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Mark Twain's Mysterious Melbourne Maverick

By Ron Hohenhaus

© 2012

The Riddle

One mystery woven into the narrative of Mark Twain's 1897 travel book Following the Equator (henceforth referred to as FTE) is the author's suggestion that a Mark Twain impostor operated successfully but undetected across Australia in the late 1870s (1). Twain devoted about 1500 words to the story, slipping it between travel yarns as if it were simply another digression. Readers are introduced to the tale in chapter 15 with the memorable line: "For many years I had had a mystery in stock. Melbourne, and only Melbourne, could unriddle it for me."

What unfolds is the revelation that, in the early 1880s, Olivia Clemens received a condolence note from a friend who believed her husband Mark Twain had died on tour in Australia. In chapter 25, Twain offers an explanation for this mistaken assertion with a story involving two characters he calls Mr. Blank and Mr. Bascomb. The tale exhibits some of the hallmarks of fiction but its real-life background quickly leads us to something more complex than anything the reader might reasonably expect for a simple anecdote of "false personation" (2). Distilling "facts" from FTE is notoriously difficult and Twain's skill at embellishing such accounts only adds to the challenge. Until now, few scholars have taken the impostor story seriously (3). Yet if the yarn is fundamentally true, it stands to challenge our understanding of Twain's relationship with colonial Australasia, an area that encompasses Australia, New Zealand and their neighboring islands. Moreover it raises questions about the motivations, identity, actions and relationship of Twain to the man (or men) alleged to have impersonated him in the late 1870s. It is also noteworthy that, given the historical timing of these events, any act of impersonation is likely to have been of Mark Twain, the nascent California writer, and not the emerging platform humorist. In the remote vastness of colonial Australasia, it would have been far easier (both socially and logistically) to occasionally impersonate an American writer than to present an extended series of fraudulent lectures.

Mark Twain's explanation in Chapter 25 that he had "solved" the puzzle of the impostor's identity after speaking with a Mr. Blank from Bendigo provided readers with a literary conclusion -- but it invited as many questions as the author claimed to have answered (4). Twain's biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine wrote that the person described in FTE had been "very persistent" -- the combination of "two pleasant characters in one story, with elaborations" (5). Most would agree Twain blended two real-life stories into one for his yarn. The following exploration makes no attempt to decipher the second half of Twain's impostor tale; the material he included regarding his interactions with the notorious "Mark Twain Club" of Corrigan Castle. This study however, explores the notion that the first half of Twain's riddle is based on the actions of a real person, someone whose activities and identity were -- in contrast to Twain's assertions in FTE -- possibly known or suspected by him, well before his arrival in Australia on 15 September 1895.

Early News Reports and Denials

One factor that almost certainly acted as a catalyst for the impostor mystery was a November 1873 newspaper report in the Brisbane Courier which mistakenly proclaimed Mark Twain was en-route from London for his first Australian visit (6). The first artistic impressions of Twain's likeness started appearing in the Australian press in April 1873 (7). However, in the 1870s, when newspapers and mail from America routinely took several weeks to traverse the Pacific and press photography was still new, few members of the Australasian public would have recognized Mark Twain in the flesh. It was an environment ripe for exploitation; a continuing ambiguity which, to some extent, Twain himself helped to promulgate. In 1889 he recalled in a letter to his friend, Will Bowen, that for years he had told friends and strangers alike that he intended to "go out & lecture in Australia" (8). Regardless of where the Brisbane Courier got its information, news of Twain's impending visit was likely to have spread among his many appreciative readers in the colonies. If anyone had the talent and desire to impersonate Mark Twain, a window of opportunity opened for them during the Australian summer of late 1873.

Before writing FTE, and well before visiting Australia in 1895, Twain had remarked both publicly and privately that he believed the "rascal" who impersonated him in the Antipodes had died there in the late 1870s or early 1880s. When Twain included the impostor story in FTE, long-time readers of the New York Times or Adelaide Observer might have recalled that much of the tale had been aired publicly as early as 1881. There was, however, one crucial difference. In FTE, Mark Twain emphatically linked the tale to Melbourne (9). This focus on Melbourne is curious because it directly contradicts information he received and released publicly in 1881. Adelaide and Sydney were the two locations mentioned in the original impostor story. An October 1881 report in the Adelaide Observer appeared nearly two months before a nearly identical version of the same story was re-published as an abbreviated exchange item in the New York Times (10). Neither item mentioned the city of Melbourne (11). The Adelaide Observer's lengthy preamble, written by newspaper reporter Percy Sinnett under the pseudonym "Per Se," and the item's brief introduction in the New York Times both reported that Twain's impostor allegation owed its origins to rumours emanating from either Sydney or Adelaide. Twain's reply to the allegation was inspired by a 900-word query from Sinnett, an ambitious 21-year-old Adelaide draftsman and part-time writer. Sinnett had written to Twain in May 1881:

This evening I was at a neighbour's house where I met a Mrs Darwent. I do not know whether you remember the name out of the thousands which must throng in your memory even if you have the "peerless" one required of a pilot by the fickle Mississippi. Mrs Darwent was a very kind friend to my father Frederick Sinnett and Mrs Darwent tonight told me that you were a friend of both, and that you lodged in the same place as my Father many years ago in Adelaide. This was in "Tavistock place" in Rundle Street (12).

A self-described "literary aspirant," Sinnett had endured ill-health for much of his life. A far as can be ascertained, however, his ailments were physical and not mental. He had several reasons for writing to Twain, as revealed in the passages he devoted to his private circumstances:

Since I read your first book, through, "The Innocents Abroad" which I got when I was about 12 years old, you have been an intimate friend of mine, even if I have not been known to you. … To what extent I have enjoyed and appreciated them you can only judge from my having the temerity to write this letter. … Ever since I can remember, I have cherished the hope that I might some day tread in his [Frederick Sinnett's] footsteps and become a writer; but I have had a hard struggle and see no prospect of anything else than a hard struggle for some time to come … You will see how I am -- a young literary aspirant indeed; but also an enthusiastic admirer of your own writing. I would not have presumed to write to you but that I heard you were at one time a personal friend of my father's, and one other reason which is that I would rather possess Mark Twain's friendship and advice than that of any other man on Earth (13).

Both the Observer and the New York Times published Twain's reply to Sinnett (along with a specific request for the note to be published), which Twain had addressed to the "people of Australia."

