If your literature has not struck perfection now we are not able to see what is lacking. It is all such truth—truth to the life; everywhere your pen falls it leaves a photograph . . . . Possibly you will not be a fully accepted classic until you have been dead one hundred years —it is the fate of the Shakespeares of all genuine professions—but then your books will be as common as Bibles, I believe. In that day I shall be in the encyclopedias too, thus: “Mark Twain, history and occupation unknown; but he was personally acquainted with Howells.”
Though in humorous form, this was a sincere tribute. Clemens always regarded with awe William Dean Howells’s ability to dissect and photograph with such delicacy the minutiae of human nature; just as Howells always stood in awe of Mark Twain’s ability to light, with a single flashing sentence, the whole human horizon.
PARIS, ENGLAND, AND HOMEWARD BOUND
They decided to spend the spring months in Paris, so they gave up their pleasant quarters with Fraulein Dahlweiner, and journeyed across Europe, arriving at the French capital February 28, 1879. Here they met another discouraging prospect, for the weather was cold and damp, the cabmen seemed brutally ill-mannered, their first hotel was chilly, dingy, uninviting. Clemens, in his note-book, set down his impressions of their rooms. A paragraph will serve:
Ten squatty, ugly arm-chairs, upholstered in the ugliest and coarsest conceivable scarlet plush; two hideous sofas of the same —uncounted armless chairs ditto. Five ornamental chairs, seats covered with a coarse rag, embroidered in flat expanse with a confusion of leaves such as no tree ever bore, six or seven a dirty white and the rest a faded red. How those hideous chairs do swear at the hideous sofa near them! This is the very hatefulest room I have seen in Europe.
Oh, how cold and raw and unwarmable it is!
It was better than that when the sun came out, and they found happier quarters presently at the Hotel Normandy, rue de l’Echelle.
But, alas, the sun did not come out often enough. It was one of those French springs and summers when it rains nearly every day, and is distressingly foggy and chill between times. Clemens received a bad impression of France and the French during that Parisian-sojourn, from which he never entirely recovered. In his note-book he wrote: “France has neither winter, nor summer, nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.”
The weather may not have been entirely accountable for his prejudice, but from whatever cause Mark Twain, to the day of his death, had no great love for the French as a nation. Conversely, the French as a nation did not care greatly for Mark Twain. There were many individual Frenchmen that Mark Twain admired, as there were many Frenchmen who admired the work and personality of Mark Twain; but on neither side was there the warm, fond, general affection which elsewhere throughout Europe he invited and returned.