The search to identify Mark Twain's "jack-legged draughtsman" began in the same way as so many of my past research projects -- with an email inquiry from Mark Twain scholar and reference book author Kent Rasmussen addressed to Kevin Mac Donnell and me. Rasmussen wrote:
Today's mail brought an old book containing a loose newspaper clipping of an April 1935 article in a Burlington newspaper about an illustrator named Paul Richards who was evidently interviewed at his home in Berlin. Then 70 years old, Richards claimed to have illustrated Mark Twain's books and to have had a personal relationship with MT for many years. If you know more about him, I'd like to know. (Personal correspondence from Kent Rasmussen, 14 September 2015).
A search of online newspaper databases revealed other papers had carried the same story in 1935, the centennial year of Mark Twain's birth, with a version appearing in the Charlotte (NC) Observer being one of the longest and describing Paul Richards as an "aging caricaturist whose life with a financial breakdown at the end of a millionaire's career has much in common with that of Clemens " ("Mark Twain Crony Talks of Humorist," Charlotte Observer, 23 April 1935, p. 6). Further searches of newspaper databases indicated an artist named Peter Richards claimed to have shared a cabin with Mark Twain on a trip from New York to Europe. ("Friend's Wig Held Lure for Mark Twain," San Francisco Chronicle, 22 September 1927, p. 13). Another from Australia written by P. Richards a few years earlier was titled "Intimate Memories of Mark Twain." (Brisbane Courier, 30 March 1929, p. 23).
Kevin Mac Donnell, who is seldom stumped by research inquiries, provided additional details about the mysterious Peter or Paul or P. Richards. Mac Donnell owned a copy of a German language book written by a man named P. Richards titled Zeichner und "Gezeichnete" (1912) [draftsman and "drawn"] which featured photographs of Richards alongside Mark Twain. The book's cover included an autographed photo from Mark Twain to "friend Richards" dated June 19, 1907 pasted on the cover. A quick search on google books revealed the full text of the book, along with the photos and illustrations, was available online. However, there was no English translation. Mac Donnell didn't read German and with no translation available, it was impossible to know for sure what Richards had written about Samuel Clemens in 1912. Mac Donnell did point out that Richards was likely the "draughtsman" referred to in Clemens's autobiographical dictation of 24 July 1907. In his first autobiographical dictation session after his return from England to accept an honorary degree from Oxford, Clemens described his trip across the Atlantic to England aboard the steamer Minneapolis:
There was a jack-legged draughtsman on board who made some unimaginably poor caricatures of me on six post-cards. I autographed them and Rev. Dr. Patton set himself the task of auctioneering off the six for eighty dollars. (Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3. University of California Press, 2015, p. 72).
In his files, Mac Donnell also had a copy of a 1933 issue of Library Review, a journal published in Coatsbridge, Scotland with an article written by Richards wherein he claimed, "During our many years [of] subsequent close association, I drew hundreds of caricatures of the great humorist." ("Reminiscences of Mark Twain," Library Review, No. 25, Spring 1933, p. 19).
Additional searches of the newspapers and journal archives uncovered more stories about a cartoonist named P. Richards including a story from an 1897 issue of Inland Printer which describe him as a world traveler who was "now making a specialty in theatrical work." (Inland Printer, Vol. 29, April - September 1897, p. 698). Newspaper reports from California in the summer of 1897 indicated P. Richards, the famous cartoonist from the east would be appearing on the vaudeville stage on the west coast ("Players and Plays," Oakland Tribune, 3 July 1897, p. 1); in the fall of 1900 he was entertaining the Press Club in Omaha, Nebraska with his "lightning caricatures ("Press Club Ready for Its Treat, Omaha World-Herald, 30 October 1900, p. 3); and he was again onstage in vaudeville in San Francisco in the summer of 1901 ("Amusements," San Francisco Chronicle, 30 June 1901, p. 22). In the fall of 1902 the New York Clipper reported that Richards, known for his rapid sketching act on the vaudeville stages, had returned from an extensive tour of Europe and would be accepting a position with a Chicago newspaper ("P. Richards, Caricaturist," The New York Clipper, 4 October 1902, p. 692).
In May 1905 The New York Clipper, the oldest theatrical journal in America, proudly announced they had spared no expense to add cartoonist P. Richards to their staff.
The New York Clipper, 13 May 1905, p. 299.
