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Mark Twain

Mark Twain's Autobiography

Published by Good Press, 2022
EAN 4066338092885

Table of Contents



Table of Contents

About a meeting at Carnegie Hall, in the interest of Booker Washington's Tuskegee Institute.--An unpleasant political incident which happened to Mr. Twichell.

There was a great mass meeting at Carnegie Hall last night, in the interest of Booker Washington's Tuskegee Educational Institute in the South, and the interest which New York people feel in that Institute was quite manifest, in the fact that although it was not pleasant weather there were three thousand people inside the Hall and two thousand outside, who were trying to get in when the performances were ready to begin at eight o'clock.1 Mr. Choate presided, and was received with a grand welcome when he marched in upon the stage. He is fresh from his long stay in England, as our Ambassador, where he won the English people by the gifts of his heart, and won the royalties and the Government by his able diplomatic service, and captured the whole nation with his fine and finished oratory. For thirty-five years Choate has been the handsomest man in America. Last night he seemed to me to be just as handsome as he was thirty-five years ago, when I first knew him. And when I used to see him in England, five or six years ago, I thought him the handsomest man in that country.

1 They were largely attracted by the announcement that Mark Twain was to be present and would speak.--A. B. P.

It was at a Fourth of July reception in Mr. Choate's house in London that I first met Booker Washington. I have met him a number of times since, and he always impresses me pleasantly. Last night he was a mulatto. I didn't notice it until he turned, while he was speaking, and said something to me. It was a great surprise to me to see that he was a mulatto and had blue eyes. How unobservant a dull person can be! Always, before, he was black, to me, and I had never noticed whether he had eyes at all, or not. He has accomplished a wonderful work in this quarter of a century. When he finished his education at the Hampton Colored School twenty-five years ago he was unknown and hadn't a penny, nor a friend outside his immediate acquaintanceship. But by the persuasions of his carriage and address and the sincerity and honesty that look out of his eyes he has been enabled to gather money by the hatful here in the North, and with it he has built up and firmly established his great school for the colored people of the two sexes in the South. In that school the students are not merely furnished a book education, but are taught thirty-seven useful trades. Booker Washington has scraped together many hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the twenty-five years, and with this money he has taught and sent forth into Southern fields among the colored people six thousand trained colored men and women; and his student roll now numbers fifteen hundred names. The Institute's property is worth a million and a half, and the establishment is in a flourishing condition. A most remarkable man is Booker Washington. And he is a fervent and effective speaker on the platform.

When the affair was over and the people began to climb up on the stage and pass along and shake hands, the usual thing happened. It always happens. I shake hands with people who used to know my mother intimately in Arkansas, in New Jersey, in California, in Jericho--and I have to seem so glad and so happy to meet these persons who knew in this intimate way one who was so near and dear to me. And this is the kind of thing that gradually turns a person into a polite liar and deceiver, for my mother was never in any of those places.

One pretty creature was glad to see me again, and remembered being at my house in Hartford--I don't know when, a great many years ago, it was. Now she was mistaking herself for somebody else. It couldn't have happened to her. But I was very cordial, because she was very pretty. We might have had a good long chat except for the others that I had to talk with and work up reminiscences that belonged in somebody else's experiences, not theirs or mine.

There was one young fellow, brisk, but not bright, overpoweringly pleasant and cordial, in his way. He said his mother used to teach school in Elmira, New York, where he was born and bred and where the family continued to reside, and that she would be very glad to know that he had met me and shaken hands, for he said: "She is always talking about you. She holds you in high esteem, although, as she says, she has to confess that of all the boys that ever she had in her school, you were the most troublesome."

"Well," I said, "those were my last school days, and through long practice in being troublesome, I had reached the summit by that time, because I was more than thirty-three years old."

It didn't affect him in the least. I don't think he even heard what I said, he was so eager to tell me all about it, and I said to him once more, so as to spare him, and me, that I was never in a schoolhouse in Elmira, New York, even on a visit, and that his mother must be mistaking me for some of the Langdons, the family into which I married. No matter, he didn't hear it--kept on his talk with animation and delight, and has gone to tell his mother, I don't know what. He didn't get anything out of me to tell her, for he never heard anything I said.

These episodes used to vex me, years and years ago. But they don't vex me now. I am older. If a person thinks that he has known me at some time or other, all I require of him is that he shall consider it a distinction to have known me; and then, as a rule, I am perfectly willing to remember all about it and add some things that he has forgotten.

