Vol 3 Section 0262

214                                                                        1898

I tried to find a cheap copy some time ago for a friend in America, but failed; but my wife has been out this morning & found one for a half dollar, & will send it to you, & you can transfer the half dollar (I mean a similar one) to one of the charities of your neighborhood & that will square the account [MTP].

December 29 Thursday – Sam wrote on Dec. 30 of Livy’s financial calculations:

Every little while, for these three years, now, Mrs. Clemens has come with pencil & paper & figured up the condition of things (she keeps the accounts & the bank-book) & has proven to me that the clouds were lifting, & so has hoisted my spirits up temporarily & kept me going till another figuring up was necessary. Last night she figured up for her own satisfaction, not mine, & found that we own a house & furniture in Hartford; that my English & American copyrights pay an income which represents $200,000; & that we have $107,000 cash in the bank [Dec. 30 to Howells].

In the evening the Clemenses saw Adolf von Wilbrandt’s tragedy, The Master of Palmyra.

“We saw the ‘Master of Palmyra’ last night [Dec. 29]. How Death, with his gentleness and majesty, made the human grand-folk around him seem little & trivial & silly!” [MTHL 2: 685-6 & n7].

Note: the source: “Clemens had just seen the play a second time, for he had written an encomium of it in his article ‘About Play-Acting’ for the October Forum (DE, XXIII, 213-225), deploring the failure of the New York theatres to produce tragedies like Willbrandt’s. Certain themes of The Master of Palmyra—especially the confusion between dream and reality, and the problem of identity posed by the successive reincarnations of the principal woman character—occur pervasively in Mark Twain’s later work and dominate The Mysterious Stranger” [n7].

December 30 FridayAt the Hotel Krantz in Vienna, Austria Sam began a letter to William Dean Howells that he added a PS to on Jan. 3, 1899.

I begin with a date—including all the details—though I shall be interrupted presently by a South-African acquaintance who is passing through, & it may be many days before I catch another leisure moment. Not how suddenly a thing can become habit, & how indestructible the habit is, afterward! In your house in Cambridge a hundred years ago, Mrs. Howells said to me, “Here is a bunch of your letters, & the dates are of no value, because you don’t put any in—the years, anyway.” That remark diseased me with a habit which has cost me worlds of time & torture & ink, & millions of vain efforts & buckets of tears to break it, & here it is yet—I could easier get rid of a virtue.

Sam expressed disappointment that Bliss had not met Howells’ price for writing the critical Introduction to his Uniform Edition. He also related Livy’s financial calculations (see Dec. 29):

“I have been out & bought a box of 6-cent cigars; I was smoking 4½ before.”

Sam also confessed he didn’t read Howells’ works as much as he should and not “anywhere near half as much” as he wanted to; still he read whenever he got the chance and was saving up his last serialized story segments ( Ragged Lady was serialized in Harper’s Bazaar, July-Nov. 1898). He confessed the last time he’d read a book by Howells was two years before in London (Impressions and Experiences 1896); he’d read it twice and some chapters “several times,” and then lent it to “another admirer.” He asked about John Howells’ twenty -five million dollar competition, as well as the “new thing of the Harpers which is to relieve you from creative work.” He passed on family plans to return and live in N.Y. in the fall of 1899, then closed with these somber lines:

Susy hovers about us this holiday week, & the shadows fall all about us of

SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.