Vol 1 Section 0013

First Dinner Speech – Dreams of S. America & Coca Riches – First Sweethearts

 Keokuk, St. Louis and Snodgrass Letters – Cincinnati Typesetter – Macfarlane


Early months – Sam began to itch to go to South America after reading an account of coca and the money that might be made harvesting the plant and distributing it in the U.S. [Powers, Dangerous 241]. In 1910, in “The Turning Point of My Life,” Sam remembered a two-volume work on the exploration of the Amazon, that it “told an astonishing tale about coca, a vegetable product of miraculous powers…” [MTL 1: 68n7].

January 17 Thursday – Sam spoke without prepared remarks to the Keokuk printers at a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth. It was perhaps Sam’s first after dinner speech, presaging his fame as a platform speaker. Sam Clemens as “Mark Twain” would be a great entertainer, perhaps the first American icon of the twentieth century.

By this time he was back in Orion’s employ, working alongside his seventeen-year-old brother, Henry Clemens, at 52 Main Street on the third floor. “Henry and Sam slept in the office, and Dick [Higham] came in for social evenings. These were likely to be lively evenings.” A young man named Edward Brownell from the ground floor bookstore also joined the evening entertainment [MTB 104-7]. Brownell once told Sam he was “too lazy to ever write a book” [107].

Professor Isbell, a music teacher on the second floor objected loudly to the noise, so that the next night the boys set up a game of ten pins using empty wine bottles, with rocks for balls (Henry declined to play.) Sam and Dick Higham ignored the teacher banging on the door. The next night they marched and drilled, no doubt causing much racket. When the teacher tried being pleasant with his objections, saying it disturbed his students, Sam said, “Why didn’t you mention it before? To be sure we don’t want to disturb the young ladies.” They gave up the ruckus, with Sam even joining in one of the singing classes [MTB 105].


January 19 Saturday – The Keokuk Gate City, page 7, reported on Sam’s speech under the headline: “The Printer’s Festival. Birthday of Benjamin Franklin [Selby 7].

April 20 Sunday Sam wrote his sister-in-law, Mollie Clemens, a conventional poem titled “To Mollie” [ET&S 1: 118].


May, early Sam wrote a poem, titled, “Lines Suggested by a Reminiscence, and Which You Will Perhaps Understand,” to Ann Virginia Ruffner (b.1838?) [ET&S 1: 120].

May 7 Wednesday Sam, in Keokuk, wrote a poem “To Jennie,” at the departure of Ann Virginia Ruffner [ET&S 1: 124]. (This is erroneously reported as 1853 in some sources.)


May 20 TuesdayThe steam ferry between Keokuk and Hamilton, Illinois struck a snag and sand up to the guards near the Illinois shore, leaving only its top deck above water. There were no fatalities. Clemens was on board and referred to “the loss of that bridge almost finished my career” in his letter of May 25 to Annie Taylor (Ann Elizabeth Taylor 1840-1916) [MTL 1: 62n1]. Note: no other reference to this event was found, and it is somewhat strange that Sam never referred or embellished the event, as he often did. Was his implication that he was aboard merely a play for Annie’s sympathy?


May 21 and May 25 Sunday – Sam wrote Annie Taylor a humorous letter. Sam stayed in Keokuk over a year. He enjoyed the companionship of Henry and Mollie’s circle of women friends.

[This first part written on May 21 is lost]

of the hurricane deck is still visible above the water. Here is another “Royal George” —I think I shall have to be a second Cowper, and write her requiem.

Sunday, May 25.

Well, Annie, I was not permitted to finish my letter Wednesday evening [May 21]. I believe Henry, who commenced his a day later, has beaten me. However, if my friends will let me alone I will go through today. Bugs! Yes, B-U-G-S! What of the bugs? Why, perdition take the bugs! That is all. Night before last I stood at the little press until nearly 2 o’clock, and the flaring gas light over my head attracted all the varieties of bugs which are to be found in natural history, and they all had the same praiseworthy recklessness about flying into the fire. They at first came in little social crowds of a dozen or so, but soon increased in numbers, until a religious mass meeting of several millions was assembled on the board before me, presided over by a venerable beetle, who occupied the most prominent lock of my hair as his chair of state, while innumerable lesser dignitaries of the same tribe were clustered around him, keeping order, and at the same time endeavoring to attract the attention of the vast assemblage to their own importance by industriously grating their teeth. It must have been an interesting occasion—perhaps a great bug jubilee commemorating the triumph of the locusts over Pharaoh’s crops in Egypt many centuries ago. At least, good seats, commanding an unobstructed view of the scene, were in great demand; and I have no doubt small fortunes were made by certain delegates from Yankee land by disposing of comfortable places on my shoulders at round premiums. In fact, the advantages which my altitude afforded were so well appreciated that I soon began to look like one of those big cards in the museum covered with insects impaled on pins.

The big “president” beetle (who, when he frowned, closely resembled Isbell when the pupils are out of time) rose and ducked his head and, crossing his arms over his shoulders, stroked them down to the tip of his nose several times, and after thus disposing of the perspiration, stuck his hands under his wings, propped his back against a lock of hair, and then, bobbing his head at the congregation, remarked, “B-u-z-z!” To which the congregation devoutly responded, “B-u-z-z!” Satisfied with this promptness on the part of his flock, he took a more imposing perpendicular against another lock of hair and, lifting his hands to command silence, gave another melodious “b-u-z-z!” on a louder key (which I suppose to have been the key-note) and after a moment’s silence the whole congregation burst into a grand anthem, three dignified daddy longlegs, perched near the gas burner, beating quadruple time during the performance. Soon two of the parts in the great chorus maintained silence, while a treble and alto duet, sung by forty-seven thousand mosquitoes and twenty-three thousand house flies, came in, and then, after another chorus, a tenor and bass duet by thirty-two thousand locusts and ninety-seven thousand pinch bugs was sung—then another grand chorus, “Let Every Bug Rejoice and Sing” (we used to sing “heart” instead of “bug”), terminated the performance, during which eleven treble singers split their throats from head to heels, and the patriotic “daddies” who beat time hadn’t a stump of a leg left.

It would take a ream of paper to give all the ceremonies of this great mass meeting. Suffice it to say that the little press “chawed up” half a bushel of the devotees, and I combed 976 beetles out of my hair the next morning, every one of whose throats was stretched wide open, for their gentle spirits had passed away while yet they sung—and who shall say they will not receive their reward? I buried their motionless forms with musical honors in John’s hat.

Now, Annie, don’t say anything about how long my letter was in going, for I didn’t receive yours until Wednesday—and don’t forget that I tried to answer it the same day, though I was doomed to fail. I wonder if you will do as much?

Yes, the loss of that bridge almost finished my earthly career. There is still a slight nausea about my stomach (for certain malicious persons say that my heart lies in that vicinity) whenever I think of it, and I believe I should have evaporated and vanished away like a blue cloud if John—indefatigable, unconquerable John—had not recovered from his illness to relieve me of a portion of my troubles. I think I can survive it now. John says “der chills kill a white boy, but sie (pronounced see) can’t kill a Detch-man.”

I have not now the slightest doubt, Annie, that your beautiful sketch is perfect. It looks more and more like what I suppose “Mt. Unpleasant” to be every time I look at it. It is really a pity that you could not get the shrubbery in, for your dog fennel is such a tasteful ornament to any yard. Still, I am entirely satisfied to get the principal beauties of the place, and will not grieve over the loss. I have delighted Henry’s little heart by delivering your message. Give the respected councilman the Latin letter by all means. If I understood the lingo well enough I would write you a Dutch one for him. Tell Mane I don’t know what Henry thinks of the verb “amo,” but for some time past I have discovered various fragments of paper scattered about bearing the single word “amite,” and since the receipt of her letter the fragments have greatly multiplied and the word has suddenly warmed into “amour” —all written in the same hand, and that, if I mistake not, Henry’s, for the latter is the only French word he has any particular affection for. Ah, Annie, I have a slight horror of writing essays myself; and if I were inclined to write one I should be afraid to do it, knowing you could do it so much better if you would only get industrious once and try. Don’t you be frightened—I guess Mane is afraid to write anything bad about you, or else her heart softens before she succeeds in doing it. Don’t fail to remember me to her—for I perceive she is aware that my funeral has not yet been preached. Ete paid us a visit yesterday, and we are going to return the kindness this afternoon. Good-by.

