Get at your canvassing early and drive it with all your might, with an intent and purpose of issuing on the 10th or 15th of next December (the best time in the year to tumble a big pile into the trade); but if we haven’t 40,000 subscriptions we simply postpone publication till we’ve got them. It is a plain, simple policy, and would have saved both of my last books if it had been followed. [That is to say, ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ and the Mississippi book, neither of which had sold up to his expectations on the, initial canvass.]
Gerhardt returned from Paris that summer, after three years of study, a qualified sculptor. He was prepared to take commissions, and came to Elmira to model a bust of his benefactor. The work was finished after four or five weeks of hard effort and pronounced admirable; but Gerhardt, attempting to make a cast one morning, ruined it completely. The family gathered round the disaster, which to them seemed final, but the sculptor went immediately to work, and in an amazingly brief time executed a new bust even better than the first, an excellent piece of modeling and a fine likeness. It was decided that a cut of it should be used as a frontispiece for the new book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Clemens was at this time giving the final readings to the Huck Finn pages, a labor in which Mrs. Clemens and the children materially assisted. In the childish biography which Susy began of her father, a year later, she says:
Ever since papa and mama were married papa has written his books and then taken them to mama in manuscript, and she has expurgated —[Susy’s spelling is preserved]—them. Papa read Huckleberry Finn to us in manuscript,—[Probably meaning proof.]—just before it came out, and then he would leave parts of it with mama to expurgate, while he went off to the study to work, and sometimes Clara and I would be sitting with mama while she was looking the manuscript over, and I remember so well, with what pangs of regret we used to see her turn down the leaves of the pages, which meant that some delightfully terrible part must be scratched out. And I remember one part pertickularly which was perfectly fascinating it was so terrible, that Clara and I used to delight in and oh, with what despair we saw mama turn down the leaf on which it was written, we thought the book would almost be ruined without it. But we gradually came to think as mama did.
Commenting on this phase of Huck’s evolution Mark Twain has since written: