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Add to My Citations To Olivia L. Langdon
4 December 1868 • (2nd of 2) • New York, N.Y.
(MS, damage emended: CU-MARK, UCCL 02725)
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Dec. 4.

☞ The last page of the last letter (to-day) was 5.1

Now! I got down stairs with my letter just after the mail had gone to the postoffice, but I bribed a bell-boy to break his neck getting there with it before the mail should close—& so I suppose it is all right.2

You have done right, Livy. Put before me all your doubts & fears—all your troubles. As you say, & as you know, you may feel sure of my “patience toward, & brave words to,” you. And you saw how your confession ed soothed you & revived your love. We will “help to bear one another’s burdens,” Livy, & both shall be [ t ]better, & stronger, & happier for it. I am grieved to see you harassed with [misgivings]—& yet am I cruelly content that it is so, for only [ I ◇ through ]such can come a love that shall be noble, lasting, & without alloy or blemish. Your Gold must pass through the batteries, the concentrators, the amalgamators, the assay office, the smelting furnace, the assay office, the refiner’s exquisitely fervent & cleansing fires—all before it can become minted coin & bear the stamp that shall testify its perfected worth to men. It was gold at first, Livy—it was only hidden from sight among base metals in homely quartz. Let your doubts & your fears pass one by one to death & oblivion, in [ ther their ]due & proper season, Livy, even as the galena, the antimony & the pyrites drift from the batteries & are lost.

“Do not believe in any mortal as you believe in your Savior.” Forgive me, Livy, if I uttered such a thing irreverently—for it could not fail to wound you. I am thinking, thinking, thinking—but nothing comes back to me now but something I said about an “eastern [ ded devotee ]& his idol.”3 The thought of unquestioning devotion always brings [ m ]before me some pictures I saw in a Sunday School book when I was a boy, of Hindoo devotees swinging on hooks thrust into their backs—holding out an arm till it withered—making incredible journeys on their knees & s bruising their heads against the ground at every third step—casting themselves under the Car of Juggernaut,4 etc.—all to find favor with hideous majestic idols that smiled not nor gave any sign. But you will forgive me, Livy. I did not mean to hurt you. I could not do that, with deliberate intent.

And you are not “Perfection”—no? And I shan’t say you are? There you go, again, you dear little concentration of l Literalness! Why, bless your good old heart, nobody said you considered yourself perfection—no! It is I—& Mrs. Brooks—& Mrs. Fairbanks—& all else that know you—that [considere you ]perfection—& I warn you that we shall go on saying it (to ourselves,) notwithstanding your tyrannical, illegal & outrageous edict stops us henceforth from saying it to you! If I were to bring the Constitution of the United States to bear upon this question, I co (where it speaks of free speech & freedom of the press,) I could easily show you that I have a perfect right to say it to you, too—[ I & ]I would, too, if I dared to disobey you, you awful tyrant! Oh, w don’t you mind what I shall “discover some day”—I shall just discover what I have already discovered—that I love, love, love, love, love, LOVE l you!—multiplied by a hundred & fifty! And so loving you I note your faults, & knight them with my love, & call them the perfection of faults (for I have searched them out & I know what they are.) They are—1, The using of slang (but you didn’t know it was slang, my little angel by brevet, else you wouldn’t have used it); 2. The leaving off of blue ribbons at times (which is unconstitutional & unsustain[e]d by law); 3. The appearing five minutes late at breakfast, every morning, when I have been watching the door for ages & ages to see you enter, radiant & beautiful, & fill all the dull air with [sunshine;) ]4. But your most heinous fault is in loving me—& I pray that it may grow, & grow, & grow, till it shall usurp all your being & leave you nothing but one stately, magnificent, concentrated, sublimated, overwhelming Fault for all Time! Livy, you are a true Woman—for when did ever a woman condescend to show why one of her imperious assertions should be received as incontrovertible fact? I couldn’t help smiling at the truly feminine confidence [with ]which you simply asserted that you were not perfection, & then calmly changed the subject without every offering a word or hint of argument or testimony to support it! {But I take it all back, my darling, my idol—for you are sensitive to irony, & must feel it, even though you do know that when it goes from me to you, it can never be aught else that than loving badinage & is forbidden to bear with it a sting. And beside, your simple word, which never yet was doubted, stands superior to all argument & evidence—when you speak, it is the King that speaks—the monarch’s word is Truth, & unimpeachable—& when you say & I doubt, I shall no longer stand worthy to be called leal & true subject of thine, O loved & honored liege!}

