The whole pitiful machinery of politics disgusted him. In his notebook he wrote:
Whiskey is taken into the committee rooms in demijohns and carried out in demagogues.
And in a letter:
This is a place to get a poor opinion of everybody in. There are some pitiful intellects in this Congress! There isn't one man in Washington in civil office who has the brains of Anson Burlingame, and I suppose if China had not seized and saved his great talents to the world this government would have discarded him when his time was up.--[Anson Burlingame had by this time become China's special ambassador to the nations.]
Furthermore, he was down on the climate of Washington. He decided to go to San Francisco and see "those Alta thieves face to face." Then, if a book resulted, he could prepare it there among friends. Also, he could lecture.
He had been anxious to visit his people before sailing, but matters were too urgent to permit delay. He obtained from Bliss an advance of royalty and took passage, by way of Aspinwall, on the sidewheel steamer Henry Chauncey, a fine vessel for those days. The name of Mark Twain was already known on the isthmus, and when it was learned he had arrived on the Chauncey a delegation welcomed him on the wharf, and provided him with refreshments and entertainment. Mr. Tracy Robinson, a poet, long a resident of that southern land, was one of the group. Beyond the isthmus Clemens fell in again with his old captain, Ned Wakeman, who during the trip told him the amazing dream that in due time would become Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. He made the first draft of this story soon after his arrival in San Francisco, as a sort of travesty of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's Gates Ajar, then very popular. Clemens, then and later, had a high opinion of Capt. Ned Wakeman's dream, but his story of it would pass through several stages before finally reaching the light of publication.--[Mr. John P. Vollmer, now of Lewiston, Idaho, a companion of that voyage, writes of a card game which took place beyond the isthmus. The notorious crippled gambler, "Smithy," figured in it, and it would seem to have furnished the inspiration for the exciting story in Chapter XXXVI of the Mississippi book.]
In San Francisco matters turned out as he had hoped. Colonel McComb was his stanch friend; McCrellish and Woodward, the proprietors, presently conceded that they had already received good value for the money paid. The author agreed to make proper acknowledgments to the Alta in his preface, and the matter was settled with friendliness all around.
The way was now clear, the book assured. First, however, he must provide himself with funds. He delivered a lecture, with the Quaker City excursion as his subject. On the 5th of May he wrote to Bliss:
I lectured here on the trip the other night; over $1,600 in gold in the house; every seat taken and paid for before night.
He reports that he is steadily at work, and expects to start East with the completed manuscript about the middle of June.
But this was a miscalculation. Clemens found that the letters needed more preparation than he had thought. His literary vision and equipment had vastly altered since the beginning of that correspondence. Some of the chapters he rewrote; others he eliminated entirely. It required two months of fairly steady work to put the big manuscript together.
Some of the new chapters he gave to Bret Harte for the Overland Monthly, then recently established. Harte himself was becoming a celebrity about this time. His "Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," published in early numbers of the Overland, were making a great stir in the East, arousing there a good deal more enthusiasm than in the magazine office or the city of their publication. That these two friends, each supreme in his own field, should have entered into their heritage so nearly at the same moment, is one of the many seemingly curious coincidences of literary history.