Mark Twain on the French: No Humor, No Depth, No Compass, No Balance, No...

April 30, 1894

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Mark Twain on the French: No Humor, No Depth, No Compass, No Balance, No...
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 1695

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      It isn’t any use, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) begins: Madame Blanc has got herself into a snit and there is nothing he can do about it. He did not mean to offend her; it is her French obtusenesses, and not he, which is to blame. In fact, she owes herself an apology...
       
      If she had been properly constructed she would not have perceived any offense: I didn't construct her, & am not responsible for her defects. Whenever I try to lie in earnest I fail to deceive.  If I should try to make her believe I am distressed because I have offended her, I shouldn't "arrive." I have committed no offense, either by fact, act or intention, & so I know I couldn't successfully pretend to be sorry - for a thing which hasn't occurred.  You see, the whole trouble lies in the French character. It hasn't a shed of humor in it, consequently there is no depth to it: its compass, regulator, balance-wheel, is lacking.  When you have hurt a Frenchman, you have hurt a child: you can't reason with him, you can only kiss him & pet him & flatter him. If I come across Mme. B I mean to tell her I was not intending to hurt her. I don't imagine it will do any good: but I couldn't say any more & make it sound sincere.

      Added is that he that he leaves for Paris soon to join the family in going to Aix-les-Bains for Livy’s gout; Susy is getting stronger and healthier; and he hopes they all might again soon get together.


      Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), 4 pages, octavo, The Players, 16 Gramercy Park (N.Y., N.Y.), April 30, 1894. To Grace E. King.
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      THE PLAYERS,
      16 GRAMERCY PARK.

      April 30/94.

      Dear Miss Grace :

      Oh, it isn't a bit of use.  I have not offended ; it is Mme B.'s [text is crossed out] ^French obtuseness which is to blame.  She owes herself an apology;  I owe her none.  If she had been properly constructed she would ^not have perceived any offense : I didn't construct her, & am not responsible for her defects.  Whenever I try to lie in earnest I fail to deceive.  If I should try to make her believe I ^am distressed because ^I have [text is crossed out] offended her, [text is crossed out] I shouldn't 

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      Page 2 transcript


      "arrive."  I have committed no offence, either by fact, act, or intention, [text is crossed out] ^& so I know I couldn't successfully pretend to be sorry -- for a thing which hasn't occurred.

      You see, the whole trouble lies in the French character.  It hasn't a shred of humor in it, consequently there is no depth to it: its compass, regulator, balance-wheel, is lacking.  When you have hurt a Frenchman, you have hurt a child : you can't reason with him, you can only kiss him & pet him & flatter him.

      If I ever run across Mme. B. I mean to tell her I was not intending to offend her. I don't imagine it will do any good ; but I couldn't say any more & make it sound sincere.

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      Page 3 transcript
      I expect to sail nine days hence & join the family in Paris the middle of the month.  I suppose we shall then leave right away for Aix-les-Bains, where Livy will takes baths for the gout which is giving her so much pain in her fingers.  When I left her the 6th of the present month she was making good progress toward the cure of her other ailments, & Susy was getting stronger and healthier daily.

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      Page 4 transcript

      I send love to you & your sister, & add the hope that we may all foregather again one of these days.

      Sincerely Yours

      S L CLEMENS