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.
LETTERS OF 1880, CHIEFLY TO HOWELLS. "THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER." MARK TWAIN MUGWUMP SOCIETY
The book of travel,--[A Tramp Abroad.]--which Mark Twain had hoped to finish in Paris, and later in Elmira, for some reason would not come to an end. In December, in Hartford, he was still working on it, and he would seem to have finished it, at last, rather by a decree than by any natural process of authorship. This was early in January, 1880. To Howells he reports his difficulties, and his drastic method of ending them.
HARTFORD, Jan. 8, '80. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--Am waiting for Patrick to come with the carriage. Mrs. Clemens and I are starting (without the children) to stay indefinitely in Elmira. The wear and tear of settling the house broke her down, and she has been growing weaker and weaker for a fortnight. All that time--in fact ever since I saw you--I have been fighting a life- and-death battle with this infernal book and hoping to get done some day. I required 300 pages of MS, and I have written near 600 since I saw you-- and tore it all up except 288. This I was about to tear up yesterday and begin again, when Mrs. Perkins came up to the billiard room and said, "You will never get any woman to do the thing necessary to save her life by mere persuasion; you see you have wasted your words for three weeks; it is time to use force; she must have a change; take her home and leave the children here."
I said, "If there is one death that is painfuller than another, may I get it if I don't do that thing."
So I took the 288 pages to Bliss and told him that was the very last line I should ever write on this book. (A book which required 2600 pages of MS, and I have written nearer four thousand, first and last.)
I am as soary (and flighty) as a rocket, to-day, with the unutterable joy of getting that Old Man of the Sea off my back, where he has been roosting for more than a year and a half. Next time I make a contract before writing the book, may I suffer the righteous penalty and be burnt, like the injudicious believer.