The Library at the British Museum I find particularly astounding. I have read there hours together, and hardly made an impression on it. I revere that library. It is the author’s friend. I don’t care how mean a book is, it always takes one copy. [A copy of every book printed in Great Britain must by law be sent to the British Museum, a law much complained of by publishers.] And then every day that author goes there to gaze at that book, and is encouraged to go on in the good work. And what a touching sight it is of a Saturday afternoon to see the poor, careworn clergymen gathered together in that vast reading-room cabbaging sermons for Sunday! You will pardon my referring to these things. Everything in this monster city interests me, and I cannot keep from talking, even at the risk of being instructive. People here seem always to express distances by parables. To a stranger it is just a little confusing to be so parabolic—so to speak. I collar a citizen, and I think I am going to get some valuable information out of him. I ask him how far it is to Birmingham, and he says it is twenty-one shillings and sixpence. Now we know that doesn’t help a man who is trying to learn. I find myself down-town somewhere, and I want to get some sort of idea where I am—being usually lost when alone—and I stop a citizen and say, “How far is it to Charing Cross?” “Shilling fare in a cab,” and off he goes. I suppose if I were to ask a Londoner how far it is from the sublime to the ridiculous he would try to express it in a coin. But I am trespassing upon your time with these geological statistics and historical reflections. I will not longer keep you from your orgies. ’Tis a real pleasure for me to be here, and I thank you for it. The name of the Savage Club is associated in my mind with the kindly interest and the friendly offices which you lavished upon an old friend of mine who came among you a stranger, and you opened your English hearts to him and gave him a welcome and a home—Artemus Ward. Asking that you will join me, I give you his Memory.
Letter written to Mrs. Clemens from Boston, November, 1874, prophesying A monarchy in sixty-one years
(See Chapter xcvii)
Boston, November 16, 1935.
Dear livy,—You observe I still call this beloved old place by the name it had when I was young. Limerick! It is enough to make a body sick.
The gentlemen-in-waiting stare to see me sit here telegraphing this letter to you, and no doubt they are smiling in their sleeves. But let them! The slow old fashions are good enough for me, thank God, and I will none other. When I see one of these modern fools sit absorbed, holding the end of a telegraph wire in his hand, and reflect that a thousand miles away there is another fool hitched to the other