Twichell came down from Hartford to be present at that meeting, and we chatted and smoked after we got back home. And reference was made again to that disastrous Boston speech which I made at Whittier's seventieth-birthday dinner; and Joe asked me if I was still minded to submit that speech to that club in Washington, day after to-morrow, where Colonel Harvey and I are to be a couple of the four guests. And I said, "No," I had given that up--which was true. Because I have examined that speech a couple of times since, and have changed my notion about it--changed it entirely. I find it gross, coarse--well, I needn't go on with particulars. I didn't like any part of it, from the beginning to the end. I found it always offensive and detestable. How do I account for this change of view? I don't know. I can't account for it. I am the person concerned. If I could put myself outside of myself and examine it from the point of view of a person not personally concerned in it, then no doubt I could analyze it and explain to my satisfaction the change which has taken place. As it is, I am merely moved by instinct. My instinct said, formerly, that it was an innocent speech, and funny. The same instinct, sitting cold and judicial, as a court of last resort, has reversed that verdict. I expect this latest verdict to remain.

Twichell's congregation--the only congregation he has ever had since he entered the ministry--celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his accession to that pulpit, a couple of weeks ago. Joe entered the army as chaplain in the very beginning of the Civil War. He was a young chap, and had just been graduated from Yale and the Yale Theological Seminary. He made all the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. When he was mustered out, that congregation I am speaking of called him, and he has served them ever since, and always to their satisfaction--except once.

I have found among my old MSS. one which I perceive to be about twenty-two years old. It has a heading and looks as if I had meant it to serve as a magazine article. I can clearly see, now, why I didn't print it. It is full of indications that its inspiration was what happened to Twichell about that time, and which produced a situation for him which he will not forget until he is dead, if he even forgets it then. I think I can see, all through this artful article, that I was trying to hint at Twichell, and the episode of that preacher whom I met on the street, and hint at various things that were exasperating me. And now that I read that old article, I perceive that I probably saw that my art was not ingenious enough---that I hadn't covered Twichell up, and hadn't covered up the episode that I was hinting at--that anybody in Hartford could read everything between the lines that I was trying to conceal.

I will insert this venerable article in this place, and then take up that episode in Joe's history and tell about it.


Table of Contents

Concerning Man--he is too large a subject to be treated as a whole; so I will merely discuss a detail or two of him at this time. I desire to contemplate him from this point of view--this premise: that he was not made for any useful purpose, for the reason that he hasn't served any; that he was most likely not even made intentionally; and that his working himself up out of the oyster bed to his present position was probably matter of surprise and regret to the Creator. . . . For his history, in all climes, all ages and all circumstances, furnishes oceans and continents of proof that of all the creatures that were made he is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one--the solitary one--that possesses malice.

That is the basest of all instincts, passions, vices--the most hateful. That one thing puts him below the rats, the grubs, the trichinae. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. But if the cat knows she is inflicting pain when she plays with the frightened mouse, then we must make an exception here; we must grant that in one detail man is the moral peer of the cat. All creatures kill--there seems to be no exception; but of the whole list, man is the only one that kills for fun; he is the only one that kills in malice, the only one that kills for revenge. Also--in all the list he is the only creature that has a nasty mind.

Shall he be extolled for his noble qualities, for his gentleness, his sweetness, his amiability, his lovingness, his courage, his devotion, his patience, his fortitude, his prudence, the various charms and graces of his spirit? The other animals share all these with him, yet are free from the blacknesses and rottennesses of his character.

. . . There are certain sweet-smelling sugar-coated lies current in the world which all politic men have apparently tacitly conspired together to support and perpetuate. One of these is, that there is such a thing in the world as independence: independence of thought, independence of opinion, independence of action. Another is, that the world loves to see independence--admires it, applauds it. Another is, that there is such a thing in the world as toleration--in religion, in politics, and such matters; and with it trains that already mentioned auxiliary lie that toleration is admired and applauded. Out of these trunk-lies spring many branch ones: to wit, the lie that not all men are slaves: the lie that men are glad when other men succeed; glad when they prosper; glad to see them reach lofty heights; sorry to see them fall again. And yet other branch lies: to wit, that there is heroism in man; that he is not mainly made up of malice and treachery; that he is sometimes not a coward; that there is something about him that ought to be perpetuated--in heaven, or hell, or somewhere. And these other branch lies, to wit: that conscience, man's moral medicine chest, is not only created by the Creator, but is put into man ready charged with the right and only true and authentic correctives of conduct--and the duplicate chest, with the self-same correctives, unchanged, unmodified, distributed to all nations and all epochs. And yet one other branch lie: to wit, that I am I, and you are you; that we are units, individuals, and have natures of our own, instead of being the tail end of a tapeworm eternity of ancestors extending in linked procession back and back and back--to our source in the monkeys, with this so-called individuality of ours a decayed and rancid mush of inherited instincts and teachings derived, atom by atom, stench by stench, from the entire line of that sorry column, and not so much new and original matter in it as you could balance on a needle point and examine under a microscope. This makes well-nigh fantastic the suggestion that there can be such a thing as a personal, original, and responsible nature in a man, separable from that in him which is not original, and findable in such quantity as to enable the observer to say, This is a man, not a procession.

. . . Consider the first-mentioned lie: that there is such a thing in the world as independence; that it exists in individuals; that it exists in bodies of men. Surely if anything is proven, by whole oceans and continents of evidence, it is that the quality of independence was almost wholly left out of the human race. The scattering exceptions to the rule only emphasize it, light it up, make it glare. The whole population of New England meekly took their turns, for years, in standing up in the railway trains, without so much as a complaint above their breath, till at last these uncounted millions were able to produce exactly one single independent man, who stood to his rights and made the railroad give him a seat. Statistics and the law of probabilities warrant the assumption that it will take New England forty years to breed his fellow. There is a law, with a penalty attached, forbidding trains to occupy the Asylum Street crossing more than five minutes at a time. For years people and carriages used to wait there nightly as much as twenty minutes on a stretch while New England trains monopolized that crossing. I used to hear men use vigorous language about that insolent wrong--but they waited, just the same.

We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one--the one we use--which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Look at it in politics. Look at the candidates whom we loathe, one year, and are afraid to vote against, the next; whom we cover with unimaginable filth, one year, and fall down on the public platform and worship, the next--and keep on doing it until the habitual shutting of our eyes to last year's evidences brings us presently to a sincere and stupid belief in this year's. Look at the tyranny of party--at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty--a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes--and which turns voters into chattels, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.

If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times. A Hartford clergyman met me in the street and spoke of a new nominee--denounced the nomination, in strong, earnest words--words that were refreshing for their independence, their manliness.1 He said, "I ought to be proud, perhaps, for this nominee is a relative of mine; on the contrary, I am humiliated and disgusted, for I know him intimately--familiarly--and I know that he is an unscrupulous scoundrel, and always has been." You should have seen this clergyman preside at a political meeting forty days later, and urge, and plead, and gush--and you should have heard him paint the character of this same nominee. You would have supposed he was describing the Cid, and Greatheart, and Sir Galahad, and Bayard the Spotless all rolled into one. Was he sincere? Yes--by that time; and therein lies the pathos of it all, the hopelessness of it all. It shows at what trivial cost of effort a man can teach himself to lie, and learn to believe it, when he perceives, by the general drift, that that is the popular thing to do. Does he believe his lie yet? Oh, probably not; he has no further use for it. It was but a passing incident; he spared to it the moment that was its due, then hastened back to the serious business of his life.

1Jan, 11, '06.--I can't remember his name. It began with K, I think. He was one of the American revisers of the New Testament, and was nearly as great a scholar as Hammond Trumbull.

And what a paltry poor lie is that one which teaches that independence of action and opinion is prized in men, admired, honored, rewarded. When a man leaves a political party, he is treated as if the party owned him--as if he were its bond slave, as most party men plainly are--and had stolen himself, gone off with what was not his own. And he is traduced, derided, despised, held up to public obloquy and loathing. His character is remorselessly assassinated; no means, however vile, are spared to injure his property and his business.

The preacher who casts a vote for conscience' sake runs the risk of starving. And is rightly served, for he has been teaching a falsity--that men respect and honor independence of thought and action.

Mr. Beecher may be charged with a crime, and his whole following will rise as one man, and stand by him to the bitter end; but who so poor to be his friend when he is charged with casting a vote for conscience' sake? Take the editor so charged--take--take anybody.

All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man's heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men's lips. Intolerance is everything for oneself, and nothing for the other person. The mainspring of man's nature is just that--selfishness. Let us skip the other lies, for brevity's sake. To consider them would prove nothing, except that man is what he is--loving toward his own, lovable to his own--his family, his friends--and otherwise the buzzing, busy, trivial enemy of his race--who tarries his little day, does his little dirt, commends himself to God, and then goes out into the darkness, to return no more, and send no messages back--selfish even in death.

New York, Wednesday, January 24, 1906

Tells of the defeat of Mr. Blaine for the Presidency, and how Mr. Clemens's, Mr. Twichell's, and Mr. Goodwin's votes were cast for Cleveland.

