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Mark Twain's Letters — Volume 5 (1901-1906)   By: (1835-1911)

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MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1901 1906

VOLUME V.

By Mark Twain

ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE

XL. LETTERS OF 1901, CHIEFLY TO TWICHELL. MARK TWAIN AS A REFORMER. SUMMER AT SARANAC. ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT McKINLEY.

An editorial in the Louisville Courier Journal, early in 1901, said: "A remarkable transformation, or rather a development, has taken place in Mark Twain. The genial humorist of the earlier day is now a reformer of the vigorous kind, a sort of knight errant who does not hesitate to break a lance with either Church or State if he thinks them interposing on that broad highway over which he believes not a part but the whole of mankind has the privilege of passing in the onward march of the ages."

Mark Twain had begun "breaking the lance" very soon after his return from Europe. He did not believe that he could reform the world, but at least he need not withhold his protest against those things which stirred his wrath. He began by causing the arrest of a cabman who had not only overcharged but insulted him; he continued by writing openly against the American policy in the Philippines, the missionary propaganda which had resulted in the Chinese uprising and massacre, and against Tammany politics. Not all of his efforts were in the line of reform; he had become a sort of general spokesman which the public flocked to hear, whatever the subject. On the occasion of a Lincoln Birthday service at Carnegie Hall he was chosen to preside, and he was obliged to attend more dinners than were good for his health. His letters of this period were mainly written to his old friend Twichell, in Hartford. Howells, who lived in New York, he saw with considerable frequency.

In the letter which follows the medicine which Twichell was to take was Plasmon, an English proprietary remedy in which Mark Twain had invested a panacea for all human ills which osteopathy could not reach.

To Rev. Joseph Twichell, in Hartford:

14 W. 10TH ST. Jan. 23, '01.

DEAR JOE, Certainly. I used to take it in my coffee, but it settled to the bottom in the form of mud, and I had to eat it with a spoon; so I dropped the custom and took my 2 teaspoonfuls in cold milk after breakfast. If we were out of milk I shoveled the dry powder into my mouth and washed it down with water. The only essential is to get it down, the method is not important.

No, blame it, I can't go to the Alumni dinner, Joe. It takes two days, and I can't spare the time. Moreover I preside at the Lincoln birthday celebration in Carnegie Hall Feb. 11, and I must not make two speeches so close together. Think of it two old rebels functioning there I as President, and Watterson as Orator of the Day! Things have changed somewhat in these 40 years, thank God.

Look here when you come down you must be our guest we've got a roomy room for you, and Livy will make trouble if you go elsewhere. Come straight to 14 West 10th.

Jan. 24. Livy says Amen to that; also, can you give us a day or two's notice, so the room will be sure to be vacant?

I'm going to stick close to my desk for a month, now, hoping to write a small book.

Ys Ever MARK

The letter which follows is a fair sample of Mark Twain's private violence on a subject which, in public print, he could only treat effectively by preserving his good humor. When he found it necessary to boil over, as he did, now and then, for relief, he always found a willing audience in Twichell. The mention of his "Private Philosophy" refers to 'What Is Man?', privately published in 1906; reissued by his publishers in 1916.

To Rev. J. H. Twichell, in Hartford:

14 W. 10th Jan. 29, '01.

DEAR JOE, I'm not expecting anything but kicks for scoffing, and am expecting a diminution of my bread and butter by it, but if Livy will let me I will have my say... Continue reading book >>


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