I am on the sick list again--and was, day before yesterday--but on the
Howells wrote that he could not come down to the club meeting,
adding that sickness was "quite out of character" for Mark Twain,
and hardly fair on a man who had made so many other people feel
well. He closed by urging that Bliss "hurry out" 'Tom Sawyer.'
"That boy is going to make a prodigious hit." Clemens answered:
MY DEAR HOWELLS,-- Thanks, and ever so many, for the good opinion of 'Tom Sawyer.' Williams has made about 300 rattling pictures for it--some of them very dainty. Poor devil, what a genius he has and how he does murder it with rum. He takes a book of mine, and without suggestion from anybody builds no end of pictures just from his reading of it.
There was never a man in the world so grateful to another as I was to you day before yesterday, when I sat down (in still rather wretched health) to set myself to the dreary and hateful task of making final revision of Tom Sawyer, and discovered, upon opening the package of MS that your pencil marks were scattered all along. This was splendid, and swept away all labor. Instead of reading the MS, I simply hunted out the pencil marks and made the emendations which they suggested. I reduced the boy battle to a curt paragraph; I finally concluded to cut the Sunday school speech down to the first two sentences, leaving no suggestion of satire, since the book is to be for boys and girls; I tamed the various obscenities until I judged that they no longer carried offense. So, at a single sitting I began and finished a revision which I had supposed would occupy 3 or 4. days and leave me mentally and physically fagged out at the end. I was careful not to inflict the MS upon you until I had thoroughly and painstakingly revised it. Therefore, the only faults left were those that would discover themselves to others, not me--and these you had pointed out.