Your friend,

Sam [MTPO].

il1005.jpgSam befriended the Taylor girls, Annie Taylor, and sisters Mary Jane Taylor (1837-1916), age nineteen and a student at Iowa Wesleyan University and Esther (“Ete”) Taylor (b.1836). They were the daughters of Hawkins Taylor (b.1810?), a former steamboat captain. At this time he was a prominent businessman, well thought of, highly literate and articulate. His interests included promoting education. It is likely that Sam admired such a man, and friendships with his daughters were valued. Powers and others claim Sam was in love with Annie, but Sam’s only surviving letter to her is signed “Your friend, Sam” [MTL 1: 62]. Interestingly, Paine in MTB does not write about Annie.

May 24 SaturdayEsther Taylor (“Ete”), Annie and Mary Jane’s twenty-one-year-old sister paid Sam a visit [MTL 1: 62 & n9].


June 10 Tuesday – In Keokuk, Sam wrote his mother, Jane Clemens, and sister Pamela in St. Louis. Jane was now living with her daughter. See insert, courtesy of MTP: Vassar College Library.

My Dear Mother & Sister:

      I have nothing to write. Everything is going on well. The Directory is coming on finely. I have to work on it occasionally, which I don’t like a particle. I don’t like to work at too many things at once. They take Henry and Dick away from me too. Before we commenced the Directory, I could tell before breakfast just how much work could be done during the day, and manage accordingly—but now, they throw all my plans into disorder by taking my hands away from their work. I have nothing to do with the book—if I did I would the two book hands do more work than they do, or else I would drop. It is not a mere supposition that they do not work fast enough—I know it; for yesterday the two book hands were at work all day, Henry and Dick all the afternoon, on the advertisements, and they set up five pages and a half—and I set up two pages and a quarter of the same matter after supper night before last, and I don’t work fast on such things. They are either excessively slow motioned or very lazy. I am not getting along well with the job work. I can’t work blindly—without system. I gave Dick a job yesterday, which I calculated he could set in two hours and I could work off in three, and therefore just finish it by supper time, but he was transferred to the Directory, and the job, promised this morning, remains untouched. Through all the great pressure of job work lately, I never before failed in a promise of the kind.

John is gone—disappeared. I think he has ran away to get away from his brutal old father.

Your son


Excuse brevity—this is my 3d letter to-night.

[Notes: Sam wrote that the directory Orion was working on was “coming on finely.” Sam had to work on it sometimes and he complained about disliking it. Sam wrote at least one line of the Keokuk City Directory. He listed himself as an “Antiquarian.” Orion printed two editions of the directory, the second in 1857. He printed several hundred copies too many; the profits were disappointing. MTL 1: 63-5].


June 25 Wednesday – Sam inscribed: “Samuel L. Clemens / 1856. / June 25th, 1856 on a copy of J.L. Comstock’s Elements of Geology (1851).


August 3 Sunday – Sam spent Sunday afternoon with the Taylor girls, and wrote the following Wednesday that he “brought away a big bouquet of Ete’s (Esther Taylor) d——d stinking flowers” [MTL 1: 66].

August 5Tuesday Henry Clemens wrote to Sam from St. Louis (his letter is not extant). Sam replied the same day as follows:

My Dear Brother:

Annie is well. Got your letter, postmarked 5th about two hours ago—come d—d quick, (to be a little profane.) Ward and I held a long consultation, Sunday morning, and the result was that us two have determined to start to Brazil, if possible, in six weeks from now, in order to look carefully into matters there (by the way, I forgot to mention that Annie is well,) and report to Dr. Martin in time for him to follow on the first of March. We propose going via. New York. Now, between you and I and the fence you must say nothing about this to Orion, for he thinks that Ward is to go clear through alone, and that I am to stop at New York or New Orleans until he reports. But that don’t suit me. My confidence in human nature does not extend quite that far. I won’t depend upon Ward’s judgment, or anybody’s else—I want to see with my own eyes, and form my own opinion. But you know what Orion is. When he gets a notion into his head, and more especially if it is an erroneous one, the Devil can’t get it out again. So I knew better than to combat his arguments long, but apparently yielded, inwardly determined to go clear through. Ma knows my determination, but even she counsels me to keep it from Orion. She says I can treat him as I did her when I started to St. Louis and went to New York—I can start to New York and go to South America.! (This reminds me that—Annie is well.) Although Orion talks grandly about furnishing me with fifty or a hundred dollars in six weeks, I am not such an ass as to think he will retain the same opinion such an eternity of time—in all probability he will be entirely out of the notion by that time. Though I don’t like to attribute selfish motives to him, you could see yourself that his object in favoring my wishes was that I might take all the hell of pioneering in a foreign land, and then when everything was placed on a firm basis, and beyond all risk, he could follow himself. But you would soon discover, when the time arrived, that he couldn’t leave Mollie and that “love of a baby.” With these facts before my eyes, (I must not forget to say that Annie is well,) I could not depend upon Orion for ten dollars, so I have “feelers” out in several directions, and have already asked for a hundred dollars from one source (keep it to yourself.) I will lay on my oars for a while, and see how the wind sets, when I may probably try to get more. Mrs. Creel is a great friend of mine, and has some influence with Ma and Orion, though I reckon they would not acknowledge it. I am going up there to-morrow, to press her into my service. I shall take care that Ma and Orion are plentifully supplied with South American books. They have Herndon’s Report now. Ward and the Dr. and myself will hold a grand consultation to-night at the office. We have agreed that no more shall be admitted into our company.