It is plain, I think, that this old article was written about twenty-two years ago, and that it followed by about three or four months the defeat of James G. Blaine for the Presidency and the election of Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate--a temporary relief from a Republican-party domination which had lasted a generation. I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than for Democrats, but I was never a Republican and never a Democrat. In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself. As early as 1865 or '66 I had had this curious experience: that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican. This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of to-day, and therefore grandfather of Yellow Journalism--that calamity of calamities.

Hearst was a Missourian; I was a Missourian. He was a long, lean, practical, common-sense, uneducated man of fifty or thereabouts. I was shorter and better informed--at least I thought so. One day, in the Lick House in San Francisco, he said:

"I am a Republican; I expect to remain a Republican always. It is my purpose, and I am not a changeable person. But look at the condition of things. The Republican party goes right along, from year to year, scoring triumph after triumph, until it has come to think that the political power of the United States is its property and that it is a sort of insolence for any other party to aspire to any part of that power. Nothing can be worse for a country than this. To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals. The parties ought to be so nearly equal in strength as to make it necessary for the leaders on both sides to choose the very best men they can find. Democratic fathers ought to divide up their sons between the two parties if they can, and do their best in this way to equalize the powers. I have only one son. He is a little boy, but I am already instructing him, persuading him, preparing him, to vote against me when he comes of age, let me be on whichever side I may. He is already a good Democrat, and I want him to remain a good Democrat--until I become a Democrat myself. Then I shall shift him to the other party, if I can."

It seemed to me that this unlettered man was at least a wise one. And I have never voted a straight ticket from that day to this. I have never belonged to any party from that day to this. I have never belonged to any church from that day to this. I have remained absolutely free in those matters. And in this independence I have found a spiritual comfort and a peace of mind quite above price.

When Blaine came to be talked of by the Republican leaders as their probable candidate for the Presidency, the Republicans of Hartford were very sorry, and they thought they foresaw his defeat, in case he should be nominated. But they stood in no great fear of his nomination. The convention met in Chicago and the balloting began. In my house we were playing billiards. Sam Dunham was present; also F. G. Whitmore, Henry C. Robinson, Charles E. Perkins, and Edward M. Bunce. We took turns in the game, and, meanwhile, discussed the political situation. George, the colored butler, was down in the kitchen on guard at the telephone. As fast as a ballot was received at the political headquarters downtown, it was telephoned out to the house, and George reported it to us through the speaking-tube. Nobody present was seriously expecting the nomination of Mr. Blaine. All these men were Republicans, but they had no affection for Blaine. For two years the Hartford Courant had been holding Blaine up to scorn and contumely. It had been denouncing him daily. It had been mercilessly criticizing his political conduct and backing up the criticisms with the deadly facts. Up to that time the Courant had been a paper which could be depended on to speak its sincere mind about the prominent men of both parties, and its judgments could be depended upon as being well and candidly considered, and sound. It had been my custom to pin my faith to the Courant and accept its verdicts at par.

The billiard game and the discussion went on and on, and by and by, about mid-afternoon, George furnished us a paralyzing surprise through the speaking-tube. Mr. Blaine was the nominee! The butts of the billiard cues came down on the floor with a bump, and for a while the players were dumb. They could think of nothing to say. Then Henry Robinson broke the silence. He said, sorrowfully, that it was hard luck to have to vote for that man. I said:

"But we don't have to vote for him."

Robinson said, "Do you mean to say that you are not going to vote for him?"

"Yes," I said, "that is what I mean to say. I am not going to vote for him."

The others began to find their voices. They sang the same note. They said that when a party's representatives choose a man, that ends it. If they choose unwisely it is a misfortune, but no loyal member of the party has any right to withhold his vote. He has a plain duty before him and he can't shirk it. He must vote for that nominee.

I said that no party held the privilege of dictating to me how I should vote. That if party loyalty was a form of patriotism, I was no patriot, and that I didn't think I was much of a patriot, anyway, for oftener than otherwise what the general body of Americans regarded as the patriotic course was not in accordance with my views; that if there was any valuable difference between being an American and a monarchist it lay in the theory that the American could decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn't; whereas the king could dictate the monarchist's patriotism for him--a decision which was final and must be accepted by the victim; that in my belief I was the only person in the sixty millions--with Congress and the Administration back of the sixty millions--who was privileged to construct my patriotism for me.

They said, "Suppose the country is entering upon a war--where do you stand then? Do you arrogate to yourself the privilege of going your own way in the matter, in the face of the nation?"

"Yes," I said, "that is my position. If I thought it an unrighteous war I would say so. If I were invited to shoulder a musket in that cause and march under that flag, I should decline. I would not voluntarily march under this country's flag, or any other, when it was my private judgment that the country was in the wrong. If the country obliged me to shoulder the musket, I could not help myself, but I would never volunteer. To volunteer would be the act of a traitor to myself, and consequently traitor to my country. If I refused to volunteer, I should be called a traitor, I am well aware of that--but that would not make me a traitor. The unanimous vote of the sixty millions could not make me a traitor. I should still be a patriot, and, in my opinion, the only one in the whole country."

