With his establishment in Buffalo, Clemens, as already noted, had persuaded his sister, now a widow, and his mother, to settle in Fredonia, not far away. Later, he had found a position for Orion, as editor of a small paper which Bliss had established. What with these several diversions and the sorrows and sicknesses of his own household, we can readily imagine that literary work had been performed under difficulties. Certainly, humorous writing under such disturbing conditions could not have been easy, nor could we expect him to accept an invitation to be present and make a comic speech at an agricultural dinner, even though Horace Greeley would preside. However, he sent to the secretary of the association a letter which might be read at the gathering:
To A. B. Crandall, in Woodberry Falls, N. Y., to be read at an agricultural dinner:
BUFFALO, Dec. 26, 1870. GENTLEMEN,--I thank you very much for your invitation to the Agricultural dinner, and would promptly accept it and as promptly be there but for the fact that Mr. Greeley is very busy this month and has requested me to clandestinely continue for him in The Tribune the articles "What I Know about Farming." Consequently the necessity of explaining to the readers of that journal why buttermilk cannot be manufactured profitably at 8 cents a quart out of butter that costs 60 cents a pound compels my stay at home until the article is written. With reiterated thanks, I am Yours truly, MARK TWAIN.
In this letter Mark Twain made the usual mistake as to the title of the Greeley farming series, "What I Know of Farming" being the correct form.
The Buffalo Express, under Mark Twain's management, had become a sort of repository for humorous efforts, often of an indifferent order. Some of these things, signed by nom de plumes, were charged to Mark Twain. When Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee" devastated the country, and was so widely parodied, an imitation of it entitled, "Three Aces," and signed "Carl Byng," was printed in the Express. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, then editor of Every Saturday, had not met Mark Twain, and, noticing the verses printed in the exchanges over his signature, was one of those who accepted them as Mark Twain's work. He wrote rather an uncomplimentary note in Every Saturday concerning the poem and its authorship, characterizing it as a feeble imitation of Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee." Clemens promptly protested to Aldrich, then as promptly regretted having done so, feeling that he was making too much of a small matter. Hurriedly he sent a second brief note.
To Thomas Bailey Aldrich, editor of "Every Saturday," Boston, Massachusetts:
BUFFALO, Jan. 22, 1870. DEAR SIR,--Please do not publish the note I sent you the other day about "Hy. Slocum's" plagiarism entitled "Three Aces"--it is not important enough for such a long paragraph. Webb writes me that he has put in a paragraph about it, too--and I have requested him to suppress it. If you would simply state, in a line and a half under "Literary Notes," that you mistook one "Hy. Slocum" (no, it was one "Carl Byng," I perceive) "Carl Byng" for Mark Twain, and that it was the former who wrote the plagiarism entitled "Three Aces," I think that would do a fair justice without any unseemly display. But it is hard to be accused of plagiarism--a crime I never have committed in my life. Yrs. Truly MARK TWAIN.
But this came too late. Aldrich replied that he could not be prevented from doing him justice, as forty-two thousand copies of the first note, with the editor's apology duly appended, were already in press.