Era banner


Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search

July 9, 1865



In our issue of last week we announced to our readers that we had made an engagement with S. Browne Jones Esq., for weekly contributions to the Era, and gave the correspondence that passed between the editors of this paper and that gentleman.

We have since discovered that the answer published over the signature of Mr. Jones was written by Mr. Mark Twain, the Editor of the Bohemian, who by accident obtained information of the contents of our note to Mr. Jones, and basely took advantage of the knowledge so acquired, to not only impose upon us, but to injure the reputation of several gentlemen of high position. Mr. Mark Twain may think that he has done something very funny. We shall endeavor to teach him, however, that such practical jokes cannot be played upon us with impunity. We intend to follow the matter up.

Immediately upon the discovery of this imposition, we had Mr. Mark Twain placed under arrest. He is now at liberty, on bail. His examination will take place sometime this week. We shall place before our readers, in our next issue, a full report of the proceedings, taken down by one of our corps of phonographic reporters.

The following note from Mr. Jones will be of interest under the circumstances

Consequental Hotel,
San Francisco, July 5th, 1865.

Editors Golden Era - Gentlemen: I have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of your note of the 27th ultimo, and should have replied long before this, had my health permitted.

When I assure you that this is the first day that I have been able to leave my room since my arrival in California, you will be able to imagine my astonishment upon seeing in your issue of the 2d inst., a most singular communication purporting to have come from me.

Your well-known character as journalists at once forbids the idea that you have taken the liberty of using my name in an improper manner, and I am therefore led to believe that some one has imposed upon you and abused my confidence. I regret this from the fact that it not only places both you and myself in a ridiculous light, but also tends to bring odium upon a gentleman, whom I have every reason to esteem - a gentleman whose character in private life is untarnished - one who has passed through the seething corruptions of public life and has come out undefiled - one whom his most bitter party antagonists confess to be without blemish, and who has so nobly and so zealously represented the interests of your glorious Golden State at our Nation's Capital. Add to all these virtues the remembrance of many personal acts of kindness, and you can appreciate my distress upon reading the communication referred to.

I am happy to add, however, that I have traced out the impostor. To certain circumstances that occurred shortly after the receipt of your note, and which have been recalled to my memory, I am indebted for the discovery. But here allow me the use of your columns to correct an injustice done in the moment of excitement at seeing my name so unceremoniously dragged before the public, and which I fear has caused a worthy gentleman of this community serious annoyance. An hour or two after I had received your note, my friend Mr. Conness called at my apartments, as usual, to inquire after my health, and brought with him a Mr. Pixley - a gentleman of no little distinction in your city, I have since ascertained - and introduced him to me as his friend, stating that Mr. Pixley was an aspirant for Senatorial honors and would be glad of my support.

Informed Mr. Pixley that, owing to my recent arrival, I was necessarily ignorant upon the local politics of the State, and hence could not consistently enter into the approaching Senatorial contest. That otherwise, the mere fact of his endorsement by my friend Conness, was sufficient recommendation to me, and that I should have been pleased to render him any aid in my power.

Mr. Pixley, I thought, felt somewhat piqued; at any rate, there was an awkward silence that I at once proceeded to overcome by changing the subject, and my eye happening to fall on your communication, I passed it to Mr. Conness and asked his advice.

At this moment, a servant presented a card and immediately ushered in a gentleman, whom I requested to be seated for a moment. Mr. Conness read your letter aloud and advised me to accept your offer at once, saying that he had been a constant reader of the Era since it was established, and that he frequently contributed to its columns. Other topics of conversation followed rapidly, until Mr. Conness and his friend Pixley took their leave.

Now, when I saw the absurd production attributed to me, in your paper, on Sunday last, it immediately occurred to me that Mr. Pixley was the only person besides Mr. Conness and myself, who was aware of the contents of the note you addressed me, and that he must have written the article referred to, and I at once concluded that a petty spirit of revenge for the refusal of my support to his political schemes, prompted him to bring me into public ridicule by means of the imposition practised upon you. I was all the more confirmed in this view of the matter upon calling to mind his irritated manner during the latter portion of our interview. Accordingly I addressed him a note, expressing in terms not to be mistaken my indignation at his conduct, and demanding an explanation or the satisfaction due a gentleman. Mr. Pixley replied immediately through our mutual friend, Mr. Conness, who hastened to my apartments with flushed face, and assured me that I had made some terrible mistake, that Mr. Pixley was a gentleman of high tone, and far above such a dastardly proceeding, and hinting that he thought I had shown undue haste, and called upon me to substantiate my charges against Mr. Pixley.

I immediately called the attention of Mr. Conness to the circumstances above related; thinking, of course, that he would agree with me in attributing the authorship of the obnoxious communication to Mr. Pixley.

He replied: "You seem to forget there was a fourth person present at that interview. I have occasion to mention it, as, the very next day, that individual called and desired me to lend my name to some swindling operation in petroleum stocks, and when I refused, threatened to 'show me up.' It is to him we are indebted for the scandalous letter in the Era."

It was immediately clear to me that I had deeply wronged Mr, Pixley by my hasty and unjust conclusions. The presence of a fourth person at the interview had entirely escaped my memory.

I begged Mr. Conness to make - in my name - the most ample apologies for my conduct, and to offer any reparation to Mr. Pixley. The latter gentleman - to his honor be it said - was so magnanimous as to perceive the error into which I had fallen, and desired - as public mention had been made of his name - that I should make an explanation through your columns.

Now to the real author of this silly communication.

After Mr. Conness and Mr. Pixley had left my apartments, I gave my attention to the individual who had entered as Mr. Conness was about to read your note. This person - whose card I have unfortunately mislaid - gave his name as Swain or Twain - the latter I think - Mr. Marcus Twain - and represented himself to be the editor of the Bohemian newspaper, and said that he had called to solicit contributions for which he would pay liberally.

In reply to some questions as to the general character of the Bohemian, he said that paper was a religious journal, now in the forty-third year of its existence, and had a circulation throughout the world. I expressed some surprise at this, as I had not even heard the paper mentioned before, although I thought myself well posted in the literary world, but he assured me such was the fact.

He said he had necessarily overheard the contents of your letter, and that he would not be able to pay me so large a sum as was offered by you, as the Bohemian endeavored to live up to its principles, and gave away much in charity, and, therefore, had to depend to a great extent upon the charity of its contributors.

Mr. Twain suggested that I take as a topic for my introductory article to the Bohemian, "Death, Hell, and the Grave"; stating that owing to the evil days into which we have fallen, many of the readers of the Bohemian had backslidden and needed to be frightened back into the walls of righteousness; and that a few words of timely warning from a person of my known ability would help on the good work.

With shame I confess that I was completely deceived by this plausible young man, with his sanctimonious air and conversation, and I told him that I would give his application serious consideration.

I have since ascertained that the Bohemian is not a religious paper; and the bold impudence of this Mr. Marcus Twain astounds me. It seems he is in some way connected with that newspaper.

I do not know what course you intend to pursue. Be assured I shall not let this matter rest here. I intend to prosecute this Mr. Marcus Twain, and have already entered a complaint against him in your municipal Court.

In closing this lengthy but unavoidable explanation, I cannot but express my surprise that gentlemen of your well known information and literary attainments should have been for a moment deceived by this glaring imposition, and can only attribute it to the hurry and confusion attendant on the issue of a journal of the size and circulation of the Era.

I must also add my regrets at being unable to appear before the good people of your city on the Fourth. The committee on the celebration waited on me and honored me with a request to deliver the Oration at the Metropolitan theatre. I thankfully accepted their kind offer and prepared the Oration, but on Monday last I was so unwell that I gave my manuscript to John H. Dwinelle, Esq., who kindly volunteered to read it for me. I here return my thanks to Mr. Dwinelle; his masterly delivery added much to the beauty of the Oration.

Allow me to say Messrs. editors, that I shall accept your offer with thanks, and shall be happy to be numbered among your contributors.

I see you have fallen into the common error in regard to my name. I spell the Brown with a final e, and never write my Christian name in full, I am,

Very Respectfully,
S. Browne Jones.


return to Golden Era index

Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search