During the present year I have received letters from three gentlemen in Australia who had in past times known people who had known me "in Australia"; but I have never been in any part of Australia in my life. By these letters it appears that the persons who knew me there knew me intimately -- not for a day, but for weeks and even months. And apparently I was not confined to one place, but was scattered all around over the country. Also, apparently, I was very respectable; at least I suppose so, from the character of the company I seem to have kept -- Government officials, ladies of good position, editors of newspapers, etc.

It is very plain, then, that someone has been in Australia who did me the honor to impersonate me and call himself by my name. Now, if this man paid his debts and conducted himself in an orderly and respectable way, I suppose I have no very great cause of complaint against him; and yet I am not able to believe that a man can falsely assume another man's name, and at the same time be in other respects a decent and worthy person. I suspect that, specious as this stranger seems to have been, he was at bottom a rascal, and a pretty shabby sort of rascal at that.

That is all I wanted to say about the matter. There are signs that I have an audience among the people of Australia. I want their good opinion; therefore I thought I would speak up, and say that if that adventurer was guilty of any misconduct there, I hope the resulting obloquy will be reserved for him, and not leveled at me, since I am not to blame.

Today's mail brings a letter to a member of my family from an old English friend of ours, dated "Government House, Sydney, May 29," in which the writer is shocked to hear of my "sudden death." Now, that suggests that that aforementioned impostor has even gone the length of dying for me. This generosity disarms me. He has done a thing for me which I wouldn't even have done for myself. If he will only stay dead now I will call the account square, and drop the grudge I bear him (14).

Although short-lived, Percy Sinnett's literary aspirations were genuine. His German-born father, Frederick Sinnett (1830-1866), had been a respected Australian newspaper editor and Percy hoped to follow in his father's footsteps. Twain's reply from Hartford encouraged Sinnett who wrote another equally long reply to Twain within a few months. In his second letter, Sinnett conceded it would have been all but impossible for an Adelaide-based Sam Clemens to have been the "real" Mark Twain. He also mentioned, however, that some of his friends had seen what they considered to be a genuine letter from Twain to another Adelaide resident named Evans (15).

Percy presumed (correctly, as it would now appear) that this Mr. Evans was one of the three "gentlemen" Twain had mentioned in his 1881 note to the Australian people. Sinnett also mentioned that another of his acquaintances claimed to have met the "real" Mark Twain. This unnamed person had allegedly obtained a personally autographed copy of one of Twain's works, in Adelaide, presumably sometime before May 1881:

One or two of them had however, seen a letter received from yourself, sometime since, by a Mr. Evans (a gentlemen who I know by name though not personally) of this city and whom I suppose, is one of the "three" you mention. … A week or two after I wrote to you, I read an essay on "American Humour" at a Society to which I belong. … The strangest part of the business, tho', was that at the following meeting of the Society, a fellow member -- a son of a member of our Legislative Council -- told me that he thought I was right. He said either that his father remembered seeing you or that a friend of his well remembered seeing you in Adelaide (I forget which now) and that this person had a presentation copy of your works from yourself. This seemed pretty conclusive, and I did not know what to think till your letter arrived and set all doubt at rest (16).

Sinnett might have had more to say about these allegations but he died in July 1882, aged twenty-two (17). Exactly why Twain later told readers and journalists that Melbourne held the answer to his riddle is a mystery. If there was some literary advantage to linking the story to Melbourne, the benefit seems negligible. Did Twain know more than he cared to admit? His remark to Sinnett: "That is all I wanted to say about the matter," certainly invites us to suspect he knew more (18).

Mark Twain or George Francis Train

The Mark Twain Project archive at Berkeley holds one of the letters Herbert Evans, a gentleman mentioned in Percy Sinnett's letter, penned to Twain from Adelaide on 21 July 1881. Evans suggested that much of the misunderstanding about Twain being in Adelaide is likely to have arisen from a dinner party gathering which had included a select few Adelaide residents and one George Francis Train, the eccentric American merchant who lived in the Antipodes for nearly three years during the height of the Victorian Gold Rush (from May 1853 to November 1855). If there was a direct link between George Francis Train and Percy Sinnett's reports of impostors, the intervening span of nearly thirty years presents a daunting historical hurdle. It is well documented, however, that by the late 1860s Samuel Clemens knew enough about George F. Train to dislike him intensely.

In a letter to the New York Tribune published 22 January 1868 Clemens described Train as an "insufferable fool." In another published 27 February 1868 in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, he referred to him as a "great Fenian Female Suffrage Ass" (19). If there was any doubt about his attitude to Train, Clemens characterised G.F. Train as a "distinguished jail-bird" prone to lying in his 6 March 1869 letter to Olivia Langdon (20).

Ironically, in May 1876, Twain claimed to have been refused an audience with the U. S. President after being mistaken for George Francis Train while visiting the White House (21).

George Francis Train

There were several unusual features of George Train's controversial life that might help us to understand this apparent confusion. Percy Sinnett noted in one of his letters that he had heard reports of Mark Twain being confined to a mental hospital. George Train's increasingly quixotic behaviour in the 1870s resulted, at one point, in him using insanity as a legal defense against a charge of obscenity (22). Despite Train's considerable achievements in commerce, his controversial stands for Irish independence and increasing eccentricity landed him in trouble with authorities, attracting unflattering and enduring print coverage around the world. In addition, both Sinnett and Evans in their letters to Clemens make brief mention that an Adelaide family named Darwent might have been involved. The Adelaide based ship owner Joseph Darwent was associated with trans-Tasman shipping throughout the 1860-1870 period (23). George Train's interest in shipping and trade is indeed likely to have brought him into social contact with an entrepreneur such as Joseph Darwent, even if it was in the early 1850s.

It is difficult to comprehend how the citizens of Adelaide could have confused George F. Train, who visited Australia in the early 1850s, with Mark Twain who rose to international prominence in the late 1860s at the earliest. However as Clemens himself reported, even American officials were known to confuse "Twain" for "Train". With hindsight, however, it would be imprudent to judge the naivety of Adelaide's residents too harshly. The men's similar-sounding names, leanings toward humour, reputation for original thinking and influential connections with California might conceivably have evolved into an urban myth. Herbert Evans's explanation has elements of plausibility but it is clearly not the whole story:

Mr C.E. Stevenson says he well remembers you; and that you came here in pursuit of the notorious Captain Hayes, who had stolen the barque "Orestes", which belonged to you: this Capt Hayes had a pleasant way of taking a vessel when he wanted one: I am strongly of opinion that he took (without asking leave) a Spanish Brig out of Port Adelaide, about 20 years ago (the Esperanza); the last we heard of him was that he was dead, about 12 mos. ago, shot by his chief mate, on account of some squabble. It has been suggested to me that Messrs Darwent; Woods, Stevenson were mistaken and that instead of Mark Twain, they entertained George Francis Train, whose name you have possibly heard. I bowled out Mr J.D. Woods when we were talking about you, after some conversation, I said suddenly "he had a large full beard hadn't he"?, he replied "Yes"; I replied that he could not be Mark Twain, because he wore only a moustache -- had him there (24).

What did Clemens recall about his Australian impostor by 1897? His level of angst seems at odds with the limited amount of detail evident in extant correspondence. The Mark Twain Project collection at Berkeley holds at least five letters that make some mention of the allegation -- and there are possibly more.

Clemens Retraces the Rumors

In 1889, when the impostor allegation was yet a decade old, Clemens conflated or invented several crucial details about his Australian nemesis. In a note to Will Bowen, he could only vaguely recall Olivia having received the original correspondence about his alleged death "in Melbourne or somewhere out there":

… as to that letter. It came to my wife eight or ten years ago from an English friend of ours who was yachting in those distant waters. It broke to Mrs. Clemens, as gently as possible, the news of my death in Melbourne or somewhere out there, and then went on to further soften the blow by saying I had made a quite triumphant lecture tour, had been received with outspoken favor every where, & was the guest of a Governor or a Governor General when I was stricken with the illness which carried me off (25).

Clemens arrived in Sydney, Australia 16 September 1895. He met with some journalists one evening in the smoking room of Sydney's impressive Australia Hotel. According to a contemporary report later published in the Australian Star, Mark Twain asked the journalists what they knew about reports of his death in the late 1870s (26). From this date, Twain exorcised any lingering ambivalence he might have harboured about the location of his alleged death, and thereafter routinely associated the episode with Melbourne. In FTE he linked the death story with correspondence from a mysterious Mr. Bascom:

I did nothing about the matter. I had set the law after living lecture doubles of mine a couple of times in America, and the law had not been able to catch them; others in my trade had tried to catch their impostor-doubles and had failed. Then where was the use in harrying a ghost? None -- and so I did not disturb it. I had a curiosity to know about that man's lecture-tour and last moments, but that could wait.

When I should see Mr. Bascom he would tell me all about it. But he passed from life, and I never saw him again. My curiosity faded away.

However, when I found that I was going to Australia it revived. And naturally: for if the people should say that I was a dull, poor thing compared to what I was before I died, it would have a bad effect on business. Well, to my surprise the Sydney journalists had never heard of that impostor! I pressed them, but they were firm -- they had never heard of him, and didn't believe in him.

I could not understand it; still, I thought it would all come right in Melbourne. The government would remember; and the other mourners. At the supper of the Institute of Journalists I should find out all about the matter. But no -- it turned out that they had never heard of it.

So my mystery was a mystery still. It was a great disappointment. I believed it would never be cleared up -- in this life -- so I dropped it out of my mind.

But at last! just when I was least expecting it -- (27)

Readers looking for a conclusion are left hanging until much later.

Reginald Cholmondeley Provides Some Clues

According to the Australian Star report of 16 December 1895, news of Mark Twain's death in Australia had first come from an English gentleman who was visiting Australia in the early 1880s. Twain befriended Reginald Cholmondeley (1826 - 1896), an English eccentric, in the early 1870s. During the following years Twain and his family visited Cholmondeley several times at Condover Hall, near Shrewsbury, England. Before 1881, Twain's most recent visit to Cholmondeley had been in mid-1879. For reasons that have never been fully explained, while Cholmondeley was visiting Australia in May 1881 he wrote to Olivia Clemens, offering his sincerest sympathies for the "death" of her husband while lecturing in Australia (28). Soon after becoming aware of his error, Cholmondeley wrote again, this time to Twain, conceding he had gleaned his tragic news from a New South Wales newspaper (29). Of all the extant clues to Twain's Australian impostor, Cholmondeley's brief but enigmatic note to Olivia is perhaps the most perplexing:

I cannot tell you how shocked I have been to hear of the sudden death of your husband. You know how I valued his friendship and not only because of his genius as a humourist but because in him I saw a sound sense and an integrity that might have been in invaluable service to his country, had he been spared. I hope that if any of your children should at any time, as they grow up, pay a visit to England they will not forget that an old friend of their father lives at Condover (30).

Apart from Twain, Cholmondeley provides the only extant contemporary reference to the impostor's alleged death -- although Percy Sinnett also claimed to have read reports that Twain was dying. Contrary to Twain's later insistence in FTE, Cholmondeley's original condolence note makes no mention of Melbourne; moreover it was postmarked "Government House, Sydney" as Twain himself remarked in his note to the people of Australia in 1881 (31). Cholmondeley died in 1896, with Twain's re-worked impostor mystery yet to be published in FTE.

Another troubling aspect of Cholmondeley's note to Olivia Clemens is its lack of corroborating evidence. Despite the ongoing digitization of a large percentage of Australia's nineteenth-century newspapers, the dearth of news items about Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens visiting (let alone dying in) Australia or New Zealand in the late 1870s or early 1880s is difficult to reconcile. Cholmondeley and Twain knew each other well; they are known to have corresponded at least eleven times between 1873 and 1885. Twain's July 1881 reply to Cholmondeley's condolence gaffe was characteristically eloquent, however the only extant copy of this all-important note is a transcript provided by Reginald Cholmondeley's sister, May. The note reveals that Twain regarded Cholmondeley warmly. Curiously, had it been allowed to stand, May's (or was it Twain's?) inadvertent use of the word "friend" in place of "fraud" in the transcription might easily have dramatically altered the implications of Twain's original note (see original strikethrough below):

It is odd that a letter containing the news of my own death should give me pleasure and a lively sense of relief -- yet these were effects produced by this one: pleasure in the recognition of the fact that I still possess a friendship which I so greatly value, and a sense of relief in the conviction that a friend fraud who has been passing under my name during some years in New South Wales and neighbouring regions is at last disposed of and out of the way. Three times during the present year, mention has been made of him in letters to me from that part of the world, and I was beginning to get pretty tired of him and his performances (32).

Twain's use of the phrase "disposed of and out of the way" takes on a more sinister tone when viewed through the prism of several new insights. His meaning of the word "performances" is also ambiguous. Does he mean public performances or private indiscretions? In Cholmondeley's reply to Twain on 9 January 1882, the Englishman mentioned having spent the past three years travelling around the world. By the time Cholmondeley arrived in San Francisco, fresh from Australia, he was already having doubts about being so forthright to Olivia. While conceding he had made an error of judgement, Cholmondeley claimed Twain's "double" was either dead or had deliberately concocted the entire charade:

I read in a N.S.W paper in Sydney a most apparently authentic account of your illness [?] + death giving the fullest particulars. As soon as I got [to] S. Francisco I found no one who confirmed the account + and many who said that if such a thing had happened they must have known about it. If your double is not dead, he must certainly have caused this account of his death to be inserted in the N.S.W. papers for purposes of his own (33).

Despite Cholmondeley's explanation, no newspaper account supporting his claim has yet come to light. Discounting for the moment Percy Sinnett's tangle of hearsay and rumour, the most authoritative voice in the impostor story comes from Clemens himself -- and to a lesser extent, Cholmondeley. Nevertheless the extant correspondence that has allowed this riddle to remain unsolved for more than a century cannot be dismissed easily.

Mark Twain as Author and Playwright

The recent digitization of a large percentage of Australia's colonial era newspapers has enabled online access to mainstream dailies and acres of hitherto rare and little-known broadsheets. To some extent, what the newspapers do not reveal is suggestive of something equally significant. For more than a century, newspapers remained the stalwart of theatrical promotion -- a situation little different in 1870s. The absence of any newspaper advertisements promoting a Mark Twain performance or visit during this period of Australian colonial history is a significant challenge to the allegation of an imposter posing as Mark Twain throughout Australia. Such a dearth of supporting evidence warrants a rethink about how we might interpret the impostor riddle. If the impersonation had been that of Mark Twain the writer and or playwright, not the platform humorist, it raises the spectre of Twain's impersonator operating in a low-key and possibly ad hoc manner. If one considers that any such deception was being done in the far reaches of the colonies -- and in all likelihood privately -- it greatly increases the chances of such misdemeanours remaining generally unreported in the contemporary press.

Given Mark Twain's popular appeal as an author and playwright across Australasia throughout the 1870s -- a phenomenon which essentially blossomed after publication of The Innocents Abroad -- it is not surprising that one or more figures might have attempted to profit from his reputation (34). More curious is Twain's apparently contradictory knowledge of the impostor's actions, and yet ignorance of the trouble-maker's identity as so firmly reiterated in FTE. If someone had been impersonating Twain on a commercial scale in Australia around this time, Twain or his agents would almost certainly have learnt of it -- which is precisely the argument offered by one Australian journalist during Twain's visit to Sydney:

It was pointed out to Mr Clemens how unlikely it was that an impostor could personate him in Melbourne, as the American consul would probably howl the stranger out … (35).

American Actors in Australia

So what was going on? During the 1860s and 1870s, many American entertainers visited the colonies, offering us a potentially long list of potential impostors. Following a trail set by rising stars such as Edwin Booth and Joe Jefferson, a procession of American actors tried their luck in the colonies during the second half of the nineteenth century. For anyone hoping to identify Twain's impostor, the flow of actors between San Francisco and Australia during the decade or more before 1881 amounts to a "green room" of prospective candidates. For example, in the early 1870s, the Irish-born actor James Carden -- who worked on stage in Ballarat and Brisbane -- came to Australia from California, where he had been working for more than two decades. The Brisbane press described Carden (1837-?) as having a "strong American accent". Carden, who died in obscurity, had been part of John McCullough's theatre company in San Francisco -- where Mark Twain had lived from late May 1864 to July 1868.

In 1876, the Australian journalist Charles Bright (1832-1903) lectured on Yankee humour at Omaru on New Zealand's South Island. One local newspaper said Bright was "saturated with both the letter and the spirit of Mark Twain, Max Adeler, Bret Harte, and Artemus Ward" (36). Bright, however, was a high-minded idealist who died in 1903 and there is little reason to suspect he or James Carden were connected with Twain's impostor mystery. More intriguingly, the better-known elocutionist, reader and humorist, Stephen C. Massett (1820-1898) also visited Australia in the 1870s (37). Massett and Twain knew each other in the mid-1860s, when Twain was a San Francisco newspaper reporter (38). Massett had openly performed readings of Twain's works in America, and Twain had corresponded with him several times. But that hardly makes him Twain's Australasian impostor. While these characters of the stage and platform do little to help us identify the impostor, they serve to underscore Twain's widespread popularity and appreciation in Australasia during the 1870s.

Francis Marion Bates and Mark Twain in America

With these points in mind the life and death of Francis Marion Bates (1835-1879), an American-born actor who specialised in low comedy and actively worked the theatre circuit in Australia and New Zealand during the 1870s, take on new interest. According to different sources, Bates was born either in Boston, Baltimore or New Orleans. His extensive theatre experience and exhaustive travel in America before venturing to Australia in the summer of 1873 allow us to confidently place him in close proximity with Sam Clemens at least twice, and possibly more (39).

Frank Bates
Portrait of F. M. Bates
J. Gaul's Portrait Rooms
National Library of Australia

Eliza Bates
Portrait of Mrs. F. M. (Eliza) Bates
C. Hewitt
National Library of Australia

According to one source, Bates began his acting career at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston on 26 January 1858 (40). After meeting actress Eliza Wren in Richmond while he was still an enlisted Confederate soldier, the couple married in 1863 (41).

By early 1867 Frank and Eliza Bates were performing in New York. Their last known New York performance was at Wood's Theatre in April 1867 (42).

In the months immediately before his 8 June 1867 departure for the Holy Lands on board the Quaker City, Mark Twain was staying in New York. He delivered his pivotal Sandwich Islands lecture in Brooklyn on 10 May, repeating the performance at New York's Irving hall on 15 May. Exactly what Frank Bates was doing at this time is unknown. By mid-October, however, Eliza had been contracted to appear at San Francisco's Metropolitan Theatre. Twain spent five months visiting the Middle East and Europe before returning to New York on 20 November 1867.

In April 1868, Twain briefly returned to California to lecture and visit friends. Several performances were delivered in succession at Sacramento, Marysville, Nevada City, Grass Valley, Virginia City, and again in San Francisco on 2 July. He left San Francisco for the last time on 6 July 1868. From about the fall of 1867, Frank and Eliza were reaching the peak of their theatrical popularity in the United States, performing in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Portland. Their professional zenith in California overlaps with the dawn of Twain's public notoriety. It is unlikely that Bates, an ambitious actor-manager, would have missed an opportunity to see one of America's rising stars.

Although his time in California coincided with Twain for almost nine months (17 Oct 1867 to 6 July 1868), San Francisco later provided another strong link between Frank Bates and Mark Twain's sagebrush years. In the early 1870s Howard P. Taylor (1838-1916), the former Comstock journalist and colleague of Samuel L. Clemens at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise was a playwright in San Francisco (43). In September 1871, Taylor's play "Pigeon, The Torment" premiered at the Metropolitan Theatre in Montgomery Street with Eliza Bates as his leading lady. It is reasonable to assume that Frank Bates would have worked closely with Taylor during the production.

In 1872 Eliza secured the coveted lead role in the original Virginia City production of "The Psychoscope," a controversial play written about a year earlier in Virginia City by Rollin M. Daggett and Joseph T. Goodman, two of Sam Clemens's Virginia City newspaper colleagues. The fact that Eliza Bates was one of the stars in the original Virginia City production of "The Psychoscope" suggests Frank probably spent time with Daggett and Goodman around August 1872. Among the many controversial aspects of "The Psychoscope" is that Daggett and Goodman refused the dizzying sum of $10,000 offered by John McCullough for the play because they refused to omit controversial scenes. These are likely to have been scenes involving one of the characters who plays a prostitute (44).

Another insightful glimpse into Frank and Eliza's theatre connections is sketched in William Winter's book, The Life of David Belasco. According to Winter, Mr and Mrs Bates were close friends with Belasco, a promising young actor at the time, gifting him "many manuscript plays and costumes" just before they left for Australia (45).

Francis Marion Bates in Australia

Transitory coexistence with Twain in America falls well short of incriminating evidence of fraudulently impersonating Mark Twain in Australasia. But a surprising number of coincidences emerge when Bates's interests, movements and associations are viewed collectively and balanced against what is currently known about Twain's Australasian impostor allegations.

Melbourne-based Australian theatre impresario George S. Coppin (1819-1906) is likely to have enticed Frank and Eliza Bates to the colonies in 1873. According to a report in the Melbourne Age of 23 July 1873, Frank and Eliza, along with their daughter Blanche, had arrived in Melbourne on the previous day after having departed San Francisco on 11 May 1873. Among a dozen or more American actors and entertainers who accompanied the Bates family on the ten-week voyage aboard the Czarewitch was Billy Emerson (William Emerson Redmond, 1846-1902), a popular American minstrel. As well as regularly performing in New York, Emerson headed a succession of minstrel groups in Virginia City and San Francisco during the mid-1860s. The Billy Emerson Minstrels often appeared at Thomas Maguire's Opera House in Virginia City (46). If Billy Emerson knew anecdotes about Twain's adventures in Virginia City and California (or had acquired them from Maguire who knew Sam Clemens well), a ten-week voyage to Australia would have allowed him ample opportunity to share them with Frank Bates.

Blanche Bates, who later had a successful acting career in the United States, wrote a memoir recalling her mother's stories about the crossing:

As a nursing baby, I have no memory of the voyage, but it never ceased to be a thing of horror to mother. The crazy old boat was alive with rats, and there was never a night when she did not have to hold me in her arms. The loss of the compass made many fear that land would never be reached, and a mutiny of the crew contributed nothing to happiness. At the end of seventy eight days, however, Sydney was reached, and within a week father and mother were installed in a barn-like theatre, playing to great crowds.

Blanche also described her father as "flashing, adventurous and wild as a hawk" -- a man whose "open handed prodigality never let money be put by." (47).

Blanche Bates
Blanche Bates, daughter of Francis Marion Bates

Eliza played a short season at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne in the summer of 1873 and moved on to Adelaide by early October. When Frank and Eliza sailed for Australia they took with them a copy of "The Psychoscope." Australasian newspapers confirm that Frank and Eliza staged their own controversial version of "The Psychoscope" on at least three separate occasions. They were not afraid to perform plays the establishment considered risqué or adventurous. At various times their repertoire included "Pink Dominoes,""Little Red Pocket Book," and an American version of the so-called "naughty" French play "L'article 47."

Theatre reviews in Australia and New Zealand frequently praised the acting of Mr and Mrs F. M. Bates. By February 1874, Frank and Eliza Bates were in Sydney playing alongside William B. Gill, an equally ambitious actor-manager. (Gill left Australia in May 1874, traveled to San Francisco, and soon began performing in Virginia City (48). Within a year, Gill was facing a legal challenge from Mark Twain in Salt Lake City for attempting to stage an unauthorised performance of "The Gilded Age.")

Billed in Sydney in 1874 as "the Great American Delineator," Frank Bates could select from an impressive 50-play repertoire. From the many newspaper reviews we can deduce that Bates was chiefly of the "old school" of the American stage -- someone trained in the subtleties of "points," and an actor who thought nothing of stopping mid-dialogue to acknowledge audience applause. According to an article in Town and Country Journal in 1874, Bates had shared the stage with several leading actors including Joseph Jefferson and John Sleeper Clarke (49). In lighter comedic roles, Bates's acting was once described as natural and disarmingly honest -- particularly when portraying drunkards (50). In September 1875, Bates and his wife commissioned and performed a play by the New Zealand journalist J. J. Utting. The Civil War burlesque, "Check and Counter Check," possibly drew romantic inspiration from biographical elements of Frank and Eliza's own life. Despite Bates's undisputed Civil War experience, the play nevertheless failed to attract commercial or artistic success (51).

In 1877, while manager and lessee of the Queensland Theatre in Brisbane, Bates introduced the American impersonators P. F. Baker and J. T. Farron (52). The comedic duo spent much of the 1870s in Australasia, performing their peculiar brand of low comedy. Rarely playing to anything less than full houses, the Bateses are likely to have amassed considerable wealth during their six-year stay in the colonies. They routinely mixed with high society, including governors general, and sailed first-class, often accompanied by a servant to care for their two children. When they left Brisbane in March 1878, Frank and Eliza advertised their household goods in the local paper. Their domestic chattels at the time included a small piano, a mantelpiece clock, kitchen items and furniture enough for several rooms. The items were offered "in consequence of Mr. Bates' departure from the colony. Inspection invited prior to sale. Terms - Cash" (53). After leaving Brisbane in March 1878, Frank and Eliza returned to Sydney. They began telling their audiences they were soon to return to America. However, theatres on both sides of the Pacific were in a downturn and the Bateses repeatedly postponed their oft-promised departure.

