Clemens thought of founding a story on it, and did, in fact, use the idea, though 'The American Claimant,' which he wrote years later, had little or no connection with the Tichborn episode.
To C. W. Stoddard:
HARTFORD, Feb. 1, 1875. DEAR CHARLEY,--All right about the Tichborn scrapbooks; send them along when convenient. I mean to have the Beecher-Tilton trial scrap-book as a companion.....
I am writing a series of 7-page articles for the Atlantic at $20 a page; but as they do not pay anybody else as much as that, I do not complain (though at the same time I do swear that I am not content.) However the awful respectability of the magazine makes up.
I have cut your articles about San Marco out of a New York paper (Joe Twichell saw it and brought it home to me with loud admiration,) and sent it to Howells. It is too bad to fool away such good literature in a perishable daily journal.
Do remember us kindly to Lady Hardy and all that rare family--my wife and I so often have pleasant talks about them. Ever your friend, SAML. L. CLEMENS.
The price received by Mark Twain for the Mississippi papers, as quoted in this letter, furnishes us with a realizing sense of the improvement in the literary market, with the advent of a flood of cheap magazines and the Sunday newspaper. The Atlantic page probably contained about a thousand words, which would make his price average, say, two cents per word. Thirty years later, when his fame was not much more extended, his pay for the same matter would have been fifteen times as great, that is to say, at the rate of thirty cents per word. But in that early time there were no Sunday magazines--no literary magazines at all except the Atlantic, and Harpers, and a few fashion periodicals. Probably there were news-stands, but it is hard to imagine what they must have looked like without the gay pictorial cover-femininity that to-day pleases and elevates the public and makes author and artist affluent.
Clemens worked steadily on the river chapters, and Howells was always praising him and urging him to go on. At the end of January he wrote: "You're doing the science of piloting splendidly. Every word's interesting. And don't you drop the series 'til you've got every bit of anecdote and reminiscence into it."
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, Feb. 10, 1875. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Your praises of my literature gave me the solidest gratification; but I never did have the fullest confidence in my critical penetration, and now your verdict on S-----has knocked what little I did have gully-west! I didn't enjoy his gush, but I thought a lot of his similes were ever so vivid and good. But it's just my luck; every time I go into convulsions of admiration over a picture and want to buy it right away before I've lost the chance, some wretch who really understands art comes along and damns it. But I don't mind. I would rather have my ignorance than another man's knowledge, because I have got so much more of it.
I send you No. 5 today. I have written and re-written the first half of it three different times, yesterday and today, and at last Mrs. Clemens says it will do. I never saw a woman so hard to please about things she doesn't know anything about. Yours ever, MARK.
Of course, the reference to his wife's criticism in this is tenderly playful, as always--of a pattern with the severity which he pretends for her in the next.
To Mrs. W. D. Howells, in Boston:
1875 DEAR MRS. HOWELLS,--Mrs. Clemens is delighted to get the pictures, and so am I. I can perceive in the group, that Mr.