By and by I hired a young woman, and did my first dictating (letters, merely), and my last until now. The machine did not do both capitals and lower case (as now), but only capitals. Gothic capitals they were, and sufficiently ugly. I remember the first letter I dictated. it was to Edward Bok, who was a boy then. I was not acquainted with him at that time. His present enterprising spirit is not new —he had it in that early day. He was accumulating autographs, and was not content with mere signatures, he wanted a whole autograph letter. I furnished it—in type-written capitals, signature and all. It was long; it was a sermon; it contained advice; also reproaches. I said writing was my trade, my bread-and-butter; I said it was not fair to ask a man to give away samples of his trade; would he ask the blacksmith for a horseshoe? would he ask the doctor for a corpse?
Now I come to an important matter—as I regard it. In the year ’74 the young woman copied a considerable part of a book of mine on the machine. In a previous chapter of this Autobiography I have claimed that I was the first person in the world that ever had a telephone in the house for practical purposes; I will now claim —until dispossess—that I was the first person in the world to apply the type-machine to literature. That book must have been the adventures of Tom Sawyer. I wrote the first half of it in ’72, the rest of it in ’74. My machinist type-copied a book for me in ’74, so I concluded it was that one.
That early machine was full of caprices, full of defects—devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells. He was reluctant, for he was suspicious of novelties and unfriendly toward them, and he remains so to this day. But I persuaded him. He had great confidence in me, and I got him to believe things about the machine that I did not believe myself. He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered.
He kept it six months, and then returned it to me. I gave it away twice after that, but it wouldn’t stay; it came back. Then I gave it to our coachman, Patrick McAleer, who was very grateful, because he did not know the animal, and thought I was trying to make him wiser and better. As soon as he got wiser and better he traded it to a heretic for a side-saddle which he could not use, and there my knowledge of its history ends.