Charles Henry Webb, who had given up his magazine to come East, had collected "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches," and, after trying in vain to find a publisher for them, brought them out himself, on the 1st of May, 1867. It seems curious now that any publisher should have declined the little volume, for the sketches, especially the frog story, had been successful, and there was little enough good American humor in print. However, publishing was a matter not lightly undertaken in those days.
Mark Twain seems to have been rather pleased with the appearance of his first book. To Bret Harte he wrote:
The book is out and is handsome. It is full of . . . errors....but be a friend and say nothing about those things. When my hurry is over, I will send you a copy to pizen the children with.
The little cloth-and-gold volume, so valued by book-collectors to-day, contained the frog story and twenty-six other sketches, some of which are still preserved in Mark Twain's collected works. Most of them were not Mark Twain's best literature, but they were fresh and readable and suited the taste of that period. The book sold very well, and, while it did not bring either great fame or fortune to its author, it was by no means a failure.
The "hurry" mentioned in Mark Twain's letter to Bret Harte related to his second venture--that is to say, his New York lecture, an enterprise managed by an old Comstock friend, Frank Fuller, ex-Governor of Utah. Fuller, always a sanguine and energetic person, had proposed the lecture idea as soon as Mark Twain arrived in New York. Clemens shook his head.
"I have no reputation with the general public here," he said. "We couldn't get a baker's dozen to hear me."
But Fuller insisted, and eventually engaged the largest hall in New York, the Cooper Union. Full of enthusiasm and excitement, he plunged into the business of announcing and advertising his attraction, and inventing schemes for the sale of seats. Clemens caught Fuller's enthusiasm by spells, but between times he was deeply depressed. Fuller had got up a lot of tiny hand-bills, and had arranged to hang bunches of these in the horse-cars. The little dangling clusters fascinated Clemens, and he rode about to see if anybody else noticed them. Finally, after a long time, a passenger pulled off one of the bills and glanced at it. A man with him asked:
"Who's Mark Twain?"
"Goodness knows! I don't."
The lecturer could not ride any farther. He hunted up his patron.
"Fuller," he groaned, "there isn't a sign--a ripple of interest."
Fuller assured him that things were "working underneath," and would be all right. But Clemens wrote home: "Everything looks shady, at least, if not dark." And he added that, after hiring the largest house in New York, he must play against Schuyler Colfax, Ristori, and a double troupe of Japanese jugglers, at other places of amusement.
When the evening of the lecture approached and only a few tickets had been sold, the lecturer was desperate.
"Fuller," he said, "there'll be nobody in Cooper Union that night but you and me. I am on the verge of suicide. I would commit suicide if I had the pluck and the outfit. You must paper the house, Fuller. You must send out a flood of complimentaries!"
"Very well," said Fuller. "What we want this time is reputation, anyway-- money is secondary. I'll put you before the choicest and most intelligent audience that was ever gathered in New York City."
Fuller immediately sent out complimentary tickets to the school-teachers of New York and Brooklyn---a general invitation to come and hear Mark Twain's great lecture on the Sandwich Islands. There was nothing to do after that but wait results.
Mark Twain had lost faith--he did not believe anybody in New York would come to hear him even on a free ticket. When the night arrived, he drove with Fuller to the Cooper Union half an hour before the lecture was to begin. Forty years later he said:
"I couldn't keep away.