Emma Graham has got home, and Bettie Barrett has gone up the country. I may as well remark that Annie is well. I spent Sunday afternoon up there, and brought away a big bouquet of Ete’s d—d stinking flowers, (I mean no disrespect to her, or her taste,)[.] Any single one of the lot smells worse than a Sebastopol “stink-pot.” Between you and I, I believe that the secret of Ma’s willingness to allow me to go to South America lies in the fact that she is afraid I am going to get married! Success to the hallucination. Annie has not heard from the girls yet. I believe the Guards went down to Quincy to-day to escort our first locomotive home.

The report that Belle and Isbell are about to be married, is still going. Dick was engaged in sticking up Whig office hand bills at last accounts.

Write soon.

Your Brother,


P. S. I will just add that Annie is WELL [MTPO; MTL 1: 65-7]. The former source notes: Mary Ann Creel (b. 1822 or 1823), Mollie Clemens’s cousin, was the eldest daughter of Colonel William S. Patterson (1802–89), Iowa pioneer and legislator and Keokuk pork packer, postmaster, and later three-time mayor. She was married to Jane Clemens’s cousin Robert P. Creel (b. 1815), a brickmason who owned a successful construction business. In 1856 he was a member of the Iowa legislature, and in 1862 became mayor of Keokuk

Other notes: Several times he mentions “Annie is well,” signifying his admiration for Annie Taylor, or perhaps rubbing it in that the young lady was spending time with Sam and not Henry. He tells Henry to come d——d quick because he wants him to accompany him and Dr. Joseph S. Martin, a Keokuk physician, and a man named Ward (not further identified) to Brazil. He cautions Henry not to tell Orion of his plans, but conveys that their mother is willing for him to go “lies in the fact that she is afraid I am going to get married!” This may be a reference to the time Sam is spending with Annie Taylor. Paine says [MTB 110] that Martin and Ward “gave up the plan, probably for lack of means,” but Sam would continue to think about travel to the Amazon, which would spur his trip to New Orleans where he signed on as a cub pilot under Horace Ezra Bixby (1826-1912). Sam’s cousin, Jeremiah Clemens (1814-1865), published a scheme to build an empire on the Amazon and open trade in coca. This was one of many get-rich-quick schemes that would attract Sam during his lifetime [Powers, Dangerous 241].


October, early – Sam walked along the main street of Keokuk in swirling snow, and found a fifty-dollar bill. Astounded, he later recounted, “It was a fifty-dollar bill—the only one I had ever seen, and the largest assemblage of money I had ever seen in one spot” [Powers, Dangerous 243]. He advertised it but after five days with no claimant he felt he’d done enough:

“By and by I couldn’t stand it any longer. My conscience had gotten all that was coming to it. I felt that I must take that money out of danger” [MTB 111].

The trip to the Amazon was now possible. Sam planned to work his way down the Mississippi and board a ship for Brazil. He got Orion to use his influence with the head manager, George Rees, who agreed to pay $5 each for some humorous travel sketches he would send to the Keokuk Daily Post [MTB 112; Powers, Dangerous 243]. Sam then departed Keokuk, bound for the Amazon. The found fifty was but one of several miraculous incidents that would serve as turning points in Sam’s life—or so he later liked to claim.

October 13 Monday – Sam made a brief stay in St. Louis, staying with his mother, and sister. He attended the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association Fair. He wrote a sketch of it, titled “The Great Fair at St. Louis,” signed, “SAM,” which appeared in the Keokuk Post on Oct. 21 and then in the Saturday Post on Oct. 25 [MTL 1: 69].

