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The New York Times, March 12, 1898


From The London Daily News.

Mark Twain has paid all the debts that led to the bankruptcy of the publishing firm with which he was connected. It is a fine example of the very chivalry of probity, and, in the circumstances, as an admirer has pointed out, it deserves to rank with the historic case of Sir Walter Scott. The firm came to grief; Mark Twain might, if he had pleased, have confined his share of the loss to the amount of his liability under the partnership. He preferred to make good the entire loss, and to this end he had to make a fresh start in life at the age of sixty. He accomplished it, and with this and the profits of his latest book he has carried out his high-minded and generous purpose.

His own account of the matter, published soon after his setting out, is as follows:

It has been reported that I sacrificed, for the benefit of the creditors, the property of the publishing firm whose financial backer I was, and that I am now lecturing for my own benefit. This is an error. I intend the lectures, a well as the property, for the creditors. The law recognizes no mortgage on a man's brain, and a merchant who has given up all he has may take advantage of the rules of insolvency and start free again for himself. But I am not a business man; and honor is a harder master than the law. It cannot compromise for less than a hundred cents on the dollar, and its debts never outlaw. I had a two-thirds interest in the publishing firm, whose capital I furnished. If the firm had prospered, I should have expected to collect two-thirds of the profit. As it is, I expect to pay all the debts. My partner has no resources, and I do not look for assistance from him. By far the largest single creditor of this firm is my wife, whose contributions in cash, from her private means, have nearly equaled the claims of all the others combined. She has taken nothing. On the contrary, she has helped and intends to help me to satisfy the obligations due to, the rest. It is my intention to my creditors to accept that as a legal discharge, and trust to my honor to pay the other 50 per cent. as fast as I can earn it. From my reception thus far on my lecturing tour, I am confident that, if I live I can pay off the last debt within four years, after which, at the age of sixty-four, I can make a fresh and unincumbered start in life. I am going to Australia, India and South Africa, and next year hope to make a tour of the great cities of the United States. I meant, when I began, to give my creditors all the benefit of this, but I begin to feel that I am gaining something from it, too, and that my dividends, if not available for banking purposes, may be even more satisfactory than theirs.

The last touch is very fine, both as literature and as feeling. He has gained something, and that is the esteem of all men of honor throughout the world. This act is the best of all critical commentaries on the high moral teaching of his books. He needs all the encouragement of sympathy. He has paid his debts, but he has still to make another fortune, and he is sixty-three!

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