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Add to My Citations To the Editor of Every Saturday (Thomas Bailey Aldrich)
15 January 1871 • Buffalo, N.Y.
(MS: MoSW, UCCL 00559)
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To the Editor of Every Saturday:1

You stated, two or three weeks ago, in a recent issue, that I have written “a feeble imitation of Bret. Harte’s Heathen Chinee,” in the shape of a certain rhymes about a euchre game that was turned into poker & a victim betrayed into betting his all on three aces when there was a “flush” out against him. Will you please correct your misstatement, inasmuch as I did not write the wr rhymes referred to, to nor have anything whatever to do with suggesting, inspiring, or producing them? They were the work of a writer who has for years signed himself “Hi. Slocum.” I have had several applications from responsible publishing houses to furnish a volume of poems after the style of the “Truthful James” rhymes. I burned the letters without answering them, for I am not in the imitation business.

Yours Truly

Sa Mark Twain.

Buffalo, Jan. 15.2

Explanatory Notes

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1 Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907), whom Clemens did not actually meet until late in 1871 (1 Nov 71 to OLC, n. 3). Aldrich was born and educated in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which served as the setting for many of his literary works. In 1852, lacking the funds to attend Harvard (a consequence of his father’s death in 1849), he moved to New York to work as a clerk in his uncle’s business. Almost immediately he began to publish poems in various journals, eventually joining the editorial staffs of the Evening Mirror, Home Journal, and Saturday Press. During 1861–62 he served as Civil War correspondent for the New York Tribune and, briefly in 1863, as managing editor of the New York Illustrated News. In 1865, having published several books of poetry and short stories (the first in 1855), he married Lilian Woodman and moved to Boston, where James R. Osgood had offered him the editorship of Every Saturday, a post he held from 1866 to 1874. In 1869, he published The Story of A Bad Boy, about which Clemens remarked to Olivia Langdon: “I could not admire the volume much” (L3, 440; Wolf, 43–46; Price, 4–5; Greenslet, 15–16, 56, 58, 76). Clemens and Aldrich enjoyed a lifelong friendship.

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2 Aldrich published this letter, without its dateline, in the 4 February issue of Every Saturday, explaining that

the poem entitled “The Three Aces,” with Mark Twain’s signature attached as author, appeared in several of our New York exchanges. That was our only authority for attributing the verses to him. We are very glad that he did not write them, for the rhymes lack that freshness and brilliancy which Mark Twain has taught us to expect in his writings. (Aldrich 1871)

Some newspapers did assume that Hy Slocum and Carl Byng (author of “The Three Aces”) were alternative pseudonyms for Mark Twain, and therefore reprinted their sketches from the Buffalo Express as if they in fact were his. For example, see: “A Humorous View of the Farmers’ Club. Mark Twain’s Report of the Proceedings,” Pittsburgh Gazette, 7 Dec 70, 2, reprinting Byng 1870; and “Mark Twain on Yaller Dogs,” San Francisco Golden City, 19 Dec 69, 2, reprinting Slocum 1869.

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

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 304–305; “Mark Twain Says He Did n’t Do It,” Every Saturday 2 (4 Feb 71): 118; Greenslet, 95; AAA/Anderson 1937, lot 75, excerpts.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphin the collection of Albert Bigelow Paine when he died in 1937; donated to MoSW about 1960 by the estate of George N. Meissner.