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Monday, [February] 26, 1906

[Susy] comes to New York with her mother and father—[Aunt Clara visits them at the Everett House—Aunt Clara’s ill luck with horses—The omnibus incident in Germany—Aunt Clara now ill at Hoffman House, result of horseback accident thirty years ago]—Mr. Clemens takes [Susy] to see [General] Grant—Mr. Clemens’s [account] of his talk with [General] Grant—Mr. Clemens gives his first reading in New York—Also tells about one in Boston—Memorial to Mr. Longfellow—And one in Washington.

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[From Susy’s Biography.]

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[Papa] made arrangements to read at Vassar College the 1st of May, and I went with him. We went by way of New York City. Mamma went with us to New York and stayed two [1885] days to do some shopping. We started Tuesday, at ½ past two o’clock in the afternoon, and reached New York about ¼ past six. Papa went right up to General Grants from the station and mamma and I went to the Everett House. Aunt Clara came to supper with us up in our [room.]

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This is the same Aunt Clara who has already been mentioned several times. She had been my wife’s playmate and schoolmate from the earliest times, and she was about my wife’s age, [page 380] or [two or three years] younger—mentally, morally, spiritually, and in all ways, a superior and lovable personality.

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Persons who think there is no such thing as luck—good or bad—are entitled to their opinion, although I think they ought to be shot for it. However this is merely an opinion itself; there is nothing binding about it. Clara Spaulding had the average human being’s luck in all things save one; she was subject to ill luck with horses. It pursued her like a disease. Every now and then a horse threw her. Every now and then carriage horses ran away with her. At intervals omnibus horses ran away with her. Usually there was but one person hurt, and she was selected for that function. [In Germany once our little family started from the Inn (in Worms, I think it was) to go to the station. The vehicle of transportation was a great long omnibus drawn by a battery of four great horses. Every seat in the [’bus] was occupied, and the aggregate of us amounted to a good two dozen persons, possibly one or [two] more. I said playfully to Clara Spaulding “I think you ought to walk to the station. It isn’t right for you to imperil the lives of such a crowd of [inoffensive] people as this.” When we had gone a quarter of a mile and were briskly approaching a stone bridge which had no protecting railings, the battery broke and began to run. Outside we saw the long reins dragging along the ground and a young peasant racing after them and occasionally making a grab for them. Presently he achieved success, and none too soon, for the [’bus] had already entered upon the bridge when he stopped the team. The two dozen lives were saved. Nobody offered to take up a collection, but I suggested to our friend and [excursion-comrade][American] Consul at a German city]—that we get out and tip that young peasant. The Consul said, with an enthusiasm native to his character,

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[“Stay] right where you are. Leave me to attend to that. His fine deed shall not go unrewarded.”

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[He] jumped out and arranged the matter, and we continued our journey. Afterward I asked him what he gave the peasant, so that I could pay my half. He told me, and I paid it. It is twenty-eight years ago, yet from that day to this, although I have passed through some stringent seasons, I have never seriously felt or regretted that outlay. It was [twenty-three] cents.

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[Clara Spaulding, now Mrs. John B. [Stanchfield], has a son who [is] a senior in college, and a daughter who is in college in Germany]. She is in New York at present, and I went to the Hoffman House yesterday to see her, but it was as I was [expecting: she] is too ill to see any but physicians and nurses. This illness has its source in a horseback accident which fell to her share thirty years ago, and which resulted in broken bones of the foot and [ancle]. The broken bones were badly set, and she always walked with a limp afterwards. Some months ago the foot and [ancle] began to pain her unendurably and it was decided that she must come to New York and have the bones rebroken and reset. I saw her in the private hospital about three weeks after that operation, and the verdict was that the operation was successful. This turned out to be a mistake. She came to New York a month or six weeks ago, and another [rebreaking] and resetting was accomplished. A week ago, when I called, she was able to hobble about the room by help of [crutches,] and she was very happy in the conviction that now she was going to have no more trouble. But it appears that this dreadful [surgery-work] must be done over [once more.] But she is not fitted for it. The pain is reducing her strength, and I was told that it has been for the past three days necessary to exclude her from contact with all but physicians and nurses.

[page 381]
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[From Susy’s Biography.]

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[We] and Aunt Clara [were going] to the theatre right after supper, and we expected papa to take us there and to come home as early as he could. But we got through dinner and he didn’t come, and didn’t come, and mamma got more perplexed and worried, but at last we thought we would have to go without him. So we put on [our] things and started down stairs but before we’d goten half down we met papa coming up with a great bunch of roses in his hand. He explained that the reason he was so late was that his watch stopped and he didn’t notice and kept thinking it an hour earlier than it really was. The roses he carried were [some] Col. Fred Grant sent to mamma. We went to the theatre and enjoyed [“Adonis” [(word illegible)] acted] very much. We reached home about ½ past eleven o’clock and went right to bed. Wednesday morning we got up rather late and had breakfast about ½ past nine o’clock. After breakfast mamma went out shopping and papa and I went to see papa’s agent about some business matters. After papa had gotten through talking to Cousin Charlie, [(Webster)] papa’s agent, we went to get a friend of papa’s, [Major Pond], to go and see a Dog Show with us. Then we went to see the dogs with Major Pond and we had a delightful time seeing so many dogs together; when we got through seeing the dogs papa thought he would go and see General Grant and I went with him—this was April 29, 1885. Papa went up into General Grant’s room and he took me with him, I felt greatly honored and delighted when papa took me into General Grant’s room and let me see the General and Col. Grant, for General Grant is a man I shall be glad all my life that I have seen. Papa and General Grant had a long talk together and papa has written an account of his talk and visit with General Grant for me to put into this [biography.]

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[Susy] has inserted in this place that account of mine—as follows:

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[April] 29, 1885.

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I called on General Grant and took [Susy] with me. The General was looking and feeling far better than he had looked or felt for some months. He had ventured to work again on his book that morning—the first time he had done any work for perhaps a month. This morning’s work was his first attempt at dictating, and it was a thorough success, to his great delight. He had always said that it would be impossible for him to dictate anything, but I had said that he was noted for clearness of statement, and as a narrative was simply a statement of consecutive facts, he was consequently peculiarly qualified and equipped for dictation. This turned out to be true. For he had dictated two hours that morning to a shorthand writer, had never hesitated for words, had not repeated himself, and the manuscript when finished needed no revision. The two hours’ work was an account of Appomattox—and this was such an extremely important [feature] that his book would necessarily have been severely lame without it. Therefore I had taken a shorthand writer there before, to see if I could not get him to write at least a few lines about [Appomattox. ] But he was at that time not well enough to undertake it. I was aware that of all the hundred versions of Appomattox, not one was really correct. Therefore I was extremely anxious that he should leave behind him the truth. His throat was not distressing him, and his voice was much better and stronger than usual. He was so delighted to have [gotten] Appomattox accomplished once more in his life—to have gotten the matter off his mind—that he was as talkative as his old self. He received [Susy] very pleasantly, and then fell to [page 382] talking about certain matters which he hoped to be able to dictate next day; and he said in substance that, among other things, he wanted to settle once for all a question that had been bandied about from mouth to mouth and from newspaper to newspaper. That question [was] “With whom originated the idea of the march to the sea? Was it Grant’s, or was it Sherman’s idea?” Whether I, or some one else (being anxious to get the important fact settled) asked him with whom the idea originated, I don’t remember. But I remember his answer. I shall always remember his answer. General Grant said:

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“Neither of us originated the idea of Sherman’s march to the sea. The enemy did it.”

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He went on to say that the enemy, however, necessarily originated a great many of the plans that the general on the opposite side gets the credit for; at the same time that the enemy is doing [that,] he is laying open other moves which the [opposing] general sees and takes advantage of. In this case, Sherman had a plan all thought out, of course. He meant to destroy the two remaining railroads in that part of the country, and that would [finish] up that region. But General Hood did not play the military part that he was expected to play. On the contrary, [General Hood made a dive at Chattanooga. This left the march to the sea open to Sherman, and so after sending part of his army to defend and hold what he had acquired in the Chattanooga region, he was perfectly free to proceed, with the rest of it, through Georgia]. He saw the opportunity, and he would not have been fit for his place if he had not seized it.

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“He wrote me” (the General is speaking) “what his plan was, and I sent him word to go ahead. My staff were opposed to the movement.” (I think the General said they tried to persuade him to stop Sherman. The chief of his staff, the General said, even went so far as to go to Washington without the General’s knowledge and get the ear of the authorities, and he succeeded in arousing their fears to such an extent that they telegraphed General Grant to stop [Sherman.)]

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Then General Grant [said] “Out of deference to the Government, I telegraphed Sherman and stopped him twenty-four [hours;] and then considering that that was deference enough to the Government, I telegraphed him to go ahead [again.”]

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I have not tried to give the General’s language, but only the general idea of what he said. The thing that mainly struck me was his terse remark that the enemy originated the idea of the march to the sea. It struck me because it was so suggestive of the General’s epigrammatic fashion—saying a great deal in a single crisp sentence. [(This] is my account, and signed [“Mark Twain.”])


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[Susy Resumes.

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After] papa and General Grant had had their talk, we went back to the hotel where mamma was, and papa told mamma all about his interview with General Grant. Mamma and I had a nice quiet afternoon [together.]

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That pair of devoted [comrades] were [always] shutting themselves up together when there was opportunity to have what [Susy] called “a [cosy] time.” From [Susy’s] nursery days to the end of her life, she and her mother were close friends; intimate friends, passionate adorers of each other. [Susy’s] was a beautiful mind, and it made her an interesting comrade. And with the fine mind she had a heart like her mother’s. [Susy] never had an interest or an occupation which she was not glad to put aside for that something which was in all cases more precious to her—a visit with her mother. [Susy] died at the right time, the fortunate time of life; the happy age—twenty- [page 383] four years. At twenty-four, such a girl has seen the best of life—life as a happy dream. After that age the risks begin; responsibility comes, and with it the cares, the sorrows, and the inevitable tragedy. For her mother’s [sake] I would have brought her back from the grave if I could, but [I would not have done it for my own.]

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[From Susy’s Biography.]

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[Then] papa went to read in public; there were a great many authors that [read,] that Thursday [afternoon,] beside papa; I would have liked to have gone and heard papa read, but papa said he was going to read in Vassar just what he was planning to read in New York, so I stayed at home with [mamma.]

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I think that that was the first exploitation of a [new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading]. This [witch’s] Sabbath took place in a theatre, and began at two in the afternoon. There were nine readers on the list, and I believe I was the only one who was qualified by experience to go at the matter in a sane way. I knew, by my old acquaintanceship with the multiplication table, that nine times ten are ninety, and that consequently the average of time allowed to each of these readers should be restricted to ten minutes. There would be an introducer, and he wouldn’t understand his business—this disastrous fact could be counted upon as a certainty. The introducer would be ignorant, windy, eloquent, and willing to hear himself talk. With nine introductions to make, added to his own opening speech—well, I could not go on with these harrowing calculations; I foresaw that there was trouble on hand. I had asked for the sixth place in the list. When the curtain went up and I saw that our half-circle of minstrels were all on hand, I made a change in my plan. I judged that in asking for sixth place I had done all that was necessary to establish a fictitious reputation for modesty, and that there could be nothing gained by pushing this reputation to the limit; it had done its work and it was time, now, to leave well enough alone, and do better. So I asked to be moved up to third place, and my prayer was granted.

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The performance began at a quarter past two, and [I], [No. 3] in a list of ten (if we include the introducer) was not called to the bat until a quarter after three. My reading was ten minutes long. When I had selected it originally, it was twelve minutes long, and it had taken me a good hour to find ways of reducing it by two minutes without damaging it. I was through in ten minutes. Then I retired to my seat to enjoy the agonies of the audience. I did enjoy them for an hour or two; then all the cruelty in my nature was exhausted, and my native humanity came to the front again. By [half past] five a third of the house was asleep; another third were dying; and the rest were dead. I got out the back way and went home.

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During several years, after that, the Authors’ Readings continued. Every now and then we assembled in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and scourged the people. It was found impossible to teach the persons who managed these orgies any sense. Also it was found impossible to teach the readers any sense. Once [I went to Boston to help in one of these revels which had been instigated in the interest of a memorial to Mr. Longfellow]. Howells was always a member of these traveling afflictions, and I was never able to teach him to rehearse his proposed reading by the help of a watch and cut it down to a proper length. He [page 384] couldn’t seem to learn it. He was a bright man in all other ways, but whenever he came to select a reading for one of these carousals his intellect decayed and fell to ruin. I arrived at his house in Cambridge the night before the Longfellow Memorial occasion, and I probably asked [him] to show me his selection. At any rate, he showed it to me—and I wish I may never attempt the truth again if it wasn’t seven thousand words. I made him set his eye on his watch and keep game while I should read a paragraph of it. This experiment proved that it would take me an hour and ten minutes to read the whole of it, and I said “And mind you, this is not allowing anything for such [interruptions] as applause—for the reason that after the first twelve minutes there wouldn’t be any.”

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He had a time of it to find something short enough, and he kept saying that he never would find a short enough selection that would be good enough—that is to say, he never would be able to find one that would stand exposure before an audience.

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I said “It’s no matter. Better that than a long one—because the audience could stand a bad short one, but couldn’t stand a good long one.”

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[We got it arranged at last. We got him down to fifteen minutes, perhaps]. But he and Dr. Holmes and Aldrich and I had the only short readings that day out of the most formidable accumulation of authors that had ever thus far been placed in position before the enemy—a battery of sixteen. [I think that that was the occasion when we had sixteen]. [If it wasn’t then it was in Washington, in 1888. Yes, I think that that occasion was the time when we had that irresistible, that unconquerable force. It was in the afternoon, in the Globe Theatre], and the place was packed, and the air would have been very bad only there wasn’t any. I can see that mass of people yet, opening and closing their mouths like fishes gasping for breath. It was intolerable.

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[That graceful and competent speaker, Professor Norton], opened the game with a very handsome speech, but it was a good twenty minutes long. And a good ten minutes of it, I think, were devoted to the introduction of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who hadn’t any more need of an introduction than the Milky Way. Then [Dr. Holmes recited—as only Dr. Holmes could recite it—“The Last Leaf,” and the house rose as one individual and went mad with [worshiping] delight. And the house stormed [along, and stormed along,] and got another poem out of the Doctor as an encore; it stormed again and got a third one—though the storm was not so violent this time as had been the previous [outbreaks.] By this time Dr. Holmes had himself lost a part of his mind, and he actually went on reciting poem after poem until silence had taken the place of encores], and he had to do the last encore by himself. He was the loveliest human being in Boston, and it was a pathetic thing that he should treat himself so.

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I had learned, long ago, to stipulate for [third place on the [program]. The performance began at two o’clock. My train for Hartford would leave at four o’clock. I would need fifteen minutes for transit to the station. I needed ten minutes for my reading. I did my reading in the ten minutes]; I fled at once from the theatre, and I came very near not catching that train. I was told afterward that by the time reader number eight stepped forward and trained his gun on the house, the audience were drifting out of the place in groups, shoals, blocks, and avalanches, and that about that time the siege was raised and the conflict given up, with six or seven readers still to hear from.

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[page 385] [At the reading in Washington, in the spring of ’88 there was a crowd of readers. They all came [overloaded], as usual. Thomas Nelson Page read forty minutes by the watch, and he was [1888] no further down than the middle of the list. We were all due at the White House] at [half past] nine. The President and Mrs. Cleveland were present, and at [half past] ten they had to go away—the President to attend to some official business which had been arranged to be considered after our White House reception, it being supposed by Mr. Cleveland, who was inexperienced in Authors’ Readings, that our reception at the White House would be over by [half past] eleven, whereas if he had known as much about Authors’ Readings as he knew about other kinds of statesmanship, he would have known that we were not likely to get through before time for early breakfast.

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[I think that it was upon the occasion of this visit to Washington that Livy, always thoughtful of me, prepared me for my visit to the Executive Mansion. No, it wasn’t—that was earlier. She was with me, this time, and could look after me herself].


glyph[I was his publisher]. I was putting his “Personal Memoirs” to press at the time. S.L.C.

Explanatory Notes: Expand | Collapse
Textual Commentary

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380.9–20 In Germany once . . . our friend and excursion-comrade—American Consul at a German city] This accident occurred at Worms in July 1878. The “friend and excursion-comrade” was probably Edward M. Smith, U.S. consul at Mannheim (N&J2, 46, 125 n. 22, 248 n. 68).

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380.28–29 Clara Spaulding . . . has a son who is a senior in college, and a daughter who is in college in Germany] John B. Stanchfield, Jr. (1889–1946), and Alice Spaulding Stanchfield (1887–1941), who later married Arthur M. Wright.

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381.9–10 “Adonis” (word illegible) acted] This musical burlesque starring comedian Henry E. Dixey was a record-setting Broadway hit, with more than six hundred performances from 1884 to 1886

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381.14 Major Pond] James B. Pond (1838–1903) was born in Allegany County, New York. First apprenticed to a printer, he became a journalist, and worked at several newspapers. During the Civil War he served in the Third Wisconsin Cavalry

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381 footnote *I was his publisher] See “About General Grant’s Memoirs.”

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382.14–18 General Hood . . . Sherman . . . was perfectly free to proceed . . . through Georgia] John B. Hood (1831–79) attended West Point, and served in the Union army until he resigned

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383.10–11 new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading] The event described here took place on Wednesday, 29 April 1885, at Madison Square Theatre, and was the second of two readings

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383.37–38 I went to Boston to help . . . memorial to Mr. Longfellow] The Longfellow Memorial Association was formed in 1882 to raise funds for a monument honoring the late poet. The authors’ reading

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384.15 We got it arranged at last . . . fifteen minutes, perhaps] Howells read a selection from Their Wedding Journey (Howells 1872; MTHL, 2:589–90 n. 1).

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384.18 I think that that was the occasion when we had sixteen] There were nine speakers at the Boston event (“Authors’ Readings for the Longfellow Memorial Fund,” printed program, CLjC).

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384.18–20 If it wasn’t then it was in Washington, in 1888 . . . in the afternoon, in the Globe Theatre] Clemens was confusing two readings: the one in Boston, in 1887, and another in Washington, in March 1888, at the Congregational Church (not the Globe Theatre); see the note at 385.1–3.

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384.24 That graceful and competent speaker, Professor Norton] Author and reformer Charles Eliot Norton (1827–1908) presided at the 1887 Boston reading. According to Howells,

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384.27–33 Dr. Holmes recited . . . “The Last Leaf,” . . . until silence had taken the place of encores] According to a contemporary account,

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384.35–38 third place on the program . . . did my reading in the ten minutes] Clemens was first on the program, reading selections from “English as She Is Taught,” which appeared in the April 1887 issue of the Century Magazine (SLC 1887).

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385.1–3 At the reading in Washington . . . Thomas Nelson Page . . . all due at the White House] Clemens read at two benefits for the American Copyright League at the Congregational Church,

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385.11–13 I think that it was upon the occasion . . . prepared me for my visit . . . could look after me herself] See the next Autobiographical Dictation (5 Mar 1906).