Matthews would appear to have criticized the English copyright protection, or rather the lack of it, comparing it unfavorably with American conditions. Clemens, who had been amply protected in Great Britain, replied that America was in no position to criticize England; that if American authors suffered in England they had themselves to blame for not taking the proper trouble and precautions required by the English law, that is to say, "previous publication" on English soil. He declared that his own books had been as safe in England as at home since he had undertaken to comply with English requirements, and that Professor Matthews was altogether mistaken, both as to premise and conclusion.
"You are the very wrong-headedest person in America," he said; "and you are injudicious." And of the article: "I read it to the cat--well, I never saw a cat carry on so before . . . . The American author can go to Canada, spend three days there and come home with an English and American copyright as strong as if it had been built out of railroad iron."
Matthews replied that not every one could go to Canada, any more than to Corinth. He said:
"It is not easy for a poor author who may chance to live in Florida or Texas, those noted homes of literature, to go to Canada."
Clemens did not reply again; that is to say, he did not publish his reply. It was a capable bomb which he prepared, well furnished with amusing instance, sarcasm, and ridicule, but he did not use it. Perhaps he was afraid it would destroy his opponent, which would not do. In his heart he loved Matthews. He laid the deadly thing away and maintained a dignified reserve.
Clemens often felt called upon to criticize American institutions, but he was first to come to their defense, especially when the critic was an alien. When Matthew Arnold offered some strictures on America. Clemens covered a good many quires of paper with caustic replies. He even defended American newspapers, which he had himself more than once violently assailed for misreporting him and for other journalistic shortcomings, and he bitterly denounced every shaky British institution, touched upon every weak spot in hereditary rule. He did not print--not then--[An article on the American press, probably the best of those prepared at this time, was used, in part, in The American Claimant, as the paper read before the Mechanics' Club, by "Parker," assistant editor of the 'Democrat'.]--he was writing mainly for relief--without success, however, for he only kindled the fires of his indignation. He was at Quarry Farm and he plunged into his neglected story--A Yankee in King Arthur's Court--and made his astonishing hero the mouthpiece of his doctrines. He worked with an inspiration and energy born of his ferocity. To Whitmore, near the end of the summer, he wrote:
I've got 16 working-days left yet, and in that time I will add another 120,000 words to my book if I have luck.
In his memoranda of this time he says:
There was never a throne which did not represent a crime. There is no throne to-day which does not represent a crime ....
Show me a lord and I will show you a man whom you couldn't tell from a journeyman shoemaker if he were stripped, and who, in all that is worth being, is the shoemaker's inferior; and in the shoemaker I will show you a dull animal, a poor-spirited insect; for there are enough of him to rise and chuck the lords and royalties into the sea where they belong, and he doesn't do it.
But his violence waned, maybe, for he did not finish the Yankee in the sixteen days as planned. He brought the manuscript back to Hartford, but found it hard work there, owing to many interruptions. He went over to Twichell's and asked for a room where he might work in seclusion. They gave him a big upper chamber, but some repairs were going on below. From a letter written to Theodore Crane we gather that it was not altogether quiet.
Friday, October 5, 1888.
DEAR THEO, I am here in Twichell's house at work, with the noise of the children and an army of carpenters to help: Of course they don't help, but neither do they hinder.