It seemed the clearest presentment ever offered in the matter of predestined circumstance—predestined from the instant when that primal atom felt the vital thrill. Mark Twain’s early life, however imperfectly recorded, exemplifies this postulate. If through the years still ahead of us the course of destiny seems less clearly defined, it is only because thronging events make the threads less easy to trace. The web becomes richer, the pattern more intricate and confusing, but the line of fate neither breaks nor falters, to the end.
On the buffalo “Express”
With the beginning of life in Buffalo, Mark Twain had become already a world character—a man of large consequence and events. He had no proper realization of this, no real sense of the size of his conquest; he still regarded himself merely as a lecturer and journalist, temporarily popular, but with no warrant to a permanent seat in the world’s literary congress. He thought his success something of an accident. The fact that he was prepared to settle down as an editorial contributor to a newspaper in what was then only a big village is the best evidence of a modest estimate of his talents.
He “worked like a horse,” is the verdict of those who were closely associated with him on the Express. His hours were not regular, but they were long. Often he was at his desk at eight in the morning, and remained there until ten or eleven at night.
His working costume was suited to comfort rather than show. With coat, vest, collar, and tie usually removed (sometimes even his shoes), he lounged in his chair, in any attitude that afforded the larger ease, pulling over the exchanges; scribbling paragraphs, editorials, humorous skits, and what not, as the notion came upon him. J. L. Lamed, his co-worker (he sat on the opposite side of the same table), remembers that Mark Twain enjoyed his work as he went along—the humor of it—and that he frequently laughed as some whimsicality or new absurdity came into his mind.
“I doubt,” writes Lamed, “if he ever enjoyed anything more than the jackknife engraving that he did on a piece of board of a military map of the siege of Paris, which was printed in the Express from his original plate, with accompanying explanations and comments. His half-day of whittling and laughter that went with it are something that I find pleasant to remember. Indeed, my whole experience of association with him is a happy memory, which I am fortunate in having.... What one saw of him was always the actual Mark Twain, acting out of his own nature simply, frankly, without pretense, and almost without reserve. It was that simplicity and naturalness in the man which carried his greatest charm.”
Lamed, like many others, likens Mark Twain to Lincoln in various of his characteristics. The two worked harmoniously together: Lamed attending to the political direction of the journal, Clemens to the literary, and what might be termed the sentimental side. There was no friction in the division of labor, never anything but good feeling between them. Clemens had a poor opinion of his own comprehension of politics, and perhaps as little regard for Lamed’s conception of humor. Once when the latter attempted something in the way of pleasantry his associate said: