Twain: Monuments Disappear, But Great Cities - and Reputations - Survive

August 11, 1885

Add to History Board Share Print
Back to The Collection
Manuscript
See full images and transcript
Twain: Monuments Disappear, But Great Cities - and Reputations - Survive
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 283

Quick Reference

      Background

      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”
      Read More

      all pages and transcript

      Page 1/2

      Page 1 transcript
      Elmira, N.Y., Aug. 11/85.

      My Dear Sir:

      You are certainly right in one thing: Gen Grant's monument will have decayed & disappeared, 20 centuries hence - nothing but his fame will remain.  But the city of New York will remain, under one name or another - as will London, Constantinople, & one or two others, whose commercial situation will always insure their being rebuilt as fast as the earthquakes can shake them down.

      Page 2/2

      Page 2 transcript
      2

      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.  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.

      Very Truly Yours

      S.L. Clemens