Twain Asks His Young "Quaker City" Shipmate & Favorite, Emma Beach, For Help With His Articles About the Voyage

January 31, 1868

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Twain Asks His Young "Quaker City" Shipmate & Favorite, Emma Beach, For Help With His Articles About the Voyage
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 2111

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      Background

      He was, at 31 to her 17, more brotherly than romantic - but there they were, the bohemian San Francisco newspaperman and the artlessly charming teen, fellow travelers on the Quaker City Pleasure Excursion to the Holy Land and, in the way of shipboard friendships, a pair. They played chess. He teased her; she called him out. Both, probably, enjoyed the attention. And then, come November 19, 1867, after five months and 11 days of companionable travel, the voyage was over. She went home to Brooklyn and he, off to Washington, D.C. and work. Which pretty much summarizes the history of Mark Twain and Miss Emma Beach, to the point at which he penned this letter. In it, he teases, gossips, moonshines, and then gets to the point - he needs her help:

       

      If you will be so kind as to Drop me about a hundred & fifty lines, or more, or less, & tell me the names of the Consuls at Gibraltar & Marseilles, Miss Emma, you will confer a favor for which I shall be very greatly obliged to you. Mr. Beach or Capt. Duncan doubtless remember their names. And please tell me the names of the Murillo pictures that delighted you most - & say all you can about them, too. Remember, I am in a great straight, now, & it is hard to have to write about pictures when I don’t know anything about them. Hang the whole gang of old masters, I say! The idea that I have to go to driveling about those dilapidated, antediluvian humbugs at this late day, is exasperating. Why I don’t ever even remember their names—except Titian, & Tintoretto, & some of those other infamous Italian Vandals. If you will help me, now, I will go to church every Sunday for a month—& behave steadily continue reforming.


      Twain, who had wrangled his way aboard Quaker City
      as a special correspondent chronicling the excursion, still owed some travel "letters" to various newspapers and, as he explains here, was writing them all, desperately, now that he had returned - two months before.

       

      I have not been out of the house since I returned, came home, & have not left the writing table, except to sleep, & take my meals. I have written seven long newspaper letters & a short magazine article in less than two days. It is the most extravagant instance of industry that ever came under your notice, I have no sort of doubt.

       

      That he valued Emma's opinion; that he knew he knew nothing about art at all; and because they really were friends, he could then press her memories into service - and eventually, though under his name and in his words, into his classic account of their trip aboard the Quaker City to the Holy Land, The Innocents Abroad.

       
      No wonder, then, as he told his mother, Emma Beach was his "old Quaker City favorite."

       



      Autograph Letter Signed ("Sam Clemens), 4 pages, quarto, 224 F Street. Washington, January 31, 1868. To Miss Emma Beach in Brooklyn. With (torn) Autograph envelope.

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      224 F street, 
      Washington, Jan. 31.

      Shipmate, Ahoy!

      It is all very well to counterfeit cheerfulness & say Shipmate, Ahoy! in that fraudulently brusque way, but it is only a swindle, at best.  One cannot go up & skirmish about New York for a week without paying for it in sorrow & tribulation when he returns.  I have not been out of the house since I [text is crossed out] came home, & have not left the writing table, except to sleep, & take my meals.  I have written seven long newspaper letters & a short magazine article in less than two days.  It is the most extravagant instance of industry that ever came under your notice, I have no sort of doubt.  In two more days I shall have made up for all my lost time.  Then I shall feel less tired, & much jollier than I do now.  

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      You ought to see the letter from Mrs. Fairbanks I found awaiting me here.  It was a scorcher -- if I may use so unseemly a term to convey what no other will express.  It seems I have been using slang again.  I am so unfortunate.  I know I never, never, never shall [text is crossed out] get reformed up to the regulation standard.  Every time I reform in one direction I go overboard in another. --  Now, once & for all, I will not use any more slang.  But I suppose I shall make some other blunder that is just as bad & get into trouble again.

      I should have thought you might have dropped me a line by this time, Miss Emma.  I don’t see that you have anything to do wherein to employ your ^leisure. [text is crossed out]  It is immense fun to write, when one hasn’t anything to do.  Try it.  It will eventually perfect your style.  Write your compositions to me, instead of to your 

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      prejudiced teacher.  I will send your teacher Congressional speeches in place of them -- & Patent Office Reports, & beautiful romantic dissertations on yams, from the Agricultural Department.

      I wasted a good deal of strategy trying to make Mrs. Beach invite me to call again, but I didn’t succeed.  She had concluded she wouldn’t -- and as she had concluded she wouldn’t, why she just wouldn’t, that was all:  I was [text is crossed out] conquered that time, but she needn’t think I am going to stay conquered.  No -- I shall come without any invitation.  I shall come & stay a month!  She shall mourn over that victory of hers in [text is crossed out] ^metaphorical sackcloth & ashes.  I know I shall be doing wrong -- but then I do wrong every day, anyhow.

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      Now if you will be so kind as to drop me about a hundred & fifty lines, or more, or less, & tell me the names of the Consuls at Gibraltar & Marseilles, Miss Emma, you will confer a favor for which I shall be very greatly obliged to you.  Mr. Beach or Capt. Duncan doubtless remember the[text is crossed out] names.  And please tell me the names of the Murillo pictures that delighted you most -- & say all you can about them, too.  Remember, I am in a great straight, now, & it is hard to have to write about pictures when I don’t know anything about them.  Hang the whole gang of old masters,  I say!  The idea that I have to go to driveling about those dilapidated, antediluvian humbugs at this late day, is exasperating.  Why I don’t even remember their names — except Titian, & Tintoretto, & some ^of those other infamous Italian Vandals.  If you will help me, now, I will go to church every Sunday for a month — & steadily continue reforming.

      Yrs Truly

      SAM CLEMENS

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      Miss Emma 
      66 Colum[...]
      Brook