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Mark Twain, Able Yachtsman, on Why Lipton Failed to Lift the Cup.
NEW YORK HERALD, 30 Aug 1903, II, p. 3.

This feature is actually a spoof of an interview. Twain himself plays the role of a newspaper interviewer and also writes his own responses. (Thus the graphic featuring Twain writing with both hands). This feature was most likely written for Twain's friend Henry H. Rogers who owned the Kanawha yacht.

original newspaper graphics

Just a Case of British Easygoing Carelessness, a Waterbury Anchor Watch Without the Anchor, and That Sort of Thing.
While Clancy Acts as Tutor in Yacht Engineering, Twain Starts New School of Journalism.


"Aren't you charging rather high rates for this interview?"

"Not any higher than I always charge when I am present in person during the interview."

"Sometimes you are not present?"

"Yes; in those cases I do not know I have been interviewed until I see it in the papers."

"Do you enjoy that?"

"Well, no; I think it is not quite fair. It is my trade to talk and write; it is my bread and butter. A man cannot honorably take it from my family without consent. What is it we are to talk about now?"

"The yacht races. The HERALD would like you to explain the reason of the results."

"Why -- that is all right, but I doubt if I can earn the money."


"Well, because I can only state the facts. I can't intelligently philosophize them, analyze them, deduce results from them -- and all that wise kind of thing, you know. Do you care for facts -- just mere cold, unemotional facts?"

"Dear sir, we prefer them to anything else."


"Allow me. Give me your hand! We meet upon holy ground. I have no longer any tremblings at the heart, no longer any disturbing anxieties. Facts are my passion. I" --

"You have been called the slave of truth."

"Have you heard it? You make me proud, happy; you sing all my solicitudes to rest. Proceed."

"You have seen all of the races?"

"Yes, all of them."

"On board the Kanawha?"


"She is the fastest steam yacht afloat, I believe."

"Yes, she has beaten all the flyers. When I am feeling good I can make thirty-seven knots an hour with her. *** Why do you look at me like that?"

"I beg pardon. I assure you I didn't mean to. How" --

"Well, you mustn't look at me like that. I am very sensitive."

"It was an oversight, I give you my word. I would not wound you for anything. My hearing is not good, and I did not quite catch the number of knots, I think. How many did you say it was?"

"Forty-five. She's a bird -- just a bird. She" --


"Do you take her gait yourself?"

"No, it is done by one of the men -- Patrick Clancy. He is in the forecastle. She has made as high as forty-nine. He told me so himself."

"Is he -- is he trustworthy?"

"Who -- Clancy? I should think so! I wouldn't trust a statement of my own sooner."

"Neither would I."

"Let me take you by the hand. Is Clancy trustworthy? Why, it would make everybody in the ship smile to hear you say that. Patrick Clancy" --

"Is he experienced? Is he calm, unexcitable; does he know the boat well?"

"Knows her like a book! Knows every inch of her hundred and twenty-seven feet; knows every ton of her four hundred; can tell by the flutter of her screw when she's making her Sabbath-day 290 revolutions and when she's on the warpath and turning out four thousand a minute. Does Patrick Clancy know the Kanawha? Why, man, he's been in her ever since she was a little thing not thirty feet long and couldn't make ten miles an hour; he told me so himself."

"Do you own the Kanawha?"

"Well, no, I don't exactly own her. Mr. Rogers owns her."

"Do you command her?"

"Well, no, not exactly that. I only superintend."

"By request?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it quite as strong as that; but I do a good deal of work, you know; in fact, the important part of it. Superintending is more important than commanding, and more worrying and fatiguing, you know, because you have to be everywhere and attend to everything. Superintending is much the most exacting function on board a ship, and requires more varied talent and alertness, and more patience and calmness under explosions of resentment and insubordination than any other in the service. There are but few really good superintendents."

"The salary must be very large?"

"No, there isn't any salary; all a person gets is neglect and ingratitude. If a superintendent conscientiously does his whole duty, there's never anything going on but mutiny and insurrection. If I have ever had an order obeyed without being requested to mind my own business, I have no recollection of it. It is just a dog's life, and that is the best you can say about it."

"Why don't you resign?"

"Resign? How can I resign when I haven't been appointed? If I could get appointed I would resign in a minute."

"Is there no way to" --

"To what? No, there isn't. When you are a superintendent, there you are, and you can't help yourself. Sometimes I wish I was dead."

"It does seem to be a sorrowful vocation."


