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Add to My CitationsTo Moncure D. Conway
per Fanny C. Hesse
13 December 1876 • Hartford, Conn.
(MS: NNC, UCCL 01394)
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Hartford Dec 13th 1876

Dear Conway1

[Its] a mistake, I am not writing any new book. Belford has taken the profits all out of “Tom Sawyer”. We find our [copywright] law here to be nearly worthless, and if I can make a living out of plays, I shall never write another book. For the present I have placed the three books in mind, in the waste basket, but if I should write one of them, Chatto shall have a say in it.2

The Canadian “Tom Sawyer” has actually taken the market away from us in every village in the Union. We cannot accomplish anything against the news dealers, because the newsdealer is privileged to sell a pirated book until we give him personal and distinct notice, that that book is [copywrighted]. The Publishers say that as near as their lawyers can make it out, English [copywright] is not worth anything in Canada, unless it be recorded in Canada, within sixty days after publication in England.3

We still hope to see you in London in April & I shall be very sorry if anything interferes to prevent it.4

With kindest regards, I am ever yours truly and sincerely

Sa em space Sam. L. Clemens

P. S. Have just written a new play with Bret Harte, which we expect great things from, tho’ of course we may be disappointed.

S. L. C.

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens answered the following letter (CU-MARK):
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Andrew Chatto must have seen the 25 November 1876 number of the London Athenæum, which reported: “Mr. Mark Twain is said to be engaged on a book named ‘The North Pole, and how we didn’t get there’” (“Literary Gossip,” 691). Miss Lee has not been identified. Clemens had discussed his hope for a dramatization of Tom Sawyer in his 14 August 1876 letter to Eustace Conway, and presumably in subsequent letters to Moncure Conway that have not been found. For details of Clemens’s earnings on the two thousand copies of the English edition of the book, see 29 Dec 76 to Conway, n. 1.

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2 Two of the works that Clemens had pigeonholed, but not discarded, were Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which he had set aside half-finished in August or September 1876, and “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” which he had been writing intermittently since 1868 but didn’t publish in part until 1907. The third probably was one of the unidentified novels he had worked on between the fall of 1875 and the summer of 1876 (see HF 2003, 669, 674–82, and L6, 139 n. 3, 585 n. 9; SLC 1907–8).

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3 Clemens paraphrased Elisha Bliss, who in a letter of 11 December had informed him (CU-MARK):

The difficulty is that we have to prove that the news dealer knew it was a copyrighted book, to sustain our case. Such has been the construction put upon the law by lawyers. It is hard doing this. Everyone will claim they did not know of this fact & were not responsible for selling it. . .  . I learn that to hold a copyright in Canada—taken out in England, it is necessary to have it recorded in Canada also, within 60 days of its publication in England, or it is lost— I fear your copyright in Canada is worthless— (CU-MARK)

See also 2 Nov 76 to Conway, n. 3.

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4 See 28 Oct 76 to Ellen Conway.



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Conway Papers, NNC.

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph MTLP, 106–7, partial publication; MicroPUL, reel 1.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphThe Conway Papers were acquired by NNC sometime after Conway’s death in 1907.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph


Its • [sic]

copywright • [sic]

copywrighted • [sic]

copywright • [sic]