As a whole, the literary result of Mark Twain’s Buffalo period does not reach the high standard of The Innocents Abroad. It was a retrogression —in some measure a return to his earlier form. It had been done under pressure, under heavy stress of mind, as he said. Also there was another reason; neither the subject treated nor the environment of labor had afforded that lofty inspiration which glorified every step of the Quaker City journey. Buffalo was a progressive city—a beautiful city, as American cities go—but it was hardly an inspiring city for literature, and a dull, dingy newspaper office was far, very far, from the pleasant decks of the Quaker City, the camp-fires of Syria, the blue sky and sea of the Medit&ranean.
The writing of “Roughing it”
The third book published by Mark Twain was not the Western book he was preparing for Bliss. It was a small volume, issued by Sheldon & Co., entitled Mark Twain’s Autobiography (Burlesque) and First Romance. The Romance was the “Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance” which had appeared in the Express at the beginning of 1870. The burlesque autobiography had not previously appeared. The two made a thin little book, which, in addition to its literary features, had running through it a series of full-page, irrelevant pictures—–cartoons of the Erie Railroad Ring, presented as illustrations of a slightly modified version of “The House That Jack Built.” The “House” was the Erie headquarters, the purpose being to illustrate the swindling methods of the Ring. The faces of Jay Gould, James Fisk, Jr., John T. Hoffman, and others of the combination, are chiefly conspicuous. The publication was not important, from any standpoint. Literary burlesque is rarely important, and it was far from Mark Twain’s best form of expression. A year or two later he realized the mistake of this book, bought in the plates and destroyed them.
Meantime the new Western book was at a standstill. To Orion, in March, he wrote:
I am still nursing Livy night and day. I am nearly worn out. We shall go to Elmira ten days hence (if Livy can travel on a mattress then), and stay there until I finish the California book, say three months. But I can’t begin work right away when I get there; must have a week’s rest, for I have been through thirty days’ terrific siege.
He promised to forward some of the manuscript soon.
Hold on four or five days
and I will see if I can get a few chapters
fixed to send to Bliss . . . .
I have offered this house and the Express for sale, and when we go to Elmira we leave here for good. I shall not select a new home till the book is finished, but we have little doubt that Hartford will be the place.
He disposed of his interest in the Express in April, at a sacrifice of $10,000 on the purchase price. Mrs. Clemens and the baby were able to travel, and without further delay he took them to Elmira, to Quarry Farm.