Elmira, Aug. 31.
Damnation, (if you will allow the expression,) get up & take a turn around the block & let the sentiment blow off you. Sentiment is for girls—I mean the maudlin article, of course. Real sentiment is a very rare & godlike [thing. y You] do not know anybody that has it; neither do I.
You are petting & pitying & admiring yourself over your years of patient endeavor, & sole individual unassisted achievements, & g your good fight against [MS page 2] misfortune & disaster, & your readiness to continue the conflict with brave heart & willing hands. O, relegate all that to the days of callow adolescence, where it belongs. It is the commonest of the [commonplace] experiences of life. It is every man’s history, consequently it hasn’t a remar[ka]ble feature in it. There is no merit or virtue possible to it but one—& that is, to neither think about it nor talk about it. To think about it makes a man his own hero; to talk about it exposes that inglorious fact.
Have you a monopoly in of misfortune & possible [MS page 3] beggary? I think not. Every demi-year threatens me—& most of the people that I know. Then why think & talk about it, since that won’t alter the case?
As to the past, there is but one good thing about it, & that is, that it is the past—we don’t have to see it again. There is nothing in it worth pickling for present or future use. Each day that is added to the past is but an old boot added to a pile of rubbish. I have no tears for my pile, no respect, no reverence, no des pleasure in taking, a rag-picker’s [hook. ] [&] exploring it. If you can [MS page 4] find valuables in your pile, lucky boy you—that is all.
And by jings I think you & Orion ought to have my future pile, Will. Both of you are always climbing a rainbow that has t a pot of coin buried at the other end. That is to say, your reckless imaginations are always eating feasts that are never to be cooked. Your Evansville lawsuit was nothing but a dream; your richest widow in St Louis was another.2 Come, now, don’t imagine that I am objecting to these gorgeous futures of yours & Orion’s. It is not the case. I simply don’t [MS page 5] believe in them, & I question the solidity of men who deal in them.
It is the strangest, the most incomprehensible thing to me, that you are still 16, while I have aged to 41. What is the secret of your eternal youth?—not that I want to try it; far from it—I only ask out of curiosity. I can see by your manner of speech, that for more than twenty years you have stood still dead still in the midst of the dreaminess, the melancholy, the romance, the heroics, of sweet but sappy sixteen. Man, do you know that this is simply mental & moral masturbation? It belongs [MS page 6] eminently to the period usually devoted to physical masturbation, & should be left there & outgrown. Will, you must forgive me, but I have not the slightest sympathy with what the world calls Sentiment—not the slightest. Last week a lawyer talked it to me in a letter, from the Nevada mines; yesterday a quondam Hannibal girl talked it to me in a letter, from California;3 to-day, you talk it to me in a letter. I shan’t answer the others, for I don’t care whether they are ever cured or not; but I owe it to myself & to you to come frankly forward & cure you—if I can.
[MS page 7] That is the object of this letter. You need a dose of salts, & I am trying to give it you. It isn’t a stab; “Sentiment” would call it a “stab”—a “disloyal stab in the back of a trusting friend”—& all that sort of romantic rot & high-sounding phrase that Sentiment delights to deal in. No, it isn’t anything so grandiose as a stab; it is nothing but a humble 15-cent dose of salts; but if you will take [it] in good part & good faith, as it is intended, it will scour out your mental & moral bowels., & you will [MS page 8] feel like a man; you will feel robust & fine & healthy—& then if you are as grateful as you ought to be, you will thank me. You will say, “Thanks be to God I have passed my Sentimental worms, & have no longer the moral [belly-ache].”
You try it—on the faith of
(who is a better friend to you
than you are to yourself,)
Samℓ. L. Clemens.
P. S. Do give my love to your mother, whom I still, as always, hold in the highest esteem & most loving remembrance.
We go hence, tomorrow, with a g vague general idea of trave visiting various friends for 5 or 6 weeks, & then home to Hartford.