Vol 3 Section 0073
their relationship. See insert of note.
This is the day Sam had agreed to dine with Charles Frederick Moberly Bell, editor of the London Times [Apr. 27 to Spurgeon].
May 5 Wednesday
May 6 Thursday – At 23 Tedworth Square in London, Sam wrote to James Ross Clemens, sorry that he was “having this ill turn,” and offering to do anything to help. Livy had offered to help [MTP]. Note. James’ illness was the source of the rumor that Sam was desperately ill, or dying, or even dead. Paine writes:
Finally, the new-found cousin, Dr. Jim Clemens, fell ill, and the newspapers had it presently that Mark Twain was lying at the point of death. A reporter ferreted him out and appeared at Tedworth Square with cabled instructions from his paper. He was a young man, and innocently enough exhibited his credentials. His orders read:
“If Mark Twain very ill, five hundred words. If dead, send one thousand.” Clemens smiled grimly as he handed back the cable.
“You don’t need as much as that,” he said. “Just say the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.”
The young man went away quite seriously, and it was not until he was nearly to his office that he saw the joke. Then, of course, it was flashed all over the world [MTB 1039].
Notes: Powers claims that James Ross Clemens “fell seriously ill while at Tedworth Square,” [MT A Life 584] but this letter contradicts that idea. The reporter who cabled the news was Frank Marshall White (1861-1919), London correspondent for the N.Y. Journal (see June 1 entry). Sam’s “exaggerated” comments evolved into several variations, including one Powers cites from Sam’s notebook [NB 41 TS 27-8]: “The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.” Powers’ further claim, that the quotation “restored him to international attention,” is somewhat dubious and one of those unprovable ideas that gathers currency with the retelling. The wee article rebutting the rumor published on a back page of the NY Times (see May 8) argues against this sort of electrifying rebirth of interest in Mark Twain, if there had been much of a lapse. Fred Kaplan writes that Sam cabled his famous line and “When a Herald interviewer pierced his defenses, he responded to the pointed question about his health that of course he was dying but not ‘any faster than anybody else’” . So much for biographical variations.
Sam also wrote to Bram Stoker, remarking that he had been getting offers from “Washington” (he underscored to emphasize) to dramatize his books. What did Stoker know of these producers? One who wrote wanting to dramatize CY was W.W. Randall—did Stoker know him? Don’t answer this letter, Sam requested but when they saw each other “tell me if you know anything about him” [MTP].
Note: In the early 1880’s Charles “Frohman’s first associate was W. W. Randall, a San Francisco newspaper man whom he had met in the Haverly’s Minstrel days, in the mean time manager of ‘The Private Secretary’ and several of the Madison Square companies on the road. He was alert and aggressive and knew the technique of the theatrical business” [Charles Frohman: Manager and Man, by Isaac Frederick Marcosson and Daniel Frohman, et al p.99]
The Boston Globe, p.4, ran “All Wrapt Up In Play. / ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’ Makes Admirers Always,” a highly complimentary review of the play now running at Boston’s Tremont Theatre.
May 7 Friday – At 23 Tedworth Square in London, Sam wrote to Chatto & Windus: “Please send me
Garrett’s book, reviewed this morning: ‘Story of an African Crisis’—Constable & Co” [MTP]. Note: Edmund Garrett. Sam annotated the book throughout in both pencil and ink, and mentioned Garrett’s book in ch. 65 of FE,
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.