Death of Frank Bates

Frank Bates's final years in Australia are peppered with reports of melancholy and unexplained absenteeism (54). In late June 1879 Frank Bates traveled from Sydney back to Melbourne. At 7.30 am on 27 June 1879 his dead body was found lying off Flemington Road, near the Melbourne Haymarket close to a small embankment (55). A coroner's report concluded that Bates had died from heart disease. An inquest into his death was held. Even though some witnesses reported Bates was being followed by an unidentified private detective at the time of his death, there was insufficient evidence to show his death was accelerated by anything other than a possible fall. However, it was also apparent that Bates had been robbed before his body was discovered. Eliza told the inquiry her husband routinely wore two diamond rings and always carried a gold watch, chain and locket (56).

Bates was buried at the Melbourne Cemetery on 2 July 1879. Melbourne theatre critic James Neild (1824-1906) knew Frank Bates both as an actor and friend. Neild wrote a sympathetic obituary for Bates and praised Bates as a man who could be "deservedly credited with intelligence and ability beyond the average" (57). An outspoken and influential commentator, Neild was also a respected medical doctor and, oddly enough, the forensic pathologist (an emerging discipline at the time) who conducted Frank's post-mortem for the coroner.

The story of Frank Bates's death is in many ways a fascinating and tragic human drama. Much of the minutia of this case fascinated newspaper readers at the time, However, it has little bearing on this exploration, except for a controversial claim made repeatedly by several witnesses. If Bates was somehow caught up in the impostor riddle, how should we interpret the fact that the man implicated in causing his death claimed to be a private detective -- although this person was never identified and never questioned about the death? Soon after this series of events, the Victorian police were riven with claims of incompetence, corruption and thuggery, leading eventually to a major police inquiry in the early 1880s. Coincidentally, on the morning Frank Bates died in Australia, Mark Twain and his family were visiting none other than Reginald Cholmondeley at Condover Hall, near Shrewsbury in the United Kingdom.

Masonic Code of Secrecy?

In the context of examining connections between Frank Bates and Samuel Clemens, one final aspect of nineteenth-century life is worthy of attention. It is acknowledged that any Masonic involvement will always be a contentious line of investigation. Nevertheless Samuel Clemens's relatively brief interface with Freemasonry is well documented. In the 1950s, Alexander E. Jones identified numerous examples of Masonic influence in The Innocents Abroad (58). Sam Clemens was initiated as an Entered Apprentice at the Polar Star Lodge No. 79 of St Louis on 22 May 1861. Within a few months, he had graduated to the level of Master Mason. It was widely reported at the time of Bates's death that he too had achieved high rank in the Masonic order. Bates would have llikely attended Masonic Lodge meetings in Boston, New Orleans and New York, both before and after the Civil War. In 1868, when Clemens returned from his career-changing cruise to the Holy Land on board the Quaker City, there was extensive Masonic activity in San Francisco linked with the Metropolitan Theatre -- where Frank Bates enjoyed strong professional ties. What (if any) contact Bates and Clemens may have enjoyed is unknown, however their mutual interests of theatre, story telling, Masons, drinking and newspapers could conceivably have brought them together.

One rule common to Masonic affiliations around the world calls for protection of a fellow Mason's reputation. Sometimes called the "Behaviour Rule," it is a basic tenet that has remained relatively unchanged for decades, if not centuries. If Clemens learned his Australian impostor's identity and knew of his Masonic connection, possibly sometime in the late 1880s, it is likely he would have been obliged to keep the impostor's name secret. Moreover, with the benefit of hindsight, it might also be said that Mark Twain successfully diverted a discussion of Frank Bates by spreading a trail of half-truths and inaccuracies, putting everyone off Bates's scent for more than a century.

Had there been a Masonic connection, Twain would very likely have been privately reminiscing along these lines while visiting Australia. Was it just another coincidence that when he visited Adelaide in late December 1895, he used the occasion to weave the language of Freemasonry into a speech he gave at a Glenelg luncheon [underscores are the author's emphasis]?:

I am glad to say I know there is another American present. I did not suspect it until I heard him lift up his voice, and when he lifted it up I knew by certain signs that there was another American here. Those signs are patented. Those signs are these -- that his voice was for peace between England and America. Another sign was that in all he said there was no suggestion of anything but cast iron veracity. In all he said there was truth, and by that truth I knew he was an American. There was another sign that there was another American present. I noticed he made more noise than the other seven speakers (59).

Signs remain an intrinsic part of Masonic ritual, forming one of the three main methods one Freemason recognizes another. Twain's words must surely have brought a smile to the faces of local Masons. Among the Glenelg audience on that day were Adelaide Mayor, Charles Tucker (1857-1928) and other leading politicians and businessmen. Many of these men were Masons.


There is no direct evidence Francis Marion Bates impersonated Mark Twain in Australia and New Zealand in the 1870s. For now he is only a "person of interest." Time has exaggerated the severity of any injustice. While Mark Twain's star was on the rise in the 1870s, he had yet to reach the regard in which he is held today. Rather than any sinister attempt to seriously profit from personation, the ad hoc and fragmented reports of the impostor's behavior suggest he was someone who only intermittently "personated" Mark Twain the writer. If Frank Bates is not the culprit, history has certainly conspired to align him closely with Mark Twain through a series of remarkable coincidences.

Bates was more than an obscure American actor who died mysteriously in Melbourne in 1879. From a historical point-of-view Bates achieved many things. But the real significance of Francis Marion Bates is what this long-forgotten actor might yet reveal to us about Mark Twain and why he chose to keep his imposter's identity a secret. Careful scrutiny of Twain's original Following the Equator manuscript (currently held by the New York Public Library) would be a logical step for anyone seeking to shed more light on Twain's Melbourne riddle. Another priceless repository is the Mark Twain Project archive at Berkeley. Twain's original correspondence has already proven insightful but a forensic investigation of the many dozens of letters Twain issued and received during the 1870s and 1880s is likely to reveal valuable additional information. In the same vein, investigation of other American archives, including those holding census records, newspaper advertisements and theatre memorabilia, could help to better pinpoint Frank Bates's birthplace and subsequent transcontinental wanderings. If it could be demonstrated that Bates and Clemens very likely knew each other, Twain's Following the Equator riddle could well be en-route to a solution.

Author's Thanks

Any analysis of Twain's Australasian impact and reputation is indebted to the previous scholarly works of Coleman Parsons, Louis Budd and the more recent scholarship of Miriam Shillingsburg. While all errors are my own, I would especially like to acknowledge the encouragement of Lawrence I. Berkove. In addition, this paper would not have been possible without the generous assistance of numerous people including, Robert Hirst and the ever-helpful staff at the Mark Twain Project; Jeri Foster, Special Collections -- Manuscripts, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Thanks also to Barbara Schmidt and Terry Oggel for their scholarly feedback. For his guidance on Masonic practices, I gratefully acknowledge Michael Brunckhorst. For his advice regarding F. M. Bates's military record, I thank and acknowledge Civil War researcher Terry Foenander.


