Clemens had already taken advice and had discussed the project a good deal with Richardson. The ten thousand dollars was a heavy temptation, but he withstood it and closed on the royalty basis—“the best business judgment I ever displayed,” he was wont to declare. A letter written to his mother and sister near the end of this Hartford stay is worth quoting pretty fully here, for the information and “character” it contains. It bears date of January 24th.
This is a good week for me. I stopped in the Herald office, as I came through New York, to see the boys on the staff, and young James Gordon Bennett asked me to write twice a week, impersonally, for the Herald, and said if I would I might have full swing, and about anybody and everything I wanted to. I said I must have the very fullest possible swing, and he said, “All right.” I said, “It’s a contract—” and that settled that matter.
I’ll make it a point to write one letter a week anyhow. But the best thing that has happened is here. This great American Publishing Company kept on trying to bargain with me for a book till I thought I would cut the matter short by coming up for a talk. I met Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, and with his usual whole-souled way of dropping his own work to give other people a lift when he gets a chance, he said: “Now, here, you are one of the talented men of the age—nobody is going to deny that—but in matters of business I don’t suppose you know more than enough to come in when it rains. I’ll tell you what to do and how to do it.” And he did.
And I listened well, and then came up here and made a splendid contract for a Quaker City book of 5 or 600 large pages, with illustrations, the manuscript to be placed in the publisher’s hands by the middle of July.—[The contract was not a formal one. There was an exchange of letters agreeing to the terms, but no joint document was drawn until October 16 (1868).]—My percentage is to be a fourth more than they have ever paid any author except Greeley. Beecher will be surprised, I guess, when he hears this.
These publishers get off the most tremendous editions of their books you can imagine. I shall write to the Enterprise and Alta every week, as usual, I guess, and to the Herald twice a week, occasionally to the Tribune and the magazines (I have a stupid article in the Galaxy, just issued), but I am not going to write to this and that and the other paper any more.
I have had a tiptop time here for a few days (guest of Mr. Jno. Hooker’s family—Beecher’s relatives—in a general way of Mr. Bliss also, who is head of the publishing firm). Puritans are mighty straight-laced, and they won’t let me smoke in the parlor, but the Almighty don’t make any better people.
I have to make a speech at
the annual Herald dinner on the 6th of
So the book, which would establish his claim to a peerage in the literary land, was arranged for, and it remained only to prepare the manuscript, a task which he regarded as not difficult. He had only to collate the Alta and Tribune letters, edit them, and write such new matter as would be required for completeness.