It was his final harvest, and he had the courage to claim it--the aftermath of all his years of honorable labor and noble living.



If the reader has any curiosity as to some of the less usual letters which a man of wide public note may inspire, perhaps he will find a certain interest in a few selected from the thousands which yearly came to Mark Twain.

For one thing, he was constantly receiving prescriptions and remedies whenever the papers reported one of his bronchial or rheumatic attacks. It is hardly necessary to quote examples of these, but only a form of his occasional reply, which was likely to be in this wise:

DEAR SIR [or MADAM],--I try every remedy sent to me. I am now on No. 87. Yours is 2,653. I am looking forward to its beneficial results.

Of course a large number of the nostrums and palliatives offered were preparations made by the wildest and longest-haired medical cranks. One of these sent an advertisement of a certain Elixir of Life, which was guaranteed to cure everything--to "wash and cleanse the human molecules, and so restore youth and preserve life everlasting."

Anonymous letters are not usually popular or to be encouraged, but Mark Twain had an especial weakness for compliments that came in that way. They were not mercenary compliments. The writer had nothing to gain. Two such letters follow--both written in England just at the time of his return.


DEAR SIR,--Please accept a poor widow's good-by and kindest wishes. I have had some of your books sent to me; have enjoyed them very much--only wish I could afford to buy some.

I should very much like to have seen you. I have many photos of you which I have cut from several papers which I read. I have one where you are writing in bed, which I cut from the Daily News. Like myself, you believe in lots of sleep and rest. I am 70 and I find I need plenty. Please forgive the liberty I have taken in writing to you. If I can't come to your funeral may we meet beyond the river.

May God guard you, is the wish of a lonely old widow. Yours sincerely,

The other letter also tells its own story:

DEAR, KIND MARK TWAIN,--For years I have wanted to write and thank you for the comfort you were to me once, only I never quite knew where you were, and besides I did not want to bother you; but to-day I was told by some one who saw you going into the lift at the Savoy that you looked sad and I thought it might cheer you a little tiny bit to hear how you kept a poor lonely girl from ruining her eyes with crying every night for long months.

Ten years ago I had to leave home and earn my living as a governess and Fate sent me to spend a winter with a very dull old country family in the depths of Staffordshire. According to the genial English custom, after my five charges had gone to bed, I took my evening meal alone in the school-room, where "Henry Tudor had supped the night before Bosworth," and there I had to stay without a soul to speak to till I went to bed. At first I used to cry every night, but a friend sent me a copy of your Huckleberry Finn and I never cried any more. I kept him handy under the copy-books and maps, and when Henry Tudor commenced to stretch out his chilly hands toward me I grabbed my dear Huck and he never once failed me; I opened him at random and in two minutes I was in another world. That's why I am so grateful to you and so fond of you, and I thought you might like to know; for it is yourself that has the kind heart, as is easily seen from the way you wrote about the poor old nigger. I am a stenographer now and live at home, but I shall never forget how you helped me. God bless you and spare you long to those you are dear to.

A letter which came to him soon after his return from England contained a clipping which reported the good work done by Christian missionaries in the Congo, especially among natives afflicted by the terrible sleeping sickness.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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