; Hirst 1975, 315–17).

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

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 175–176; MTBus, 117, with omission.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee McKinney Family Papers in Description of Provenance.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

sit up • situ sit up [false start; ‘it’ partly formed]

me.[deletion implied]

here. I • here.—|I