Somewhat of the inducement in the McClure scheme had been the thought in Clemens’s mind that it would bring him back to America. In a letter to Mr. Rogers (January 8, 1900) he said, “I am tired to death of this everlasting exile.” Mrs. Clemens often wrote that he was restlessly impatient to return. They were, in fact, constantly discussing the practicability of returning to their own country now and opening the Hartford home. Clemens was ready to do that or to fall in with any plan that would bring him across the water and settle him somewhere permanently. He was tired of the wandering life they had been leading. Besides the long trip of ’95 and ’96 they had moved two or three times a year regularly since leaving Hartford, nine years before. It seemed to him that they were always packing and unpacking.
“The poor man is willing to live anywhere if we will only let him ’stay put,” wrote Mrs. Clemens, but he did want to settle in his own land. Mrs. Clemens, too, was weary with wandering, but the Hartford home no longer held any attraction for her. There had been a time when her every letter dwelt on their hope of returning to it. Now the thought filled her with dread. To her sister she wrote:
Do you think we can live through the first going into the house in Hartford? I feel if we had gotten through the first three months all might be well, but consider the first night.
The thought of the responsibility of that great house—the taking up again of the old life-disheartened her, too. She had added years and she had not gained in health or strength.
When I was comparatively young I found the burden of that house very great. I don’t think I was ever fitted for housekeeping. I dislike the practical part of it so much. I hate it when the servants don’t do well, and I hate the correcting them.
Yet no one ever had better discipline in her domestic affairs or ever commanded more devoted service. Her strength of character and the proportions of her achievement show large when we consider this confession.
They planned to return in the spring, but postponed the date for sailing. Jean was still under Kellgren’s treatment, and, though a cure had been promised her, progress was discouragingly slow. They began to look about for summer quarters in or near London.
LONDON SOCIAL AFFAIRS
All this time Clemens had been tossing on the London social tide. There was a call for him everywhere. No distinguished visitor of whatever profession or rank but must meet Mark Twain. The King of Sweden was among his royal conquests of that season.
He was more happy with men of his own kind. He was often with Moberly Bell, editor of the Times; E. A. Abbey, the painter; Sir Henry Lucy, of Punch (Toby, M.P.); James Bryce, and Herbert Gladstone; and there were a number of brilliant Irishmen who were his special delight. Once with Mrs. Clemens he dined with the author of his old favorite, ’European Morals’, William E. H. Lecky. Lady Gregory was there and Sir Dennis Fitz-Patrick; who had been Governor-General at Lahore when they were in India, and a number of other Irish ladies and gentlemen. It was a memorable evening. To Twichell Clemens wrote: