Autograph Letter Signed, 8vo, Paris, February 12, 1895. Paired with cabinet photograph, possibly silver bromide print, 6.25 x 4 inches, by Mora of New York City
by TWAIN, MARK [pseudonym of SAMUEL L. CLEMENS]
Clemens writes to Henry Loomis Nelson, chief editor of "Harper's Weekly" (1894-1898), referring to writing a story for the magazine and informing Nelson of his travel plans to New York. "Oh, but I did intend to write for the Weekly; but I never happened to strike a subject that seemed suitable. I believe I have written only two miscellaneous things since then - a skit at Bourget & a small tale, & neither of those seemed suitable. But I shall be in New York per 'New York' March 2d or 3d, & then may be you can knock out a subject for me..." He signs, "S.L. Clemens". Twain's mention of the "Bourget skit & a small tale" are most likely references to his "What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us" and "How to Tell a Story." Paul Bourget, the French poet, writer and critic, wrote about his interpretations of Americans and in "What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us," Twain, who had already spent time observing and writing about Europe and who had criticized the French, retorts to Bourget's comments criticizing Americans. The story was first published in the "North American Review," Volume 160, number 458 (January 1895). In L. Clark Keating's "Mark Twain and Paul Bourget," he notes, "In fact in Paul Bourget we have the perfect antithesis of Clemens… He was afraid lest America's democratic principles and her materialism should have a harmful influence on Europe." his work, along with "How to Tell a Story" and several other essays were published by Harper in 1897. "How to Tell a Story" was first published, however, in the October 3, 1895 issue of the "Youth's Companion." It is most likely that this story is the "short tale" to which Twain is referring, but a part of "How to Tell a Story" includes a shorter tale, "The Golden Arm," "a short tale… appearing in print first obscurely in 1888, then in "How to Tell a Story…." ["The Routledge Encyclopedia of Mark Twain," pp. 369-370]. "The Golden Arm" is a folktale or ghost story used by Twain in his "How to tell a Story.". Twain had a long relationship with Harper's. His stories appeared in all the national magazines of his day, but "Harper's Weekly" was the first national magazine to publish one of his stories, "43 Days in an Open Boat" in December 1866.. While Mark Twain earned quite a bit of money from his writings and lectures, he ran into financial difficulties over the course of the last twenty years or so of his life, particularly due to some unwise investments. In addition, the collapse of two leading companies in the U.S., the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company, caused the stock market panic of 1893, producing a serious economic depression. Due to these setbacks, Twain filed for bankruptcy. He would eventually overcame these financial struggles with the partial aid of Harper's. Twain sailed from Southampton, England, on February 23, 1895 on the S.S. New York, bound for New York in order to arrange for publication of "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc," and to review a proposal to publish an edition of his works. ["Mark Twain's Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers, 1893-1909," edited by Lewis Leary, 1969, Chapter II, pp. 132-230]. Days before he wrote our letter informing Nelson of his travel plans, Twain had finished "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" in Paris on February 8, 1895. The book was his last completed novel, published by Harper and Bros. in 1896, but first published as a serialization in "Harper's Monthly Magazine" beginning in March of 1895. ["The Routledge Encyclopedia of Mark Twain," p. 421]. The serialized version was published anonymously as Twain wanted the public to take it more seriously than if they knew it was by the popular humorist, but that anonymity was short lived. In addition to Harper's publishing his "Joan of Arc" and "Tom Sawyer, Detective," financier Henry Huttleston Rogers helped Twain recoup some of his financial losses. Twain began an around-the-world lecture tour in July of 1895, about five months after he penned our letter. (Inventory #: 4198)
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