Reference Notes

(1) No significant difference for the argument in this essay could be identified between the relevant passages of Following the Equator and its English edition More Tramps Abroad. All references to Twain's 1897 text refer to FTE.

(2) Barbara Schmidt's summary of the many Twain lookalikes that have surfaced over the years in America is essential reading for anyone interested in this topic. See:

(3) See Miriam J. Shillingsburg's, "The Influential Mr. Blank of Bendigo," Mark Twain Journal, 31 (Fall, 1993), pp. 28-31.

(4) Twain also mentioned in FTE that he had an evening of "sociable frankness" with "Mr. Blank", during which time they exchanged frank and full confessions. Miriam Shillingsburg, who has written extensively on Twain's Australasian tour, seized upon this kernel of alliteration as a possible clue that Mr. Blank might have been the writer and artist Frank Fearn (1835-1896). Whatever role Fearn might have played in Twain's impostor tale (which was very likely two stories blended into one), Fearn's undisputed longevity throughout the seventies and eighties belies his involvement in a story that suggests the impostor had died towards the end of the 1870s or possibly in the early 1880s. While no one would seriously argue that FTE is all factual, the impostor story was clearly inspired by real events. In addition, the Mark Twain Papers and Project collection at Berkeley contains correspondence from several people who wrote to Twain in the 1880s inquiring about his Australian impostor.

(5) Albert Bigelow Paine. Mark Twain, A Biography, Volume 2, (Harper and Brothers, 1912), p. 565.

(6) Clemens was in London from May 17 - November 2, 1873, but he did not go to Australia.

(7) The South Australian Advertiser noted that Mark Twain's likeness appeared in the first edition of the Australasian Sketcher, which became a popular magazine-style newspaper. See The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1858-1889 Monday, 21 April 1873). This is the earliest occasion yet identified of Twain's likeness being reproduced in print anywhere in Australasia.

(8) Samuel Clemens to Will Bowen, 3 Dec 1889. This letter appears to have been reproduced in The Queenslander on 8 March 1890 p. 460. Evidently a New Zealander named W. D. Mears of Christchurch had written to a "friend" in America, asking him to invite Twain to tour. Mears later received a copy of Twain's reply. Presumably that "friend" was Will Bowen, an old friend of Clemens.

(9) "For many years I had had a mystery in stock. Melbourne, and only Melbourne, could unriddle it for me," Twain insisted. FTE , Chapter 15.

(10) The original item appeared as "MARK TWAIN SPEAKS UP" [Heard by Per Se] in the Adelaide Observer on 15 October 1881. An abridged version of the same item titled "AUTHORITATIVE CONTRADICTION" appeared in the New York Times on 8 Dec 1881.

(11) The longer version of the report was written by Percy Sinnett, a writer and newspaper reporter, explaining how he had received a Mark Twain letter for publication.

(12) Percy Sinnett to SLC, 21 May 1881: see CU-MARK (University of California, Mark Twain Collection, Berkeley, California, Catalog entry (UCLC 40776).

(13) Ibid.

(14) SLC to Percy Sinnett from Hartford, USA (24 July, 1881) as published in the Adelaide Observer, 15 Oct 1881.

(15) Herbert Evans to Samuel Clemens, 21 July 1881, (UCLC 40807). Catalog entry. Mark Twain Project Online. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 2007. Accessed 31 Aug 2011.

(16) Percy Sinnett to Samuel Clemens, 25 Oct 1881, CU-MARK (University of California, Mark Twain Collection, Berkeley, Calif.), (UCLC 40893), Catalog entry.

(17) Sinnett's death was reported in his local paper. "The remains of the late Mr. P. F. Sinnett were interred at the West-terrace Cemetery on Friday, July 21, the Very Rev. Dean Russell officiating at the grave. Mr Sinnett, although a young man, was well known in literary circles, having been a frequent contributor to the daily press and to some of the comic journals. Several gentlemen connected with the press were among those who paid their last tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased, as did also a few gentlemen connected with the civil service, and about a dozen members of the Adelaide Young Men's Society, in which institution Mr Sinnett took a lively interest." (South Australian Advertiser, 22 July 1882, pp. 2 & 5.)

(18) SLC to Percy Sinnett from Hartford, USA (24 July, 1881) as published in the Adelaide Observer, 15 Oct 1881.

(19) Clemens letter titled "Information Wanted," appeared in the New York Tribune 22 January 1868 and another written 30 Jan 1868 to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise was published 27 February 1868.

(20) SLC to Olivia L. Langdon, 6 March 1869, Hartford, Conn. (UCCL 00269).

(21) SLC to William Dean Howells, 1 May 1877, Baltimore, Md. (UCCL 01422).

(22) George Francis Train. A Yankee Merchant in Goldrush Australia, The Letters of George Francis Train 1835-55. With an introductory sketch of his life and notes by E. Daniel and Annette Potts, (Heinemann, Melbourne, 1970), p. xxix.

(23) See "Flotilla Australia" online at: Accessed 13 November 2011.

(24) Herbert Evans to SLC, 21 July 1881, (UCLC 40807). Catalog entry. Mark Twain Project Online. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 2007. The barque "Orestes" did visit Australia in the 1850s; but Evans's account of G. F Train's involvement is laced with the kind of wild accusations that Train attracted for much of his life.

(25) SLC to Will Bowen, 3 Dec 1889. This letter appears to have been reproduced in The Queenslander on 8 March 1890 p. 460. Evidently a New Zealander named W. D. Mears of Christchurch had written to a "friend" in America, asking him to invite Twain to tour. Mears later received a copy of Twain's reply. Presumably that "friend" was Will Bowen, an old friend of Clemens.

(26) "Anecdotes of an Author," Australian Star, 16 Dec 1895, p.20.

(27) FTE, chapter 15.

(28) Reginald Cholmondeley to OLC, 29 May 1881, (UCLC 40780).

(29) Reginald Cholmondeley to SLC, 9 January 1882, University of California, Mark Twain Collection, Berkeley, California. UCLC 40975.

(30) Reginald Cholmondeley to OLC, 29 May 1881, (UCLC 40780).

