My wife was afraid to write you--so I said with simplicity, "I will give you the language--and ideas." Through the infinite grace of God there has not been such another insurrection in the family before as followed this. However, the letter was written, and promptly, too--whereas, heretofore she has remained afraid to do such things.
With kind regards to Mrs. Howells, Yrs ever, MARK.
The "Old Times" papers appeared each month in the Atlantic until July, 1875, and take rank to-day with Mark Twain's best work. When the first number appeared, John Hay wrote: "It is perfect; no more nor less. I don't see how you do it." Which was reported to Howells, who said: "What business has Hay, I should like to know, praising a favorite of mine? It's interfering."
These were the days when the typewriter was new. Clemens and Twichell, during their stay in Boston, had seen the marvel in operation, and Clemens had been unable to resist owning one. It was far from being the perfect machine of to-day; the letters were all capitals, and one was never quite certain, even of those. Mark Twain, however, began with enthusiasm and practised faithfully. On the day of its arrival he wrote two letters that have survived, the first to his brother, the other to Howells.
Typewritten letter to W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Dec. 9, 1874. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--I want to add a short paragraph to article No. 1, when the proof comes. Merely a line or two, however.
I don't know whether I am going to make this typewriting machine go or nto: that last word was intended for n-not; but I guess I shall make some sort of a succss of it before I run it very long. I am so thick-fingered that I miss the keys.
You needn't a swer this; I am only practicing to get three; another slip- up there; only practici?ng to get the hang of the thing. I notice I miss fire & get in a good many unnecessary letters and punctuation marks. I am simply using you for a target to bang at. Blame my cats but this thing requires genius in order to work it just right. Yours ever, (M)ARK.
Knowing Mark Twain, Howells wrote: "When you get tired of the machine send it to me." Clemens naturally did get tired of the machine; it was ruining his morals, he said. He presently offered it to Howells, who by this time hesitated, but eventually yielded and accepted it. If he was blasted by its influence the fact has not been recorded.
One of the famous Atlantic dinners came along in December. "Don't you dare to refuse that invitation," wrote Howells, "to meet Emerson, Aldrich, and all those boys at the Parker House, at six o'clock, Tuesday, December 15th. Come!"
Clemens had no desire to refuse; he sent word that he would come, and followed it with a characteristic line.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Sunday. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--I want you to ask Mrs. Howells to let you stay all night at the Parker House and tell lies and have an improving time, and take breakfast with me in the morning. I will have a good room for you, and a fire. Can't you tell her it always makes you sick to go home late at night, or something like that? That sort of thing rouses Mrs. Clemens's sympathies, easily; the only trouble is to keep them up. Twichell and I talked till 2 or 3 in the morning, the night we supped at your house and it restored his health, on account of his being drooping for some time and made him much more robuster than what he was before. Will Mrs. Howells let you? Yrs ever, S. L. C.
Aldrich had issued that year a volume of poems, and he presented Clemens with a copy of it during this Boston visit.