From the Dave Thomson collection
Reputation is a hall-mark: it can remove doubt from pure silver, and
it can also make the plated article pass for pure.
As for my own reputation I care not a damn for any smirch upon it not
put there by myself.
|It is indeed a high compliment which you offer me in
naming an association after me and in proposing the setting apart of a Mark
Twain Day at the great St. Louis fair, but such compliments are not proper
for the living, they are proper and safe for the dead only. I value the
impulse which moves you to tender me these honors; I value it as highly
as anyone can, and am grateful for it, but I should stand in a sort of terror
of the honors themselves. So long as we remain alive we are not safe from
doing things which, howsoever righteously and honorably intended, can wreck
our repute and extinguish our friendships. I hope that no society will be
named for me while I am still alive, for I might at some time or other do
something which could cause its members to regret having done me that honor.
After I shall have joined the dead I shall follow the custom of those people
and be guilty of no conduct that can wound any friend; but until that time
shall come I shall be a doubtful quantity, like the rest of our race.
S. L. Clemens
- letter to Thomas F. Gatts of Hannibal, MO, 30 May 1903.
Reprinted in Hartford Courant, 5 June 1903
Editorial cartoon from DENVER POST, 23 April 1910 following Mark Twain's death.
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