But I must desist. There are drafts here, everywhere and my gout is something frightful. My left foot hath resemblance to a snuff-bladder. God be with you. HARTFORD.
These to Lady Hartford, in the earldom of Hartford, in the upper portion of the city of Dublin.
One may imagine the joy of Howells and the others in this ludicrous extravaganza, which could have been written by no one but Mark Twain. It will hardly take rank as prophecy, though certainly true forecast in it is not wholly lacking.
Clemens was now pretty well satisfied with his piloting story, but he began to have doubts as to its title, "Old Times on the Mississippi." It seemed to commit him to too large an undertaking.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
Dec. 3, 1874. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Let us change the heading to "Piloting on the Miss in the Old Times"--or to "Steamboating on the M. in Old Times"--or to "Personal Old Times on the Miss."--We could change it for Feb. if now too late for Jan.--I suggest it because the present heading is too pretentious, too broad and general. It seems to command me to deliver a Second Book of Revelation to the world, and cover all the Old Times the Mississippi (dang that word, it is worse than "type" or "Egypt ") ever saw--whereas here I have finished Article No. III and am about to start on No. 4. and yet I have spoken of nothing but of Piloting as a science so far; and I doubt if I ever get beyond that portion of my subject. And I don't care to. Any muggins can write about Old Times on the Miss. of 500 different kinds, but I am the only man alive that can scribble about the piloting of that day--and no man ever has tried to scribble about it yet. Its newness pleases me all the time--and it is about the only new subject I know of. If I were to write fifty articles they would all be about pilots and piloting--therefore let's get the word Piloting into the heading. There's a sort of freshness about that, too. Ys ever, MARK.
But Howells thought the title satisfactory, and indeed it was the best that could have been selected for the series. He wrote every few days of his delight in the papers, and cautioned the author not to make an attempt to please any "supposed Atlantic audience," adding, "Yarn it off into my sympathetic ear." Clemens replied:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
H't'f'd. Dec. 8, 1874. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--It isn't the Atlantic audience that distresses me; for it is the only audience that I sit down before in perfect serenity (for the simple reason that it doesn't require a "humorist" to paint himself striped and stand on his head every fifteen minutes.) The trouble was, that I was only bent on "working up an atmosphere" and that is to me a most fidgety and irksome thing, sometimes. I avoid it, usually, but in this case it was absolutely necessary, else every reader would be applying the atmosphere of his own or sea experiences, and that shirt wouldn't fit, you know.
I could have sent this Article II a week ago, or more, but I couldn't bring myself to the drudgery of revising and correcting it. I have been at that tedious work 3 hours, now, and by George but I am glad it is over.
Say--I am as prompt as a clock, if I only know the day a thing is wanted --otherwise I am a natural procrastinaturalist. Tell me what day and date you want Nos. 3 and 4, and I will tackle and revise them and they'll be there to the minute.
I could wind up with No. 4., but there are some things more which I am powerfully moved to write. Which is natural enough, since I am a person who would quit authorizing in a minute to go to piloting, if the madam would stand it. I would rather sink a steamboat than eat, any time.