Arriving in New York, I found that Clemens himself had published his Shakespeare dictations in a little volume of his own, entitled, ’Is Shakespeare Dead?’ The title certainly suggested spiritistic matters, and I got a volume at Harpers’, and read it going up on the train, hoping to find somewhere in it a solution of the great mystery. But it was only matter I had already known; the secret was still unrevealed.
At Redding I lost not much time in getting up to Stormfield. There had been changes in my absence. Clara Clemens had returned from her travels, and Jean, whose health seemed improved, was coming home to be her father’s secretary. He was greatly pleased with these things, and declared he was going to have a home once more with his children about him.
He was quite alone that day, and we walked up and down the great living-room for an hour, perhaps, while he discussed his new plans. For one thing, he had incorporated his pen-name, Mark Twain, in order that the protection of his copyrights and the conduct of his literary business in general should not require his personal attention. He seemed to find a relief in this, as he always did in dismissing any kind of responsibility. When we went in for billiards I spoke of his book, which I had read on the way up, and of the great Shakespearian secret which was to astonish the world. Then he told me that the matter had been delayed, but that he was no longer required to suppress it; that the revelation was in the form of a book—a book which revealed conclusively to any one who would take the trouble to follow the directions that the acrostic name of Francis Bacon in a great variety of forms ran through many —probably through all of the so-called Shakespeare plays. He said it was far and away beyond anything of the kind ever published; that Ignatius Donnelly and others had merely glimpsed the truth, but that the author of this book, William Stone Booth, had demonstrated, beyond any doubt or question, that the Bacon signatures were there. The book would be issued in a few days, he said. He had seen a set of proofs of it, and while it had not been published in the best way to clearly demonstrate its great revelation, it must settle the matter with every reasoning mind. He confessed that his faculties had been more or less defeated in, attempting to follow the ciphers, and he complained bitterly that the evidence had not been set forth so that he who merely skims a book might grasp it.
He had failed on the acrostics at first; but more recently he had understood the rule, and had been able to work out several Bacon signatures. He complimented me by saying that he felt sure that when the book came I would have no trouble with it.
Without going further with this matter, I may say here that the book arrived presently, and between us we did work out a considerable number of the claimed acrostics by following the rules laid down. It was certainly an interesting if not wholly convincing occupation, and it would be a difficult task for any one to prove that the ciphers are not there. Just why this pretentious volume created so little agitation it would be hard to say. Certainly it did not cause any great upheaval in the literary world, and the name of William Shakespeare still continues to be printed on the title-page of those marvelous dramas so long associated with his name.