“The claimant”—Leaving Hartford
For the first time in twenty years Mark Twain was altogether dependent on literature. He did not feel mentally unequal to the new problem; in fact, with his added store of experience, he may have felt himself more fully equipped for authorship than ever before. It had been his habit to write within his knowledge and observation. To a correspondent of this time he reviewed his stock in trade—
. . . I confine myself to life with which I am familiar when pretending to portray life. But I confined myself to the boy-life out on the Mississippi because that had a peculiar charm for me, and not because I was not familiar with other phases of life. I was a soldier two weeks once in the beginning of the war, and was hunted like a rat the whole time. Familiar? My splendid Kipling himself hasn’t a more burnt-in, hard-baked, and unforgetable familiarity with that death-on-the-pale-horse-with-hell-following-after, which is a raw soldier’s first fortnight in the field—and which, without any doubt, is the most tremendous fortnight and the vividest he is ever going to see.
Yes, and I have shoveled silver tailings in a quartz-mill a couple of weeks, and acquired the last possibilities of culture in that direction. And I’ve done “pocket-mining” during three months in the one little patch of ground in the whole globe where Nature conceals gold in pockets—or did before we robbed all of those pockets and exhausted, obliterated, annihilated the most curious freak Nature ever indulged in. There are not thirty men left alive who, being told there was a pocket hidden on the broad slope of a mountain,