LETTERS VOL. 3
LETTERS VOL. 3
To W. D. Howells in Boston:
HARTFORD Jan. 11 '76.
MY DEAR HOWELLS--Indeed we haven't forgotten the Howellses nor scored
up a grudge of any kind against them; but the fact is I was under the
doctor's hands for four weeks on a stretch and have been disabled from
working for a week or so beside. I thought I was well about ten days
ago so I sent for a short-hand writer and dictated answers to a bushel
or so of letters that had been accumulating during my illness. Getting
everything shipshape and cleared up I went to work next day upon an
Atlantic article which ought to be worth $20 per page (which is the
price they usually pay for my work I believe) for although it is only 70
pages MS (less than two days work counting by bulk) I have spent 3 more
days trimming altering and working at it. I shall put in one more day's
polishing on it and then read it before our Club which is to meet at
our house Monday evening the 24th inst. I think it will bring out
considerable discussion among the gentlemen of the Club--though the title
of the article will not give them much notion of what is to follow--this
title being "The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in
Connecticut"--which reminds me that today's Tribune says there will be a
startling article in the current Atlantic in which a being which is
tangible bud invisible will figure-exactly the case with the sketch of
mine which I am talking about! However mine can lie unpublished a year
or two as well as not--though I wish that contributor of yours had not
interfered with his coincidence of heroes.
But what I am coming at is this: won't you and Mrs. Howells come down
Saturday the 22nd and remain to the Club on Monday night? We always have
a rattling good time at the Club and we do want you to come ever so
much. Will you? Now say you will. Mrs. Clemens and I are persuading
ourselves that you twain will come.
My volume of sketches is doing very well considering the times; received
my quarterly statement today from Bliss by which I perceive that 20000
copies have been sold--or rather 20000 had been sold 3 weeks ago; a lot
more by this time no doubt.
I am on the sick list again--and was day before yesterday--but on the
whole I am getting along.
Howells wrote that he could not come down to the club meeting
adding that sickness was "quite out of character" for Mark Twain
and hardly fair on a man who had made so many other people feel
well. He closed by urging that Bliss "hurry out" 'Tom Sawyer.'
"That boy is going to make a prodigious hit." Clemens answered:
To W. D. Howells in Boston.
HARTFORD Jan. 18 '76.
MY DEAR HOWELLS-- Thanks and ever so many for the good opinion of 'Tom
Sawyer.' Williams has made about 300 rattling pictures for it--some of
them very dainty. Poor devil what a genius he has and how he does
murder it with rum. He takes a book of mine and without suggestion from
anybody builds no end of pictures just from his reading of it.
There was never a man in the world so grateful to another as I was to you
day before yesterday when I sat down (in still rather wretched health)
to set myself to the dreary and hateful task of making final revision of
Tom Sawyer and discovered upon opening the package of MS that your
pencil marks were scattered all along. This was splendid and swept away
all labor. Instead of reading the MS I simply hunted out the pencil
marks and made the emendations which they suggested. I reduced the boy
battle to a curt paragraph; I finally concluded to cut the Sunday school
speech down to the first two sentences leaving no suggestion of satire
since the book is to be for boys and girls; I tamed the various
obscenities until I judged that they no longer carried offense. So at a
single sitting I began and finished a revision which I had supposed would
occupy 3 or 4. days and leave me mentally and physically fagged out at
the end. I was careful not to inflict the MS upon you until I had
thoroughly and painstakingly revised it. Therefore the only faults left
were those that would discover themselves to others not me--and these
you had pointed out.
There was one expression which perhaps you overlooked. When Huck is
complaining to Tom of the rigorous system in vogue at the widow's he
says the servants harass him with all manner of compulsory decencies and
he winds up by saying: "and they comb me all to hell." (No exclamation
point.) Long ago when I read that to Mrs. Clemens she made no comment;
another time I created occasion to read that chapter to her aunt and her
mother (both sensitive and loyal subjects of the kingdom of heaven so to
speak) and they let it pass. I was glad for it was the most natural