I seriously fear that our visit has damaged you in Fredonia, and so I wish you were out of it.
The baby is fat and strong, and Susie the same. Susie was charmed with the donkey and the doll. Ys affectionately SAML.
P. S.--DEAR MA AND PAMELA--I am mainly grieved because I have been rude to a man who has been kind to you--and if you ever feel a desire to apologize to him for me, you may be sure that I will endorse the apology, no matter how strong it may be. I went to his bank to apologize to him, but my conviction was strong that he was not man enough to know how to take an apology and so I did not make it.
William Dean Howells was in those days writing those vividly realistic, indeed photographic stories which fixed his place among American men of letters. He had already written 'Their Wedding Journey' and 'A Chance Acquaintance' when 'A Foregone Conclusion' appeared. For the reason that his own work was so different, and perhaps because of his fondness for the author, Clemens always greatly admired the books of Howells. Howells's exact observation and his gift for human detail seemed marvelous to Mark Twain, who with a bigger brush was inclined to record the larger rather than the minute aspects of life. The sincerity of his appreciation of Howells, however, need not be questioned, nor, for that matter, his detestation of Scott.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Aug. 22, 1874. DEAR HOWELLS,--I have just finished reading the 'Foregone Conclusion' to Mrs. Clemens and we think you have even outdone yourself. I should think that this must be the daintiest, truest, most admirable workmanship that was ever put on a story. The creatures of God do not act out their natures more unerringly than yours do. If your genuine stories can die, I wonder by what right old Walter Scott's artificialities shall continue to live.
I brought Mrs. Clemens back from her trip in a dreadfully broken-down condition--so by the doctor's orders we unpacked the trunks sorrowfully to lie idle here another month instead of going at once to Hartford and proceeding to furnish the new house which is now finished. We hate to have it go longer desolate and tenantless, but cannot help it.
By and by, if the madam gets strong again, we are hoping to have the Grays there, and you and the Aldrich households, and Osgood, down to engage in an orgy with them. Ys Ever MARK
Howells was editor of the Atlantic by this time, and had been urging Clemens to write something suitable for that magazine. He had done nothing, however, until this summer at Quarry Farm. There, one night in the moonlight, Mrs. Crane's colored cook, who had been a slave, was induced to tell him her story. It was exactly the story to appeal to Mark Twain, and the kind of thing he could write. He set it down next morning, as nearly in her own words and manner as possible, without departing too far from literary requirements.
He decided to send this to Howells. He did not regard it very highly, but he would take the chance. An earlier offering to the magazine had been returned. He sent the "True Story," with a brief note:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
ELMIRA, Sept. 2, '74. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--.....I enclose also a "True Story" which has no humor in it. You can pay as lightly as you choose for that, if you want it, for it is rather out of my line. I have not altered the old colored woman's story except to begin at the beginning, instead of the middle, as she did--and traveled both ways..... Yrs Ever MARK.
But Howells was delighted with it.