The Boys' Life of Mark Twain eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about The Boys' Life of Mark Twain.

It was May, 1899, when Clemens and his family left Vienna.  They spent a summer in Sweden on account of the health of Jean Clemens, and located in London apartments—­30 Wellington Court—­for the winter.  Then followed a summer at beautiful Dollis Hill, an old house where Gladstone had often visited, on a shady hilltop just outside of London.  The city had not quite enclosed the place then, and there were spreading oaks, a pond with lily-pads, and wide spaces of grassy lawn.  The place to-day is converted into a public garden called Gladstone Park.  Writing to Twichell in mid-summer, Clemens said: 

“I am the only person who is ever in the house in the daytime, but I am working, and deep in the luxury of it.  But there is one tremendous defect.  Levy is all so enchanted with the place and so in love with it that she doesn’t know how she is going to tear herself away from it.”

However, there was one still greater attraction than Dollis Hill, and that was America—­home.  Mark Twain at sixty-five and a free man once more had decided to return to his native land.  They closed Dollis Hill at the end of September, and October 6, 1900, sailed on the Minnehaha for New York, bidding good-by, as Mark Twain believed, and hoped, to foreign travel.  Nine days later, to a reporter who greeted him on the ship, he said: 

   “If I ever get ashore I am going to break both of my legs so I can’t
   get away again.”



New York tried to outdo Vienna and London in honoring Mark Twain.  Every newspaper was filled with the story of his great fight against debt, and his triumph.  “He had behaved like Walter Scott,” writes Howells, “as millions rejoiced to know who had not known how Walter Scott behaved till they knew it was like Clemens.”  Clubs and societies vied with one another in offering him grand entertainments.  Literary and lecture proposals poured in.  He was offered at the rate of a dollar a word for his writing—­he could name his own terms for lectures.

These sensational offers did not tempt him.  He was sick of the platform.  He made a dinner speech here and there—­always an event—­but he gave no lectures or readings for profit.  His literary work he confined to a few magazines, and presently concluded an arrangement with “Harper & Brothers” for whatever he might write, the payment to be twenty (later thirty) cents per word.  He arranged with the same firm for the publication of all his books, by this time collected in uniform edition.  He wished his affairs to be settled as nearly as might be.  His desire was freedom from care.  Also he would have liked a period of quiet and rest, but that was impossible.  He realized that the multitude of honors tendered him was in a sense a vast compliment which he could not entirely refuse.  Howells writes that Mark Twain’s countrymen “kept it up past all precedent,” and in return Mark Twain tried to do his part.  “His friends saw that he was wearing himself out,” adds Howells, and certain it is that he grew thin and pale and had a hacking cough.  Once to Richard Watson Gilder he wrote: 

Project Gutenberg
The Boys' Life of Mark Twain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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