THE LETTERS OF MARK TWAIN - VOL. 5
THE LETTERS OF MARK TWAIN - VOL. 5
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
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. This nation is like all the others that have been
spewed upon the earth--ready to shout for any cause that will tickle its
vanity or fill its pocket. What a hell of a heaven it will be when they
get all these hypocrites assembled there!
I can't understand it! You are a public guide and teacher Joe and are
under a heavy responsibility to men young and old; if you teach your
people--as you teach me--to hide their opinions when they believe the
flag is being abused and dishonored lest the utterance do them and a
publisher a damage how do you answer for it to your conscience? You are
sorry for me; in the fair way of give and take I am willing to be a
little sorry for you.
However I seem to be going counter to my own Private Philosophy--which
Livy won't allow me to publish--because it would destroy me. But I hope
to see it in print before I die. I planned it 15 years ago and wrote it
in '98. I've often tried to read it to Livy but she won't have it; it
makes her melancholy. The truth always has that effect on people. Would
have anyway if they ever got hold of a rag of it--Which they don't.
You are supposing that I am supposing that I am moved by a Large
Patriotism and that I am distressed because our President has blundered
up to his neck in the Philippine mess; and that I am grieved because this
great big ignorant nation which doesn't know even the A B C facts of the
Philippine episode is in disgrace before the sarcastic world--drop that
idea! I care nothing for the rest--I am only distressed and troubled
because I am befouled by these things. That is all. When I search
myself away down deep I find this out. Whatever a man feels or thinks
or does there is never any but one reason for it--and that is a selfish
At great inconvenience and expense of precious time I went to the chief
synagogue the other night and talked in the interest of a charity school
of poor Jew girls. I know--to the finest shades--the selfish ends that
moved me; but no one else suspects. I could give you the details if I
had time. You would perceive how true they are.
I've written another article; you better hurry down and help Livy squelch
She's out pottering around somewhere poor housekeeping slave; and Clara
is in the hands of the osteopath getting the bronchitis pulled and
hauled out of her. It was a bad attack and a little disquieting. It
came day before yesterday and she hasn't sat up till this afternoon.
She is getting along satisfactorily now.
Lots of love to you all.