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Add to My CitationsTo William Dean Howells
26 April 1876 • Hartford, Conn.
(MS, in pencil: NN-BGC, UCCL 02501)
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Hartford, Apl. 26

My Dear Howells:

Thanks for the slips & thanks for giving me the place of honor.1

Bliss made a failure in the matter of getting Tom Sawyer ready on time—the engravers assisting, as usual. I went down to see how much of a delay there was going to be, & found that the man had not even put a canvasser on or issued an advertisement yet—in fact that the electrotypes would not all be done for a month! But of course the main trouble was the fact that no canvassing had been done—because a subscription harvest is before iss publication, (not after, when people have discovered how bad one’s book is).

Well, yesterday I put in the Courant an editorial paragraph stating that Tom Sawyer was is “ready to issue, but “will publication is put off in order to secure English copyright by simultatneous publication there & here. The English edition isn unavoidably delayed.”2

You see, part of that is true. Very well. When I observed that my Sketches had dropped from a sale of 6 or 7000 a month down to 1200 a month, I said this ain’t no time to be publishing books; therefore, let Tom lay still till f autumn, Mr. Bliss, & make a holiday book of him to beguile the young people withal.”3

Howells, you must forgive me., if I seem to have made the Atlantic any wrong. I——but I’ll talk to you about it & show th you that it was one of those cases where “the best laid schemes of mice & men, &c.”4

I shall print items a occasionally still further delaying Tom, till I ease him w down to autumn without shock to the waiting world.

As to that “Literary Nightmare” proposition, I’m obliged to withhold consent, for what seems a good reason—to-wit: a single page of horse-car poetry is all that the average reader can stand, without nausea; now, to stack together all of it that has been written, & then add to it my article would be to enrage & disgust each & every reader & win the deathless enmity of the lot.

I Even if that reason were insufficient, there would still be a suffic[i]ent reason left, in the fact that Mr. Carleton seems to be the publisher of the magazine in which it is proposed to publish this horse-car [matter. Carleton] insulted me in Feb, 1867; & so when the day arrives that sees me doing him a civility, I shall feel that I am ready for Paradise, since my list of possible & impossible forgivenesses will then be complete.5

Mrs. Clemens says my version of the blindfold novelette “A Murder & a Marriage” is “good.” Pretty strong language—for her. However, it is not original. God said the same of another Creation.

The Fieldses are coming down to the play tomorrow & they promise to try to get you & Mrs. Howells to come, too, but I hope you’ll do nothing of the kind if it will inconvenience you, for I ain’t going to play either striking bad enough or well enough to make the journey pay you.6

My wife & I think of going to Boston May 7th to see Anna Dickinson’s debut on the 8th. If I find we can go, I’ll try to get a stage box, & then you & Mrs. Howells must come to Parker’s & go with us to the crucifixion. (Is that spelt right?—some how its doesn’t look right.)7

With our very kindest regards to the whole family ,

Yrs Ever

Mark.8

Mrs. Clemens heard a caretvisitingcaret Vermont gentleman quote Johnny’s remark about the “slave” getting breakfast ready last night.9

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 In a letter that does not survive, Howells had enclosed proofs of “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut,” the lead article in the Atlantic Monthly for June (SLC 1876).

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2 From the Hartford Courant of 25 April (2):

Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer.”

Mark Twain’s new book, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” is ready to issue, but the publication has been put off for the present in order that copyright may be secured in England by simultaneous publication there and here. The English edition has suffered unavoidable delay.

On 27 April the Boston Globe printed the identical notice, without crediting the Courant (“Table Gossip,” 3).

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3 The American Publishing Company had recently reported sales of 3,724 copies of Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old during the first quarter of 1876. A total of 21,851 copies were sold during the last quarter of 1875 (12 Apr 76 to Bliss, n. 1; APC 1866–79).

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4 From Burns’s “To a Mouse.”

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5 Clemens answered the following letter (CU-MARK):
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Howells’s enclosure, no longer extant, was:

A letter to H. O. Houghton from Frank Moore (New York, 21 April 1876), stating: “I have collected all the Horse Car Poetry & am to print it in the Record of the Year, and I want to print Mark Twains article from the Atlantic.” (MTHL, 1:131 n. 1)

Moore was editor of the Record of the Year, A Reference Scrap Book: Being the Monthly Record of Important Events Worth Preserving, published by G. W. Carleton and Company in 1876. Carleton had offended Clemens in 1867 by rejecting a version of what became The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, And other Sketches (see L2, 13–14 n. 1). In “Horse-Car Poetry,” in the Record of the Year’s “Diary of Events,” Moore included a long excerpt from the Atlantic Monthly’s publication of “A Literary Nightmare.” He also reprinted Clemens’s 16 March 1876 letter to Richard McCloud, under the title “Mark Twain on St. Patrick” (Moore 1876, 1:287–88, 325–26). No direct correspondence between Moore and Clemens has been found, so in light of the present letter it must be assumed that the borrowings did not have Clemens’s permission.

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6 Clemens had sent two invitations (both unrecovered) to Annie and James T. Fields to attend either of the performances of The Loan of a Lover, on Wednesday, 26 April, or Thursday, 27 April. The first probably was a telegram on Monday, 24 April, which Fields answered with a postcard not mailed until 25 April (CU-MARK):
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Later on 24 April, however, Clemens sent a follow-up letter. To that Fields replied on 25 April (CU-MARK):

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Clemens noted on Fields’s envelope: “Fields—coming down to see my debut as Peter Spyk in the ‘Loan of a Lover.’” Fields’s 25 April telegram of acceptance does not survive. No information has been found about his 26 April lecture, but on the morning of 27 April he lectured in Wesleyan Hall, “before a department of the Boston University,” on Sydney Smith (1771–1845), the English clergyman, author, and wit (“About Town,” Boston Advertiser, 28 Apr 76, 4). The Howellses did not make the trip to Hartford.

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7 Anna E. Dickinson, the prominent abolitionist, social reformer, lecturer, and friend of the Langdon family’s, was to make her debut as an actress in her own play, A Crown of Thorns, Or, Ann Boleyn, at Boston’s Globe Theater on 8 May. (Her appearance at New York’s Eagle Theatre reported as 4 April 1876 in MTHL, 1:134 n. 7, in fact occurred on that date in 1877). The Parker House was Clemens’s preferred Boston hotel (Chester 1951, 168, 176; New York Times: “Amusements,” 4 Apr 77, 5; “Eagle Theatre,” 5 Apr 77, 5; L6,58 n. 1). See also 4 May 76 to Howells.

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8 Howells replied to the present letter and Clemens’s letter of 22 April (CU-MARK):
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For the photographs that Howells comments on, see 29 Apr 76 to White and 5 May 76 to Conway. Howells had first mentioned the Blindfold Novelettes project to Thomas Bailey Aldrich in a letter of 2 April, forwarding the draft announcement Clemens had sent in his letter of 13 March and describing it as “a scheme of Mark Twain’s, which we shall carry out if we can get any one to help. That is he and I will write a story on the proposed basis, if you and two or three others will do so. Tell me what you think of the plan” (Howells 1979, 124). The Queen of Hearts. A Dramatic Fantasia. For Private Theatricals was a play by James B. Greenough (1833–1901), a Harvard Latin professor, which Howells had seen performed at the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in January 1875. Although it was published that year, Howells had only just reviewed it appreciatively for the May 1876 Atlantic Monthly, following his notice of Tom Sawyer (Greenough 1875; Howells 1876, 622; Howells 1979, 88).

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9 On 19 March 1876, a week after his visit to Hartford with his son, Howells had written to his father:

I took John with me, and as his mother had prepared his mind for the splendors of the Twain mansion, he came to everything with the most exalted fairy-palace expectations. He found some red soap in the bathroom. “Why, they’ve even got their soap painted!” says he; and the next morning when he found the black-serving-man getting ready for breakfast, he came and woke me. “Better get up, papa. The slave is setting the table.” (Howells 1979, 123)

The “black-serving-man” was George Griffin, the Clemenses’ butler (see L6, 583 n. 5). The visitor from Vermont has not been identified.



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, in pencil, NN-BGC.

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyphMTL , 1:277–78; MTHL, 1:131–33.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphSee Howells Letters in Description of Provenance.

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matter. Carleton • matter.—ǀCarleton