Mark Twain about 1862
from a pen and ink sketch in the
WASHINGTON POST, June 17, 1894.
To a Christian who has toiled months and months in Washoe; whose
hair bristles from a bed of sand, and whose soul is caked with a cement
of alkali dust; whose nostrils know no perfume but the rank odor of
sage-brush -- and whose eyes know no landscape but barren mountains
and desolate plains; where the winds blow, and the sun blisters, and
the broken spirit of the contrite heart finds joy and peace only in
Limburger cheese and lager beer -- unto such a Christian, verily the
Occidental Hotel is Heaven on the half shell. He may even secretly
consider it to be Heaven on the entire shell, but his religion teaches
a sound Washoe Christian that it would be sacrilege to say it.
San Francisco is a city of startling events. Happy is the man whose destiny
it is to gather them up and record them in a daily newspaper! That sense
of conferring benefit, profit and innocent pleasure upon one's fellow-creatures
which is so cheering, so calmly blissful to the plodding pilgrim here below,
is his, every day in the year. When he gets up in the morning he can do
as old Franklin did, and say, "This day, and all days, shall be unselfishly
devoted to the good of my fellow-creatures -- to the amelioration of their
condition -- to the conferring of happiness upon them -- to the storing
of their minds with wisdom which shall fit them for their struggle with
the hard world, here, and for the enjoyment of a glad eternity hereafter.
And thus striving, so shall I be blessed!"
- letter to the Territorial Enterprise, dated Dec. 23, 1865
Now I hate to tell such a plain truth, but I must -- the bulk of San Francisco's
liberality seems sometimes actuated by a love of applause. She don't always
take kindly to a good deed for a good deed's sake, but pat her on the head,
and flatter her, and say Bully, bully, bully, is the great Metropolis of
the Pacific, and she will break her neck trying to accomplish that good
deed. You get Dr. Bellows to glorify her princely liberality in ten telegraphic
sentences, at forty cents a word, and down they come with $20,000 for the
Sanitary Fund! They always respond when 'Glory' calls but they are sometimes
slow to respond when they are not going to be applauded.
- quoted in "False to Thee," San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 16 January 1866, p. 2.
I have done more for San Francisco than any other of its old residents.
Since I left there it has increased in population fully 300,000. I could
have done more -- I could have gone earlier -- it was suggested.
- undated letter quoted in Mark Twain: A Biography
| For all the folks who may
have landed on this page seeking the source of the quote:
"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent
in San Francisco."
However, a similar passage was written in regard to the city of Paris, France
From LIFE magazine, Aug. 9, 1883