HALL,--You make a suggestion which has once or twice flitted dimly through my mind heretofore to wit, sell L. A. L.
I like that better than the other scheme, for it is no doubt feasible, whereas the other is perhaps not.
The firm is in debt, but L. A. L. is free--and not only free but has large money owing to it. A proposition to sell that by itself to a big house could be made without embarrassment we merely confess that we cannot spare capital from the rest of the business to run it on the huge scale necessary to make it an opulent success.
It will be selling a good thing--for somebody; and it will be getting rid of a load which we are clearly not able to carry. Whoever buys will have a noble good opening--a complete equipment, a well organized business, a capable and experienced manager, and enterprise not experimental but under full sail, and immediately able to pay 50 per cent a year on every dollar the publisher shall actually invest in it--I mean in making and selling the books.
I am miserably sorry to be adding bothers and torments to the over-supply which you already have in these hideous times, but I feel so troubled, myself, considering the dreary fact that we are getting deeper and deeper in debt and the L. A. L. getting to be a heavier and heavier burden all the time, that I must bestir myself and seek a way of relief.
It did not occur to me that in selling out I would injure you--for that I am not going to do. But to sell L. A. L. will not injure you it will put you in better shape. Sincerely Yours S. L. CLEMENS.
To Fred J. Hall, in New York:
July 8, '92. DEAR MR. HALL,--I am sincerely glad you are going to sell L. A. L. I am glad you are shutting off the agents, and I hope the fatal book will be out of our hands before it will be time to put them on again. With nothing but our non-existent capital to work with the book has no value for us, rich a prize as it will be to any competent house that gets it.
I hope you are making an effort to sell before you discharge too many agents, for I suppose the agents are a valuable part of the property.
We have been stopping in Munich for awhile, but we shall make a break for some country resort in a few days now. Sincerely Yours S. L. C.
July 8 P. S. No, I suppose I am wrong in suggesting that you wait a moment before discharging your L. A. L. agents--in fact I didn't mean that. I judge your only hope of salvation is in discharging them all at once, since it is their commissions that threaten to swamp us. It is they who have eaten up the $14,000 I left with you in such a brief time, no doubt.
I feel panicky.
I think the sale might be made with better advantage, however, now, than later when the agents have got out of the purchaser's reach. S. L. C.
P. S. No monthly report for many months.
Those who are old enough to remember the summer of 1893 may recall it as a black financial season. Banks were denying credit, businesses were forced to the wall. It was a poor time to float any costly enterprise. The Chicago company who was trying to build the machines made little progress. The book business everywhere was bad. In a brief note following the foregoing letters Clemens wrote Hall:
"It is now past the middle of July and no cablegram to say the machine is finished. We are afraid you are having miserable days and worried nights, and we sincerely wish we could relieve you, but it is all black with us and we don't know any helpful thing to say or do."
He inclosed some kind of manuscript proposition for John Brisben Walker, of the Cosmopolitan, with the comment: "It is my ingenious scheme to protect the family against the alms-house for one more year--and after that--well, goodness knows! I have never felt so desperate in my life--and good reason, for I haven't got a penny to my name, and Mrs.