(31) Cholmondeley possibly had good reason for being at Government House in Sydney on Sunday, 29 May 1881 -- the day he wrote to Olivia. Government House was host to dozens of visiting dignitaries on 29 May. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Governor of NSW, Lord Augustus Loftus (1817-1904), had arranged a large "Birthday Levee" in honour of the Queen of England. By the paper's own admission, the published list of attendees was incomplete, so the absence of Cholmondeley's name is inconclusive. The Sydney Morning Herald report reveals that Mr. J. Williams, Consul for the United States; the prominent Australian politician, Sir Henry Parkes, plus other leading members of the judiciary and parliament all attended the celebrations.

(32) SLC to Reginald Cholmondeley, 24 July 1881, University of California, Mark Twain Collection, Berkeley, California. UCLC 40893.

(33) Reginald Cholmondeley to SLC, 9 January 1882, University of California, Mark Twain Collection, Berkeley, California. UCLC 40975.

(34) See Ronald N. Hohenhaus, "The 'Petrified Man' Returns: An Early Mark Twain Hoax makes an Unexpected Appearance in Australasia," Australasian Journal of American Studies, Dec 2008, pp. 83-103.

(35) "Anecdotes of an Author," Australian Star, 16 Dec 1895, p.20.

(36) North Otago Times, 16 Feb 1876, p.2. (Online at PapersPast).

(37) One of Massett's claims to fame included being San Francisco's inaugural stage performer in 1849.

(38) Article attributed to Mark Twain, "The Theatres, Etc.", San Francisco Daily Morning Call, 1 Sep 1864.

(39) According to Annuls of the New York Stage, Vol. VIII 1865-1870, George C. D. Odell, (Ams Press, New York, 1970), p.207, Frank and his wife Eliza appeared at the Wood's Theatre Comique, New York from about 25 March 1867 to mid-April that year. Mark Twain had been in New York (from San Francisco) since 12 Jan 1867, where he stayed until embarking for the Holy Land on board the Quaker City on 8 June 1867. Twain arrived back at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco on 2 April 1868 and made his final departure from San Francisco on 6 July 1868. The San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle (30 September 1871, p. 4) indicates that Frank and Eliza Bates began appearing at the Metropolitan Theatre in San Francisco from 17 Oct 1867 and continued working there until late Sep 1871.

(40) T. Allston Brown, Brown's History of the American Stage," (Dick & Fitzgerald, New York, 1870), p.25.

(41) In the Richmond Daily Dispatch, 14 Nov 1863, it was reported: "The Wilmington (N.C) papers publish the marriage of F. M. Bates to Miss Eliza Wren both recently engaged at the Richmond Theatre."

(42) Frank and Eliza both appeared in a production of "Camille", see New York Times, 12 April 1867, p.7.

(43) Howard P. Taylor later collaborated with Clemens on several play manuscripts, the best known of which was their attempt to dramatise Connecticut Yankee.

(44) See The Psychoscope, A Sensational Drama in Five Acts by R.M. Daggett and J.T. Goodman with and Introduction and Notes by Lawrence I. Berkove, (Mark Twain Journal, The Citadel, Charleston, SC, 2006).

(45) William Winter, The Life of David Belasco, (Moffat, Yard and Co., 1920), p. 76.

(46) Cheryl Taranto, "Thomas Maguire in Virginia City," Sonneck Society for American Music Bulletin, Vol 23, No.2 (Summer 1997), University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

(47) "Blanche Bates," Sacramento Bee, 16, 23 & 30 May, 6 & 13 June 1942. Blanche recalled that her father had acted with Joseph Jefferson, John Sleeper Clarke, Charles Mathews, and spent time with the famous Boston Museum Company -- where William Warren had "fathered" him. Author's thanks to Michael Gillman, Correspondence Librarian, Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento, CA 95814.

(48) Kurt Gänzl, William B. Gill -- From the Goldfields to Broadway, (Routledge, 2002), p. 67.

(49) Town and Country Journal, 30 May 1874.

(50) See New Zealand Mail, 26 Aug 1876, p.13 for reproduction of a critique extracted from the Brisbane Telegraph. The critique praised Bates's acting, expanding upon his style: "There is a conventional way of acting a part and there is a natural way of doing a part, and these ways are not only different but opposite … I never saw a more perfectly natural impersonation," the reviewer noted.

(51) The work was written by J. J. Utting and performed in Dunedin for a limited season from 27 September 1875. See Evening Post, Volume XII, Issue 77, 28 September 1875, p.2. There is some evidence this same play was later re-visited by Elizabeth Bates as a co-production in America.

(52) Queenslander, 21 July 1877, p. 15. The two actors' skits of facial expressions, dancing and scenes involving a Dutchman and one of the actors dressed as a girl named Lizette, played to packed houses.

(53) Brisbane Courier, 4 March 1878.

(54) One example -- On 23 May 1878, the Ballarat Star wrote: "The peculiar disappearance of Mr F. M. Bates has excited much comment. Up to a late hour to day nothing had been heard of the absent gentlemen, and as it is known that he had a considerable sum of money in his possession which he had drawn out of the hands of the gentlemen who had it in custody, various surmises are entertained." Next day the same paper chortled: "Writing of the disappearance of Mr. F. M. Bates, the Bendigo Independent observes: -- The 'star' has turned up in Sandhurst [today named Bendigo], unheralded by Press puffs or bill-stickers' announcements."

(55) See Brisbane Courier, 7 July 1879, p.3. "On Thursday he [Bates] commenced one of those bouts of drinking in which he unfortunately indulged periodically, the result being fatal and melancholy in the extreme … Frank was, in life, an impulsive large-souled man; genial and generous to a fault; and strictly honorable in his dealings." Because Frank and Elizabeth had lived and worked for more than a year in Brisbane, the Courier's Melbourne correspondent appears to have taken a special interest in the Frank Bates case. The correspondent wrote an extensive piece summarising Bates's suspicious death and subsequent inquiry. The reporter was probably one of the few people to have personally viewed Bates's body in the morgue.

(56) State Library of Victoria, Inquest Deposition Files: 1879/1174 (North Melbourne), Series number VPRS 24, Consignment number P0000, Unit number 397.

(57) Neild's obituary for Frank Bates appeared in the Australasian, 19 July 1879.

(58) See Alexander E. Jones, "Mark Twain and Freemasonry," American Literature, Duke University Press, Vol. 26, No. 3, (Nov 1954), pp. 363-373.

(59) Mark Twain's speech at a commemorative luncheon in Glenelg on 30 Dec 1895 was printed in the Adelaide South Australian Register on 31 Dec 1895, p.6. See Australia Trove Viewed by author 29 May 2011.

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