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  • Twenty-three Newly Recovered Mark Twain Letters
  • Leslie Diane Myrick

Twenty-three letters newly recovered from newspaper databases and auction sites, primarily by Mark Twain, as well as one addressed to him and another sent to his Australian lecture agent concerning him, are presented here in chronological order.

1. Facsimile, San Rafael Auction Gallery, 2 February 2019, lot 51

Journalist William L. Alden,1 who left the editorial department of the New York Times briefly in January 1881 to conduct the "Editor's Drawer" of Harper's Monthly, wrote two letters in short succession, on 3 and 9 November 1881, pressing Twain for a submission. His response humorously targets the Drawer's reputation for facetiae and his relationship with his new publisher, James R. Osgood.

Hartford, Nov. 11/81.

Dear Mr. Alden—

Look here, it really looks to me like a piece of dam sacrilege, this project of yours to "insert humor into the Drawer,"2 & I think it will be resented by a public who have for thirty years been able to put their trust in it for sinless Sunday reading. But that is your affair; on your head be it. As for me, I have no scruples of any sort; I take to sacrilege as easily as I take to whisky; & when the latter is cold, & sugar short, I even prefer the former; therefore it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me, if Osgood should launch me into this unholy business.3 But it is exactly as I said: he is my fully-empowered bawd-bureau, & makes all my miscellaneous literary assignations for me—albeit they are few, for I have a lingering leaning toward continence yet.

Truly Yours

S. L. Clemens [End Page 41]

2. Facsimile, San Rafael Auction Gallery, 2 February 2019, lot 52

Clemens wrote Alden in March 1885 about a gratuitous attack on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that appeared in an item entitled "Gen. Grant, Mark Twain and the Century" in the Springfield Republican on 9 March.4 He describes a letter he has recently received from Alden as a charm or balm that he applied to that place where the Republican "gave a stab." He is most likely referring to Alden's letter dated 28 February where he reported that he had read the excerpts of the novel in the Century and "enjoyed them more than I ever enjoyed any magazine articles anywhere."5

Hartford Mch 9/85

Dear Mr. Alden—

I celebrated my retirement from the platform by coming home last Thursday & going to bed blaspheming with the first cold in the head I had had in five months; recovered, to-day at last, & began to overhaul a great accumulation of mail matter, & have at this moment come across your most welcome note—& just in time to lay it on the place where this morning's Springfield Republican gave Huckleberry Finn a gratuitous stab—just in time; & that stab is healed, & does not hurt any more. I should have been grateful for your praises at any time; this time, naturally enough, I was particularly so; & so I thank you again.

Sincerely Yours,

S. L. Clemens

3. "News of the Day," Melbourne Age, 6 August 1885, 5

In March 1885 an Australian politician, John L. Dow,6 who was in the United States on a thirteen-week tour under the auspices of the Royal Commission on Water Supply Irrigation in Western America, visited Clemens in Hartford. Dow took a detour from New York expressly to interview Twain about rumors that the humorist might soon visit Australia. Twain sent the following reply upon receipt of a copy of the article, entitled "Mark Twain at Home."

Hartford, 22nd June, 1885.—Jno. L. Dow, Esq.—My dear Sir,—I received it, and desire to thank you for the courtesy, and also for the pleasant things you said. My hoped-for trip to Australia is postponed—by business or providence, or both—but not permanently, I trust.—Very truly yours, S. L. Clemens.

4. "Mark Twain Set Right," New York Tribune, 11 October 1887, 5

In October 1887 Edmund H. Yates, who conducted a gossip column for the London World society weekly under the alias...


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