“It is altogether the best
boy’s story I ever read. It will be an
Clemens, however, delayed publication. He had another volume in press—a collection of his sketches—among them the “Jumping Frog,” and others of his California days. The “Jumping Frog” had been translated into French, and in this book Mark Twain published the French version and then a literal retranslation of his own, which is one of the most amusing features in the volume. As an example, the stranger’s remark, “I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better than any other frog,” in the literal retranslation becomes, “I no saw not that that frog had nothing of better than each frog,” and Mark Twain parenthetically adds, “If that isn’t grammar gone to seed, then I count myself no judge.”
“Sketches New and Old” went very well, but the book had no such sale as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which appeared a year later, December, 1876. From the date of its issue it took its place as foremost of American stories of boy life, a place that to this day it shares only with “Huck Finn.” Mark Twain’s own boy life in the little drowsy town of Hannibal, with John Briggs and Tom Blankenship—their adventures in and about the cave and river—made perfect material. The story is full of pure delight. The camp on the island is a picture of boy heaven. No boy that reads it but longs for the woods and a camp-fire and some bacon strips in the frying-pan. It is all so thrillingly told and so vivid. We know certainly that it must all have happened. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” has taken a place side by side with “Treasure Island.”
Mark Twain was now regarded by many as the foremost American author. Certainly he was the most widely known. As a national feature he rivaled Niagara Falls. No civilized spot on earth that his name had not reached. Letters merely addressed “Mark Twain” found their way to him. “Mark Twain, United States,” was a common superscription. “Mark Twain, The World,” also reached him without delay, while “Mark Twain, Somewhere,” and “Mark Twain, Anywhere,” in due time came to Hartford. “Mark Twain, God Knows Where,” likewise arrived promptly, and in his reply he said, “He did.” Then a letter addressed “The Devil Knows Where” also reached him, and he answered, “He did, too.” Surely these were the farthermost limits of fame.
Countless anecdotes went the rounds of the press. Among them was one which happened to be true:
Their near neighbor, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, was leaving for Florida one morning, and Clemens ran over early to say good-by. On his return Mrs. Clemens looked at him severely.
“Why, Youth,” she said, “you haven’t on any collar and tie.”
He said nothing, but went to his room, wrapped up those items in a neat package, which he sent over by a servant to Mrs. Stowe, with the line: