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

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 251 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography Volume II, Part 1.
Derby (John Phoenix) at West Point very well.  He said that Derby was always drawing caricatures of the professors and playing jokes on every body.  He told a thing which I had heard before but had never seen in print.  A professor questioning a class concerning certain particulars of a possible siege said, ’Suppose a thousand men are besieging a fortress whose equipment of provisions is so-and-so; it is a military axiom that at the end of forty-five days the fort will surrender.  Now, young men, if any of you were in command of such a fortress, how would you proceed?’

“Derby held up his hand in token that he had an answer for that question.  He said, ’I would march out, let the enemy in, and at the end of forty-five days I would change places with him.’

“I tried hard, during that interview, to get General Grant to agree to write his personal memoirs for publication, but he wouldn’t listen to the suggestion.  His inborn diffidence made him shrink from voluntarily coming before the public and placing himself under criticism as an author.  He had no confidence in his ability to write well; whereas we all know now that he possessed an admirable literary gift and style.  He was also sure that the book would have no sale, and of course that would be a humility too.  I argued that the book would have an enormous sale, and that out of my experience I could save him from making unwise contracts with publishers, and would have the contract arranged in such a way that they could not swindle him, but he said he had no necessity for any addition to his income.  Of course he could not foresee that he was camping on a volcano; that as Ward’s partner he was a ruined man even then, and of course I had no suspicion that in four years from that time I would become his publisher.  He would not agree to write his memoirs.  He only said that some day he would make very full notes and leave them behind him, and then if his children chose to make them into a book they could do so.  We came away then.  He fulfilled his promise entirely concerning Howells’s father, who held his office until he resigned of his own accord.”

CXXXVI

The prince and the pauper

During the summer absence alterations were made in the Hartford home, with extensive decorations by Tiffany.  The work was not completed when the family returned.  Clemens wrote to Charles Warren Stoddard, then in the Sandwich Islands, that the place was full of carpenters and decorators, whereas what they really needed was “an incendiary.”

If the house would only burn down we would pack up the cubs and fly to the isles of the blest, and shut ourselves up in the healing solitudes of the crater of Haleakala and get a good rest, for the mails do not intrude there, nor yet the telephone and the telegraph; and after resting we would come down the mountain a piece and board with a godly, breech-clouted native, and eat poi and dirt, and give thanks to whom all thanks belong for these privileges, and never housekeep any more.

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