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Add to My CitationsTo William Dean Howells
13 March 1876 • Hartford, Conn.
(MS: MH-H, UCCL 01329)
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P. S. I enclose the “Conscience” article. Please correct it mercilessly.1

Monday afternoon2

My dear Howells:

Here is the “Blindfold Novelettes.” You will see that I have altered it as we contemplated. The most prominent features in the story being the Murder & the Marriage, the one name will aptly fit all the versions. Then the thing will read thus in the headings:

“A Murder & a Marriage. Story No. 1, (or 2, or 3, &c)—Mr. Harte’s Version of it.”

You could add to this screed of mine an editorial bracket to this effect.em space—(over)

“Messrs. Howells, Trowbridge, &c., have agreed to furnish versions of this story, but it is also desirable that any who please shall furnish versions of it also, whether the writers be of literary fame or not. The MSS offered will be judged upon their merits & accepted or declined accordingly. The stories should be only 8 or 10 Atlantic pages long.Ed. Atlantic.3

Something of that sort, you know, th to keep people of from imagining that because my name is attached to the proposition, the thing is merely intended for a joke.

Bliss promises me those sheets Friday night.4

Great love to you all.

Yrs Ever


Explanatory Notes

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1 ”The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut” (SLC 1876). For an indication of Howells’s suggestions for revision, see 3 Apr 76 to Howells.

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2 Previously it was believed that Clemens wrote this letter on 1 May 1876 (MTHL, 1:135). But he clearly wrote it the day after Howells and his seven-year-old son, John (Bua), left Hartford after visiting from Saturday evening, 11 March, through Monday morning, 13 March. That visit had been arranged by: a letter of early March from Olivia Clemens to Elinor Howells; a letter of 5 March from Howells to Clemens; a telegram of around 6 March from Clemens to Howells; a postcard of around 6 or 7 March from Howells. Only Howells’s part of the correspondence is known to survive (CU-MARK):
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[Howells’s postcard of 6 or 7 March was undated and unpostmarked; evidently it was mailed in an envelope, which does not survive:]
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Back at home in Cambridge, Howells wrote the following letter (CU-MARK), which probably crossed in the mail with Clemens’s present one:

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The letter on copyright has not been recovered. The Shakespearean allusion was to Prospero’s famous words to Ferdinand:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air;

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

Winny (Winifred) was Howells’s twelve-year-old daughter (Howells 1979, 94, 297, 299 n. 1).

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3 During Howells’s visit Clemens had broached his scheme for several writers to each write a story with the same plot. The enclosed “screed,” a proposed announcement of the work, is not known to survive: on 2 April Howells sent it on to Thomas Bailey Aldrich (see 26 Apr 76 to Howells, n. 8). Howells and the Atlantic Monthly weren’t Clemens’s first choices to promote the enterprise, however. In late January or early February, evidently in a letter dictated to the unidentified stenographer he was then employing, he had proposed it to Mary Mapes Dodge, editor of St. Nicholas magazine for children. She had replied (CU-MARK):
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Clemens wrote his version of the story on 21 and 22 April (see 22 Apr 76 to Howells).

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4 That is, proofs of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which Howells was to use in writing his review of the book. Bliss promised them for Friday, 17 March. Howells acknowledged them with a postcard postmarked 20 March (CU-MARK):
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glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, MH-H, shelf mark bMS Am 1784 (98).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph MTHL, 1:135, misdated 1 May 1876.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphSee Howells Letters in Description of Provenance.