Sketches New and Old.]--He had known Riley in San Francisco; the two were congenial, and settled down to their several undertakings.
Clemens was chiefly concerned over two things: he wished to make money and he wished to secure a government appointment for Orion. He had used up the most of his lecture accumulations, and was moderately in debt. His work was in demand at good rates, for those days, and with working opportunity he could presently dispose of his financial problem. The Tribune was anxious for letters; the Enterprise and Alta were waiting for them; the Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the magazines--all had solicited contributions; the lecture bureaus pursued him. Personally his outlook was bright.
The appointment for Orion was a different matter. The powers were not especially interested in a brother; there were too many brothers and assorted relatives on the official waiting-list already. Clemens was offered appointments for himself--a consulship, a post-mastership; even that of San Francisco. From the Cabinet down, the Washington political contingent had read his travel-letters, and was ready to recognize officially the author of them in his own person and personality.
Also, socially: Mark Twain found himself all at once in the midst of receptions, dinners, and speech-making; all very exciting for a time at least, but not profitable, not conducive to work. At a dinner of the Washington Correspondents Club his response to the toast, "Women," was pronounced by Schuyler Colfax to be "the best after dinner speech ever made." Certainly it was a refreshing departure from the prosy or clumsy- witted efforts common to that period. He was coming altogether into his own.--[This is the first of Mark Twain's after-dinner speeches to be preserved. The reader will find it complete, as reported next day, in Appendix G, at the end of last volume.]
He was not immediately interested in the matter of book publication. The Jumping Frog book was popular, and in England had been issued by Routledge; but the royalty returns were modest enough and slow in arrival. His desire was for prompter results. His interest in book publication had never been an eager one, and related mainly to the advertising it would furnish, which he did not now need; or to the money return, in which he had no great faith. Yet at this very moment a letter for him was lying in the Tribune office in New York which would bring the book idea into first prominence and spell the beginning of his fortune.
Among those who had read and found delight in the Tribune letters was Elisha Bliss, Jr., of the American Publishing Company, of Hartford. Bliss was a shrewd and energetic man, with a keen appreciation for humor and the American fondness for that literary quality. He had recently undertaken the management of a Hartford concern, and had somewhat alarmed its conservative directorate by publishing books that furnished entertainment to the reader as well as moral instruction. Only his success in paying dividends justified this heresy and averted his downfall. Two days after the arrival of the Quaker City Bliss wrote the letter above mentioned. It ran as follows:
OFFICE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHING CO. HARTFORD, CONN., November 21, 1867.
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS, ESQ., Tribune Office, New York.
DEAR SIR,--We take the liberty to address you this, in place of a letter which we had recently written and were about to forward to you, not knowing your arrival home was expected so soon. We are desirous of obtaining from you a work of some kind, perhaps compiled from your letters from the past, etc., with such interesting additions as may be proper. We are the publishers of A. D. Richardson's works, and flatter ourselves that we can give an author a favorable term and do as full justice to his productions as any other house in the country. We are perhaps the oldest subscription house in the country, and have never failed to give a book an immense circulation.