HARTFORD, Dec. 14. MY DEAR INGERSOLL,--Thank you most heartily for the books--I am devouring them--they have found a hungry place, and they content it and satisfy it to a miracle. I wish I could hear you speak these splendid chapters before a great audience--to read them by myself and hear the boom of the applause only in the ear of my imagination, leaves a something wanting-- and there is also a still greater lack, your manner, and voice, and presence.
The Chicago speech arrived an hour too late, but I was all right anyway, for I found that my memory had been able to correct all the errors. I read it to the Saturday Club (of young girls) and told them to remember that it was doubtful if its superior existed in our language. Truly Yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
The reader may remember Mark Twain's Whittier dinner speech of 1877, and its disastrous effects. Now, in 1879, there was to be another Atlantic gathering: a breakfast to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, to which Clemens was invited. He was not eager to accept; it would naturally recall memories of two years before, but being urged by both Howells and Warner, he agreed to attend if they would permit him to speak. Mark Twain never lacked courage and he wanted to redeem himself. To Howells he wrote:
HARTFORD, Nov. 28, 1879. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--If anybody talks, there, I shall claim the right to say a word myself, and be heard among the very earliest--else it would be confoundedly awkward for me--and for the rest, too. But you may read what I say, beforehand, and strike out whatever you choose.
Of course I thought it wisest not to be there at all; but Warner took the opposite view, and most strenuously.
Speaking of Johnny's conclusion to become an outlaw, reminds me of Susie's newest and very earnest longing--to have crooked teeth and glasses--"like Mamma."
I would like to look into a child's head, once, and see what its processes are. Yrs ever, S. L. CLEMENS.
The matter turned out well. Clemens, once more introduced by Howells--this time conservatively, it may be said--delivered a delicate and fitting tribute to Doctor Holmes, full of graceful humor and grateful acknowledgment, the kind of speech he should have given at the Whittier dinner of two years before. No reference was made to his former disaster, and this time he came away covered with glory, and fully restored in his self-respect.