Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 1: 1900-1907 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 301 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 1.

    Dear miss Stockbridge (if she really exists),

    257 Benefit Street (if there is any such place): 

Yes, I should like a copy of that other letter.  This whole fake is delightful; & I tremble with fear that you are a fake yourself & that I am your guileless prey. (But never mind, it isn’t any matter.)

    Now as to publication——­

He set forth his views and promised his assistance when enough of the letters should be completed.

Clemens allowed his name to be included with the list of spelling reformers, but he never employed any of the reforms in his letters or writing.  His interest was mainly theoretical, and when he wrote or spoke on the subject his remarks were not likely to be testimonials in its favor.  His own theory was that the alphabet needed reform, first of all, so that each letter or character should have one sound, and one sound only; and he offered as a solution of this an adaptation of shorthand.  He wrote and dictated in favor of this idea to the end of his life.  Once he said: 

“Our alphabet is pure insanity.  It can hardly spell any large word in the English language with any degree of certainty.  Its sillinesses are quite beyond enumeration.  English orthography may need reforming and simplifying, but the English alphabet needs it a good many times as much.”

He would naturally favor simplicity in anything.  I remember him reading, as an example of beautiful English, The Death of King Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory, and his verdict: 

“That is one of the most beautiful things ever written in English, and written when we had no vocabulary.”

“A vocabulary, then, is sometimes a handicap?”

“It is indeed.”

Still I think it was never a handicap with him, but rather the plumage of flight.  Sometimes, when just the right word did not come, he would turn his head a little at different angles, as if looking about him for the precise term.  He would find it directly, and it was invariably the word needed.  Most writers employ, now and again, phrases that do not sharply present the idea—­that blur the picture like a poor opera-glass.  Mark Twain’s English always focused exactly.


What is man?” And the autobiography

Clemens decided to publish anonymously, or, rather, to print privately, the Gospel, which he had written in Vienna some eight years before and added to from time to time.  He arranged with Frank Doubleday to take charge of the matter, and the De Vinne Press was engaged to do the work.  The book was copyrighted in the name of J. W. Bothwell, the superintendent of the De Vinne company, and two hundred and fifty numbered copies were printed on hand-made paper, to be gradually distributed to intimate friends.—­[In an introductory word (dated February, 1905) the author

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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 1: 1900-1907 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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