“My starboard leg seems to be unshipped. I’d like about one hundred yards of line; I think I’m falling to pieces.” Then he added: “I want to see Mr. Barstow or Mr. Goodman. My name is Clemens, and I’ve come to write for the paper.”
It was the master of the world’s widest estate come to claim his kingdom!
THE TERRITORIAL ENTERPRISE
In 1852 Virginia City, Nevada, was the most flourishing of mining towns. A half-crazy miner, named Comstock, had discovered there a vein of such richness that the “Comstock Lode” was presently glutting the mineral markets of the world. Comstock himself got very little out of it, but those who followed him made millions. Miners, speculators, adventurers swarmed in. Every one seemed to have money. The streets seethed with an eager, affluent, boisterous throng whose chief business seemed to be to spend the wealth that the earth was yielding in such a mighty stream.
Business of every kind boomed. Less than two years earlier, J. T. Goodman, a miner who was also a printer and a man of literary taste, had joined with another printer, Dennis McCarthy, and the two had managed to buy a struggling Virginia City paper, the “Territorial Enterprise.” But then came the hightide of fortune. A year later the “Enterprise,” from a starving sheet in a leaky shanty, had become a large, handsome paper in a new building, and of such brilliant editorial management that it was the most widely considered journal on the Pacific coast.
Goodman was a fine, forceful writer, and he surrounded himself with able men. He was a young man, full of health and vigor, overflowing with the fresh spirit and humor of the West. Comstockers would always laugh at a joke, and Goodman was always willing to give it to them. The “Enterprise” was a newspaper, but it was willing to furnish entertainment even at the cost of news. William Wright, editorially next to Goodman, was a humorist of ability. His articles, signed Dan de Quille, were widely copied. R. M. Daggett (afterward United States Minister to Hawaii) was also an “Enterprise” man, and there were others of their sort.
Samuel Clemens fitted precisely into this group. He brought with him a new turn of thought and expression; he saw things with open eyes, and wrote of them in a fresh, wild way that Comstockers loved. He was allowed full freedom. Goodman suppressed nothing; his men could write as they chose. They were all young together—if they pleased themselves, they were pretty sure to please their readers. Often they wrote of one another—squibs and burlesques, which gratified the Comstock far more than mere news. It was just the school to produce Mark Twain.
The new arrival found acquaintance easy. The whole “Enterprise” force was like one family; proprietors, editor, and printers were social equals. Samuel Clemens immediately became “Sam” to his associates, just as De Quille was “Dan,” and Goodman “Joe.” Clemens was supposed to report city items, and did, in fact, do such work, which he found easy, for his pilot-memory made notes unnecessary.