The play, "Yorick's Love," mentioned in this letter, was one which Howells had done for Lawrence Barrett.
Onion Clemens, meantime, was forwarding his manuscript, and for once seems to have won his brother's approval, so much so that Mark Twain was willing, indeed anxious, that Howells should run the "autobiography" in the Atlantic. We may imagine how Onion prized the words of commendation which follow:
May 6, '80. MY DEAR BROTHER,--It is a model autobiography.
Continue to develop your character in the same gradual inconspicuous and apparently unconscious way. The reader, up to this time, may have his doubts, perhaps, but he can't say decidedly, "This writer is not such a simpleton as he has been letting on to be." Keep him in that state of mind. If, when you shall have finished, the reader shall say, "The man is an ass, but I really don't know whether he knows it or not," your work will be a triumph.
Stop re-writing. I saw places in your last batch where re-writing had done formidable injury. Do not try to find those places, else you will mar them further by trying to better them. It is perilous to revise a book while it is under way. All of us have injured our books in that foolish way.
Keep in mind what I told you--when you recollect something which belonged in an earlier chapter, do not go back, but jam it in where you are. Discursiveness does not hurt an autobiography in the least.
I have penciled the MS here and there, but have not needed to make any criticisms or to knock out anything.
The elder Bliss has heart disease badly, and thenceforth his life hangs upon a thread. Yr Bro SAM.