Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 312 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1.

It was only a little later that Clemens himself wrote: 

You see I am trying a new pen.  I stood the stylograph as long as I could, and then retired to the pencil.  The thing I am trying now is that fountain-pen which is advertised to employ and accommodate itself to any kind of pen.  So I selected an ordinary gold pen—­a limber one—­and sent it to New York and had it cut and fitted to this thing.  It goes very well indeed—­thus far; but doubtless the devil will be in it by tomorrow.

Mark Twain’s schemes were not all in the line of human advancement; some of them were projected, primarily at least, for diversion.  He was likely at any moment to organize a club, a sort of private club, and at the time of which we are writing he proposed what was called the “Modest” Club.  He wrote to Howells, about it: 

At present I am the only member, and as the modesty required must be of a quite aggravated type the enterprise did seem for a time doomed to stop dead still with myself, for lack of further material; but on reflection I have come to the conclusion that you are eligible.  Therefore, I have held a meeting and voted to offer you the distinction of membership.  I do not know that we can find any others, though I have had some thought of Hay, Warner, Twichell, Aldrich, Osgood, Fields, Higginson, and a few more, together with Mrs. Howells, Mrs. Clemens, and certain others of the sex.  I have long felt there ought to be an organized gang of our kind.

He appends the by-laws, the main ones being: 

    The object of the club shall be to eat and talk.

    Qualification for membership shall be aggravated modesty,
    unobtrusiveness, native humility, learning, talent, intelligence,
    unassailable character.

    There shall be no officers except a president, and any member who
    has anything to eat and talk about may constitute himself president
    for the time being.

    Any brother or sister of the order finding a brother or a sister in
    imminently deadly peril shall forsake his own concerns, no matter at
    what cost, and call the police.

    Any member knowing anything scandalous about himself shall
    immediately inform the club, so that they shall call a meeting and
    have the first chance to talk about it.

It was one of his whimsical fancies, and Howells replied that he would like to join it, only that he was too modest—­that is, too modest to confess that he was modest enough for membership.

He added that he had sent a letter, with the rules, to Hay, but doubted his modesty.  He said: 

“He will think he has a right to belong as much as you or I.”

Howells agreed that his own name might be put down, but the idea seems never to have gone any further.  Perhaps the requirements of membership were too severe.


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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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