August 11, 1885

Twain on the Nature of Time, Fame, and Civilizations: Monuments Disappear, but Great Cities – and Reputations - Survive

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 283
Writing just weeks after the death of his great hero, Ulysses S. Grant, Twain waxes philosophical on the nature of time, fame, and evolution. It is inevitable, he proffers, that in time, our monuments to mighty leaders must decay and disappear. Only the fame, then, of a General Grant, and not his memorials, will remain. That, and of course, “under one name or another”, the great thriving metropolises of New York, London, Constantinople, “and one or two others, whose commercial situation will always insure their being rebuilt as fast as the earthquakes can shake them down.” It makes sense then, that “if the evidences that men have already inhabited this earth a hundred thousand years or so are sound & trustworthy, we may well expect that men will still be here twenty centuries hence.” Seemingly addressing, in this connection, the issue of evolution, he concludes, “I speak only of "evidences" - I am not aware that any proofs exist, either as to the age of mankind or when he is to cease from being.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“S.L. Clemens”), 2 pages, octavo, Elmira, August 11, 1885. To “Dear Sir”
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