Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography Volume II, Part 2.
and as for lectures I do not suppose your Majesty ever saw such a dull season.

    With always great and ever-increasing respect, I beg to sign myself
    your Majesty’s servant to command,
                                mark Twain
    Her Majesty the Queen, London.

The letter, or “petition,” as it was called, was published in the Harper’s Magazine “Drawer” (December, 1889), and is now included in the “Complete Works.”  Taken as a whole it is one of the most exquisite of Mark Twain’s minor humors.  What other humorist could have refrained from hinting, at least, the inference suggested by the obvious “Gas Works”?  Yet it was a subtler art to let his old, simple-minded countryman ignore that detail.  The little skit was widely copied and reached the Queen herself in due time, and her son, Prince Edward, who never forgot its humor.

Clemens read a notable paper that year before the Monday Evening Club.  Its subject was “Consistency”—­political consistency—­and in it he took occasion to express himself pretty vigorously regarding the virtue of loyalty to party before principle, as exemplified in the Blaine-Cleveland campaign.  It was in effect a scathing reply to those who, three years, before, had denounced Twichell and himself for standing by their convictions.—­[ Characteristic paragraphs from this paper will be found under Appendix R, at the end of last volume.]

CLXIV

Some further account of Charles L. Webster & Co.

Flood-tide is a temporary condition, and the ebb in the business of Charles L. Webster & Co., though very deliberate, was not delayed in its beginning.  Most of the books published—­the early ones at least-were profitable.  McClellan’s memoirs paid, as did others of the war series.

Even The Life of Pope Leo XIII. paid.  What a statement to make, after all their magnificent dreams and preparations!  It was published simultaneously in six languages.  It was exploited in every conceivable fashion, and its aggregate sales fell far short of the number which the general agents had promised for their first orders.  It was amazing, it was incredible, but, alas! it was true.  The prospective Catholic purchaser had decided that the Pope’s Life was not necessary to his salvation or even to his entertainment.  Howells explains it, to his own satisfaction at least, when he says: 

We did not consider how often Catholics could not read, how often, when they could, they might not wish to read.  The event proved that, whether they could read or not, the immeasurable majority did not wish to read The Life of the Pope, though it was written by a dignitary of the Church and issued to the world with sanction from the Vatican.

Howells, of course, is referring to the laboring Catholic of that day.  There are no Catholics of this day—­no American Catholics, at least—­who do not read, and money among them has become plentiful.  Perhaps had the Pope’s Life been issued in this new hour of enlightenment the tale of its success might have been less sadly told.

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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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