Livy, I am doing according to the valued privilege you have accorded me—I am telling you all I feel & think & do—[ I & ]I am grateful that you give to me your confidence. The very least little thing you do, is full of interest to me & I pray you tell it me. If another tells me he w rode or walked, sat, sang or went to church, it is nothing—but when you tell me you did it, I devour it as though I were absorbing priceless learning. When you said you were quietly located in your room, ready to have a little visit with me, I saw you, just as plainly as if I had been there beside you, with my eager arms about you & looking into your dear eyes. If I could only take you to my arms now, & imprint upon your forehead the kiss of reverent Honor, & upon your lips the kiss of Love, imperishable & undefiled!

Livy, I wrote your father Wednesday (whose honor & respect, & yo likewise your mother’s I hope always to deserve & hold,) & I tried to seem lively, but somehow I couldn’t get over the dread that you were ill—& so I begged him to let me come up, if only for an hour or two—but I am reassured & comfortable now. If he dares to ridicule me I shan’t inflict another letter on him for three or four weeks! But do you know, if I hadn’t got your letter to-day I would have arrived in Elmira tomorrow night? Indeed I would. You were saved as by fire.5 I wouldn’t have passed another such a day as yesterday for anything. [torn in order to cancel:] I [ [ white diamondwhite diamondwhite diamondpose] I ru[iwhite diamondwhite diamondwhite diamond white diamondwhite diamondwhite diamond white diamondan’s]

[twenty lines (about 120 words) torn away]

[keep white diamondwhite diamondthwhite diamondwhite diamondwhite diamond white diamondwhite diamondwhite diamondwhite diamond ywhite diamond]u, el[white diamondwhite diamond] ] I wouldn’t have been betrayed into this confession6—& so I rely on you not to take advantage of my confidence to go & make yourself sorry.

And now, being in a confessing mood, I bow my expectant head for your forgiveness, & proceed to reveal to you that I told Dan—& have told the Twichell’s—& my sister—& Mrs. Fairbanks. What a load is off my conscience now! But observe, Livy, I know who to tell. These several parties are very, very dear to me—& each is a sealed book. Our secret is safe in their hands—as safe as though it were shut within the fabled copper vessel of Arabian story & sealed with the seal of Solomon, lord of the genii.7 I do wish you could read Twichell’s letter—magnificent fellow! Let me give you an extract or two:

“Receive my benediction, Mark—my very choicest! I breathe it toward you—that particular doxologic & hallelujah formula thereof which I use on occasions which but for the sake of propriety I should celebrate by a smiting of my thigh, a grand pas seul & three cheers with a tiger!—a style of Te Deum which somehow I never could manage to execute successfully in the pulpit. Bless you, my son!—yea, Bless you, my children both!!”

And here is another:

“I do congratulate you, dear friend, with all the power of congratulation that is in me, (I speak for my wife, of course, when I say “I,” as I always do when writing to any of our common loves) & I congratulate her. If I could do anything to help you in the matter, I would, joyfully. Command me if you have any use for me. I don’t know anything about your past; but it does seem to me that a fellow, whom I have found so thoroughly lovable for a whole fortnight of quite free intercourse can’t have become incapable of a character worthy any man’s or woman’s respect. I don’t care very much about your past, but I do care very much about your future. I hope & expect, that it will be a nobly lived, happy, pure & useful future, ending with the dear life eternal which our Savior gives for repentance & faith. Now is the best time you will ever see for giving your heart to God. Your heart, with this new, sacred love in it is a more precious thing to offer God than it was without it. You never have been able to bring so worthy a gift to h Him as now. And while you are in the mood of gratitude, as I know you are, & all full of tender feelings, begin with genuine diligence to pray for & seek that peace in believing in Jesus Christ & knowing Him that is so sweet as to sweeten even the most joyful earthly joys. Be assured, my friend, I have not forgotten you in my secret hours with God, & I shall not.”

It is just like him—the gorgeous, whole-souled fellow! What splendid nights we had together!—& how gently & how tenderly he taught the religion that is all in all to him. And shall be to me, likewise, I hope & pray. You can see that he knew all about it before! He & his wi dear little wife used to try to comfort me, but they made slim progress at it! But when they would grow discouraged & [down-hearted], it made me sorry & forthwith I lifted them up—I told them that even though you remained adamant for five years, a love like mine must melt you at last—for I could not & would not give you up! Bold [ worl words], my precious Livy, but not the words of base egotism—only words of strong love, & courage, faith & deathless hope—none else. I do not inclose Twichell’s entire letter, simply because I am sending you enough MS. of my own to tire you out—I want you to read it all, (his letter, I mean,) whenever I can learn to write a shorter letter myself.

Livy, while I think of it, if you want a perfectly fascinating study, & one that will exercise your noble analytical faculty, try phonographic short-hand. It is worthy a dozen languages, for pure usefulness.8

I freely send Mrs. Fairbanks’ letter to you,

I don’t cut Mrs. F.’s letter in two to tease you, Livy—I only do it because I want to show it to you myself & talk with you about it some day. There are no secrets in it, & nothing to be concealed from you. I shall not lose my half of it, for I will put it with your letter received to– day—& you know I shall not lose it then, unless I lose my coat. But wouldn’t you like to know what the rest of that sentence about the Sphynx? Well, I can’t refuse you anything—& so you may add this:

“- - - sesame to her [ pole ]poetical nature. I know it will be that richness of a pure imagination, the royal part of yourself, that will hold her in your spell.”

See how trustingly I furnish you with armor to shield you from my love & shut me out of your heart. She says, likewise:

“Your sweet secret is safe—but I have no secrets from my husband,” &c, &c, &c., & tells how that good old fellow she let his eyes fill with tears over my [letter. They ]tell me in Cleveland that very few people have bored through the shell & got into his heart, as I have done. It pleased Mrs. Fairbanks, you may depend. Livy, I don’t claim to fascinate any creature—but I do claim that I sooner or later, when I love a friend, I prove to him that I am worthy of every confidence, every trust—& I say to you, now, Livy, on the honor of a man my word of honor as a man, that I never yet made [ an individu a man ] an individual a friend, called him my friend, & lost him. Gracious, how you do make me say unseemly things! I would hardly dare to say that to any but you, lest I should be set down for a loud-mouthed boaster.

Further, Mrs. F. says she fully understands my caution to remember that my fate was still in your hands & undecided—that our projected & expected engagement was not yet consummated, because you wanted to make sure that you loved me, first, & your father & mother wanted to see whether I was going to prove that I have a private (& improving) character as well as a public one. And then she says:

“True, aa but all those conditions rest with [ you rself ]—& could a man play such treason with himself as to let go what you have so nearly won?”

Bless her good old soul, she knows perfectly well that though conditions & obstructions were piled as high as Chimborazo9 I would climb over them all! I would, Livy. For my life is in it. Possibly more—who but He, shall say?

[in margin: [I relent, Livy, & enclose such of that nonsense as has not been destroyed].]

[six lines (about 35 words) torn away]

[torn in order to cancel:] e[awhite diamondwhite diamondwhite diamond]y.

And she says: “Of course you must live in Cleveland.” That is what I want to do. Don’t you? Now say you do, Livy, there’s a dear good girl. Mrs. Fairbanks, & Mrs. Severance, & little Mrs. Foote, & sweet Mother Crocker, would so love you & minister unto you that you would hardly know you were not at home.10 But bless me, I am doing an inconsiderate thing to scare you in this way. I am too premature—& so I seem to be always trying to hurry you—but I don’t mean to, Livy—kiss me & be friends again.

The rest of her letter is all splendid good advice—nearly all—& I shall keep it. I always do try to follow that venerable woman’s advice—& yours too—you whom I love, love, love, Livy.

I am in such a fidget to get the picture! Please send it right away, Livy—never mind how you [look. Why ]you are not more wan worn now than you were when I was there, for you have slept & rested since—& I do know that no human being was ever so beautiful as you were when you came in, that last afternoon, regally robed in blue.

[[twenty-nine lines (about 180 words) torn away]]

Monday & write me, won’t you? Please do, Livy, & direct it to the Metropolitan Hotel, & I shall get it Tuesday. And if I don’t, I shall walk clear up to the Everett House, thinking that possibly you have misdirected it—& there’ll be snow on the ground, & such a walk as that will be [ tr terrible], Livy. And I must lecture in Newark the very next night (Wednesday,) & shall need a kiss & a kind word from you to help me do my duty by those people—& you know who they are, Livy—they are first-class, intelligent people, who do business in New York & reside in Newark. Next comes my lecture here, Dec. 14 (unless I manage to get out of it—which prospect begins to look dark, now)—11 Next is Scranton, Pa., Dec. 16—next is Fort Plain, (New York)—next comes my long Western tour, beginning with Detroit, Dec. 23. Now can’t I stop and see you—only for two or three hours—on Dec. 20? Can’t I li Livy? I [ do shan’t ]mind walking there from Fort Plain. Please ask Mrs. Langdon. Tell her I will cheerfully scalp all the gossips that venture to comment on it. [in margin: T Tell “grandma”12I will help her out of trouble if she will give me a chance when she gets into it.]

I have read [ vi ]Corinthians,13 Livy, & shall read more in the Bible before I go to bed—& be sure I shall do all I can to profit by what you have written concerning religion. And I shall pray (& for you as well,)—not only at stated hours, but often. I have increased courage, now. [in margin: Livy, I see you are troubled because you have small faith inthat my efforts to become a Christian [will succeed]or because you believe I still lean on you. Be comforted, dear. I have given up the latter, long ago.Ihope—& with high courage—in the former—why cannot you?]

I was at Old Trinity14 last Sunday (now I am commencing again!—do bear with me, Livy,) & in the afternoon I called on Mrs. Brooks & staid till 10 at night.

[marginal note (about 15 to 20 words) torn away]

Upon my word it was not my fault, Livy. She kept talking—I knew I was a fool for not going—knew it all the time—but she kept talking about you, & I couldn’t go. She never gave me a chance to go, anyhow. But I am honestly ashamed, & I shan’t go there again, soon, except to ask her pardon. I didn’t talk about you—I didn’t dare to—at the third sentence she’d have guessed our secret, & then—why, you couldn’t have told her yourself, you know. Two hours of this time I spent at church with Josie Polhemus—& on the way, she asked after Mr. Langdon’s health & I said he had been very sick for many days, but was getting well, now. She said: “Why, Miss Livy didn’t write that—she only said he was unwell—why didn’t she say it?”

[marginal note (about 15 to 20 words) torn away]

I said it was because you forgot it. Then this young woman clapped her hands for very joy!—joy that you had a fault,! [ in your charac ]—joy that the model so persistently held up for her emulation, had betrayed a blemish!—for behold, you could forget such a thing! Ah, Livy, how noble it is to do good! How much worthier it was in me to confer this precious happiness upon this innocent young creature than it would have been to have spent the time in frivolous conversation! Bless me, ◇◇◇ Livy—for have I not been doing good in an humble way?

Good-bye—& rest & peace be thine. ◇◇◇ I love you, Livy!

Forever yours,

Sam. L. C.

P.S.—Late at night. Now that I have read your letter over again, slowly & carefully, I seem convinced that I am not making a progress toward a better life worthy any one’s faith, or hope, or regard. And so, forth I drift again into the moonless night of despondency. Since I saw you, I have not said one word, or done one deed, that I take blame to myself for—no, nor even thought one such thought, maybe—I remember none now. And yet what is there in my heart at this moment but bitterness—& hatred of myself for my clinging wickedness—& contempt for myself for putting such easy faith in these aspirations after better things, that breathe the word of promise to our ear & break it to our hope? What is there in my heart but sinking confidence—what in the earth I stand upon but graves—what in the air about me but phantoms—what in the firmament above my [head ]but clouds & thick darkness, closing the gates of heaven against me?

I thought to burn this letter—but it is the reflex of—no matter.

Pray for me—if you [can. For ] I cannot. pray. And yet I will, if the words choke me.

And so I mail this—so happily begun, so sadly finished. ended.

{From that Book.}:

“My Mother, would I might

But be your little child to-night,

And feel your arms about me fold,

Against this loneliness & cold!” 15

I do love you, Livy, & so I scratched it out—for it [might ]have made you unhappy. I kiss you.

Will the sun come again in the morning? I hate myself for being so unmanned—so fallen—so debased. Where is your [ love love ] now, Livy?


[on back of letter as folded:] I have torn up several sheets trying to reduce this to a decent length. But I can’t. [on back of envelope:]

Iem spacetookem spaceoutem spacesomeem spaceof

thisem spaceletter—&em spacetore

upem spacesomeem spaceof em spaceit—

butem spacestillem spaceIem spacecan’t

getem spaceitem spaceshort


however, I shall succeed

better next time.

[docketed by OLL:] 9th

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 The present letter, which begins with a page numbered “6,” is a continuation of the previous letter of five pages. As first written, before Clemens tried to “reduce” it, it consisted of twenty-seven pages (twenty-five numbered consecutively from 6 through 30, plus a two-page postscript). Clemens tore off parts of pages 14, 15, 24, and 25, and removed page 26.

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2 “West Mail (via Erie R.R.) closes at 5 a.m. and 4 p.m., and arrives at 7.30 a.m., 1, 4 and 10.30 p.m.” (“Postoffice, New York,” New York Evening Post, 28 Nov 68, 4).

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3 In his letter of 28 November to Olivia, Clemens said his faith in her was “as simple & unquestioning as the faith of a devotee in the idol he worships.”

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4 In Puri, India, the followers of the Hindu cult of Juggernaut (or Jagannath), an incarnation of Vishnu, perform an annual ceremony in which they remove images of the god and his sister from their temple and pull them on immense carts to a summer home one mile away. These carts represent the moving world over which Juggernaut—whose name means lord of the world—presides. Although many devotees have committed suicide by throwing themselves under the wheels of the carts, this is not a part of the ritual.

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5 1 Corinthians 3:15: “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

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6 Clemens explained his suppression here in the next letter to Olivia (5 and 7 Dec 68). The first and last lines of the suppressed passage may be conjectured: “I suppose I ruined one man’s” and “keep nothing from you, else....”

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7 Since boyhood Clemens had been familiar with the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp in The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, a collection of Oriental tales first published in English in 1792. The genii of Arabian mythology were ruled by a race of kings named Suleyman. See HF, 380–81.

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8 Clemens’s interest in—and respect for—shorthand was stimulated by his friendship with stenographic reporter Andrew Marsh, who in 1868 published Marsh’s Manual of Reformed Phonetic Short-Hand: Being a Complete Guide to the Best System of Phonography and Verbatim Reporting (see also 29 Dec 68 to Langdon, n. 6). Marsh’s system was essentially the phonetic one introduced by Isaac Pitman in 1837, which soon gained wide popularity in the United States. Olivia was studying French “with the nuns” at this time (OLL to Alice B. Hooker, 29 Sept 68, CtHSD).

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9 A dormant, snow-capped volcano, the highest mountain in Ecuador (20,577 feet), not scaled until 1880.

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10 Mary E. Foote (b. 1816 or 1817) was the wife of John A. Foote, a prominent Cleveland attorney whose friendship with the Severance family may have begun as early as 1837, when he and Solomon L. Severance, Solon’s father, served as officers of the newly founded Cuyahoga County Anti-Slavery Society. The Footes lived near the Severances on Kinsman Street. Eliza P. Crocker (b. 1831 or 1832) was the wife of Timothy D. Crocker (b. 1822 or 1823), a former lawyer and banker who was currently president of the Cleveland Petroleum and Refining Company. The Crockers, both Quaker City passengers, lived near the Fairbankses on St. Clair Street (Rose, 157: Cleveland Census 1860, roll 952:89, roll 953:738; Severance, 1; Cleveland Directory 1868, 138, 155, 161, 282). None of Mrs. Fairbanks’s letter to Clemens is known to survive.

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11 Clemens had apparently agreed to lecture for the New York Volunteer Fire Department on 14 December, instead of sometime after 18 January as he originally planned (see 29? Nov 68 to PAM, n. 3). No record has been found, however, that the lecture ever took place.

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12 Mrs. Eunice Ford.

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13 Probably 2 Corinthians: “We ... beseech you also that ye recive not the grace of God in vain” (6:1). Less likely is 1 Corinthians: “Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh” and “Flee fornication.... he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (6:16, 18).

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14 Trinity Protestant Episcopal church occupies a “stately Gothic edifice” on Broadway at the head of Wall Street, designed by Richard Upjohn and built in 1841–46. At this time it was the second-oldest and wealthiest religious institution in New York City (King, 341–42).

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15 These lines, canceled so heavily that Olivia could not have read them without great difficulty, are quoted from Book 1, letter 4, of Faithful for Ever, the third part of Patmore’s verse narrative. The speaker is a rejected lover who, having lost all hope of winning his beloved’s hand, addresses a lament to his mother.

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L2, 302–312; LLMT, 32–33, excerpt and paraphrase.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee Samossoud Collection, pp. 515–16.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

t[partly formed]

misgivings • [possibly ‘mivsgivings’]

I ◇ through • [I ◇ t]hrough [torn and doubtful; white diamond partly formed]

ther their • therir

ded devotee • dedvotee [d doubtful]

m[partly formed]

considere you • considere y you [false start]

I & • [‘&’ over ‘I’]

sunshine;) • [no open parenthesis]

with • with with

I & • [‘&’ over partly formed ‘I’]

[white diamondwhite diamondwhite diamondpose] . . . el[white diamondwhite diamond][The conjectured first and last lines of this suppressed passage (see p. 311 n. 6) are based on the following hypothetical reconstruction of the torn MS. Crucial evidence not entirely visible in the facsimile reproduction here is that Clemens wrote with some care on the faint, blue rules of the stationery, thereby limiting the characters possibly written even where the paper itself is entirely missing.]


Surviving portion of MS page 14, with part of the first line Clemens tore away from it editorially reconstructed (CU-MARK).


Surviving portion of MS page 15, with the last line Clemens tore away from it editorially reconstructed (CU-MARK).

down-hearted • down-|hearted

worl words • worlds

pole[possibly pote with an uncrossed ‘t’]

letter. They • letter.—|They

an individu a man[possibly an individu aman]

you rself[‘rself’ canceled before ‘you’ was underscored]

I . . . destroyed. • [Added, after the letter had been folded, to the otherwise blank verso of a preceding page (MS page 22). Clemens used the verso as if it were the lefthand margin of MS page 23, which is followed by two pages that he partly suppressed by tearing.]

look. Why • look.—|Why

twenty-nine . . . torn away[The last four lines of MS page 25 were torn away, and all of MS page 26 was discarded.]

tr terrible • trerrible

do shan’t • [‘shan’t’ over wiped-out ‘do’]

vi[small capitals simulated, not underscored]

will succeed— • will succeed—

in your charac[false ascenders and descenders used to discourage decipherment; see the illustration]


head • h[ead] [torn]

can. For • can.—|For

might • might might [corrected miswriting]

love love • love | love [possibly corrected dittography]