“We expect then, who the little book (for the care that we wrote him, and for her typographical correction), that maybe worth the acceptation of the studious persons, and especially of the Youth, at which we dedicate him particularly.”]
A SUMMER LITERARY HARVEST
Arriving at the farm in June, Clemens had a fresh crop of ideas for stories of many lengths and varieties. His note-book of that time is full of motifs and plots, most of them of that improbable and extravagant kind which tended to defeat any literary purpose, whether humorous or otherwise. It seems worth while setting down one or more of these here, for they are characteristic of the myriad conceptions that came and went, and beyond these written memoranda left no trace behind. Here is a fair example of many:
Two men starving on a raft. The pauper has a Boston cracker, resolves to keep it till the multimillionaire is beginning to starve, then make him pay $50,000 for it. Millionaire agrees. Pauper’s cupidity rises, resolves to wait and get more; twenty-four hours later asks him a million for the cracker. Millionaire agrees. Pauper has a wild dream of becoming enormously rich off his cracker; backs down; lies all night building castles in the air; next day raises his price higher and higher, till millionaire has offered $100,000,000, every cent he has in the world. Pauper accepts. Millionaire: “Now give it to me.”
Pauper: “No; it
isn’t a trade until you sign documental history
the transaction and make an oath to pay.”
While pauper is finishing the document
millionaire sees a ship.
When pauper says, “Sign and take the cracker,” millionaire smiles a
smile, declines, and points to the ship.
Yet this is hardly more extravagant than another idea that is mentioned repeatedly among the notes—that of an otherwise penniless man wandering about London with a single million-pound bank-note in his possession, a motif which developed into a very good story indeed.
Idea for “Stormfield’s visit to heaven”
In modern times the halls of heaven are warmed by registers connected with hell; and this is greatly applauded by Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, Baxter and Company, because it adds a new pang to the sinner’s sufferings to know that the very fire which tortures him is the means of making the righteous comfortable.
Then there was to be another story, in which the various characters were to have a weird, pestilential nomenclature; such as “Lockjaw Harris,” “Influenza Smith,” “Sinapism Davis,” and a dozen or two more, a perfect outbreak of disorders.
Another—probably the inspiration of some very hot afternoon—was to present life in the interior of an iceberg, where a colony would live for a generation or two, drifting about in a vast circular current year after year, subsisting on polar bears and other Arctic game.