So Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, just ten days short of the 90th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain. I realize that that is one of those things that Big Thinkers call "coincidence," but it does strike me as odd--and oddly satisfying. Vonnegut was often compared with Twain, after all, and favorably, and seemed to sport a certain Twain-ish look, especially in his later years. Both possessed a keen eye and a sharp pen. And both had considerable influence upon me, at least once upon a time.
When Vonnegut died, I sent the following to my far-flung correspondents:
There was a time, from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, when I gobbled up everything I could find by Kurt Vonnegut. I never ceased to enjoy his writing, but I think I had just overdone it, and have read nothing of his in the past 15 years or so. But I am sorry that his voice--quite clear and quite unique--is now stilled forever.
Perhaps a visit to the attic is in order, to find that dusty old copy of "Slaughterhouse-Five"...
Maybe I should be surprised at the number of far-flungs who shared that experience of reading Vonnegut almost obsessively and then dropping him like a rock. And yet somehow it seems fitting. It seems that maybe Vonnegut had said what he had to say before he stopped saying it. Still, I hope to find/make some time to revisit some of his work.
In reply to the above, my friend Don sent this:
I think I read him on about the same schedule. Then, for some reason, I got tired of him, and didn't read his last few books.
But I do remember one story Fedgie [a mutual friend and co-worker] used to tell about him, that he read in a copy of the New Yorker, or Atlantic, or something.
Seems when Sports Illustrated was founded, it was done on a crash basis, with the editor pretty much hiring anyone who could correctly spell "sports writer" off the street. In fact, they were hiring so fast that they were short of furniture for all the new hires. Especially chairs. People were taking their chairs with them to the bathroom, or they'd be gone when they returned.
The writer of the memoir that Fedgie read said that one day the editor hired a newly graduated lad, who was given an office -- no cube farms in those days -- a typewriter, a table, but no chair. He was also given a clipping from the New York Times about some horse at Pimlico who had stopped running in the middle of a race, and, in spite of all his furious jockey's ministrations and demands, ambled over to the infield and started grazing. The new writer was supposed to rewrite it, Timestyle, enough so the Times wouldn't bitch about copyright violation.
For a full day, said the writer, every time he looked up, the shy young many was painfully trying to type from a standing position. He'd leave the room occasionally to try to find a chair, but never successfully. Finally, about 5 p.m., he saw the lad furiously typing for a short while, then walk out of the room, never to return. A day or so after that, the editor came to look for the rewrite, and found the following in the typewriter: "The fucking horse jumped over the fucking fence. I quit."
The memoirist said that not till 10 years later, when he saw Vonnegut's photo on the back of his first book, did he realize who the young man had been.
Just think, if there'd been one more frigging chair in the Sports Illustrated office, Slaughterhouse Five might never have been written, and the world would never have heard of Kilgore Trout.
If that's not a true story, it should be,
And then there's Twain. I probably haven't read any of his work for ten or twelve years (his is much more accessible to me, however, since I have his complete works right here in my little office...behind some stacks of books and CDs, but right here nonetheless), but to me he is and always will be the greatest of American writers. Hemingway is great, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Vonnegut, too--all great. But for me, no one touches Twain. His unflinching and yet somehow winking stabs at the phonies and the pompous, stiletto-sharp even though riotously funny, still sparkle a century and more later. It's such a damn shame that the illiterati think Huckleberry Finn a racist book when in fact it's a denunciation of racism, but that only goes to prove that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
The New York Times yesterday reprinted its original obit of Twain, from April 21, 1910. I'm sure they'll appreciate my pasting it below. I am struck not only by the man's life and accomplishments, but also by how much more interesting these obituary-articles were 90 years ago...
Mark Twain is Dead at 74
End Comes Peacefully at His New England Home After a Long Illness
Conscious a Little Before
Carlyle's "French Revolution" Lay Beside Him -- "Give Me My Glasses" His Last Words
SURVIVING CHILD WITH HIM
Tragic Death of his Daughter Jean Recently did Much to Hurry his End
Danbury, Conn., April 21 -- Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain," died at 22 minutes after 6 tonight. Beside him on the bed lay a beloved book- it was Carlyle's "French Revolution" -and near the book his glasses, pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before. Too weak to speak clearly, "Give me my glasses," he had written on a piece of paper. He had received them, put them down, and sunk into unconsciousness from which he glided almost imperceptibly into death. He was in his seventy-fifth year.
For some time, his daughter Clara and her husband, Ossip Cabrilowitsch, and the humorist's biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, had been by the bed waiting for the end, which Drs. Quintard and Halsey had seen to be a matter of minutes. The patient felt absolutely no pain at the end and the moment of his death was scarcely noticeable.
Death came, however, while his favorite niece, Mrs. E. E. Looms, and her husband, who is Vice President of the Delaware, Lackawanna & amp; Western Railway, and a nephew, Jervis Langdon, were on the way to the railroad station. They had left the house much encouraged by the fact that the sick man had recognized them, and took a train for New York ignorant of what happened later.
Hopes Aroused Yesterday
Although the end had been foreseen by the doctors and would not have been a shock at any time, the apparently strong rally of this morning had given basis for the hope that it would be postponed for several days. Mr. Clemens awoke at about 4 o'clock this morning after a few hours of the first natural sleep he has had for several days, and the nurses could see by the brightness of his eyes that his vitality had been considerably restored. He was able to raise his arms above his head and clasp them behind his neck with the first evidence of physical comfort he had given for a long time.
His strength seemed to increase enough to allow him to enjoy the sunrise, the first signs of which he could see out of the windows in the three sides of the room where he lay. The increasing sunlight seemed to bring ease to him, and by the time the family was about he was strong enough to sit up in bed and overjoyed them by recognizing all of them and speaking a few words to each. This was the first time that his mental powers had been fully his for nearly two days, with the exception of a few minutes early last evening, when he addressed a few sentences to his daughter.
Calls for His Book
For two hours he lay in bed enjoying the feeling of this return of strength. Then he made a movement asked in a faint voice for the copy of Carlyle's "French Revolution," which he has always had near him for the last year, and which he has read and re-read and brooded over.
The book was handed to him, and he lifted it up as if to read. Then a smile faintly illuminated his face when he realized that he was trying to read without his glasses. He tried to say, "Given me my glasses," but his voice failed, and the nurses bending over him could not understand. He motioned for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote what he could not say.
With his glasses on he read a little and then slowly put the book down with a sigh. Soon he appeared to become drowsy and settled on his pillow. Gradually he sank and settled into a lethargy. Dr. Halsey appreciated that he could have been roused, but considered it better for him to rest. At 3 o'clock he went into complete unconsciousness.
Later Dr. Quintard, who had arrived from New York, held a consultation with Dr. Halsey, and it was decided that death was near. The family was called and gathered about the bedside watching in a silence which was long unbroken. It was the end. At twenty-two minutes past 6, with the sunlight just turning red as it stole into the window in perfect silence he breathed his last.
Died of a Broken Heart
The people of Redding, Bethel, and Danbury listened when they were told that the doctors said Mark Twain was dying of angina pectoris. But they say among themselves that he died of a broken heart. And this is a verdict not of popular sentiment alone. Albert Bigelow Paine, his biographer to be and literary executor, who has been constantly with him, said that for the last year at least Mr. Clemens had been weary of life. When Richard Watson Gilder died, he said: "How fortunate he is. No good fortune of that kind ever comes to me."
The man who has stood to the public for the greatest humorist this country has produced has in private life suffered overwhelming sorrows. The loss of an only son in infancy, a daughter in her teens and one in middle life, and finally of a wife who was a constant and sympathetic companion, has preyed upon his mind. The recent loss of his daughter Jean, who was closest to him in later years when her sister was abroad studying, was the final blow. On the heels of this came the first symptoms of the disease which was surely to be fatal and one of whose accompaniments is mental depression. Mr. Paine says that all heart went out of him and his work when his daughter Jean died. He has practically written nothing since he summoned his energies to write a last chapter memorial of her for his autobiography.
He told his biographer that the past Winter in Bermuda was gay but not happy. Bermuda is always gay in Winter and Mark Twain was a central figure in the gayety. He was staying at the home of William H. Allen. Even in Bermuda, however, Mr. Clemens found himself unable to write and finally relied on Mr. Allen's fifteen-year old daughter, Helen, to write the few letters he cared to send.
His health failed rapidly and finally Mr. Allen wrote to Albert Bigelow Paine that his friend was in a most serious condition. Mr. Paine immediately cabled to Mrs. Babrilowitsch, his surviving daughter, who was in Europe, and started himself on April 2 for Bermuda, embarking with the humorist for the return to New York immediately after his arrival. On the trip over Mark Twain became very much worse and finally realized his condition.
"It's a losing game," he said to his companion. "I'll never get home alive."
Mr. Clemens did manage to summon his strength, however, and in spite of being so weak that he had to be carried down the gangplank he survived the journey to his beautiful place at Redding. The first symptom of angina pectoris came last June when he went to Baltimore to address a young ladies school. In his room at the hotel he was suddenly taken with a terrible gripping at the heart. It soon passed away, however, and he was able to make an address with no inconvenience. The pains however, soon returned with more frequency and steadily grew worse until they became a constant torture.
One of the last acts of Mark Twain was to write out a check for $6,000 for the library in which the literary coterie settled near Redding have been interested for a year; fairs, musicales, and sociables having been held in order to raise the necessary amount. The library is to be a memorial to Jean Clemens, and will be built on a site about half a mile from Stormfield at ... Cross Roads.
It is certain to be recalled that Mark Twain was for more than fifty years an inveterate smoker, and the first conjecture of the layman would be that he had weakened his heart by overindulgence in tobacco. Dr. Halsey said to-night that he was unable to say that the angina pectoris from which Mark Twain died was in any way [related to] nicotine poisoning. Some constitutions, he said, seem immune from the effects of tobacco, and his was one of them. Yet it is true that since his illness began the doctors had cut down Mark Twain's daily allowance of twenty cigars and countless pipes to four cigars a day.
No deprivation was a greater sorrow to him. He tried to smoke on the steamer while returning from Bermuda, and only gave it up because he was too feeble to draw on his pipe. Even on his death bed when passed the point of speech, and it was no longer certain that his ideas were held, he would make the motion of waiving a cigar, and smiling expel empty air from under the mustache still stained with smoke.
Where Mark Twain chose to spend his declining years was the first outpost of Methodism in New England, and it was among the hills of Redding that Gen. Israel Putnam of Revolutionary fame mustered his sparse ranks. Putnam Park now incloses the memory of his camp.
Mark Twain first heard of it at the dipper given him on his seventeenth birthday, when a fellow-gaest who lived there mentioned its beauties and added that there was a vacant house adjoining his own, "I think you may buy that old house for me," said Mark Twain. Sherwood Place was the name of that old house, and where it stood Mark Twain reared the white walls of the Italian villa he first named Innocence at Home, but a first experience of what a New England Winter storm can be in its whitest fury quickly caused him to christen it anew Stormfield.
Where Mark Twain Died
The house had been thus described by Albert Bigelow Paine: "Set on a fair hillside with such a green slope below, such a view outspread across the valley as made one catch his breath a little when he first turned to look at it. A trout stream flows through one of the meadows. There are apple trees and gray stone walls. The entrance to it is a winding, [text unreadable] lane."
"Through this lane the 'Innocent at Home' loved to wander in his white flannels for homely gossip with the neighbors. They remember him best as one who above all things loved a good listening, for Mark Twain was a mighty talker, stored with fairy tales for the little maids he adored, and [text unreadable], ruder speech for more [text unreadable] masculine ears. It is a legend that he was vastly proud of his famous mop of white hair, and used to spend the pains of a court lady in getting it to just the proper stage of artistic disarray.
The burial will be in the family plot at Elmira, N.Y., where lie already his wife, his two daughters, Susan and Jean, and his infant son, Langhorne. No date has yet been set, as the family is still undecided whether or not there should be a public funeral first in New York City.
It is probable that Stormfield will be kept as a Summer place by Mrs. Gabrilowitsch, who is very fond both of the house, and the country, although her husband's musical engagements make it necessary that she spend a part of each year abroad.
Mr. Paine said to-night that Mark Twain had put his affairs in perfect order and that he died well off, though by no means a rich man. He leaves a considerable number of manuscripts, in all stages of incompleteness and of all characters, many of them begun years ago and put aside as unsatisfactory.
Mrs. Gabrilowitsch will aid Mr. Paine in the final decision as to what use shall be made of these.
Mark Twain's Career
Long Life, Struggles, and Achievements of Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was considered the best-known American man of letters. Often he was referred to as the "Dean of American literature." He was known far beyond the boundaries where English is spoken as the greatest humorist and satirist living. His famous telegram to a newspaper publishing a report of his death, when happily it was intrigue, has been quoted and requoted almost everywhere. "The report of my death," he wired, "is greatly exaggerated."
The father of Mark Twain was John Marshall Clemens, who migrated from Virginia to Kentucky, and then on to Adair County, Tennessee, when a young man. There he married a young woman named Langhorne, who brought him family prestige and many broad acres. But with the prevalent spirit of unrest among pioneers, the couple crossed over into Missouri, settling at Florida, Monroe County, where, [text unreadable] their [text unreadable] famous son was born. Mark Twain's life, however, really did not begin until [text unreadable] years later, when the family moved to Hannibal, Marion County. Hannibal has been described many times as a typical river town of that day, a sleepy place, filled with drawling, lazy, picturesque inhabitants, black and white.
Young Clemens, so the record runs, went to school there and so also the record runs studied just as little as he could if he studied at all. He had been painted in that period of his career as an incorrigible truant, roaming the river banks and bluffs, watching the passing steamboats, and listening keenly to the trials that went on in the shabby office where the Justice of the Peace, his father, settled the disputes and punished the misdemeanors of his neighbors. In that period, while the ambition to be a pilot on the great river burned in him, was stored in his memory the material which in after years crystallized into "Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn," and "Pudd'nhead Wilson."
Mark Twain's school days ended when he was 12. The father died, leaving nothing behind save the reputation of being a good neighbor and an upright man and his children at once became bread winners. "Sam" was apprenticed as a printer at 50-cents a week in the office of The Hannibal Weekly Journal, doing as he afterward said, "a little of everything." After three years with a capital of a few dollars in his pocket, he became what was then a familiar sight, a wanderer from one printing office to another. About this period he paid his first visit to New York, having been drawn here by stories of a great exposition then in progress.
He worked here for a while, then moved on to Philadelphia, and later, obeying always the wandering instinct which finally carried him around the world and into all hands, to nearly all the larger cities of the South and West, including New Orleans. The trip down the river awakened the old desire to be a pilot, which had slumbered since the Hannibal days, and his career as a printer was ended. He paid in cash and promised $500 to a Mississippi pilot to take him on as an assistant and "teach him the river." He became a pilot and stuck to it until the outbreak of the civil war, earning $250 a month, but chief of all he got here his material for "Life on the Mississippi."
His experience as a Confederate soldier was brief and inglorious. Hardly had he enlisted before he was captured. Released on parole, he broke the parole and returned to the ranks, and soon was recaptured. He was in imminent peril, for recognition meant immediate and ignominious execution, but he got away, and determined never to take the risk again. He stopped flight only on reaching Nevada, where several letters of his to The Virginia City Enterprise resulted in an offer from the editor of that paper of a place on the staff. From that day forward Clemens earned his living with his pen, but with the exception of several excursions [text unreadable].
