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.

England fairly reveled in Mark Twain.  At one of the great banquets, a roll of the distinguished guests was called, and the names properly applauded.  Mark Twain, busily engaged in low conversation with his neighbor, applauded without listening, vigorously or mildly, as the others led.  Finally a name was followed by a great burst of long and vehement clapping.  This must be some very great person indeed, and Mark Twain, not to be outdone in his approval, stoutly kept his hands going when all others had finished.

“Whose name was that we were just applauding?” he asked of his neighbor.

“Mark Twain’s.”

But it was no matter; they took it all as one of his jokes.  He was a wonder and a delight to them.  Whatever he did or said was to them supremely amusing.  When, on one occasion, a speaker humorously referred to his American habit of carrying a cotton umbrella, his reply that he did so “because it was the only kind of an umbrella that an Englishman wouldn’t steal,” was repeated all over England next day as one of the finest examples of wit since the days of Swift.

He returned to America at the end of November; promising to come back and lecture to them the following year.

[7] From “My Mark Twain,” by W. D. Howells.



But if Mark Twain could find nothing to write of in England, he found no lack of material in America.  That winter in Hartford, with Charles Dudley Warner, he wrote “The Gilded Age.”  The Warners were neighbors, and the families visited back and forth.  One night at dinner, when the two husbands were criticizing the novels their wives were reading, the wives suggested that their author husbands write a better one.  The challenge was accepted.  On the spur of the moment Warner and Clemens agreed that they would write a book together, and began it immediately.

Clemens had an idea already in mind.  It was to build a romance around that lovable dreamer, his mother’s cousin, James Lampton, whom the reader will recall from an earlier chapter.  Without delay he set to work and soon completed the first three hundred and ninety-nine pages of the new story.  Warner came over and, after listening to its reading, went home and took up the story.  In two months the novel was complete, Warner doing most of the romance, Mark Twain the character parts.  Warner’s portion was probably pure fiction, but Mark Twain’s chapters were full of history.

Judge Hawkins and wife were Mark Twain’s father and mother; Washington Hawkins, his brother Orion.  Their doings, with those of James Lampton as Colonel Sellers, were, of course, elaborated, but the story of the Tennessee land, as told in that book, is very good history indeed.  Laura Hawkins, however, was only real in the fact that she bore the name of Samuel Clemens’s old playmate.  “The Gilded Age,” published later in the year, was well received and sold largely.  The character of Colonel Sellers at once took a place among the great fiction characters of the world, and is probably the best known of any American creation.  His watchword, “There’s millions in it!” became a byword.

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