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A C o d a t o t h e T w a in -H a r t e F e u d G a r y S c h a r n h o r s t “Many thanks for your kindly concern, my dear fellow, but not­ withstanding all these delays in the process the result was all right” (Selected Letters 67). So wrote Bret Harte to Samuel Clemens in midJune 1872. Clemens had written to congratulate his friend Harte on the birth of his daughter Jessamy two weeks before, though Harte would later destroy this letter. Clemens and Harte had only recently recon­ ciled after both of them had left California to settle in the East. Fast friends when they first met in San Francisco in 1864, they had parted ways in 1869 when Harte had had to buy a copy of The Innocents Abroad, the book he helped Clemens edit from his mass of dispatches from Europe, to review in the Overland Monthly. As Clemens allowed later, Harte “trimmed and trained and schooled me patiently until he changed me from an awkward utterer of coarse grotesquenesses to a writer of para­ graphs and chapters that have found a certain favor” (Mark Twain's Letters 1:182-83). A t the time, however, Harte believed his contribu­ tions to the book were un(der) appreciated. Five years after the birth of Jessamy, they fell out again after writing the play Ah Sin, the most disastrous collaboration in the history of American letters. Harte had asked Clemens for a loan and had been refused. They never spoke after 1877, though each of them took occa­ sional verbal shots at the other for the rest of his life (Duckett passim; Scham horst “The Bret Harte-M ark Twain Feud”; Schamhorst, Bret Harte 199-201).1 In June 1878, Harte assumed a diplomatic post in Germany. Clemens had gotten wind of his appointment, and in a letter to W. D. Howells, Clemens fumed that “Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, a Jeremy Diddler, he is brim full of treachery.” Furthermore, he demanded to know “what German town he is to filthify with his presence” so that he could warn the authorities (Mark Twain— Howells Letters 1:139). Unfortunately, their feud did not end with Harte’s death a quarter-century later. Clemens’s hatred for Harte was rekindled as late as 1907, when he refused to come to the aid of Harte’s destitute daughter Jessamy. This brief account of those events forms a coda to the otherwise well-chronicled Mark Twain-Bret Harte feud. Jessamy Harte was in many respects a tragic figure. Only six years old when her father left permanently for Europe, she would never see WAL 3 6 .1 S pr in g 2 0 0 1 him again. A n aspiring writer, she published an article titled “A Cam p in the Adirondacks” in the Ladies Home Journal in 1892, when she was only twenty. Also an aspiring artist, she studied with the painter George W harton Edwards in 1893, and she exhibited some of her sketches at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago the same year. She soon earned a modest living as an illustrator for magazines (“Bret Harte”). However, her father refused to pay for more formal art training for her. ‘“ IfJessamy can already turn her talent to profit in Am erica,’” he asked his wife, Anna, “‘why should she come to Paris, where she cannot earn a penny’ and ‘where it will cost her more than either you or I can afford to teach her to do something else in Art?’” (qtd. in Schamhorst, Bret Harte 215). By all accounts Jessamy Harte was a great beauty, “tall and graceful,” with dark curls, blue eyes, “an exquisitely molded figure,” and a “remark­ ably fine carriage” (“Bret Harte”; “Harte’s Daughter”). Her father figured she did not need a career because she would marry. And marry she did, in early 1898. Her husband, Henry Mitfold Steele, was a midwestem indus­ trialist, owner of a coal mine in Colorado, and later president of an irrigation company...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 81-87
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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