Dear sir,—I have had more or less of your works on my shelves for years, and believe I have practically a complete set now. This is nothing unusual, of course, but I presume it will seem to you unusual for any one to keep books constantly in sight which the owner regrets ever having read.
Every time my glance rests on the books I do regret having read them, and do not hesitate to tell you so to your face, and care not who may know my feelings. You, who must be kept busy attending to your correspondence, will probably pay little or no attention to this small fraction of it, yet my reasons, I believe, are sound and are probably shared by more people than you are aware of.
Probably you will not read far enough through this to see who has
signed it, but if you do, and care to know why I wish I had left
your work unread, I will tell you as briefly as possible if you will
George B. Lauder.
Clemens did not answer the letter, but put it in his pocket, perhaps intending to do so, and a few days later, in Boston, when a reporter called, he happened to remember it. The reporter asked permission to print the queer document, and it appeared in his Mark Twain interview next morning. A few days later the writer of it sent a second letter, this time explaining:
My dear sir,—I
saw in to-day’s paper a copy of the letter which
wrote you October 26th.
I have read and re-read your works until I can almost recall some of them word for word. My familiarity with them is a constant source of pleasure which I would not have missed, and therefore the regret which I have expressed is more than offset by thankfulness.
Believe me, the regret which I
feel for having read your works is
entirely due to the unalterable fact that I can never again have the
pleasure of reading them for the first time.
Your sincere admirer,
George B. Ladder.
Mark Twain promptly replied this time:
Dear sir, You fooled me completely; I didn’t divine what the letter
was concealing, neither did the newspaper men, so you are a very
S. L. Clemens.
It was about the end of 1907 that the new St. Louis Harbor boat, was completed. The editor of the St. Louis Republic reported that it has been christened “Mark Twain,” and asked for a word of comment. Clemens sent this line:
May my namesake follow in my righteous
footsteps, then neither of us
will need any fire insurance.
SOME LITERARY LUNCHEONS
Howells, in his book, refers to the Human Race Luncheon Club, which Clemens once organized for the particular purpose of damning the species in concert. It was to consist, beside Clemens himself, of Howells, Colonel Harvey, and Peter Dunne; but it somehow never happened that even this small membership could be assembled while the idea was still fresh, and therefore potent.