Of the books projected (there were several), a burlesque manual of etiquette would seem to have been the most promising. Howells had faith in it, and of the still remaining fragments a few seem worth quoting:
If your ball glides along in the intense and immediate vicinity of the object-ball, and a count seems exquisitely imminent, lift one leg; then one shoulder; then squirm your body around in sympathy with the direction of the moving ball; and at the instant when the ball seems on the point of colliding throw up both of your arms violently. Your cue will probably break a chandelier, but no matter; you have done what you could to help the count.
AT THE DOG-FIGHT
If it occur in your block, courteously give way to strangers desiring a view, particularly ladies.
Avoid showing partiality toward the one dog, lest you hurt the feelings of the other one.
Let your secret sympathies and your compassion be always with the under dog in the fight--this is magnanimity; but bet on the other one--this is business.
If you draw to a flush and fail to fill, do not continue the conflict.
If you hold a pair of trays, and your opponent is blind, and it costs you fifty to see him, let him remain unperceived.
If you hold nothing but ace high, and by some means you know that the other man holds the rest of the aces, and he calls, excuse yourself; let him call again another time.
If you live in the country, buy at 80, sell at 40. Avoid all forms of eccentricity.
IN THE RESTAURANT
When you wish to get the waiter's attention, do not sing out "Say!" Simply say "Szt!"
His old abandoned notion of "Hamlet" with an added burlesque character came back to him and stirred his enthusiasm anew, until even Howells manifested deep interest in the matter. One reflects how young Howells must have been in those days; how full of the joy of existence; also how mournfully he would consider such a sacrilege now.
Clemens proposed almost as many things to Howells as his brother Orion proposed to him. There was scarcely a letter that didn't contain some new idea, with a request for advice or co-operation. Now it was some book that he meant to write some day, and again it would be a something that he wanted Howells to write.
Once he urged Howells to make a play, or at least a novel, out of Orion. At another time he suggested as material the "Rightful Earl of Durham."
He is a perfectly stunning literary bonanza, and must be dug up and put on the market. You must get his entire biography out of him and have it ready for Osgood's magazine. Even if it isn't worth printing, you must have it anyway, and use it one of these days in one of your stories or in a play.
It was this notion about 'The American Claimant' which somewhat later would lead to a collaboration with Howells on a drama, and eventually to a story of that title.
But Clemens's chief interest at this time lay in publishing, rather than in writing. His association with Osgood inspired him to devise new ventures of profit. He planned a 'Library of American Humor', which Howells (soon to leave the Atlantic) and "Charley" Clark--[Charles Hopkins Clark, managing editor of the Hartford Courant.]--were to edit, and which Osgood would publish, for subscription sale. Without realizing it, Clemens was taking his first step toward becoming his own publisher. His contract with Osgood for 'The Prince and the Pauper' made him essentially that, for by the terms of it he agreed to supply all the money for the making of the book, and to pay Osgood a royalty of seven and one-half per cent. for selling it, reversing the usual conditions. The contract for the Library of Humor was to be a similar one, though in this case Osgood was to have a larger royalty return, and to share proportionately in the expense and risk.