Doubleday's troubles were not quite over, however. Clemens began to find defects in his new home and assumed to hold Doubleday responsible for them. He sent a daily postal card complaining of the windows, furnace, the range, the water-whatever he thought might lend interest to Doubleday's life. As a matter of fact, he was pleased with the place. To MacAlister he wrote:

We were very lucky to get this big house furnished. There was not another one in town procurable that would answer us, but this one is all right-space enough in it for several families, the rooms all old-fashioned, great size.

The house at 14 West Tenth Street became suddenly one of the most conspicuous residences in New York. The papers immediately made its appearance familiar. Many people passed down that usually quiet street, stopping to observe or point out where Mark Twain lived. There was a constant procession of callers of every kind. Many were friends, old and new, but there was a multitude of strangers. Hundreds came merely to express their appreciation of his work, hoping for a personal word or a hand-shake or an autograph; but there were other hundreds who came with this thing and that thing--axes to grind--and there were newspaper reporters to ask his opinion on politics, or polygamy, or woman's suffrage; on heaven and hell and happiness; on the latest novel; on the war in Africa, the troubles in China; on anything under the sun, important or unimportant, interesting or inane, concerning which one might possibly hold an opinion. He was unfailing "copy" if they could but get a word with him. Anything that he might choose to say upon any subject whatever was seized upon and magnified and printed with head-lines. Sometimes opinions were invented for him. If he let fall a few words they were multiplied into a column interview.

"That reporter worked a miracle equal to the loaves and fishes," he said of one such performance.

Many men would have become annoyed and irritable as these things continued; but Mark Twain was greater than that. Eventually he employed a secretary to stand between him and the wash of the tide, as a sort of breakwater; but he seldom lost his temper no matter what was the request which was laid before him, for he recognized underneath it the great tribute of a great nation.

Of course his literary valuation would be affected by the noise of the general applause. Magazines and syndicates besought him for manuscripts. He was offered fifty cents and even a dollar a word for whatever he might give them. He felt a child-like gratification in these evidences of his market advancement, but he was not demoralized by them. He confined his work to a few magazines, and in November concluded an arrangement with the new management of Harper & Brothers, by which that firm was to have the exclusive serial privilege of whatever he might write at a fixed rate of twenty cents per word--a rate increased to thirty cents by a later contract, which also provided an increased royalty for the publication of his books.

The United States, as a nation, does not confer any special honors upon private citizens. We do not have decorations and titles, even though there are times when it seems that such things might be not inappropriately conferred. Certain of the newspapers, more lavish in their enthusiasm than others, were inclined to propose, as one paper phrased it, "Some peculiar recognition--something that should appeal to Samuel L. Clemens, the man, rather than to Mark Twain, the literate. Just what form this recognition should take is doubtful, for the case has no exact precedent."

Perhaps the paper thought that Mark Twain was entitled--as he himself once humorously suggested-to the "thanks of Congress" for having come home alive and out of debt, but it is just as well that nothing of the sort was ever seriously considered. The thanks of the public at large contained more substance, and was a tribute much more to his mind. The paper above quoted ended by suggesting a very large dinner and memorial of welcome as being more in keeping with the republican idea and the American expression of good-will.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book
Mark Twain Biography
Mark Twain a Biography Volume I Part 1 1835-1866
Mark Twain a Biography Volume I Part 2 1866-1875
Mark Twain a Biography Volume II Part 1 1875-1886
Mark Twain a Biography Volume II Part 2 1886-1900
Mark Twain a Biography Volume III Part 1 1900-1907
Mark Twain a Biography Volume III Part 2 1907-1910