There was a good deal of talk, but I made no converts. They were all candid enough to say that they did not want to vote for Mr. Blaine, but they all said they would do it, nevertheless. Then Henry Robinson said:

"It is a good while yet before election. There is time for you to come around, and you will come around. The influences about you will be too strong for you. On election day you will vote for Blaine."

I said I should not go to the polls at all.

The Courant had an uncomfortable time thence until midnight. General Hawley, the editor-in-chief (and he was also commander-in-chief of the paper), was at his post in Congress, and the telegraphing to and fro between the Courant and him went on diligently until midnight. For two years the Courant had been making a "tar baby" of Mr. Blaine, and adding tar every day--and now it was called upon to praise him, hurrah for him, and urge its well-instructed clientele to elevate the "tar baby" to the Chief Magistracy of the nation. It was a difficult position and it took the Courant people and General Hawley nine hours to swallow the bitter pill. But at last General Hawley reached a decision and at midnight the pill was swallowed. Within a fortnight the Courant had acquired some facility in praising where it had so long censured; within another month the change in its character was become complete--and to this day it has never recovered its virtue entirely, though under Charles Hopkins Clark's editorship it has gotten back 90 per cent of it, by my estimate.

Charles Dudley Warner was the active editor of the time. He could not stomach the new conditions. He found himself unable to turn his pen in the other direction and make it proceed backward, therefore he decided to retire his pen altogether. He withdrew from the editorship, resigned his salary, lived thenceforth upon his income as a part proprietor of the paper and upon the proceeds of magazine work and lecturing, and kept his vote in his pocket on election day.

The conversation with the learned American member of the board of scholars which revised the New Testament did occur as I have outlined it in that old article. He was vehement in his denunciation of Blaine, his relative, and said he should never vote for him. But he was so used to revising New Testaments that it took him only a few days to revise this one. I had hardly finished with him when I came across James G. Batterson. Batterson was president of the great Travelers' Insurance Company. He was a fine man, a strong man, and a valuable citizen. He was fully as vehement as that clergyman had been in his denunciations of Blaine--but inside of two weeks he was presiding at a great Republican ratification meeting; and to hear him talk about Blaine and his perfections, a stranger would have supposed that the Republican party had had the good fortune to secure an archangel as its nominee.

Time went on. Election day was close at hand. Late one frosty night, Twichell, the Rev. Francis Goodwin, and I were tramping homeward through the deserted streets in the face of a wintry gale, after a séance of our Monday Evening Club, and after a supper-table debate over the political situation, in which the fact had come out--to the astonishment and indignation of everybody, the ladies included--that three traitors were present. That Goodwin, Twichell, and I were going to keep our votes in our pockets instead of casting them for the archangel. Along in that homeward tramp, somewhere, Goodwin had a happy idea, and brought it out. He said:

"Why are we keeping back these three votes from Blaine? Plainly the answer is, to do what we can to defeat Blaine. Very well, then, these are three votes against Blaine. The common-sense procedure would be to cast six votes against him by turning in our three votes for Cleveland."

Even Twichell and I could see that there was sense in that, and we said:

"That is a very good thing to do and we'll do it."

On election day we went to the polls and consummated our hellish design. At that time the voting was public. Any spectator could see how a man was voting--and straightway this crime was known to the whole community. This double crime--in the eyes of the community. To withhold a vote from Blaine was bad enough, but to add to that iniquity by actually voting for the Democratic candidate was criminal to a degree for which there was no adequate language discoverable in the dictionary.

From that day forth, for a good while to come, Twichell's life was a good deal of a burden to him. To use a common expression, his congregation "soured" on him and he found small pleasure in the exercise of his clerical office--unless, perhaps, he got some healing for his hurts, now and then, through the privilege of burying some of those people of his. It would have been a benevolence to bury the whole of them, I think, and a profit to the community. But if that was Twichell's feeling about it, he was too charitable in his nature and too kindly to expose it. He never said it to me, and I think that if he would have said it to anyone, I should have been the one.

