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.

Clemens said:  “Oh, I’m a modest man; I don’t want the whole “Union” office; call it a hundred dollars a column.”

There was a general laugh.  The bill was made out at that figure, and he took it to the office for payment.

“The cashier didn’t faint,” he wrote many years later, “but he came rather near it.  He sent for the proprietors, and they only laughed in their jolly fashion, and said it was robbery, but `no matter, pay it.  It’s all right.’  The best men that ever owned a paper.” [6]

[6] “My Debut as a Literary Person.”



In spite of the success of his Sandwich Island letters, Samuel Clemens felt, on his return to San Francisco, that his future was not bright.  He was not a good, all-round newspaper man—­he was special correspondent and sketch-writer, out of a job.

He had a number of plans, but they did not promise much.  One idea was to make a book from his Hawaiian material.  Another was to write magazine articles, beginning with one on the Hornet disaster.  He did, in fact, write the Hornet article, and its prompt acceptance by “Harper’s Magazine” delighted him, for it seemed a start in the right direction.  A third plan was to lecture on the islands.

This prospect frightened him.  He had succeeded in his “Third House” address of two years before, but then he had lectured without charge and for a church benefit.  This would be a different matter.

One of the proprietors of a San Francisco paper, Col.  John McComb, of the “Alta California,” was strong in his approval of the lecture idea.

“Do it, by all means,” he said.  “Take the largest house in the city, and charge a dollar a ticket.”

Without waiting until his fright came back, Mark Twain hurried to the manager of the Academy of Music, and engaged it for a lecture to be given October 2d (1866), and sat down and wrote his announcement.  He began by stating what he would speak upon, and ended with a few absurdities, such as: 

             A splendid orchestra
          is in town, but has not been engaged.

A den of ferocious wild beasts
will be on exhibition in the next block. 
A grand Torchlight procession
may be expected; in fact, the public are privileged to
expect whatever they please. 
Doors open at 7 o’clock.  The trouble to begin at 8 o’clock.

Mark Twain was well known in San Francisco, and was pretty sure to have a good house.  But he did not realize this, and, as the evening approached, his dread of failure increased.  Arriving at the theater, he entered by the stage door, half expecting to find the place empty.  Then, suddenly, he became more frightened than ever; peering from the wings, he saw that the house was jammed—­packed from the footlights to the walls!  Terrified,

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