Mark Twain on His Book "Innocents Abroad;" His Lectures, and Awful Photos of Him

January 8, 1868

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Mark Twain on His Book "Innocents Abroad;" His Lectures, and Awful Photos of Him
Autograph Letter Signed
8 pages | SMC 1684

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      Background

      This long and flirtatious letter between bachelor Clemens and young Miss Beach has much to do with their recently shared “Quaker City” excursion to Europe and the Holy Land. He has been up all night writing a lecture about the “Quaker City” voyage to be given the next night to be called “The Frozen Truth!” – a title, he says, that “has got just about as much truth in it as it has poetry.” He was going to give a copy of his book (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County) to Miss Beach’s father Moses Beach - also a Quaker City excursionist – to hand to his neighbor, the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, but didn’t. Now he will, however, and shall send one too to Mrs. Beach, “so that she can see that I can tell the truth in print when I brace myself up to it.”

      He asks that when Miss Beach sees Captain Duncan (the Captain of the “Quaker City,” whom Twain came to loathe) that she tell him how busy Clemens is “getting ready to tell the truth to-morrow night,” at a lecture Duncan will give. He explains that he told Duncan he would be present at the lecture that very night, but now he is not so sure he will be able to attend; then, even as he writes, he changes his mind:

      Never mind—I WILL go & hear him to-night. I did not know that I was to lecture, myself, until I was informed of it at 10 o’clock last night. If I were unoccupied, I would run about town & canvas for the Captain to-day. It wouldn’t help his pocket any, but lecturers always like to have a crowded house.

      Clemens reports he has just had a letter from Quaker City traveler Mary Mason Fairbanks, and praises it, and her: “such a bright, pleasant letter as that most excellent woman always writes.” And then, too, there is the issue of his Constantinople portrait, which he cannot find but promises to look for again and send to Miss Beach – although it is so bad a likeness, he might as well send her a picture of the Sphinx.

       



      Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pages, octavo, 224 F street, Washington, D.C. “Valentine’s Day," January 8, no year [1868]. To Miss Emma Beach.

       
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      224 F street, 
      St Valentine’s Day
      Washington, Jan. 8.
       
      My Dear Miss Emma—

      It is singular that the battle of New Orleans & St Valentine’s Day both come on the same day this year -- singular is too tame a word -- it is positively astounding.  However, that isn’t what I was going to write about.

      I am a thousand times obliged to you for that most charmingly [text is crossed out] worded letter. You have not listened to Mr. Beecher & marked his felicity of expression for nothing.  I am not saying these things because I think they will 

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      be news to you, for they will not, or because I was surprised that you should write an excellent letter, for I was not, but because it is easier to say what is in one’s mind than to leave it unsaid.

      And while I think of it, Miss Emma, I wish you would -- well, never mind -- it would be putting you to too much trouble.  I am trying my best to write so that you can read the manuscript, but I am not succeeding very well.  I have been up all night writing a lecture which is to be delivered to-morrow evening, & now my fire is out, & the gray dawn is chilly, & my hand 

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      is unsteady with cold & fatigue. 

      But I shall be very busy to-morrow & the next day (when I ^am to lecture again,) & I must thank you for writing.  People don’t like to have their self-complacency touched, you know, & I did feel so ridiculous in church last Sunday for writing a Valentine to a young lady, there present, who hadn’t taken any notice of it!  I am very grateful that that humiliation is removed, I do assure you.

      With enormous effrontery, I have entitled my lecture “The Frozen Truth!”  How will that strike Mrs. Beach?  It has got just about as much truth in it as it has poetry -- & you 

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      may reprove me for that, now, & I won’t get angry [but if that chambermaid don’t quit hammering at that door, I’ll make her jump out of the window -- I wonder if she thinks I am the early bird that catches the worm.}  Chambermaids are absurd people.  I hate the whole tribe of them.  I wouldn’t want any better fun than writing obituaries for ^chambermaids. [text is crossed out]  But I am wandering from my subject.  I am going to send Mr. Beecher my book as soon as I recover from this rush of business.  I was going to hand it to Mr. Beach in New York, but I had so many things to do that I could 

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      not attend to it. I am going to send Mrs. Beach one, ^ also, so that she can see that I can tell the truth in print when I brace myself up to it.


      When you see Capt. Duncan I wish you would tell him how busy I am, getting ready to tell the truth to-morrow night; I told him I would be present at his lecture this evening, but now I shall not be able to do it. ^ Never mind -- I will go & hear him to-night.  I did not know that I was to lecture, myself, until I was informed of it at 10 o’clock last night.  If I were unoccupied, I would run about town & canvas for the Captain to-day.  It wouldn’t help his pocket 

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      any, but lecturers always like to have a crowded house.

      You do say the naivest things that ever anybody said in the world, & hit the hardest possible hits, in the most comfortable way -- but I like it.  Your reproofs are so honest, & so pleasant, withal, that I really can’t help feeling a strong desire to deserve more of them!  But I will conquer it & try to behave myself.   I won’t make fun of the prayer-meetings any more.  But the idea of my “reproving you in return” won’t do at all.  I don’t know anything to reprove you about.  I don’t know anything except to reprove you for your curious 

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      notion of offending me with a long letter.  Nothing is pleasanter to me than to be offended in that way, & I shall reprove you very severely if you don’t do it again.  I shall be ever so much obliged to you if you will sit down now & proceed to offend me awfully.

      What was it I put on that envelop that suggested that Mrs. Beach was the principal of a boarding school?  What in the world could it have been?  What do you ask such conundrums for, & then not send the answer?  I only wrote “Miss Emma Beach, 66 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.” -- That was all. Now tell me what it was 

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      that put that notion in your head?

      I have searched everywhere for my photographs, but I cannot find a single one.  I must have put them away somewhere very carefully -- & when I put anything away, I never can find it again.  Still, I will institute another search, & will find a picture & send it to you. Those Constantinople pictures were very bad, though.  I might almost as well send you a photograph of the Sphynx -- it would look as much like me.

      I got a good long letter from Mrs. Fairbanks, yesterday, -- just such a bright, pleasant letter as that most excellent woman always writes.

      Come, Miss Emma, send me some more reproofs, & upon my word I will do all I can to profit by them -- do you note my address?

      Your friend, & always your well-wisher, 

      SAM L. CLEMENS.