San Francisco Letter - [dated Jan. 28, 1866]
Bearding the Fenian in His Lair
[Text reconstructed from The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches, (Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 58-9.]
Wishing to post myself on one of the most current topics of the day, I hunted up an old friend, Dennis McCarthy, who is editor of the new Fenian journal in San Francisco, The Irish People. I found him sitting on a sumptuous candle-box, in his shirt-sleeves, solacing himself with a whiff of the national dhudeen or caubeen or whatever they call it - a clay pipe with no stem to speak of. I thought it might flatter him to address him in his native tongue, and so I bowed with considerable grace and said:
And he said, "Be jabers!"
"Och hone!" said I.
"Mavoureen dheelish, acushla machree," replied The McCarthy.
"Erin go bragh," I continued with vivacity.
"Asthore!" responded The McCarthy.
"Tare an' ouns!" said I.
"Bhe dha husth; fag a rogarah lums!" said the bold Fenian.
"Ye have me there, be me sowl!" said I, (for I am not "up" in the niceties of the language, you understand; I only know enough of it to enable me to "keep umy end up" in an ordinary conversation.)
Card from the Volunteers - text not available
The fine restaurant between Clay and Commercial, on Montgomery street, has been sold at auction. It was fitted up three months ago at a cost of thirty-six hundred dollars, and brought only fourteen hundred yesterday under the hammer. At first it did a prosperous business - made money fast. Everybody was glad of it, for the proprietor was an estimable man, and was struggling to gather together by honest industry a small independence, so that he might go back to the Fatherland of his daily dreams, and clasp once more to his breast the wife who has waited and watched for him through weary years, kiss once more his little ones, and hear their innocent prattle, and their childish glee, and the music of their restless little feet. But about that time Fitz Smythe went there to board, and that let him out, you know. But such is human life. Here to-day and gone to-morrow. A dream - a shadow - a ripple on the water - a thing for invisible gods to sport with for a season and then toss idly by - idly by. It is rough.
What a comfort these reporters do take in that graveyard word! They stick it at the head of an item, in all its native impenetrability, and then slash away cheerfully and finish the paragraph. It is too many for me -- that word is, for all it is so handy. Sometimes they write up a fine item about the capture of a chicken-thief -- and head it "Neodamode"; or an exciting story of an infant with good clothes on and a strawberry on its little left arm, and a coat of arms stitched on its poor little shirt-tail being left in a market basket on some one's doorstep -- and head it "Neodamode"; or an entertaining account of a crazy man going through his family and making it exceedingly warm for the same -- and head it "Neodamode"; or an item about a large funeral; or a banquet; or a ball; or a wedding; or a prayer-meeting -- anything, no matter what -- all the same. They head it "Neodamode." It is the handiest heading I ever saw; it appears to fit any subject you please to tack it to. Why here lately they have even got to using it in items concerning the taking out of naturalization papers by foreigners. There is altogether too much Neodamy around to suit me. I would not mind it so much if it were not quite such an ugly word, and if I had a sort of general notion of what in the mischief it means. I would like to hear from one of the Neodamites.
I have got to go now and report a sermon. I trust it will be pleasanter work than writing a letter on Sunday, while the dogs and cats and chickens are glorifying their Maker and raising the mischief.
["Closed Out" reprinted in The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 2 1864-1865, (Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp. 348.] Available from amazon.com. "Neadomode" reprinted in Mark Twain's San Francisco, edited by Bernard Taper, (McGraw Hill, 1963), p. 200-01.
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