April 10, 1886

Mark Twain on Ralph Waldo Emerson: His Grammar is Like Gravel in Bread

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Here Twain replies to the sister of his close friend and literary colleague, Dan De Quille – real name, William Wright – about the inscription over the Hartford fireplace: “you are right,” he tells her, “it is from Emerson, grammar and all.” The quotation, from Emerson’s essay “Domestic Life,” was selected by his wife,  he says, “who has been an Emersonian devotee all her life.” Twain clarifies that Emerson’s grammar isn’t wrong, just awkward: “it all at once arrests the flow of your serenity for a moment, like gravel in the bread.”
 
He invites Laura Wright Benjamin to come visit, and says if she is as good as Dan, she can sit by the fire as long as she likes. But he doesn’t suppose two like Dan can come in one family: to have it so “would be to cheapen miracles.”

Autograph Letter Signed (“S.L. Clemens”), 2 pages, octavo, Hartford, April 10, 1886. To Mrs. Benjamin.

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Transcript

Hartford, Apl. 10 / 86.

Dear Mrs. Benjamin:

You are right - it is from Emerson, grammar & all: a selection of my wife's, who has been an Emersonian devotee all her life.  I do  not mean that the grammar is not correct, I merely mean that in one place it all at once arrests the flow of your serenity for a  moment, like gravel in the bread.

Come - & if you are as good as Dan, you can sit by our fire as long as you want to. However, I suppose they don't put two like Dan in one family. To do that, would be to cheapen miracles.

Please give him my love when you write him: -

& believe me

Truly Yours

SL CLEMENS