Jump to Content

(Citations: On Off) Interactive View | Reading View | Print View

Prev | Section | Next


Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.


[Friday, March 16, 1906]

Schoolmates of [sixty years] ago—Mary Miller, one of Mr. Clemens’s first sweethearts—Artimisia Briggs, another—Mary Lacy, another— [Jimmy] McDaniel, to whom Mr. Clemens told his first humorous story— Mr. Richmond, Sunday-school teacher, afterwards owner of Tom Sawyer’s cave, which is now being ground into cement—Hickman, the showy young captain—Reuel [Gridley] and the sack of flour incident—The Levin Jew boys called Twenty-two—[George] Butler, nephew of Ben Butler—The incident of getting into bed with Will [Bowen] to catch the measles, and the successful and nearly fatal case which resulted.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

We will return to those [school children] of sixty years ago. [I recall Mary Miller. She was not my first sweetheart, but I think she was the first one that furnished me a broken heart. [1845] I fell in love with her when she was eighteen and I [was nine,] but she scorned me, and I recognized that this was a cold world. I had not noticed that temperature before. I believe I was as miserable as [even] a grown man could be. But I think that this sorrow did not remain with me long]. As I remember it, [I soon transferred my worship to Artimisia Briggs, who was a year older than Mary Miller. When I revealed my passion to her she did not scoff at it. She did not make fun of it. She was very kind and gentle about it. But she was also firm, and said she did not want to be pestered by children].

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

And there was [Mary Lacy. She was a schoolmate. But she also was out of my class because of her advanced age. She was pretty wild and determined and independent. [She was ungovernable, and was considered incorrigible. But that was all a mistake. She] married, and at once settled down and became in all ways a model matron and was as highly respected as any matron in the town. Four years ago she was still living, and had been married fifty years].

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[[Jimmy] McDaniel was another schoolmate. His age and mine about tallied. His father kept the [candy shop]] and he was the most envied little chap in the town—after Tom [Blankenship (“Huck Finn”)—]for although we never saw him eating candy, we supposed that it was, nevertheless, his ordinary diet. He pretended that he never ate it, [and] didn’t care for it because there was nothing forbidden about it—there was plenty of it and he could have as much of it as he wanted. [Still there was circumstantial evidence that suggested that he only scorned candy in [page 418] public to show off, for he had the worst teeth in town.] He was the first human being to whom I ever told a humorous story, so far as I can remember. This was about [Jim [Wolf] and the cats]; and I gave him that tale the morning after that memorable episode. I thought he would laugh his [remaining] teeth out. I had never been so proud and happy before, and [I] have seldom been so proud and happy since. [I saw him four years ago when I was out there]. [He was working in a cigar-making shop.] He wore [an apron that came down to his knees and a beard that came nearly half as far,] and yet it was not difficult for me to recognize him. He had been married fifty-four years. He had many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and also even posterity, they all said—thousands—yet the boy to whom I had told the cat story when we were [callow juveniles] was still present in that cheerful little old man.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[Artimisia Briggs got married not long after refusing me. She married Richmond, the [stone mason,] who was my Methodist Sunday-school teacher] in the earliest days, and he had one distinction which I envied [him: at] some time or other he had hit his thumb with his hammer and the result was a [thumb-nail] which remained permanently twisted and distorted and curved and [pointed,] like a [parrot’s] beak. I should not consider it an ornament now, [I suppose,] but it had a fascination for me then, and a vast value, because it was the only one in the town. He was a very kindly and considerate Sunday-school teacher, and patient and compassionate, so he was the favorite teacher with us little chaps. In that school they had slender [oblong] pasteboard blue tickets, each with a verse from the Testament printed on it, and you could get a blue ticket by reciting two verses. By reciting five verses you could get three blue tickets, and you could trade these at the bookcase and borrow a book for a week. I was under Mr. Richmond’s spiritual care every now and then for two or three years, and he was never hard upon me. I always recited the same five verses every Sunday. He was always satisfied with the performance. He never seemed to notice that these were the same [five foolish virgins] that he had been hearing about every Sunday for months. I always got my tickets and exchanged them for a book. They were pretty dreary books, for there was not a bad boy in the entire bookcase. They were all good boys and good girls and drearily uninteresting, but they were better society than none, and I was glad to have their company and disapprove of it.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[[Twenty years ago Mr. Richmond had become possessed of Tom Sawyer’s cave in the hills three miles from [town,] and had made a [tourist-resort] of it]. But that cave is a thing of the past [1849] now.] In 1849 when the [gold seekers] were streaming through our little town of Hannibal, many of our grown men got the gold fever, and I think that all the boys had it. On the Saturday holidays in [summertime] we used to borrow skiffs whose owners were not present and go down the river three miles to the cave hollow, [(Missourian for “valley”),] and there we staked out claims and pretended to dig gold, panning out half a dollar a day at first; two or three times as much, later, and by and by whole fortunes, as our imaginations became inured to the work. Stupid and unprophetic lads! We were doing this in play and never [suspecting. Why,] that cave hollow and all the adjacent hills were made of [gold! But] we did not know it. We took it for dirt. We left its rich secret in its own peaceful possession and grew up in poverty and went wandering about the world struggling for bread—and this because we had not the gift of prophecy. That region was all dirt and rocks to us, yet all it needed was to be ground up and scientifically handled and it was gold. That is to say, the whole region was a [cement mine]—and [they make [page 419] the finest kind of Portland cement there now, five thousand barrels a [day, with a plant that cost two million dollars.]

