He referred to its "realest kind of black talk," and in another place added, "This little story delights me more and more. I wish you had about forty of them."
Along with the "True Story" Mark Twain had sent the "Fable for Good Old Boys and Girls"; but this Howells returned, not, as he said, because he didn't like it, but because the Atlantic on matters of religion was just in that "Good Lord, Good Devil condition when a little fable like yours wouldn't leave it a single Presbyterian, Baptist, Unitarian, Episcopalian, Methodist, or Millerite paying subscriber, while all the deadheads would stick to it and abuse it in the denominational newspapers!"
But the shorter MS. had been only a brief diversion. Mark Twain was bowling along at a book and a play. The book was Tom Sawyer, as already mentioned, and the play a dramatization from The Gilded Age. Clemens had all along intended to dramatize the story of Colonel Sellers, and was one day thunderstruck to receive word from California that a San Francisco dramatist had appropriated his character in a play written for John T. Raymond. Clemens had taken out dramatic copyright on the book, and immediately stopped the performance by telegraph. A correspondence between the author and the dramatist followed, leading to a friendly arrangement by which the latter agreed to dispose of his version to Mark Twain. A good deal of discussion from time to time having arisen over the authorship of the Sellers play, as presented by Raymond, certain among the letters that follow may be found of special interest. Meanwhile we find Clemens writing to Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, on these matters and events in general. The book MS., which he mentions as having put aside, was not touched again for nearly a year.
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
QUARRY FARM, NEAR ELMIRA, N. Y. Sept. 4, 1874. DEAR FRIEND,--I have been writing fifty pages of manuscript a day, on an average, for sometime now, on a book (a story) and consequently have been so wrapped up in it and so dead to anything else, that I have fallen mighty short in letter-writing. But night before last I discovered that that day's chapter was a failure, in conception, moral truth to nature, and execution--enough blemish to impair the excellence of almost any chapter--and so I must burn up the day's work and do it all over again. It was plain that I had worked myself out, pumped myself dry. So I knocked off, and went to playing billiards for a change. I haven't had an idea or a fancy for two days, now--an excellent time to write to friends who have plenty of ideas and fancies of their own, and so will prefer the offerings of the heart before those of the head. Day after to-morrow I go to a neighboring city to see a five-act-drama of mine brought out, and suggest amendments in it, and would about as soon spend a night in the Spanish Inquisition as sit there and be tortured with all the adverse criticisms I can contrive to imagine the audience is indulging in. But whether the play be successful or not, I hope I shall never feel obliged to see it performed a second time. My interest in my work dies a sudden and violent death when the work is done.
I have invented and patented a pretty good sort of scrap-book (I think) but I have backed down from letting it be known as mine just at present --for I can't stand being under discussion on a play and a scrap-book at the same time!
I shall be away two days, and then return to take our tribe to New York, where we shall remain five days buying furniture for the new house, and then go to Hartford and settle solidly down for the winter. After all that fallow time I ought to be able to go to work again on the book. We shall reach Hartford about the middle of September, I judge.
We have spent the past four months up here on top of a breezy hill, six hundred feet high, some few miles from Elmira, N.