October 18 Saturday – Still in St. Louis, Sam wrote the first Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass letter, burlesquing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar [Gribben 626]. Sam used dialect, and grammatical and spelling errors to characterize a country bumpkin getting the worst of it in the big city. It was a literary strategy that would come to fruition in many of his future works. Snodgrass was also the last pen name Sam used prior to Mark Twain, in Nevada, Feb. 1863. Sam earned five dollars each for these letters, his first payments for freelance writing [MT Encyclopedia, Abshire 694]. “It is likely that he departed on Oct. 18 and arrived in Keokuk the following day” [MTL 1: 69-70].


October 19 Sunday – Sam arrived in Keokuk, Iowa (see Oct. 18 entry).

October 21 Tuesday “The Great Fair at St. Louis,” signed, “SAM,” appeared in the Keokuk Post [ET&S 1: 378].


October 22 Wednesday ca. – Sam traveled by river packet to Quincy, Illinois [MTL 1: 70].

October 23 to 24 Friday –Sam traveled by train to Chicago and Indianapolis to Cincinnati [MTL 1: 70]. Branch gives on or about Oct. 24 as the date Sam arrived in Cincinnati [Branch, “Bixby” 2].

October, late – In Cincinnati Sam found employment as a typesetter for T. Wrightson and Co., one of the city’s leading printers. He worked there into the next spring, some six months [MTL 1: 70]. Sam’s time in Cincinnati is one of the “least documented of his life…” [MT Encyclopedia, Poole 145] but he did write two more Snodgrass letters while there. Sam lived in a boarding house. Long hours at work plus discussions with other boarders didn’t allow Sam much time for writing. In a chapter entitled “A Scotchman Named Macfarlane,” Paine writes of a “long, lank, unsmiling Scotchman” [MTB 114-15] who Sam supposedly spent many evenings with that winter. Macfarlane’s ideas paralleled many of Sam’s later misogynistic and controversial views, such as those expressed in What is Man? in 1906 [MTB 114-5]. Some researchers have theorized that Macfarlane was an invention of Sam’s, a “mask that he wore to express many of his more controversial ideas” [MT Encyclopedia, Poole 146]. Baker posits that Sam may have recalled Macfarlane as “McFarland,” a typesetter who also worked at Wrightson’s from 1855-60 and lived at different boarding houses each year [Baker 303]. Note: see young Henry Macfarlane, Late-Mar. 1866—could this be the same person?

November 1 Saturday – Sam’s first Snodgrass letter dated Oct. 18from St. Louis titled, CORRESPONDENCE ran in the Keokuk Saturday Post.

Gee Whillikens! Mister Editors, if you could a been there jest then, you’d a thought that either old Gabriel had blowed his horn, or else there was houses to rent in that locality. I reckon there was nigh onto forty thousand people setting in that theatre—and sich an other fannin, and blowin, and scrapon, and gigglin, I hain’t seen since I arrived in the United States. Gals! Bless your soul, there was gals there of every age and sex, from three months up to a hundred years, and every cherubim of ‘em had a fan and an opery glass and a-tongue—probably two or three of the latter weepon, from the racket they made. No use to try to estimate the oceans of men and mustaches—the place looked like a shoe brush shop [MT Encyclopedia, Abshire 694; Camfield, bibliog.].

November 14 Friday – Sam dated his second Snodgrass letter from Cincinnati [MT Encyclopedia, Abshire 694].


November 18 Tuesday An untitled sketch, dated Nov. 8 and signed “L,” about a Cincinnati boarding house ran in the Keokuk Post. It is attributed to Clemens [ET&S 1: 382; MTL 1: 70]. Britton examines the piece and makes a case for it being Sam’s, and Mcfarlane being autobiographical rather than fictitious [16-17]. Note: Britton mistakenly writes the sketch was published on Nov. 8, but it was dated Nov 8 and published Nov. 18.


November 29 Saturday – The second Snodgrass letter dated Nov. 14, SNODGRASS’ RIDE ON THE RAILROAD ran in the Keokuk Post [MT Encyclopedia, Abshire 694; Camfield, bibliog.].

November 30 Sunday Sam’s 21st birthday.


December 6 Saturday – Sam’ second Snodgrass letter ran again in the Keokuk Saturday Post [Schmidt].