by Barbara Schmidt

A History of and Guide to

Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition
Volumes 5 and 6: The Gilded Age

Appreciation and Introduction

Clemens and  Freeman
Samuel Clemens and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman together at his 70th birthday celebration December 5, 1905.
Harper's Weekly, 23 December 1905.

Volumes 5 and 6 of the Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition of Mark Twain's works are parts 1 and 2 of The Gilded Age. The Appreciation was written by Mary Ella Wilkins Freeman (b. 1852 - d. 1930). Born Mary Ella Wilkins in Massachusetts, she grew up there and in Brattleboro, Vermont. After her mother Eleanor's death in 1880, Wilkins changed her own middle name to Eleanor. By the mid-1880s her short stories were being published in St. Nicholas and Youth's Companion. She ultimately became a prominent writer publishing with Harper and Brothers. Her first book A Humble Romance, and Other Stories was published in 1889. Wilkins's work focused largely on life in New England and women's issues. Wilkins married Dr. Charles Freeman in 1902 and relocated to Metuchen, New Jersey. The marriage was a rocky one and the couple ultimately separated in 1922.

Harper and Brothers sponsored a birthday celebration for Samuel Clemens on December 5, 1905 and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman was seated beside Clemens, a possible mark of the esteem she held with her publishers. The night before the dinner, Clemens who was likely aware of the upcoming seating arrangement, read through a copy of Wilkins's A Humble Romance that had belonged to his wife Livy who had died in 1904. Clemens wrote a loving tribute to Livy inside Wilkins's book on the front pastedown end paper and dated it "Dec. 4, 1905." He concluded his tribute to Livy with, "It is many years since I have seen this book. ... I have just closed my seventieth year" (Gribben, p. 245). In autobiographical dictation on August 29, 1906, Clemens described Mary E. Wilkins Freeman as "a lady of high literary distinction, she is nobly gifted, she has the ear of the nation and her novels and stories are among the best that the country has produced ..." (Mark Twain in Eruption, p. 244.)

Where or when Mary E. Wilkins Freeman first saw Clemens lecture on-stage is unknown. However, in her Appreciation to The Gilded Age she takes note of the admiration she felt for him since the day she saw him perform.


I HAVE never forgotten my wonder and admiration when, as a young girl, I heard Mark Twain lecture and hold a large audience with that peculiar nonchalance which was all his own.

It seemed to me that so much effect should be produced by more effort, but I realized that it was produced with no effort, all owing to the entire lack of self-consciousness of the speaker.

Mark Twain was a most impressive personality in a most eccentric fashion. It was as if a feather or a bit of bright gossamer were possessed of the force of gravity of a ton of metal. He descended as to the measure of a dance, lightly, but he made his mark on the hearts of all who saw and heard.

And Mark Twain's impressiveness increased until he died without its climax being reached.

Sometimes in the history of what is, despite all optimism, all religious faith, all careless gayety of happiness, all beauty, a dreadful world to be endured with all their strength by strong souls appears a man like this, to alleviate human suffering. It may be he comes once in a century, it may be once in a thousand years, but he brings blessings unestimated. He comes relieving tension, assuring of the immortal joy of the future.

Despairing souls of men are illuminated, their souls reflect the splendid courage of another greater soul, triumphant, scornful of earthly ills, laughing at his own woes, confident of their ending.

An age was changed by Mark Twain. The world would have been by the non-presence of that one glad, careless, victorious man-different.

It means much to have cheered a mournful world. Perhaps it means more than to have aided it in any other way.

To laugh rather than weep in the face of adversity is kingly.

To make others laugh when they have reason to weep is more than kingly.

To laugh when there is real cause for hopeless tears is sublime faith.

Mark Twain, with his magic pen and personality, made all this possible.

He also added to the essential humanity of the world, to its comradeship, and that means raising armies against mortal despair.

Mark Twain, in his own individual way, was a missionary to his race, to be loved, admired, and thanked with never-ceasing gratitude. Many a day there would have been little light except for that one man who gleamed out, marked from all others.

Silver-haloed, white-garbed like a member of some holy order of benefit to the world, he went his way, and men regarded him with love and reverence while the gay golden words he spoke lit their souls.

And he wrote as with ink of preciousness, and while men live to read they will read his books with thankfulness that they did not pass before Mark Twain lived to write, and they will realize that their capacity for work and happiness during the days of their mortal lives depend largely upon that one man who was great and did not even think about his greatness. I am glad that Mark Twain was an American.

Freeman signature

An Introduction by Albert Bigelow Paine follows the Appreciation.


THE writing of The Gilded Age by Samuel Lang-home Clemens and Charles Dudley Warner was somewhat in the nature of an accident, admitting, of course, that there are accidents, which would be contrary to any doctrine held by Clemens himself. This, however, by the way.

Mark Twain made a trip to England in the late summer of 1872, with the idea of writing a book on that country. He did not complete the book, but he delivered a number of after-dinner speeches, and returned to his Hartford home in January with increased prestige. He had no particular literary plans in mind, though he had vaguely thought of a book in which his mother's cousin, James Lampton, a gentle visionary, would be the central figure.

It was one night at dinner that this idea suddenly crystallized. The Clemens and Warner families were close neighbors, and visited back and forth almost daily. On this particular evening the Warners were dining in the Clemens home, and across the dinner-table criticisms of recent novels were being exchanged with a good deal of frankness and severity, the husbands being inclined to treat lightly the books in which their wives were finding entertainment. The wives retorted that the proper thing for their literary husbands to do was to furnish the American people with better ones-a challenge which was promptly accepted -- mutually accepted -- that is to say, in partnership. Clemens, indeed, was eager enough for the collaboration. The story he had planned would be largely imaginative, and he was unwilling to undertake an extended work of fiction alone. Promptly next day he began writing, and had soon completed three hundred and ninety-nine pages of the manuscript; that is to say, the first eleven chapters of the book, ending with the memorable visit of Washington Hawkins to Colonel Sellers-the banquet of raw turnips and water. Warner then took up the tale, and carried it to Chapter XXIII, introducing new characters and new interests.* After that the instalments were less extended. Apparently, each author wrote until he was willing to quit, and he found his collaborator quite as willing to take up the narrative at almost any point. To the writer Mark Twain once said:

"Warner would work till he was tired, and I would work till I was tired, in the superstition that we were writing one coherent yarn, when I suppose, as a matter of fact, we were writing two incoherent ones."

The Gilded Age was begun in February (1873) and finished in April. The alternate authors must each have accumulated a fair supply of enthusiasm during interval of rest, for it is a long story, and two months is a rather brief literary period.

The book was published in December, and forty thousand copies of it were sold in about two months' time. If it was not a highly artistic literary production, it at all events made astonishingly good reading. Warner had the touch of romance, Clemens the gift of creating, or at least of portraying, human realities, of his characters reflect personalities of his early life. Besides the apotheosis of James Lampton the immortal Sellers, Mark Twain's brother, Orion Clemens, appears in the character of Washington Hawkins; his father and mother appear as Judge Hawkins and his wife, while Mark Twain's personality, in a greater or less degree, is reflected in most of his creations. As for the Tennessee land, it had been Samuel Clemens's earliest recollection -- the will-o'-the-wisp of his father's household, stimulating the hope of affluence for no less than a generation. Its story, as told in The Gilded Age, is very good history just as it stands.

Mark Twain was well qualified to construct his share of the tale. He knew his characters, their lives and their environment, intimately. Senator Dilworthy (otherwise Senator Pomeroy, of Kansas, then notorious for attempted vote-buying) was familiar enough. A winter spent by Clemens in Washington -- the winter of '67 - '68 -- as a newspaper man had acquainted him with the life there, its political intrigues, and the disrepute of Congress.

Warner's characters were probably inventions, but they are live, breathing men and women, and never tiresome. Of course, the prominent figure in the story is that of Colonel Sellers -- in the book, and later in the play, one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, of Mark Twain's character creations. The name Sellers, by the way, had been furnished by Warner, who had heard of it, in its original form, "Eschol Sellers," as the property of some obscure person who would certainly never object to its use. But scarcely was the volume issued when there rose one day "out of the vasty deeps" a very respectable and prosperous-looking Eschol Sellers, ready to launch a libel suit, with a claim for ten thousand dollars' damages, on the ground that the use of his name had made him a subject of ridicule. Curiously enough, this Eschol Sellers, like his fiction namesake, was also an inventor and promoter, though of a much more substantial sort. He was likewise a painter of considerable merit, a writer and antiquarian, and was said to have been the grandson of the famous painter Rembrandt Peale.

His appearance naturally made a disturbance in the publishing-office. The authors were consulted, and promptly agreed to substitute the name '' Beriah'' for Eschol.** Meantime, thousands of books had been sold, but as many as possible were called in, and the offending pages canceled. The complainant, mollified, returned to his home in the South, and was heard of no more.

Next to Colonel Sellers in the story of The Gilded Age ranks the character of Laura Hawkins. In the hands of either author she is a figure not easy to forget. Whether this means that the work is well done or only strikingly done the reader himself judge.

It is not easy to estimate either the literary value permanence of a collaboration such as this. The authors themselves regarded their work highly finished, but an author is likely to regard his work highly at the moment of completion. In later years neither of them thought very well of his production, but this opinion signifies as little as the other. An author seldom cares very deeply for his once it is turned over to the public charge.

The Gilded Age presents a true picture of a time that has passed away, and as such it must always remain valuable. The fact that it is still popular, and still delights thousands of readers, when a myriad of novels which have been written since it was completed have lived their little day and died so utterly that even their names have passed out of memory, is, after all, the best verdict of its worth.


* The reader may be interested in the division of labor. Clemens wrote chaps, i to xi; also chaps, xxiv, xxv, xxvii, xxviii, xxx, xxxii, xxxiii, xxxiv, xxxvi, xxxvii, xlii, xliii, xlv, li, lii, liii, Ivii, lix, Ix, Ixi, Ixii, and portions of chaps, xxxv, xlix, Ivi. Warner wrote chaps, xii to xxiii; also chaps, xxvi, xxix, xxxi, xxxviii, xxxix, xl, xli, xliv, xlvi, xlvii, xlviii, 1, liv, lv, Iviii, Ixiii, and portions of chaps, xxxv, xlix, and Ivi. The work was therefore very evenly divided.

** In the dramatic version, another change was made, and the character became Colonel Mulberry Sellers.


Dividing the Work

The Gilded Age is divided into two books in the Gabriel Wells Definitive Edition. This division is identical to the division utilized for the 1899 uniform edition of The Gilded Age first issued by American Publishing Company. Volume 5 ends with Chapter 31. Volume 6 begins with new chapter numbering and what was once Chapter 32 in the first edition is Chapter 1 of Volume 6.

Illustration List for Volume 5

The frontispiece for Volume 5 is a portrait of Mark Twain from an engraving by W. H. W. Bicknell that had originally been used in the 1899 uniform edition for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The remainder of the illustrations are those by William Thomas Smedley from the 1899 uniform edition of The Gilded Age

Illustration List for Volume 6

Volume 6 features the frontispiece portrait of Mark Twain and co-author Charles Dudley Warner that had been engraved by W. H. W. Bicknell for the 1899 uniform edition of The Gilded Age. This frontispiece had originally appeared in Part 1 of the work in the 1899 editions. Three additional illustrations by William Thomas Smedley from the same edition were also reused.
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Volume 5
Volume 6




Glasser, Leah Blatt. "Mary E. Wilkins Freeman," Heath Anthology of American Literature. (Accessed online 21 May 2011).

Gribben, Alan. Mark Twain's Library: A Reconstruction. (G. K. Hall, 1980).

Scannell, John James. New Jersey's First Citizens and State Guide, 1919-1920 (Volume 2). (J. J. Scannell, 1919).

Twain, Mark. Mark Twain in Eruption. (Harper and Brothers, 1940).


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