Twichell had most seriously damaged himself with his congregation. He had a young family to support. It was a large family already, and it was growing. It was becoming a heavier and heavier burden every year--but his salary remained always the same. It became less and less competent to keep up with the domestic drain upon it, and if there had ever been any prospect of increasing this salary, that prospect was gone now. It was not much of a salary. It was four thousand dollars. He had not asked for more, and it had not occurred to the congregation to offer it. Therefore his vote for Cleveland was a distinct disaster to him. That exercise of his ostensible great American privilege of being free and independent in his political opinions and actions proved a heavy calamity. But the Rev. Francis Goodwin continued to be respected as before--that is, publicly; privately he was damned. But publicly he had suffered no harm. Perhaps it was because the public approval was not a necessity in his case. His father was worth seven millions, and was old. The Rev. Francis was in the line of promotion and would soon inherit.

As far as I was myself concerned, I did not need to worry. I did not draw my living from Hartford. It was quite sufficient for my needs. Hartford's opinion of me could not affect it, and besides it had long been known among my friends that I had never voted a straight ticket, and was therefore so accustomed to crime that it was unlikely that disapproval of my conduct could reform me--and maybe I wasn't worth the trouble, anyway.

By and by, about a couple of months later, New-Year's Eve arrived, and with it the annual meeting of Joe's congregation and the annual sale of the pews.

New York, Thursday, February 1, 1906

Subject of January 24th continued.--Mr. Twichell's unpopular vote.

Joe was not quite present. It was not etiquette for him to be within hearing of the business talks concerning the church's affairs. He remained in the seclusion of the church parlor, ready to be consulted if that should be necessary. The congregation was present in full force; every seat was occupied. The moment the house was called to order, a member sprang to his feet and moved that the connection between Twichell and the church be dissolved. The motion was promptly seconded. Here, and there, and yonder, all over the house, there were calls of, "Question! Question!" But Mr. Hubbard, a middle-aged man, a wise and calm and collected man, business manager and part owner of the Courant, rose in his place and proposed to discuss the motion before rushing it to a vote. The substance of his remarks was this (which I must put in my own language, of course, as I was not there):

"Mr. Twichell was the first pastor you have ever had. You have never wanted another until two months ago. You have had no fault to find with his ministrations as your pastor, but he has suddenly become unfit to continue them because he is unorthodox in his politics, according to your views. Very well, he was fit; he has become unfit. He was valuable; his value has passed away, apparently--but only apparently. His highest value remains--if I know this congregation. When he assumed this pastorate this region was an outlying district, thinly inhabited, its real estate worth next to nothing. Mr. Twichell's personality was a magnet which immediately began to draw population in this direction. It has continued to draw it from that day to this. As a result, your real estate, almost valueless in the beginning, ranges now at very high prices. Reflect before you vote upon this resolution. The church in West Hartford is waiting upon this vote with deep solicitude. That congregation's real estate stands at a low figure. What they are anxious to have now above everything else under God, is a price-raiser. Dismiss Mr. Twichell tonight, and they will hire him to-morrow. Prices there will go up; prices here will go down. That is all. I move the vote."

Twichell was not dismissed. That was twenty-two years ago. It was Twichell's first pulpit after his consecration to his vocation. He occupies it yet, and has never had another. The fortieth anniversary of his accession to it was celebrated by that congregation and its descendants a couple of weeks ago, and there was great enthusiasm. Twichell has never made any political mistakes since. His persistency in voting right has been an exasperation to me these many years and has been the cause and inspiration of more than one vicious letter from me to him. But the viciousness was all a pretense. I have never found any real fault with him for voting his infernal Republican ticket, for the reason that, situated as he was, with a large family to support, his first duty was not to his political conscience, but to his family conscience. A sacrifice had to be made; a duty had to be performed. His very first duty was to his family, not to his political conscience. He sacrificed his political independence, and saved his family by it. In the circumstances, this was the highest loyalty, and the best. If he had been a Henry Ward Beecher it would not have been his privilege to sacrifice his political conscience, because in case of dismissal a thousand pulpits would have been open to him, and his family's bread secure. In Twichell's case, there would have been some risk--in fact, a good deal of risk. That he, or any other expert, could have raised the prices of real estate in West Hartford is, to my mind, exceedingly doubtful. I think Mr. Hubbard worked his imagination to the straining point when he got up that scare that night. I believe it was safest for Twichell to remain where he was if he could. He saved his family, and that was his first duty, in my opinion.

In this country there are perhaps eighty thousand preachers. Not more than twenty of them are politically independent--the rest cannot be politically independent. They must vote the ticket of their congregations. They do it, and are justified. They themselves are mainly the reason why they have no political independence, for they do not preach political independence from their pulpits. They have their large share in the fact that the people of this nation have no political independence.

New York, February 1, 1906

To-morrow will be the thirty-sixth anniversary of our marriage. My wife passed from this life one year and eight months ago, in Florence, Italy, after an unbroken illness of twenty-two months' duration.

