It here follows:

DEAR & HONORED SIR,--I never hear any one speak of you & of your long roll of illustrious services in other than terms of pride & praise--& out of the heart. I think I am right in believing you to be the only man in the civil service of the country the cleanness of whose motives is never questioned by any citizen, & whose acts proceed always upon a broad & high plane, never by accident or pressure of circumstance upon a narrow or low one. There are majorities that are proud of more than one of the nation's great servants, but I believe, & I think I know, that you are the only one of whom the entire nation is proud. Proud & thankful.

Name & address are lacking here, & for a purpose: to leave you no chance to make my words a burden to you and a reproach to me, who would lighten your burdens if I could, not add to them.

Irving died in October, and Clemens ordered a wreath for his funeral. To MacAlister he wrote:

I profoundly grieve over Irving's death. It is another reminder. My section of the procession has but a little way to go. I could not be very sorry if I tried.

Mark Twain, nearing seventy, felt that there was not much left for him to celebrate; and when Colonel Harvey proposed a birthday gathering in his honor, Clemens suggested a bohemian assembly over beer and sandwiches in some snug place, with Howells, Henry Rogers, Twichell, Dr. Rice, Dr. Edward Quintard, Augustus Thomas, and such other kindred souls as were still left to answer the call. But Harvey had something different in view: something more splendid even than the sixty-seventh birthday feast, more pretentious, indeed, than any former literary gathering. He felt that the attainment of seventy years by America's most distinguished man of letters and private citizen was a circumstance which could not be moderately or even modestly observed. The date was set five days later than the actual birthday--that is to say, on December 5th, in order that it might not conflict with the various Thanksgiving holidays and occasions. Delmonico's great room was chosen for the celebration of it, and invitations were sent out to practically every writer of any distinction in America, and to many abroad. Of these nearly two hundred accepted, while such as could not come sent pathetic regrets.

What an occasion it was! The flower of American literature gathered to do honor to its chief. The whole atmosphere of the place seemed permeated with his presence, and when Colonel Harvey presented William Dean Howells, and when Howells had read another double-barreled sonnet, and introduced the guest of the evening with the words, "I will not say, 'O King, live forever,' but, 'O King, live as long as you like!'" and Mark Twain rose, his snow-white hair gleaming above that brilliant assembly, it seemed that a world was speaking out in a voice of applause and welcome. With a great tumult the throng rose, a billow of life, the white handkerchiefs flying foam-like on its crest. Those who had gathered there realized that it was a mighty moment, not only in his life but in theirs. They were there to see this supreme embodiment of the American spirit as he scaled the mountain-top. He, too, realized the drama of that moment--the marvel of it--and he must have flashed a swift panoramic view backward over the long way he had come, to stand, as he had himself once expressed it, "for a single, splendid moment on the Alps of fame outlined against the sun." He must have remembered; for when he came to speak he went back to the very beginning, to his very first banquet, as he called it, when, as he said, "I hadn't any hair; I hadn't any teeth; I hadn't any clothes." He sketched the meagerness of that little hamlet which had seen his birth, sketched it playfully, delightfully, so that his hearers laughed and shouted; but there was always a tenderness under it all, and often the tears were not far beneath the surface. He told of his habits of life, how he had attained seventy years by simply sticking to a scheme of living which would kill anybody else; how he smoked constantly, loathed exercise, and had no other regularity of habits.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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