Sam recalled writing a 40,000 word story called “Simon Wheeler” in “1876 or ‘75” (he wrote some in 1870 and more in 1877), “wherein the rum was the preventing of an execution thorugh testimony furnished by mental telegraph from the other side of the globe.” The source points out that the MS Sam referred to of more than 500 pages did not describe such an event, but “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904” sketch, published in the Nov. 1898 Century, uses Jan Szczepanik’s “telectroscope,” an early form of television as the means for saving a man from execution. It may be that portions of the “Simon Wheeler” MS are lost. In the sketch Sam anticipates cell phones:
I had a lot of people scattered about the globe who carried in their pockets something like the old mesmerizer-button, made of different metals & when they wanted to call up each other & have a talk, they “pressed the button” or did something. I don’t remember what, & communication was at once, opened. I didn’t finish the story, though I re-began it in several new ways, & spent altogether 70,000 words on it, then gave it up & threw it aside.
Sam felt that someday such “mental telegraph” would be possible. He related starting sixteen works wrong the previous summer, including three books and thirteen magazine articles, out of which only two “little wee things” succeeded. He felt that re- beginning older articles was a solution, though none of them were important except the story to be called “Which Was the Dream?” Sam began this tale on May 23, 1897.
A week ago I examined that MS—10,000 words—& saw that the plan was a totally impossible one—for me; but a new plan suggested itself, & straightway the tale began to slide from the pen with ease & confidence. I think I’ve struck the right one this time. I have already put 12,000 words of it on paper & Mrs. Clemens is pretty outspokenly satisfied with it—a hard critic to content.
Sam also cautioned should Howells see a little short story, “My Platonic Sweetheart” in a magazine in the fall, that it wasn’t the one just referred to, though it “may have been a suggester.” He then shared that they would leave in the afternoon for Ischl and “gad around ten days among the lakes & mountains to rest -up Mrs. Clemens” (they shortened the trip to three days). Here pages 7 and 8 of his letter are missing; the source tells us Howells destroyed them because they attacked “a brother author” even though they were “intensely amusing” to the Howells family. The author was likely Charles Dudley Warner, for right after the missing pages, Sam satirizes “Douglas” and the campaign to promote the newly published 32-volume Library of the World’s Best Literature, ed. by Warner (see MTHL 2: 678n7).
Sam was amazed that Howells’ son John was “building a building!” (John Howells would be the architect of Sam’s last home, “Stormfield”).
“… Damnation, how these children do all of a sudden rise up & remind us, & even try to realize to us, that they are but children by tradition. (‘Papa, the slave’s setting the table.’)” [Note: this last is a reference back to the first visit to the Clemenses by young John Howells with his father, on Mar. 12, 1876; see entry].
Just as Sam began to write about the Spanish-American War he wrote, “Apparently not. The hack has come, we must mount & drive to Vienna” [MTHL 2: 674-8].
The Clemens family left the Villa Paulhof, Kaltenleutgeben for Vienna and on to Bad Ischl, Austria, (about 184 miles total) a town which, for Sam, was aptly named. In his Aug. 19 to Rogers, Sam wrote they “left a cool & comfortable house, & after a long & hot railway trip” they arrived in Ischl. It would get worse.
August 17 Wednesday – The Clemens family was in Bad Ischl or Hallstatt, Austria.
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.