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Add to My Citations To Mary Mason Fairbanks
19 November 1870 • Buffalo, N.Y.
(MS: CSmH, UCCL 00538)
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Dear Mother:

What the “F. at C. ontributor” needs is not words;, but ideas. Furnished with the latter, he appears to know as many words as anybody. You perceive by the enclosed that I have helped him to one. I notice on an average of tw once a month, that I have been unintentionally & unknowingly con pumping an idea into the head of one or another of the family of acknowledged village “humorists” of the land. And when I furnish them an idea & also a model, their article is bound to be copied if they stick to the model close enough. Why even the “Fat Contributor” is copied when he stays faithfully by his model & ventures on no disastrous originality.1

Do you know, a Philadelphia imbecile by the name of “John Quill” made quite a weighty local reputation in Ameri reputation for himself simply by printing articles of mine with his name to [them. But ] when I objected, he foolishly tried to write write original articles; & lo & behold you he passed out of the [ liera literary ] world on his first one just as gently a & as peacefully as ever a dead man was toted out on a shutter.2

In a hurry



We are doing finely—baby boards h with his mother now, half the time. I guess I shall write tomorrow.

P. S. On second thoughts, I publish the article, [ Mon ] next Monday or Tuesday, with the added [headline ]Plagiarized.” Will you copy it with that added line? {try I am so deliciously tempted to print this letter!3

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens had personally arranged the Buffalo Express’s exchange agreement with the Cincinnati Times as a favor to Alphonso Miner Griswold, the Times’s city editor (L3, 324). As a result he saw Griswold’s “Hints to Farmers,” which seemingly echoed his own “How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once” (SLC 1870, 133–35). The enclosed clipping of Griswold’s article does not survive, nor has a file of the Cincinnati Times been found, but see note 3.

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2 See 26 Apr 70 to Fuller, n. 4.

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3 The Buffalo Express reprinted Griswold’s article on page two on Monday, 21 November:



by the “fat contributor.”

[Written for the Cincinnati Times.]

Now that the Winter is approaching, it would perhaps be as well to discontinue haying, and turn your attention to putting in your fall saw-logs. No farmer can consider his fall work complete until he has his cellar well supplied with saw-logs. Seated around the blazing hearth of a Winter’s night there is not fruit more delicious.

A correspondent asks us what we think of late plowing. Plowing should not be continued later than ten or eleven o’clock at night. It gets the horses in the habit of staying out late, and unduly exposes the plow. We have known plows to acquire springhalt and inflammatory rheumatism from late plowing. Don’t do it.

To another correspondent who wants us to suggest a good drain on a farm, we would say a heavy mortgage at ten per cent. will drain it about as rapidly as anything we know of.

When you make cider select nothing but the soundest turnips, chopping them into sled length before cradling them. In boiling your cider use plenty of ice, and when boiled hang it up in the sun to dry.

A pick axe should never be used in picking apples. It has a tendency to break down the vines and damage the hive.

In sowing your Winter apple jack a horse rake will be found preferable to a step ladder. Step ladders is liable to freeze up, and are hardly palatable unless boiled with sugar.

In cutting down hemlock trees for canning select the largest. Don’t throw away your chips, as they make fine parlor ornaments encased in rustic frames of salt and vinegar.

The coming cold weather should suggest to the humane farmer the necessity for a good cow-shed. The following is a receipt for making a good cow-shed: Pour a pailful of boiling hot water on her back, and if that does not make a good cow-shed—her hair—we are no prophet to anybody.

Now is the time for planting your Winter hay. The pink-eyed Southdown is probably the best variety, as it don’t need poling and begins to lay early.

The Express did not print Clemens’s letter, nor did the Cleveland Herald “copy” the Express.

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Huntington Library, San Marino (CSmH, call no. HM 14270).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 240–241; MTMF, 148–49.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee Huntington Library in Description of Provenance.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

them. But • them.— | But

liera literary • lieraterary [canceled ‘a’ partly formed]

Mon[‘n’ partly formed]

headline • head-|line