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August 25, 1866

The Moral Phenomenon

Farallones, August 20, 1866.

Publishers Californian:
Gentlemen: - You had better hire me to fill the vacant editorship of the Californian. What you want is a good Moral tone to the paper. If I have got a strong suit, that is it. If I am a wild enthusiast on any subject, that is the one. I am peculiarly fitted for such a position. I have been a missionary to the Sandwich Islands, and I have got the hang of all that sort of thing to a fraction. I gave such excellent satisfaction in Hawaii nei that they let me off when my time was up. I was justly considered to be the high chief of that Serious Family down there. I mention here - and I mention it modestly - I mention it with that fatal modesty which has always kept me down - that the missionaries always spoke of me as the Moral Phenomenon when I was down there. They were amazed to behold to what a dizzy altitude human morality may be hoisted up, as exemplified in me. I am honestly proud of the title they have conferred upon me, and shall always wear it in remembrance of my brief but gratifying missionary labors in the Islands.

What you want is Morality. You have run too much poetry; you have slathered - so to speak - (missionary term,) - you have slathered too many frivolous sentimental tales into your paper; too much wicked wit and too much demoralizing humor; too much harmful elevating literature. What the people are suffering for, is Morality. Turn them over to me. Give me room according to my strength. I can fetch them!

Let me hear from you. You could not do better than hire me. I can bring your paper right up. You ought to know, yourself, that when I play my hand in the high moral line, I take a trick every time.

"Mark Twain"

[text from Mark Twain's San Francisco, Bernard Taper]

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