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.

Mrs. Clemens and Miss Spaulding called next day, and were equally carried away with Karl Gerhardt, his young wife, and his effort to win his way in art.  Clemens and Warner made up their minds to interest themselves personally in the matter, and finally persuaded the painter J. Wells Champney to come over from New York and go with them to the Gerhardts’ humble habitation, to see his work.  Champney approved of it.  He thought it well worth while, he said, for the people of Hartford to go to the expense of Gerhardt’s art education.  He added that it would be better to get the judgment of a sculptor.  So they brought over John Quincy Adams Ward, who, like all the others, came away bewitched with these young people and their struggles for the sake of art.  Ward said: 

“If any stranger had told me that this ’prentice did not model that thing from plaster-casts I should not have believed it.  It’s full of crudities, but it’s full of genius, too.  Hartford must send him to Paris for two years; then, if the promise holds good, keep him there three more.”

When he was gone Mrs. Clemens said: 

“Youth, we won’t wait for Hartford to do it.  It would take too long.  Let us send the Gerhardts to Paris ourselves, and say nothing about it to any one else.”

So the Gerhardts, provided with funds and an arrangement that would enable them to live for five years in Paris if necessary, were started across the sea without further delay.

Clemens and his wife were often doing something of this sort.  There was seldom a time that they were not paying the way of some young man or woman through college, or providing means and opportunity for development in some special field of industry.



Mark Twain’s literary work languished during this period.  He had a world of plans, as usual, and wrote plentifully, but without direction or conclusion.  “A Curious Experience,” which relates a circumstance told to him by an army officer, is about the most notable of the few completed manuscripts of this period.

Of the books projected (there were several), a burlesque manual of etiquette would seem to have been the most promising.  Howells had faith in it, and of the still remaining fragments a few seem worth quoting: 

At billiards

If your ball glides along in the intense and immediate vicinity of the object-ball, and a count seems exquisitely imminent, lift one leg; then one shoulder; then squirm your body around in sympathy with the direction of the moving ball; and at the instant when the ball seems on the point of colliding throw up both of your arms violently.  Your cue will probably break a chandelier, but no matter; you have done what you could to help the count.

At the dog-fight

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