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[Several months ago a telegram came to me from there saying that Tom Sawyer’s cave was now being ground into cement]—would I like to say anything about it in public? But I had nothing to say. I was sorry we lost our cement mine but it was not worth while to talk about it at this late day, and, [take] it all around, it was a painful subject anyway. There are seven miles of Tom Sawyer’s cave—that is to say the lofty ridge which conceals that cave stretches down the bank of the Mississippi seven miles to the town of Saverton.]

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

For a little while [Reuel Gridley attended that school of ours. He was an elderly pupil; he was perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years old. Then came the Mexican [war] and he volunteered]. [A company of infantry was raised in our town and Mr. Hickman, a tall, straight, handsome athlete of [twenty-five,] was made [captain] of it and had a sword by his side and a broad yellow stripe down the leg of his [gray] pants. And when that [company] marched back and forth through the streets in its smart uniform—which it did several times a day for drill—its evolutions were attended by all the boys whenever the school hours permitted. I can see that marching [company] yet, and I can almost feel again the consuming desire that I had to join it. But they had no use for boys of twelve and thirteen, and before I had a chance in another war the desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

I saw the splendid Hickman in his old age. He seemed about the oldest man I had ever seen—an amazing and melancholy contrast with the showy young captain I had seen preparing his warriors for carnage so many, many years before. Hickman is dead—it is the old story]. [As [Susy said,] “What is it all for?”]

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[Reuel Gridley went away to the wars and we heard of him no more for fifteen or sixteen years. Then one day in Carson City while I was having a difficulty with an editor on the sidewalk—an editor better built for war than I was—I heard a voice [say] “Give him the best you’ve got, Sam, I’m at your back.” It was Reuel Gridley. He said he had not recognized me by my face but by my drawling style of speech.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

He went down to the Reese River mines about that time and presently he lost an election bet in his mining camp, and by the terms of it he was obliged to buy a fifty-pound sack of [self-rising] flour and carry it through the town, preceded by music, and deliver it to the winner of the bet. Of course the whole camp was present and full of fluid and enthusiasm. The winner of the bet put up the sack at auction for the benefit of the United States Sanitary Fund, and sold it. The purchaser put it up for the Fund and sold it. The excitement grew and grew. The sack was sold over and over again for the benefit of the Fund. The news of it came to Virginia City by telegraph. It produced great enthusiasm, and Reuel Gridley was begged by telegraph to bring the sack and have an auction in Virginia City. He brought it. An open barouche was provided, also a brass band. The sack was sold over and over again at Gold Hill, then was brought up to Virginia City toward night and sold—and sold [again, and again, and still again,] netting twenty or thirty [thousand] dollars for the Sanitary Fund. Gridley carried it across California [and sold] it at various towns. He sold it for large sums in Sacramento and in San Francisco. He brought it East, sold it in New York and in various other cities, [then] carried it out to a great Fair at St. Louis, [and] went on selling it; [and] finally made it up into small cakes [page 420] and sold those at [a] dollar apiece. First and last, the sack of flour which had originally cost [ten] dollars, perhaps, netted more than two hundred thousand dollars for the Sanitary Fund. Reuel Gridley has been dead these many, many years—it is the old story].

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

In that school were the [first Jews I had ever seen. It took me a good while to get over the awe of it. To my fancy they were clothed invisibly in the damp and cobwebby [mould] of antiquity. They carried me back to Egypt, and in imagination I moved among the Pharaohs and all the shadowy celebrities of that remote age. The name of the boys was Levin. We had a collective name for them which was the only really large and handsome witticism that was ever born [in that Congressional district.] We called them [“Twenty-two”]—and even when the joke was old and had been worn threadbare we always followed it with the explanation, to make sure that it would be understood, “Twice [Levin]—twenty-two.”]

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

There were other boys whose names remain with me. [Irving Ayres—but no matter, [he is dead]. Then there was [George] Butler, whom I remember as a child of seven wearing a blue leather belt with a brass [buckle,] and hated and envied by all the boys on account of it. He was a nephew of General Ben Butler and fought gallantly at Ball’s Bluff and in several other actions of the [Civil War]. He is dead, long and long ago].

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[Will [Bowen] (dead long ago)], [Ed Stevens (dead long ago)], and [John Briggs were special mates of mine. John is still living].

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

[1845] [In 1845, when I was ten years old, there was an epidemic of measles in the town and it made a most alarming slaughter among the little people. There was a funeral almost daily, and the mothers of the town were [nearly] demented with fright. My mother was greatly troubled. She worried over Pamela and Henry and [me,] and took constant and extraordinary pains to keep us from coming into contact with the [contagion.] But upon reflection I believed that her judgment was at fault. It seemed to me that I could improve upon it if left to my own devices. I cannot remember now whether I was frightened about the measles or not, but I clearly remember that I grew very tired of the suspense I suffered on account of being continually under the threat of death. I remember that I got so weary of it and so anxious to have the matter settled one way or the other, and promptly, that this anxiety spoiled my days and my nights. I had no pleasure in them. I made up my mind to end this [suspense] and be done with it. Will [Bowen] was dangerously ill with the measles and I thought I would go down there and catch them. I entered the house by the front way and slipped along through rooms and [halls,] keeping sharp watch against discovery, and at last I reached Will’s [bed-chamber] in the rear of the house on the second floor and got into it uncaptured. But that was as far as my victory reached. His mother caught me there a moment later and snatched me out of the house and gave me a most competent scolding and drove me away. She was so scared that she could hardly get her words out, and her face was white. I saw that I must manage better next time, and I did. I hung about the lane at the rear of the house and watched through cracks in the fence until I was convinced that the conditions were [favorable; then] I slipped through the back yard and up the back way and got into the room and into the bed with Will [Bowen] without being observed. I don’t know how long I was in the bed. I only remember that Will [Bowen,] as [society,] had no value for me, for he was too sick to even notice that I was there. When I heard his mother coming I covered up my head, but that device was a failure. It was dead [summertime]—the cover was nothing [page 421] more than a limp blanket or sheet, and anybody could see that there were two of us under it. It didn’t remain two very long. Mrs. [Bowen] snatched me out of [the] bed and conducted me home herself, with a grip on my collar which she never loosened until she delivered me into my mother’s hands along with her opinion of that kind of a boy.

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

It was a good case of measles that resulted. It brought me within a shade of death’s door. It brought me to where I no longer [took] any interest in anything, but, on the contrary, felt a total absence of interest—which was most placid and [tranquil and sweet and delightful and] enchanting. I have never enjoyed anything in my life any more than I enjoyed dying that time. I [was], in effect, dying. The word had been passed and the family notified to assemble around the bed and see me off. I knew them all. There was no doubtfulness in my vision. They were all crying, but that did not affect me. I took but the vaguest interest in it, and that merely because I was the [centre] of all this emotional attention and was gratified by it and [vain of it].]

