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The New York Times, October 1, 1940

Scott, Balzac, Twain

Not that geniuses in the creative field have always disliked money or the processes of business that might lead to money; though usually it leads to debt. Sir Walter Scott spent the last years of his life working off a debt of more than half a million dollars incurred as partner in publishing and printing enterprises. Balzac was always trying to get rich and began early in his career by piling up a debt that kept him sweating for ten years steadily and for the rest of his life intermittently. That was also publishing and printing. The great Frenchman was never cured.

Our own parallel to Sir Walter Scott is Mark Twain. He was the Co. in the printing firm of his nephew, Charles L. Webster & Co., which made a great deal of money out of General Grant's Memoirs but went to the wall in 1894, with Mark Twain impoverished and personally responsible for $70,000. A good deal of his money had gone into financing the inventor of a typesetting machine over a period of fifteen years, at times to the extent of several thousand dollars a month.

Twain Saw Millions

Of the inventor of this machine Mark Twain once wrote "Paige shed even more tears than usual. What a talker he is! He could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him. When he is present I always believe him; I can't help it. Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he knows perfectly well that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died."

As a matter of fact Twain clung to his great hopes of the typesetting machine till a practical test in a newspaper office made an end of it. But the failure of the typesetting machine, the Webster bankruptcy and the weary years of lecturing and writing that went into the liquidation of his debts did not effect a cure. Albert Bigelow Paine in his short Life of Mark Twain says:

"He was scarcely out of debt when he began negotiations with the great Austrian inventor, Szczepanik, for the American rights in a wonderful carpet pattern machine, and, Sellers-like, was planning to organize a company with a capital of fifteen hundred million dollars to control the carpet-weaving industries of the world."

Fortunately, his good friend H. H. Rogers intervened.

Related Twain - Paige items:
"Mark Twain, James W. Paige and the Paige Typesetter"
"James W. Paige and the Jilted Actress"

The New York Times, March 30, 1892
Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1892
Scientific American, March 9, 1901 (includes rare photos)
The New York Times, November 13, 1927

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