Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,512 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete.

LVIII

A NEW BOOK AND A LECTURE

Webb, meantime, had pushed the Frog book along.  The proofs had been read and the volume was about ready for issue.  Clemens wrote to his mother April 15th: 

My book will probably be in the bookseller’s hands in about two weeks.  After that I shall lecture.  Since I have been gone, the boys have gotten up a “call” on me signed by two hundred Californians.

The lecture plan was the idea of Frank Fuller, who as acting Governor of Utah had known Mark Twain on the Comstock, and prophesied favorably of his future career.  Clemens had hunted up Fuller on landing in New York in January, and Fuller had encouraged the lecture then; but Clemens was doubtful.

“I have no reputation with the general public here,” he said.  “We couldn’t get a baker’s dozen to hear me.”

But Fuller was a sanguine person, with an energy and enthusiasm that were infectious.  He insisted that the idea was sound.  It would solidify Mark Twain’s reputation on the Atlantic coast, he declared, insisting that the largest house in New York, Cooper Union, should be taken.  Clemens had partially consented, and Fuller had arranged with all the Pacific slope people who had come East, headed by ex-Governor James W. Nye (by this time Senator at Washington), to sign a call for the “Inimitable Mark Twain” to appear before a New York audience.  Fuller made Nye agree to be there and introduce the lecturer, and he was burningly busy and happy in the prospect.

But Mark Twain was not happy.  He looked at that spacious hall and imagined the little crowd of faithful Californian stragglers that might gather in to hear him, and the ridicule of the papers next day.  He begged Fuller to take a smaller hall, the smallest he could get.  But only the biggest hall in New York would satisfy Fuller.  He would have taken a larger one if he could have found it.  The lecture was announced for May 6th.  Its subject was “Kanakadom, or the Sandwich Islands” —­tickets fifty cents.  Fuller timed it to follow a few days after Webb’s book should appear, so that one event might help the other.

Mark Twain’s first book, ’The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveyas County, and Other Sketches’, was scheduled for May 1st, and did, in fact, appear on that date; but to the author it was no longer an important event.  Jim Smiley’s frog as standard-bearer of his literary procession was not an interesting object, so far as he was concerned—­not with that vast, empty hall in the background and the insane undertaking of trying to fill it.  The San Francisco venture had been as nothing compared with this.  Fuller was working night and day with abounding joy, while the subject of his labor felt as if he were on the brink of a fearful precipice, preparing to try a pair of wings without first learning to fly.  At one instant he was cold with fright, the next glowing with an infection of Fuller’s faith.  He devised a hundred schemes for the sale of seats.  Once he came rushing to Fuller, saying: 

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Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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