Add to My Citations
Click to add citation to My Citations.

When [Dr. Cunningham] had made up his mind that nothing more could be done for me he put bags of hot ashes all over me. He put them on my breast, on my wrists, on my [ancles]; and so, very much to his astonishment—and doubtless to my regret—he dragged me back into this world and set me going again.


Explanatory Notes: Expand | Collapse
Textual Commentary

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
417.19–23 I recall Mary Miller . . . this sorrow did not remain with me long] Clemens’s classmate Mary Miller (b. 1835?), who regularly competed with him for the spelling medal, was the eldest daughter

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
417.24–27 I soon transferred my worship to Artimisia Briggs . . . pestered by children] Artemissa (also spelled Artimissa, Artimisia, Artemesia, and Artemissia) Briggs (1832–1910),

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
417.28–32 Mary Lacy . . . was a schoolmate . . . Four years ago she was still living, and had been married fifty years] Most likely, Clemens was confusing Mary Lacy with another schoolmate, Mary Nash.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
417.33–34 Jimmy McDaniel was another schoolmate . . . His father kept the candy shop] James W. (Jimmy) McDaniel (1833–1911) was the son of William McDaniel (b. 1811?),

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.2 Jim Wolf and the cats] See “Scraps from My Autobiography. From Chapter IX.”

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.5

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.11–12 Artimisia Briggs . . . married Richmond . . . my Methodist Sunday-school teacher] In March 1853, at the age of twenty-one, Artemissa Briggs married the local bricklayer,

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.24 five foolish virgins] Matthew 25:1–13.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.29–30 Twenty years ago Mr. Richmond had become possessed of Tom Sawyer’s cave . . . made a tourist-resort of it] The limestone cave that Clemens

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
418.42–419.4 they make the finest kind of Portland cement there now . . . being ground into cement] In August 1901 the Atlas Portland Cement Company began construction of the “largest Portland cement plant

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
419.9–11 Reuel Gridley attended that school of ours . . . Then came the Mexican war and he volunteered] Reuel Colt Gridley (1829–70), who must have been about seventeen or eighteen years old

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
419.11–21 A company of infantry was raised . . . and Mr. Hickman . . . was made captain of it . . . Hickman is dead—it is the old story] Philander A. Hickman (b. 1824)

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
419.21–22 As Susy said, “What is it all for?”] See the Autobiographical Dictation of 2 February 1906.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
419.23–420.3 Reuel Gridley went away to the wars . . . dead these many, many years—it is the old story] After he was discharged from the Volunteers in 1848, Gridley returned to Hannibal,

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.4–11 first Jews I had ever seen . . . “Twice Levin—twenty-two.”] The Levin family apparently lived in Hannibal for a short time during the 1840s. Something of the townspeople’s attitude

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.12–13 Irving Ayres—but no matter, he is dead] Ayres (b. 1837?), another of Clemens’s schoolmates, was the younger son of Thomas J. Ayres (b. 1816?), Hannibal postmaster and tavern keeper,

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.13–16 George Butler . . . was a nephew of General Ben Butler . . . dead, long and long [page 627] ago] Clemens’s schoolmate George H. Butler (1839?–86) was

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.17 Will Bowen (dead long ago)] Bowen died on 19 May 1893 of sudden heart failure while on a business trip to Waco, Texas (Hornberger 1941, 8). See the Autobiographical Dictation of 9 March 1906, 402.16–33 and note.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.17 Ed Stevens (dead long ago)] Clemens’s classmate and friend Edmund C. Stevens (b. 1834?) by the age of sixteen had learned the trade of watchmaking from his father, Thomas B. Stevens (b. 1791?), the town jeweler.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.17–18 John Briggs . . . is still living] In 1902 Clemens said of John B. Briggs (1837–1907), with whom he had shared many childhood scrapes, “We were like brothers once,”

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
420.19–421.12 In 1845, when I was ten years old, there was an epidemic of measles . . . vain of it] The deadly epidemics of measles that occurred in the 1840s were called “black” or “virulent” measles.

Add to My Citations

Click to add citation to My Citations.
421.13 Dr. Cunningham] Unidentified.