From Nevada, Mark Twain moved out to San Francisco where, after a brief service on the local staff of The Call, he was discharged as useless. Then he and Bret Harte were associated in the conduct of The Californian, but both soon deserted the paper to make their fortunes mining if they could. Neither did, and Mark Twain was soon back in San Francisco penniless and ill. This was in [text unreadable.] The Sacramento Union sent him to the Sandwich Islands to write a [text unreadable] of letters on the sugar trade- an arrangement which this time he filled to the editor's satisfaction- and returned restored to health.
That Winter, however, was one of "roughing it" for him. He could get little to do as reporter or editor, and finally took to lecturing in a small way. He was a success from the start. He spoke in many of the small towns of California and Nevada, earning more than a living, and meantime writing sketches for Eastern papers. These attracted considerable notice, and in March of 1867 he issued his first book, containing the "Jumping Frog" and other stories. Its reception was so cordial that Mark Twain decided to try his fortunes in the East. On reaching New York he learned that a secret excursion was about to start for the Holy Land in the steamer Quaker City. He persuaded the Alta California, for which he had been writing, to advance him the price of the ticket for this trip - [text unreadable]- to be paid in letters at $15 each. He made his trip, which proved the beginning of his fortune, for "Innocents Abroad," his first famous book, had taken shape in his mind before his return.
To write the book, however, and to live at the same time was a problem, but Senator W. M. Stewart of Nevada, becoming interested in the project, obtained for him a six-dollar-a-day committee clerkship, while the work was "farmed" out to another man at $100 a month.
"Innocents Abroad" Instant Success
The book was finished in August, 1868, but a publisher was hard to find. At last, the American Publishing Company of Hartford agreed to issue it. Its success was instant and overwhelming. Edition after edition was sold in such rapid succession that the presses could not turn them out fast enough. Mark Twain had become a man of note over night.
Among Mark Twain's friends on the Holy Land trip had been Judge Jervis J. Langdon of Elmira, N.Y., and his two children, Dan of the "Innocents" and Lizzie. Mark Twain fell in love with the latter, and it was said afterward that his desire to be near her led him to accept editorial connection in 1869 with the Buffalo Express. But Judge Langdon, who was rich, did not at first favor the union of his daughter and the nearly penniless journalist, and Miss Langdon twice rejected him. He sought a wife as he had sought a publisher, and his third proposal was accepted. His father-in-law gave him a handsome home in Buffalo, but the young couple remained there but a year, going to Hartford where they lived for many years and where Mark Twain did perhaps his most ... work... [unreadable.]
His Fortune Swept Away
Two years later the firm failed and Mark Twain's fortune was swept away. With courage as unbroken as when he could not get a job as reporter in San Francisco many years before he again took to the lecture field to regain his fortunes.
He received generous offers to go on tour and everywhere was greeted by large and enthusiastic audiences. He made a new fortune, paid his debts, as Sir Walter Scott had done and left the publishing business to others while he worked hard at his desk as ever. In 1896 appeared "The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc", "More Tramps Abroad" and "Following the Equator in 1897 and "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg," 1900. After an extended trip to Europe he published in 1902 "A Double-barreled Detective Story," and in recent years, besides writing frequently for magazines, particularly the Harper publications, the Harper Brothers having been his publishers for the last decade or more, he had been engaged with Albert Bigelow Paine, his literary assistant, in writing his autobiography. Much of it has already been published. It was estimated three years ago that he had then written 250,000 words, and was still turning out something like 1,000 a day, when he worked.
Mark Twain had outlived most of his family. His wife died some years ago and on the morning before Christmas, last year, his daughter, Miss Jean Clemens, was drowned in a bathtub in their home at Redding, Conn. Broken himself, in health, and utterly crushed by this sudden affliction, he wrote on that day: "She was all that I had left, except Clara, who married Mr. Gabrilowitsch lately, and has just arrived in Europe."
In 1905 Mark Twain celebrated his seventieth birthday with a notable gathering of literary folk. Two years later he was honored by Oxford University with the degree of Doctor of Laws. Though in his younger days he was a great traveler, and was known personally to nearly all the crowned heads of Europe, of late years he had confined his journeys chiefly to Bermuda, whither he was often accompanied by one of his best friends, the late H. H. Rogers, as long as he lived. In nearly all his public appearances in the last five years he had worn white flannel, and even had a dress suit, claw-hammer and all, made of this soft white material, whose evident cleanliness appealed so strongly to him.
Twain as Printer's Devil
His Own Stories of His Exploits in Boyhood as Acting Editor
One of the most interesting of all Mark Twain's books or series of personal sketches relate to the crucial, but happy-go-lucky period of his life. At 12 he began on his own account. He has told this characteristic story of his first literary venture, when the "devil" got out the paper.
"I was a very smart child at the age of 13- an unusually smart child, I thought at the time. It was then that I did my first newspaper scribbling, and most unexpectedly to me, it stirred up a fine sensation in the community. It did, indeed, and I was very proud of it, too. I was a 'devil' in a printing office, and a progressive and aspiring one. My uncle had me on his paper, (the Weekly Hannibal Journal, $2 a year, in advance- 500 subscribers, and they paid in cordwood, cabbages, and unmarketable turnips.) and on a lucky Summer day he left town to be gone a week, and asked me if I thought I could edit one issue of the paper judiciously. Ah, didn't I want to try! Higgins was the editor on the rival paper. He had been jilted, and one night a friend found an open note on the poor fellow's bed, in which he stated that he could no longer endure life and had drowned himself in Bear Creek.
"The friend ran down there and found Higgins wading back to shore. He had concluded he wouldn't. The village was full of it for a few days, but Higgins' did not suspect it. I thought this was a fine opportunity. I wrote an elaborately wretched account of the whole matter, and then illustrated it with villainous cuts engraved on the bottoms of wood type with a jackknife- one of them a picture of Higgins wading out into the creek in his shirt, with a lantern, sounding the depth of the water with a walking stick.
"Next I gently touched up the newest stranger, the lion of the day, the gorgeous journeyman tailor from Quincy. He was a simpering coxcomb of the first water, and the "loudest" dressed man in the State. He was an inveterate woman killer. Every week he wrote lushy 'poetry' for The Journal about his newest conquest. His rhymes for my week were headed, 'To Mary in H-1,' meaning to Mary in Hannibal, of course. But while setting up the piece I was suddenly riven from head to heel with what I regarded as a prefect thunderbolt of humor, and I compressed it into a snappy footnote at the bottom thus:
"'We will let this thing pass, just this once, but we wish Mr. J. Gordon Runnels to understand distinctly that we have a character to sustain, and from this time forth when he wants to commune with his friends in h-1, he must select some other medium than the columns of this journal.'
"The paper came out, and I never knew any little thing to attract so much attention as those playful trifles of mine. For once the Hannibal Journal was in demand- a novelty it had not experienced before. The whole town was stirred. Higgins dropped in with a double-barreled shotgun early in the forenoon. When he found that it was an infant (as he called me) that had done him the damage, he simply pulled my ears and went away, but he threw up the situation that night and left town."
Associate Editor of Morning Glory
On the advice of a physician, Mark Twain said he went South shortly after his week as "devil" and editor in chief in one, landing finally as associate editor on the Morning Glory and Johnson County [text unreadable], Tennessee. He gave this description of his "chief":
"When I went on duty I found the chief editor sitting tilted back in a three-legged chair with his feet on a pine table. There was another pine table in the room and another afflicted chair, and both were half buried under newspapers and scraps and sheets of manuscript. There was a wooden box of sand, sprinkled with cigar stubs and old soldiers, and a stove with its door hanging by its upper hinge. The chief editor had a long black cloth frock coat on and white linen pants. His boots were small and neatly blacked. He wore a ruffled shirt, a large seal ring, a standing collar of obsolete pattern, and checkered neck kerchief with ends hanging down. He told me to take the exchanges and skim through them and write up the 'Script of the Tennessee Press.' I wrote as follows:
"'The editors of The Semi-Weekly Earthquake evidently labor under a mistaken apprehension with regard to the Ballyhack Railroad. It is not the object of the company to leave Buzzardville off to one side, on the contrary, they consider it one of the most important points along the line, and consequently can have no desire to slight it. The gentlemen of The Earthquake will, of course, take pleasure in making the correction.'
"I passed my manuscript over to the chief editor for acceptance, alteration, or destruction.
"'Thunder and lightning,' he exclaimed. 'Do you suppose I am going to speak of those cattle that way? Do you suppose my subscribers are going to stand such gruel as that? Give me the pen.'"
"While he was in the midst of his work somebody shot at him through the open window and marred the symmetry of my ear.
"'Ah,' said he, 'that is that scoundrel Smith of the Moral Volcano; he was due yesterday.' And he snatched a navy revolver from his belt and fired. Smith dropped, shot through the thigh. The shot spoiled Smith's aim, who was taking a second chance, and he crippled a stranger. It was me. Merely a finger was shot off.
"'Now, here's the way this stuff ought to be written,' said the chief editor.
"I took the manuscript. It was scarred with erasures and interlineations till its mother wouldn't have known it if it had had one. It now reads as follows:
"The inveterate liars of the Semi-Weekly Earthquake are evidently endeavoring to palm off upon a noble and chivalrous people another of their vile and brutal falsehoods with regard to the most glorious conception of the nineteenth century, the Ballyhack Railroad. The idea that Buzzardville was to be left off at one side originated in their own fulsome brains- or rather, in the settlings which they regard as brains. They had better swallow this lie if they want to save their abandoned reptile carcasses the cowhiding they so richly deserve."
Mark Twain says he had written this way of the editor of an "esteemed contemporary":
"John W. Blossom, Esq., the able editor of the Higginsville Thunderbolt and Battle Cry of Freedom arrived in the city yesterday. He is stopping at the Van Buren House."
His chief editor changed it to read:
"That ass, Blossom, of the Higginsville Thunderbolt and Battle Cry of Freedom is down here again sponging at the Van Buren."
"Now, that is the way to write," he said, "peppery and to the point. Mush-and-milk journalism gives me the fantods."
Blow to His Friends Here
New York Editors and Authors Extol the Man and the Writer
The news of Samuel L. Clemens death shocked all his friends and literary associates with its suddenness. Although it had been known that he was in a serious condition, no one seemed to expect that his illness would terminate fatally so soon.
E. Hopkinson Smith, who has known Mr. Clemens for thirty years- ever since, in fact, the great humorist first came to this city and lectured at Cooper Union, -was dining at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Clark at 1,027 Fifth Avenue when he first heard of Clemen's death.
"It does not seem possible that Sam is dead," said Mr. Smith. "We had been friends ever since he first came from San Francisco and gave his readings of 'The Jumping Frog' on the lecture platform. He had the kindest heart in the world. The reading public knew him more for his humor. But his friends knew him as a big-hearted, human man. His attitude toward everyone was the kindest. In live and in art it was always the human that appealed to him most. The humor of his books was the real, the genuine humor. Humor to be lasting, must be clean. Clemens humor was essentially clean. It will be lasting for that reason. It was the humor of human nature. There was never anywhere in it any double entendre. It was always kindly. It never ridiculed anyone. It never made fun of the littleness of men. Twain did not make fun of Tom Sawyer painting the back yard fence. He brought out the human note in the boy. And that's what makes us always remember that passage with joy and read it over and over."
Col. George M. Harvey of Harper & amp; Brothers, who was Mr. Clemens's publisher, is abroad. But Henry M. Alden, editor of Harper's, at his home in Metuchen, N.J., last night spoke with emotion of the man who had been not only a contributor, but a friend.
"In Mr. Clemens's death I have lost a dear friend," Mr. Alden said. "I feel a deep sense of personal loss. And I can't express my sense of the loss to literature. As for our personal relations, they were much more than those of editor and contributor. Nobody could tell anything about Mark Twain better than he could tell it himself-or; indeed, half so well. He has always been writing his autobiography, I have always believed that literature has lost much by not having had more of his imaginative creations on a higher plane- more works like 'Joan of Arc,' for example."
Mr. Alden has published his personal recollections of Mr. Clemens in The Book News Monthly for April.
"Mark Twain was, with one exception, the best-known American of his time, and, without exception, outside of Poe and the New England school, he was our most distinguished writer," said Robert Underwood Johnson, of the Century. "He had the singular distinction of having, so to speak, naturalized American humor in many lands. This, it seems to me, was due to the fact that his humor was not greatly dependent on difficult dialects, but on large underlying ideas and on a keen appreciation of human nature, and on a skillful use of the incongruous.
"In dramatic effect, in surprise, and in climax he was unequaled and inexhaustible. I think that these things are likely to give more than usual permanency to his writings. We have outgrown many once popular humorists. But I can't conceive of a generation of readers to whom, on the whole, his work will not be of enjoyable interest. While literally he has added to the gayety of nations and made us all his debtors, he has also in his serious work, revealed an admirable and tender sympathy for children and a chivalry toward the oppressed. So much has he become a part of our lives that it is difficult to think of a world without Mark Twain."
His Countrymen's Tributes
Express Deep Sense of What Mark Twain Means to Americans
Mark Twain's death has meant to Americans everywhere and in all walks of life what the death of no other American could have meant. His personality and his humor have been an integral part of American life for so long that it has seemed almost impossible to realize an America without him. Something of this feeling is expressed in the tributes to his memory which, following hard upon his end, have come from all parts of the country. Some of these tributes are printed below:
William Lyon Phelps, Professor of English Literature at Yale University: "The death of Mark Twain is a very great loss to American letters. I regarded him as our foremost representative in literature at the present day. "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn," his two masterpieces, will live for many years as illustrative of a certain phase of American life."
Col. Thomas Wentworth of Higginson in Boston: "It is impossible to exaggerate the loss to the country."
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, now in her ninety-first year, in Boston: "The news of Mark Twain's death will be sad to many people. He was personally highly esteemed and much beloved; a man of letters with a very genuine gift of humor and of serious thought as well."
Handin Garland, novelist, in Chicago: "Mark Twain's death marks the exit of a literary man who was as distinctly American as was Walt Whitman. The work of most writers could be produced in any country, but I think we, as well as everybody in foreign lands will look upon Twain's work as being as closely related to this country as the Mississippi River itself. We who knew him personally hardly need to speak of him as a man, for all the world knew him. No one ever heard him speak without being inspired, and no one ever saw him without being proud of him."
George Ade, at Kentland, Ind: "I read every line Twain wrote, for he was a kind of literary god to me. His influence has already worked itself into the literature of our day. We owe much of our cheerfulness, simplicity, and hope to him. Most of all, Twain grew old beautifully, showing his simple, childlike faith for ultimate success throughout all his adversities."
Booth Tarkington, at Indianapolis: "He seemed to me the greatest prose writer we had, and beyond that a great man. His death is a National loss, but we have the consolation that he and his genius belonged to and were of us."
Charles Major, at Indianapolis: "He created a new school of humor, the purpose of which was not only to be funny but to be true. He could write nothing that he did not at least feel to be true. All that he wrote was half fun and whole earnest."
James Whitcomb Riley: "The world has lost not only a genius, but a man of striking character, of influence, and of boundless resources. He knew the human heart and he was sincere. He knew children, and this knowledge made him tender."