A pile of invitations had already accumulated, and others flowed in. Lady Stanley, widow of Henry M. Stanley, wrote:

You know I want to see you and join right hand to right hand. I must see your dear face again . . . . You will have no peace, rest, or leisure during your stay in London, and you will end by hating human beings. Let me come before you feel that way.

Mary Cholmondeley, the author of Red Pottage, niece of that lovable Reginald Cholmondeley, and herself an old friend, sent greetings and urgent invitations. Archdeacon Wilberforce wrote:

I have just been preaching about your indictment of that scoundrel king of the Belgians and telling my people to buy the book. I am only a humble item among the very many who offer you a cordial welcome in England, but we long to see you again, and I should like to change hats with you again. Do you remember?

The Athenaeum, the Garrick, and a dozen other London clubs had anticipated his arrival with cards of honorary membership for the period of his stay. Every leading photographer had put in a claim for sittings. It was such a reception as Charles Dickens had received in America in 1842, and again in 1867. A London paper likened it to Voltaire's return to Paris in 1778, when France went mad over him. There is simply no limit to English affection and, hospitality once aroused. Clemens wrote:

Surely such weeks as this must be very rare in this world: I had seen nothing like them before; I shall see nothing approaching them again!

Sir Thomas Lipton and Bram Stoker, old friends, were among the first to present themselves, and there was no break in the line of callers.

Clemens's resolutions for secluding himself were swept away. On the very next morning following his arrival he breakfasted with J. Henniker Heaton, father of International Penny Postage, at the Bath Club, just across Dover Street from Brown's. He lunched at the Ritz with Marjorie Bowen and Miss Bisland. In the afternoon he sat for photographs at Barnett's, and made one or two calls. He could no more resist these things than a debutante in her first season.

He was breakfasting again with Heaton next morning; lunching with "Toby, M.P.," and Mrs. Lucy; and having tea with Lady Stanley in the afternoon, and being elaborately dined next day at Dorchester House by Ambassador and Mrs. Reid. These were all old and tried friends. He was not a stranger among them, he said; he was at home. Alfred Austin, Conan Doyle, Anthony Hope, Alma Tadema, E. A. Abbey, Edmund Goss, George Smalley, Sir Norman Lockyer, Henry W. Lucy, Sidney Brooks, and Bram Stoker were among those at Dorchester House--all old comrades, as were many of the other guests.

"I knew fully half of those present," he said afterward.

Mark Twain's bursting upon London society naturally was made the most of by the London papers, and all his movements were tabulated and elaborated, and when there was any opportunity for humor in the situation it was not left unimproved. The celebrated Ascot racing-cup was stolen just at the time of his arrival, and the papers suggestively mingled their head-lines, "Mark Twain Arrives: Ascot Cup Stolen," and kept the joke going in one form or another. Certain state jewels and other regalia also disappeared during his stay, and the news of these burglaries was reported in suspicious juxtaposition with the news of Mark Twain's doings.

English reporters adopted American habits for the occasion, and invented or embellished when the demand for a new sensation was urgent. Once, when following the custom of the place, he descended the hotel elevator in a perfectly proper and heavy brown bath robe, and stepped across narrow Dover Street to the Bath Club, the papers flamed next day with the story that Mark Twain had wandered about the lobby of Brown's and promenaded Dover Street in a sky-blue bath robe attracting wide attention.

Clara Clemens, across the ocean, was naturally a trifle disturbed by such reports, and cabled this delicate "dusting off":

"Much worried.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book