Richards's cartoons and caricatures of leading vaudeville and stage performers received a favorable response from readers and were described as being distinguished by fine humor without sarcasm. In January 1907 the Clipper announced the inauguration of Richards's own cartoon series "Patsy Bolivar" and indicated Richards would take his cartoon character on a tour of Europe in the spring of 1907 (The New York Clipper, 5 January 1907, p. 1202).
On August 31, 1907 the Clipper published a photo of P. Richards and Mark Twain together on the Minneapolis, crediting it to Chief Steward John L. Martin, and announced Richards would soon be home from his European tour.
P. Richards's claims to have accompanied Clemens abroad are substantiated by photos and other historical documentation including the names of Peter Richards and Samuel Clemens on the same Minneapolis ship manifest in June 1907 departing New York and arriving in London. Finding solid biographical information on Paul, Peter, or P. Richards, who does not appear in any of the popular online databases of artists or illustrators, would have been impossible except for one tiny bit of information -- the name of a wife. On January 14, 1920 the Clipper ran a one sentence announcement that cartoonist P. Richards had married Hedwig Kobilke in Berlin, Germany ("About You! And You!! And You!!!," The New York Clipper, 14 January 1920, p. 21). Searching ancestry.com for a marriage license for Hedwig Kobilke revealed a marriage license to a man named Richard Pichler.
The New York Clipper, 31 August 1907
Searching on ancestry.com
for passports for Richard Pichler revealed a newspaper cartoonist who declared
his alias as P. Richards and his 1914 passport photo matched the previously
published known photos of P. Richards.
Richard Pichler was born in Misliboritz, Austria on 7 July 1868, the son of Andreas Pichler and Klara Gross. A Roman Catholic, he had come to the United States in the mid-1880s and became a naturalized citizen in 1893. He later described his career, "I was rarely in a fixed position, but a restless 'free-lancer,' seeking to climb as a draftsman and a journalist a high branch in the forest of Anglo-American newspapers." (Zeichner und "Gezeichnete", p. 101. English translation by Barbara Schmidt). Richards's career took him across the United States, and back and forth to Europe. In 1897 he worked for the William Randolph Hearst chain of newspapers. In 1900 he was in South Africa. His cartoons and caricatures documented circuses, vaudeville, the theater, show business personalities and famous trials.
To glean other details of his personal life, it became imperative to translate his book. His story revealed that he had made the acquaintance of Ralph Ashcroft, Samuel Clemens's personal assistant, and that Clemens had written him a letter inviting him to accompany himself and Ashcroft to England to document his reception there when he received his Oxford degree. According to Richards, Clemens had written, "I'll make it worth your while" (Zeichner und "Gezeichnete", p. 9).
In the summer of 1908, Pichler returned to Berlin, Germany to manage the foreign office of The New York Clipper. It was in Berlin that Pichler published two books related to Mark Twain in German. The first, Zeichner und "Gezeichnete" published in 1912 featured a photo of Mark Twain and Richard Pichler on the cover with a handwritten inscription signed "Mark Twain" in the lower right portion.
First edition of Zeichner und "Gezeichnete" (1912)
The book is a collection of memories of the famous people Pichler met and drew and Mark Twain was the most famous. A landscape format book suited to reproducing many of the author's cartoons and caricatures, it went through at least three German editions.
Pichler's second book Mark Twain Anekdoten (Mark Twain anecdotes) published in 1914 featured the same photo as a frontispiece and contained many previously published Mark Twain stories and several photos that had appeared in Albert Bigelow Paine's Mark Twain: A Biography (1912).
However, it featured one significant difference -- the frontispiece featuring Mark Twain's photo and the handwritten inscription revealed the inscription was in the upper right to accommodate the vertical portrait format. Closer comparison of the two separate autographed photographs Richards had used in his two books revealed slight differences. According to Kevin Mac Donnell, also a noted authority on forged Mark Twain documents, the inscriptions on the photos of both books appear to be forgeries. The original photo thought to have been used in Mark Twain Anekdoten is currently in the Berg collection of the New York Public Library.
As the years went by after Samuel Clemens's death, Pichler, who was a masterful promoter, continued to inflate, embroider, and embellish the importance of his relationship with the famous author. The newspaper and journal articles he published contained previously published Mark Twain speeches and anecdotes that he presented as being personally obtained from Clemens. Clemens, on the other hand, apparently preferred that his connection with the cartoonist not be acknowledged and purposely kept his name out of his autobiographical dictation. It is feasible that it was Clemens's idea to recruit P. Richards to accompany him to Oxford as the cartoonist claimed. It also is likely that Clemens was disappointed in some of the caricatures that depicted him as a weeping bald-headed man shorn of hair by his admirers and as a sway-backed pot-bellied Oxford honoree. Clemens referred to Pichler as a "jack-legged draughtsman" which implies someone of little talent or worse.
Richard Pichler's memoirs offer an insight into the world of entertainment in the early 1900s. His descriptions of the Atlantic crossing aboard the Minneapolis in June 1907 with Mark Twain and Ralph Ashcroft offer a unique glimpse into Mark Twain's activities on those few days that has long been available to German readers but has remained unavailable for the English reading audience until now. His memoir contains only a handful of insights into his personal life. He was a fan of boxing and wrote, "As a keen supporter of the boxing sport, there would have been be no significant match in America for many years, in which I, whether on behalf of my papers, or as a private person, would not have been present. So I put in, for example, in 1892, a trip of many thousands of miles to attend the historic meeting in New Orleans, where on September 7 of that year James Corbett defeated the former world champion John Sullivan in 21 rounds" (Zeichner und "Gezeichnete", p. 186). He considered Paul Conchas, a vaudeville juggler, acrobat, and strongman who died in 1916, his most intimate friend. Pichler married late in life in 1919 at age fifty-one.
In some cases there are obvious errors in Pichler's memoirs and in a few instances there are attempts to mislead, not only with regard to Mark Twain, but other events in his life as well. The irony of Richard Pichler's life is that he promoted his public alias of P. Richards so successfully that he managed to obscure his true identity. It has been almost impossible for later historians to develop an accurate profile of him and include his work in studies devoted to early cartoonists and humorists. Pichler's date and place of death have yet to be established.
The following translation from Zeichner und "Gezeichnete" features editoral comments in blue text within brackets to further identify people mentioned or to indicate when the author has made a factual error in his narrative.
(Samuel L. Clemens)
We had met repeatedly, a man who was standing in public life and me a newspaper man. Always the great humorist, the one usually called the "king of humor" in America charmed me by his friendly courtesy and his kind interest in my little work. The last time we met at a dinner at the "Engineers Club" in New York, he wore his famous white flannels that he had shown the public earlier at a grand reception at the White House in Washington. "For cleanliness considerations!" Who else but Mark Twain would be permitted such a display without being decried as eccentric. It was in the spring of 1907, when I notified Mr. Ralph Ashcroft, Mark Twain's longtime secretary, who I occasionally saw socially, that I would soon travel to Europe and would likely order tickets from Low's Exchange. I was happy when I later received a letter from Mark Twain, in which he indicated in June he would go to London in person to accept the title of "Doctor of Letters," from the University of Oxford. True to the motto, "Lerne zu reisen, ohne zu rasen" ["Learn to travel, without having to rush" -- implying "slow enough to let the grass grow"], he wanted a slow passage on a possible ship of the Atlantic Transport Line. If I should opt for the same ship, his secretary, the before mentioned Mr. Ashcroft, would be happy to share his cabin with me.
|P.S. "I'll make it worth your while." I, of course, immediately made up my mind with the greatest delight. Apart from the financial benefits, with his influence, a distribution of my Mark Twain sketches represented a success as I have scored with no other work. Not only the best British and American papers, but also newspapers like the Melbourne Punch, Calcutta Advertiser and many others, snatched up these sketches.||
Mark Twain and me.
To commemorate jointly shared journalistic joys and sorrow.
When our brave Minneapolis, an efficient vessel in the prime of life, on a glorious June morning left the port of New York, I met on the sundeck with the "grand old man" leaning straight against the railing of the ship, besieged by reporters, convulsively trying to escape the inevitable interviews to which they pressed him. At Sandy Hook the curious gentlemen left together with the pilots of the ship. Mark Twain, deeply moved by his daughter Clara's farewell, looked with a blank expression in his otherwise lively eyes on the colorful throng of small steamers and sailboats around that we soon left far behind us to meet only here and there larger ships of different flags. Incidentally, I beg you not to be frightened: I would like not to describe the crossing in detail from New York to London, which I presume to be known, particularly as our Minneapolis neither collided with an iceberg nor caught on fire. But one way or another, it was not quite ordinary travel adventures that happened. The importance of traveling in the presence of Mark Twain, was the most interesting phenomenon itself, the thought of the other adventures can be shrunk into nothing by comparison.
Mark Twain had reserved a large part of the rear decks consisting of a reception room, bedroom and bathroom, for his person. Following this, there was the cabin that I should share with Mr. Ashcroft during the trip. Since I felt like no gymnastic feats, Ashcroft took the top bunk which I preferred to give him, and which he solemnly assured me to be absolutely seaworthy, and we agreed with regard to the order of dressing and undressing.
The next morning as Mark Twain entered the fresh scrubbed promenade deck to take his morning walk, he encountered a dense row of hungry eyes that were directed at him as cannon muzzles on the enemy. But Mark Twain did not quickly lose his good humor and even encouraged some of the gifted amateurs to capture him with me on the film. The resulting images, some of which were excellent, he himself captioned "Two humorists of the pen and pencil" which various newspapers reproduced with pleasure.
Mark Twain's favorite pose.
Later in the day Mark Twain devoted himself passionately to "shuffleboard" or the noble sport of sliding disks. One has nothing but nothing to do on board, and is mentally jaded with the long and slow voyage. Mark Twain was a significant example, he was reasonably alive only when he lit his cigar after dinner in the smoking room. This was also the time in which I could count on my sketchbook for the richest yield. I could not wish for a better model than Mark Twain: calm and patient beyond comparison, with an almost touching, childlike joy of posturing. With great interest he followed the progress of my work, which he sought to promote in every way. He gave me his beloved calabash pipe that still adorns my collection of rarities; I occasionally drew it in his hand. With ruthless candor he remarked, when the talk turned to the American mind's favorite topic of making money, about the business success of his works. At the time of our journey they had already sold more than six million copies in the United States, apart from the translations that had appeared in no less than eighteen languages in all parts of the world. The biggest financial success of any one book except Uncle Tom's Cabin was his Innocents Abroad; "it sells right along like the Bible," he told me. His Huckleberry Finn alone, he occasionally noted, had earned him half a million. On the other hand, they called his books classic. "Classic is a book that everyone praises, but no one reads," he said.
Sketched from life by P. Richards
[Richards is misleading readers with his caption "Sketched from life." The illustration is a copy of a photograph of Mark Twain taken by H. W. Barnett in London in 1899, shown above on the right. It was used as a frontispiece of How to Tell a Story and Other Essays (1900), Volume 22 of the uniform edition of Mark Twain's works.]
Although not all jokes that came from him are like Edison inventions, Mark Twain seldom has a day in which he would not have coined a whole lot of funny stories. I may presume it is known that the nature of his humor, which can begin as a funeral march can close with an unexpected Oalopp. He also swears it is the traditional right of every good humorist to exaggerate. But not all know that he is a kind man with a deep soul who always remained faithful to his principle: "The wrinkles on the face of man shall come only from laughing." His other principle "The truth is the most precious commodity of man, that is why we should deal with it economically," has not a spark of cynicism about it. I do not need to prove it.
His favorite habits -- sleeping and smoking -- he indulged on board. Often we thought that he was joking when he declared in the brightest sunshine: "Now I am going to bed." Although he may have often joked, on this point he was serious. He found the bed rest most conducive to his health and considered it the best way to keep unwelcome visitors off his neck. Of course, he did not sleep whenever he lay in bed. I even think that he used to sleep relatively little because he was always smoking the most serious cigar of pitch black color. A few times a day his cabin had to be aired, it was so full of smoke. It was not unusual that Mr. Ashcroft, who supervised him as a mother would her child, would take the burning cigar out of his mouth when he made his nightly farewell visit and found him asleep.
Mark Twain had a great love for children and especially for little girls. He tirelessly wrote autographs and also gave them curls from his long hair. He had particularly fallen in love with 11 year old Miss Dorothy Quick from Plainfield (New Jersey), who made the crossing with us and every morning accompanied him on his promenade, as I have noted in a sketch entitled "Mark Twain on board the Minneapolis" which appeared on June 19, 1907 in the Daily Chronicle in London and on 20 July of the same year in Harper's Weekly in New York. [Richards confuses Dorothy Quick, 1896-1962 with Carlotta Welles, 1889-1979. Welles was the little girl who was on the Minneapolis and who was a gifted violinist. Clemens did not meet Dorothy Quick until the return voyage to America aboard the Minnetonka in July 1907.] Miss Quick [Miss Welles] who was a very gifted violinist, played at Mark Twain's request for a concert to benefit the orphanage fund for seafarers in the Dining Room and played an excellent piece. [Clemens discusses this event in his autobiographical dictation for 24 July 1907.] This event, which tends to be the highlight of a long trip and is usually degraded to a playground for the wildest dilettantism, went much better than it usually does in similar situations. Professor Archibald Henderson, who holds a chair at the University of North Carolina, has published a long eight columns report of his experience in the New Yorker Staatszeitung from 1 May 1910, entitled "Mark Twain, As He Was;" because it also mentions me in the most amiable manner, I will come back to it. The fact is that this concert, as I said, over the events of a similar nature to which I was already exposed on my many voyages, was highly successful.
R. W. Ashcroft, Mark Twain's private secretary, and me in our common cabin.
(Ashcroft above, I below.)
The highlight was, of course, a "handwritten lecture" by Mark Twain, who performed admirably. It was side-splitting, every word stretched with funereal mien and pulling, apparently striving laboriously to find the right expression, pause piled on pause to a sudden, when you least expected it, hilarious punch line. He was seemingly amazed and surprised at the laughter and applause around him while the long fingers slowly glided through his lush white hair, and a clever light in the blue eyes under his bushy eyebrows twitched on. Other professionals and amateurs followed his performance. Although the award for best performance was made by the "Meistersinger" to the Nigger Song, it was far behind Mark Twain's performance. I myself had at the instigation of Professor Henderson designed a number of Mark Twain souvenir postcards, although I otherwise on voyages avoid embarrassing myself by my talent coming under suspicion. [Clemens discusses this event in his autobiographical dictation for 24 July 1907.] These small sketches, representing Mark Twain in all kinds of situations, were hanging for several days on the "Lost and Found" bulletin board, which was located at the entrance to the dining room. We intended to let them be auctioned by Dr. F. L. Patton, Rector of the University of Princeton, "by raffle." The speculation was not bad, because we achieved prices which exceeded our wildest expectation. Especially the first card of the series which was bid up outrageously by a certain Mr. Thompson [Robert Henry Thompson, 1841-1910] and achieved a price for which you can get a royal image in a downright genuine gold frame. But even the next cards found enthusiasts at prices that caused me to blush. Only then could I see how much wealth was actually present on the ship.
"Two humorists of the pen and pencil"
Naturally, Mark Twain was mobbed for autographs by everyone who had bought
my cards. One episode, which took place on this occasion will be unforgettable
to me. A Mrs. X., had purchased the card No. 6, which represented Mark Twain,
as he came with abundant hair on the ship, and how he had then been plucked
bald by his admirers, insisted that Mark Twain write more than "merely"
his name on "her" card, noting it had been purchased at an ignominious
catapult price. Mark Twain fought tooth and nail. It would not be fair,
he said, to grant her more than all the others. But the lady would take
no refusal and stubbornly insisted on "a little rhyme" and continued.
Nothing helped Mark Twain. The gun was at his chest with the words: "You
will not refuse a lady, Mr. Twain, will you? Please write just one word!"
To which Mark Twain wrote with a cold smile: "1 word Mark Twain."
Since we produced customized photographs of all the cards, I am in a position
to thereby reproduce the classic card here.
Mark Twain, as he was, and how his admirers have now worked him.
No. 6 of Mark Twain card series for the benefit of the Seaman's Fund.
Mark Twain's silhouette.
(Photographed at sunset.)
"Suffer the little children to come unto me."
|An American magazine of the temperance movement proclaimed the other day that Mark Twain was a "total abstainer" (absolutely Never drank). I do not want to let the opportunity pass without contradicting this assertion emphatically because, unless Mark Twain was asleep, he was anything but an enemy of alcohol and was not without his "toddy" prepared for him by Mr. Ashcroft nightly. Also during the day he would agree to drink some, albeit usually not in public. When the first officer, the ship's doctor, Ashcroft and I, one evening in Mark Twain's cabin sat together in stimulating conversation and forgot that it was time for the old man to go to bed. Mark Twain rose and told us his "toddy" custom: "and now, Ralph, bring me my toddy" he concluded, turning to Mr. Ashcroft. We took the hint and disappeared. I was later honored by Mark Twain to join at the evening "toddy." The brew tasted so good that I drank something more than I could bear. In the morning I woke up with a terrible hangover and sent word to Mark Twain by Ashcroft that I had an "eye-opener" -- I had "renounced." Then I received, written on the ship's letterhead, the following sentence: "Taking the pledge will not make bad liquor good, but it will improve it" (by a long stretch).||
A jocular tribute by Mark Twain.