I saw her first in the form of an ivory miniature in her brother Charley's stateroom in the steamer Quaker City in the Bay of Smyrna, in the summer of 1867, when she was in her twenty-second year. I saw her in the flesh for the first time in New York in the following December. She was slender and beautiful and girlish--and she was both girl and woman. She remained both girl and woman to the last day of her life. Under a grave and gentle exterior burned inextinguishable fires of sympathy, energy, devotion, enthusiasm, and absolutely limitless affection. She was always frail in body, and she lived upon her spirit, whose hopefulness and courage were indestructible. Perfect truth, perfect honesty, perfect candor, were qualities of her character which were born with her. Her judgments of people and things were sure and accurate. Her intuitions almost never deceived her. In her judgments of the characters and acts of both friends and strangers there was always room for charity, and this charity never failed. I have compared and contrasted her with hundreds of persons, and my conviction remains that hers was the most perfect character I have ever met. And I may add that she was the most winningly dignified person I have ever known. Her character and disposition were of the sort that not only invite worship, but command it. No servant ever left her service who deserved to remain in it. And as she could choose with a glance of her eye, the servants she selected did in almost all cases deserve to remain, and they did remain. She was always cheerful; and she was always able to communicate her cheerfulness to others. During the nine years that we spent in poverty and debt she was always able to reason me out of my despairs and find a bright side to the clouds and make me see it. In all that time I never knew her to utter a word of regret concerning our altered circumstances, nor did I ever know her children to do the like. For she had taught them, and they drew their fortitude from her. The love which she bestowed upon those whom she loved took the form of worship, and in that form it was returned--returned by relatives, friends, and the servants of her household. It was a strange combination which wrought into one individual, so to speak by marriage--her disposition and character and mine. She poured out her prodigal affections in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me. I was born reserved as to endearments of speech, and caresses, and hers broke upon me as the summer waves break upon Gibraltar. I was reared in that atmosphere of reserve. As I have already said, I never knew a member of my father's family to kiss another member of it except once, and that at a deathbed. And our village was not a kissing community. The kissing and caressing ended with courtship--along with the deadly piano-playing of that day.

She had the heart-free laugh of a girl. It came seldom, but when it broke upon the ear it was as inspiring as music. I heard it for the last time when she had been occupying her sick bed for more than a year, and I made a written note of it at the time--a note not to be repeated.

To-morrow will be the thirty-sixth anniversary. We were married in her father's house in Elmira, New York, and went next day, by special train, to Buffalo, along with the whole Langdon family, and with the Beechers and the Twichells, who had solemnized the marriage. We were to live in Buffalo, where I was to be one of the editors of the Buffalo Express and a part owner of the paper. I knew nothing about Buffalo, but I had made my household arrangements there through a friend, by letter. I had instructed him to find a boarding-house of as respectable a character as my light salary as editor would command. We were received at about nine o'clock at the station in Buffalo and were put into several sleighs and driven all over America, as it seemed to me--for apparently we turned all the corners in the town and followed all the streets there were--I scolding freely and characterizing that friend of mine in very uncomplimentary ways for securing a boarding-house that apparently had no definite locality. But there was a conspiracy--and my bride knew of it, but I was in ignorance. Her father, Jervis Langdon, had bought and furnished a new house for us in the fashionable street, Delaware Avenue, and had laid in a cook and housemaids and a brisk and electric young coachman, an Irishman, Patrick McAleer--and we were being driven all over that city in order that one sleighful of these people could have time to go to the house and see that the gas was lighted all over it, and a hot supper prepared for the crowd. We arrived at last, and when I entered that fairy place my indignation reached high-water mark, and without any reserve I delivered my opinion to that friend of mine for being so stupid as to put us into a boarding-house whose terms would be far out of my reach. Then Mr. Langdon brought forward a very pretty box and opened it and took from it a deed of the house. So the comedy ended very pleasantly and we sat down to supper.

The company departed about midnight, and left us alone in our new quarters. Then Ellen, the cook, came in to get orders for the morning's marketing--and neither of us knew whether beefsteak was sold by the barrel or by the yard. We exposed our ignorance, and Ellen was full of Irish delight over it. Patrick McAleer, that brisk young Irishman, came in to get his orders for next day--and that was our first glimpse of him.

Thirty-six years have gone by. And this letter from Twichell comes this morning, from Hartford:

HARTFORD, January 31.


I am sorry to say that the news about Patrick is very bad. I saw him Monday. He looked pretty well and was in cheerful spirits. He told me that he was fast recovering from an operation performed on him last week Wednesday, and would soon be out again. But a nurse who followed me from the room when I left told me that the poor fellow was deceived. The operation had simply disclosed the fact that nothing could be done for him.

