I am too anxious to go to let such a thing as that keep me.
Mr. Clemens did have such a good time with you and Mr. Howells. He evidently has no regret that he did not get to the Centennial. I was driven nearly distracted by his long account of Mr. Howells and his wanderings. I would keep asking if they ever got there, he would never answer but made me listen to a very minute account of everything that they did. At last I found them back where they started from.
If you find misspelled words in this note, you will remember my infirmity and not hold me responsible. Affectionately yours, LIVY L. CLEMENS.
In spite of his success with the Sellers play and his itch to follow it up, Mark Twain realized what he believed to be his literary limitations. All his life he was inclined to consider himself wanting in the finer gifts of character-shading and delicate portrayal. Remembering Huck Finn, and the rare presentation of Joan of Arc, we may not altogether agree with him. Certainly, he was never qualified to delineate those fine artificialities of life which we are likely to associate with culture, and perhaps it was something of this sort that caused the hesitation confessed in the letter that follows. Whether the plan suggested interested Howells or not we do not know. In later years Howells wrote a novel called The Story of a Play; this may have been its beginning.
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
FARMINGTON AVENUE, HARTFORD, Apl. 26, 1875. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--An actor named D. H. Harkins has been here to ask me to put upon paper a 5-act play which he has been mapping out in his mind for 3 or 4 years. He sat down and told me his plot all through, in a clear, bright way, and I was a deal taken with it; but it is a line of characters whose fine shading and artistic development requires an abler hand than mine; so I easily perceived that I must not make the attempt. But I liked the man, and thought there was a good deal of stuff in him; and therefore I wanted his play to be written, and by a capable hand, too. So I suggested you, and said I would write and see if you would be willing to undertake it. If you like the idea, he will call upon you in the course of two or three weeks and describe his plot and his characters. Then if it doesn't strike you favorably, of course you can simply decline; but it seems to me well worth while that you should hear what he has to say. You could also "average" him while he talks, and judge whether he could play your priest--though I doubt if any man can do that justice.
Shan't I write him and say he may call? If you wish to communicate directly with him instead, his address is "Larchmont Manor, Westchester Co., N. Y."
Do you know, the chill of that 19th of April seems to be in my bones yet? I am inert and drowsy all the time. That was villainous weather for a couple of wandering children to be out in. Ys ever MARK.
The sinister typewriter did not find its way to Howells for nearly a year. Meantime, Mark Twain had refused to allow the manufacturers to advertise his ownership. He wrote to them:
HARTFORD, March 19, 1875. Please do not use my name in any way. Please do not even divulge the fact that I own a machine. I have entirely stopped using the typewriter, for the reason that I never could write a letter with it to anybody without receiving a request by return mail that I would not only describe the machine, but state what progress I had made in the use of it, etc., etc. I don't like to write letters, and so I don't want people to know I own this curiosity-breeding little joker.
Three months later the machine was still in his possession. Bliss had traded a twelve-dollar saddle for it, but apparently showed little enthusiasm in his new possession.