Gradually the crossing ended. As we walked ashore at Tillbury docks and went to complete the customs formalities, we were immediately surrounded by British reporters and photographers who followed on our heels to Saint Pancras Station, since they had received information that there the famous British satirist and playwright Bernard Shaw was waiting to receive Professor Henderson, who had come to write his biography. The gentlemen were naturally excited about the meeting between Mark Twain and Shaw, but nothing particularly exciting happened since the meeting was limited to exchanging a few compliments.
Once in London, Mark Twain stayed with Mr. Ashcroft at Brown's Hotel at Albemarle Street, while I was welcomed in the lovely villa of my old friend Cinquevalli [Paul Cinquevalli, 1859-1918] on Brixton Road. Still, I was a day guest of Mark Twain, with whom I now soon plunged into the succession of feasts and banquets of all possible varieties that awaited us. A lunch at the Pilgrim's Club at the Savoy Hotel, a dinner with Punch editors, a banquet with Whitelaw Reid, the US ambassador at Dorchester House, festivities in the "Savages" and "Bath" Clubs, came one other after and then the ceremonial appointment of Mark Twain as "Doctor Of Letters" at Oxford. He was overcome with happiness at his new doctor robe, in which he marched proud as a peacock. I have the memorable moment recorded in all sorts of formal sketches and caricatures. The climax of Mark Twain's London sojourn followed on June 22: the reception before the King. The outstanding London daily newspaper in large sized headlines announced as follows: "Mark Twain received by the King! God save the King!"
The reception itself was at a garden party at Windsor Castle. King Edward and Queen Alexandra chatted a long time in the most excited way with Mark Twain. We observed the group at a respectful distance and concluded from the frequent laughter of the high pair that Mark Twain's humor had gone over well. But with the nervous play of his hands, which he hid behind his back, we noticed that he was apparently not quite as calm as usual.
Mark Twain on Board the Minneapolis.
(With permission from The Daily Chronicle, London and Harper's Weekly, New York)
[The above cartoon is a revised one
and different from the one that originally appeared in 1907.
This revised version more clearly presents the face of Carlotta Welles and features different background characters.]
[Original version of the previous cartoon.]
Soon after, I said goodbye to Mark Twain and Ashcroft, to escape to Europe from the grueling festivities that were still far from waning. Mark Twain regretted exceedingly not being able to be of my party; particularly going to Berlin and Vienna. He had many fond memories of both cities. Berlin, he said, was ruled as no other city when he had visited it in 1891. He spoke with extraordinarily deep reverence about the German emperor, who received him at the time and had made such a huge impression on him that he forgave him, the "many rules" and found that nobody could rule better. In Vienna, Mark Twain had been a long time in 1897, for his daughter Clara took piano lessons with Professor Leschetizky. Mark Twain had been staying at the Hotel Metropole. To commemorate his stay in Vienna he brought his friends the candles for which he had been billed.
Later I was privileged several times to see Mark Twain and enjoy his company. The last message that I received from him was dated from Bermuda, where he was staying as a guest of the American Vice-Consul W. H. Allen. At that time he invited me to visit him at his villa Stormfield in Redding to draw portraits of his beloved "Kitties" and his German police dog "Fix." His housekeeper Katy would, so he wrote to me, cook my favorite dish "Noodles" (macaroni). I would certainly come, he wanted my opinion as to whether some originals by me would be good to hang in his billiards room. Unfortunately this invitation was not granted to me to follow. Soon after, I received -- on German soil -- a letter Mr. Ashcroft confirming the sad news of Mark Twain's death, which had already been reported in the newspapers.
Ashcroft announces the death of Mark Twain
While I write this line, I have Mark Twain's picture on my desk. I look at the familiar features and remember him with deep emotion and gratitude. I hear New York wants to put a magnificent marble monument to him, designed by my great countryman Potter, which shall bear the inscription: "the greatest explorer of human nature." [Potter has not been further identified. He may be either Edward Clark Potter, 1857-1923 or Louis McClellan Potter, 1873-1912]. Why and to what extent has he earned this designation? I myself do not want to judge him, for he is much too close to me.
On one occasion many years ago, when Mark Twain was still alive and enjoyed the best of health, gossip pages brought the news of his death, he told the reporters, who had come to inquire about his final hours: "You telegraph your journal that the rumor is greatly exaggerated."
Now it's come true, the rumor, and he is there in the little cemetery of
Elmira. But we who know him, do not stop to mourn his end, and are soothed
just at the thought of his work, which brings tears of joy rather than tears