Yesterday I asked the surgeon (Johnson, living opposite us) if that were so. He said "Yes," that the trouble was cancer of the liver and that there was no help for it in surgery; the case was quite hopeless; the end was not many weeks off. A pitiful case, indeed!

Poor Patrick! His face brightened when he saw me. He told me, the first thing, that he had just heard from Jean. His wife and son were with him. Whether they suspect the truth I don't know. I doubt if the wife does; but the son looked very sober. Maybe he only has been told.

Yrs. aff.,


Jean had kept watch of Patrick's case by correspondence with Patrick's daughter Nancy, and so we already knew that it was hopeless. In fact, the end seems to be nearer than Twichell suspects. Last night I sent Twichell word that I knew Patrick had only a day or two to live, and he must not forget to provide a memorial wreath and pin a card to it with my name and Clara's and Jean's signed to it, worded, "In loving remembrance of Patrick McAleer, faithful and valued friend of our family for thirty-six years."

I wanted to say that he had served us thirty-six years, but some people would not have understood that. He served us constantly for twenty-one years. Then came that break when we spent nine or ten years in Europe. But if Patrick himself could see his funeral wreath--then I should certainly say, in so many words, that he served us thirty-six years. For last summer, when we were located in the New Hampshire hills, at Dublin, we had Patrick with us. Jean had gone to Hartford the 1st of May and secured his services for the summer. Necessarily, a part of our household was Katy Leary, who has been on our roster for twenty-six years, and one day Jean overheard Katy and Patrick disputing about this length of service. Katy said she had served the family longer than Patrick had. Patrick said it was nothing of the kind; that he had already served the family ten years when Katy came, and that he had now served it thirty-six years.

He was just as brisk there in the New Hampshire hills as he was thirty-six years ago. He was sixty-four years old, but was just as slender and trim and handsome, and just as alert and springy on his feet, as he was in those long-vanished days of his youth. He was the most perfect man in his office that I have ever known, for this reason: that he never neglected any detail, howsoever slight, of his duties, and there was never any occasion to give him an order about anything. He conducted his affairs without anybody's help. There was always plenty of feed for the horses; the horses were always shod when they needed to be shod; the carriages and sleighs were always attended to; he kept everything in perfect order. It was a great satisfaction to have such a man around. I was not capable of telling anybody what to do about anything. He was my particular servant, and I didn't need to tell him anything at all. He was just the same in the New Hampshire hills. I never gave him an order while he was there, the whole five months; and there was never anything lacking that belonged in his jurisdiction.

When we had been married a year or two Patrick took a wife, and they lived in a house which we built and added to the stable. They reared eight children. They lost one, two or three years ago--a thriving young man, assistant editor of a Hartford daily paper, I think. The children were all educated in the public schools and in the high school. They are all men and women now, of course. . . .

Our first child, Langdon Clemens, was born the 7th of November, 1870, and lived twenty-two months. Susy was born the 19th of March, 1872, and passed from life in the Hartford home, the 18th of August, 1896. With her, when the end came, were Jean, and Katy Leary, and John and Ellen (the gardener and his wife). Clara and her mother and I arrived in England from around the world on the 31st of July, and took a house in Guildford. A week later, when Susy, Katy, and Jean should have been arriving from America, we got a letter instead.

New York, Friday, February 2, 1906

Subject of February first continued.--The death of Susy Clemens. Ends with mention of Dr. John Brown.

It explained that Susy was slightly ill--nothing of consequence. But we were disquieted and began to cable for later news. This was Friday. All day no answer--and the ship to leave Southampton next day, at noon. Clara and her mother began packing, to be ready in case the news should be bad. Finally came a cablegram saying, "Wait for cablegram in the morning." This was not satisfactory--not reassuring. I cabled again, asking that the answer be sent to Southampton, for the day was now closing. I waited in the post-office that night till the doors were closed, toward midnight, in the hope that good news might still come, but there was no message. We sat silent at home till one in the morning, waiting--waiting for we knew not what. Then we took the earliest morning train, and when we reached Southampton the message was there. It said the recovery would be long, but certain. This was a great relief to me, but not to my wife. She was frightened. She and Clara went aboard the steamer at once and sailed for America, to nurse Susy. I remained behind to search for another and larger house in Guildford.

That was the 15th of August, 1896. Three days later, when my wife and Clara were about halfway across the ocean, I was standing in our dining-room, thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram was put into my hand. It said, "Susy was peacefully released to-day."

It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss--that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss. A man's house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts about for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential--there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered, by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster.