Mark Twain Can't Remember Recent Things But Vividly Recalls His Hannibal Courier Co-Workers

January 17, 1886

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Mark Twain Can't Remember Recent Things But Vividly Recalls His Hannibal Courier Co-Workers
Autograph Letter Signed
3 pages | SMC 1699

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      Background

      Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) declares that “recent names & things take no hold” on his “bald-headed memory; they slip-up & slide off” so he isn’t sure about Mrs. Brackett - but to the mention of names and things from thirty-five years ago, his memory is alert. Virginia City is a blur: he made such an innumerable host of acquaintances, he cannot name twenty from then with certainty. But the associates of his youth in Hannibal he recalls vividly; new acquaintances there averaged only about one a year, causing less wear & tear to the memory. He pleasantly remembers the printer Urban Hicks, and his young Hannibal Courier co-workers Pet McMurry & Wales McCormick, too:
       
      & also the fencing-matches with column rules & quack medicine stereotypes; & lots of other things which would be rubbish in another man's mind, maybe, but I don't consider them so.

      He saw Pet McMurry & Wales McCormick just the year before for the first time in 30 years – and if he could see Hicks in Hartford, he would “receive him with a barbecue & a torchlight procession.” He inquires what Hicks has been doing all these years, and says he shakes him by the hand and wishes him luck. Clemens’ adds that he is due to speak at a printer’s dinner that very night, and thanks his correspondent for giving him a text.


      Autograph Letter Signed (“S.L. Clemens”), 3 pages, octavo, Hartford, January 17, 1886. To “Dear Sir.”
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      Hartford, Jan. 17/86.

      Dear Sir:

      I am not perfectly sure about Mrs. Brackett, for recent names & things take no hold on my bald-headed memory ; they slip-up & slide off : but when you come to the names & things of thirty-five years ago, you are uttering music, & my memory is alert.  We led such a rushing life in Virginia City, & made such an innumerable host of acquaintances, that that existence is all a foggy confusion in my mind, & I cannot name twenty people of that day & district

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      with certainty ; but in Hannibal, thirty-five years ago, the new acquaintances averaged only about one a year, & that sort of contact didn't wear-&-tear the memory much.  I remember Urban E. vividly & pleasantly ; & also the fencing-matches with column-rules & quack medicine stereotypes ; & lots of other things which would be rubbish in another man's mind, maybe, but I don't consider them so.

      I saw Pet McMurry & Wales McCormick a year ago, for the first time in 30 years ; & now if I could see 

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      Hicks here I would receive him with a barbecue & a torchlight procession, & put the entire house at his disposal.  I would like first-rate to know what he has been doing, all these years, & where tarrying.  I shake him by the hand & wish him luck.

      Truly Yours
       
      S L CLEMENS


      I am to talk at the printers' dinner in New York, & I thank you for a text.