He continued his lectures at Hanover Square through the week, and at no time in his own country had he won such a complete triumph. He was the talk of the streets. The papers were full of him. The “London Times” declared his lectures had only whetted the public appetite for more. His manager, George Dolby (formerly manager for Charles Dickens), urged him to remain and continue the course through the winter. Clemens finally agreed that he would take his family back to America and come back himself within the month. This plan he carried out. Returning to London, he lectured steadily for two months in the big Hanover Square rooms, giving his “Roughing It” address, and it was only toward the end that his audience showed any sign of diminishing. There is probably no other such a lecture triumph on record.
Mark Twain was at the pinnacle of his first glory: thirty-six, in full health, prosperous, sought by the world’s greatest, hailed in the highest places almost as a king. Tom Sawyer’s dreams of greatness had been all too modest. In its most dazzling moments his imagination had never led him so far.
Beginning “Tom Sawyer”
It was at the end of January, 1874, when Mark Twain returned to America. His reception abroad had increased his prestige at home. Howells and Aldrich came over from Boston to tell him what a great man he had become —to renew those Boston days of three years before—to talk and talk of all the things between the earth and sky. And Twichell came in, of course, and Warner, and no one took account of time, or hurried, or worried about anything at all.
“We had two such days as the aging sun no longer shines on in his round,” wrote Howells, long after, and he tells how he and Aldrich were so carried away with Clemens’s success in subscription publication that on the way back to Boston they planned a book to sell in that way. It was to be called “Twelve Memorable Murders,” and they had made two or three fortunes from it by the time they reached Boston.
“But the project ended there. We never killed a single soul,” Howells once confessed to the writer of this memoir.
At Quarry Farm that summer Mark Twain began the writing of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” He had been planning for some time to set down the story of those far-off days along the river-front at Hannibal, with John Briggs, Tom Blankenship, and the rest of that graceless band, and now in the cool luxury of a little study which Mrs. Crane had built for him on the hillside he set himself to spin the fabric of his youth. The study was a delightful place to work. It was octagonal in shape, with windows on all sides, something like a pilot-house. From any direction the breeze could come, and there were fine views. To Twichell he wrote: