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Add to My Citations To Charles Henry Webb
14 January 1871 • Buffalo, N.Y.
(MS: MoSW, UCCL 00558)
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Buffalo, Jan 14.

Dear Webb—

I dassent. I made up my mind solidly day before yesterday that I would draw out of the Galaxy with the April No. & write no more for any periodical—except, at long intervals a screed that I happened to dearly want to write.1

Yes sir—King William was a mistake & a big one, for it was repeating my a joke—but the way of it was that the idea of doing f of burlesquing the Galaxy portraits was in my head long before the Map, & so I did not recognize the injudiciousness as clearly as I would have done had not that been the case. But it was a big mistake.2

Carleton & I can’t trade, under any circumstances.3

Every Saturday accuses me of writing “a some feeble imitation of Bret Harte” in the shape of a euchre rhyme about threes & a flush. A pretty grave charge. Mr. “Hi. Slocum” is the habitual plagiarist who did it. So let my us sorrow together., over these Every Saturday villainies.4

I’ve been off holidaying another week—at a Cleveland wedding5—& now you bet you I am going to place my nose in contact with the [grindstone ]& keep it there.

Please give my kindest regards to Mrs. Webb.

Yr friend

Sam L. Clemens.

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Webb, whose letter is lost, was neither editing nor publishing a periodical at this time. Between 7 January and 11 February 1871, however, as “John Paul,” he contributed a weekly column entitled “Things” to Every Saturday, published in Boston by James R. Osgood and Company. He may have been acting on behalf of Osgood or George W. Carleton, his own publisher.

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2 For Clemens’s map of the “Fortifications of Paris” and his portrait of William III of Prussia, see 22 Sept 70 to Bliss, nn. 1 and 2, and 18 Oct 70 to Church, n. 1. He continued to regret the similarity of the two satires: for an 1874 reprinting, he deleted his bogus “Commendations of the Portrait,” saying “Leave this out—it is only a repetition of the ‘Commendations’ attached to the ‘Map of Paris’”; and he entirely omitted the sketch from later reprintings of his work (SLC 1873, 586).

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3 See 26 Nov 70 to Webb, n. 6.

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4 “Three Aces: Jim Todd’s Episode in Social Euchre” appeared in the Buffalo Express on 3 December 1870 (2)—attributed to “Carl Byng,” not to “Hy Slocum.” On 7 January, Every Saturday had carried the following note by editor Thomas Bailey Aldrich: “Mark Twain’s versified story of the ‘Three Aces’ seems to be a feeble echo of Bret Harte. The ‘Truthful James’ vein is one that can be worked successfully only by the owner of the ‘claim’” (“Literary Items,” n.s., 2:19). The 14 January issue of the magazine, which Webb may have seen in proof but too late to correct, committed a similar “villainy,” attributing to Harte the founding of the Californian, which it called “an unsuccessful newspaper enterprise of his own” (“Mr. Francis Bret Harte,” n.s., 2:43). On 28 January, Every Saturday published Webb’s protest that he, not Harte, had established the Californian, and that he, “more than any other was prominently and personally identified with the paper,” which had successfully contributed “towards elevating the tone of Californian journalism and developing the brilliancy which has since burst from the Western horizon” (Webb 1871; L1, 314 n. 5; RI 1993, 699).

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5 The previous holiday was 10–17 December, spent in New York City, part of the time with Webb (see p. 269).



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, George N. Meissner Collection, Washington University, St. Louis (MoSW).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 302–303; AAA/Anderson 1936, lot 122, excerpts.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphdonated to MoSW about 1960 by the estate of George N. Meissner.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph


grindstone • grind-ǀstone