"Funerals is hilarity compared to it. Daily and hourly your feelings are hurt. Hurt by disobedience; yes, and almost always accompanied by remarks which -- why, let me give you an instance. You remember the first day when we were racing with those steamrockets, the Corsair and the Revolution and the Hauoli and Mr. Leeds' Clipper and hanging their scalps up there on the mizzenforetopgallant halyards to dry, one by one? I found the second mate off his base and ordered him into irons as a lesson, and he told me to go to -- never mind where he told me to go, but how would you like to be treated like that, and you doing the best you could?"

"Ah, that gives me an idea. It would be just like such a man as that to keep crossing the Monmouth's bow the way the Kanawha did Saturday in the race home. It was scandalous. Was he steering?"

"It's getting late, let's talk about something else. I was at the wheel myself. Are you intemperate? Would you like something? So would I. Push the button. What were you saying about -- about" --

"I wasn't saying anything about anything, but now that I think of it, what was the reason that the Shamrock performed so indifferently in the first race -- that one that was a failure?"


"Well, I know the reason, for I got it from Clancy at the time. It is pretty technical, but, barring that, it is easy to understand. It was a case of British easy-going carelessness on the part of the Shamrock plant -- good enough sailors, you know, but heedless, oh, beyond imagination! Not just one case of it, but two or three -- Clancy explained the whole thing to me. In the first place, when they came to set the anchor watch it was a Waterbury, and they lost two minutes in the winding, and that took off the whole time allowance and three seconds besides -- ought to have been wound up before, of course.

"And then, when they got it set, there they were again -- an anchor watch, all right enough, but they found they hadn't any anchor. It had been left at the Waldorf, by some oversight, and they had to throw over ballast to make up for it. Also, they had to remeasure the boat, and that shortened her by an inch. I do not know why, but Clancy does. An inch is not much, but if you take it off the front end, that end does not arrive at the homestake as early as it would if it were an inch longer, and, of course, as you can see yourself, even that little could lose a race. It didn't in this case, because there was a lot more inches that did not arrive in time, but the principle is sound; you can see it yourself."

"Yes, it looks so. But they lost the second race, too -- the first real race. How does Clancy account for that?"

"Difference in seamanship, he says. That and other things. Accidents and one thing and another."


"Did the Shamrock have accidents?"

"She had one that lost her the race. When she turned the stake she broke out her spinnaker. She might as well have broken her back, Clancy says. The spinnaker is a sail, you know. I don't know which one it is, but I think it is the tall one that bows out like a shirt front and gives the yacht such a dressy look. The other one is the balloon jib, which connects the garboard strake with the futtock shrouds and enables you to point high on a wind when you couldn't possibly do it any other way. Clancy told me these tings."

"Does Clancy charge you anything for revealing these mysteries?"

"No, he doesn't really charge me, but I make it up to him in other ways. I let him charge me five dollars for telling me how to bet so as not to lose. He told me to bet a hundred on each boat. That was on the first race -- the one that went to a finish. If I won either bet I was to give him another five and if I won both he was to get ten. So he got only ten altogether, because I only won on one of the boats. I lost on the other, so he didn't charge anything on that one."

"Have you always been as intelligent as you are now?"

"Yes, I think so, but sometimes Mr. Rogers thinks I am failing. He thinks it is on account of age and decrepitude; others think it is on account of mental disturbance; others think it is on account of the company I keep; but that cannot be, because I was never particular about the kind of people I went with, yet I was always just as intelligent as I am now, perhaps even more."


"You lose your way sometimes in a long sentence. Do you notice it? You remem" --

"Yes, I know what you mean; it's when I'm working up to wind'ard on a difficult proposition. Clancy says himself that I don't point as high as I used to. But it is no matter; as long as my teeth remain good I don't mind about my intellect; I don't eat with my intellect. But go on -- I interrupted you."

"Granting that we now understand why the Reliance won in the first race, what specialty was it, in your judgment, that secured for her the second one?"

"Oh, reaching!"


"That is what did it. Reliance is sublime when it comes to reaching. Clancy says so himself. I remember his very words. He said, 'When it comes to that competition isn't possible; she's got a reach like a Christian mob with a nigger in sight.'"

"I am very much obliged to you for clarifying the races and making plain the reasons for the Shamrock's defeats. There was much confusion in the public mind before. Could you go on now, and" --

"Well, no, not now. It would take to much time, and you are pretty busy; so am I. We've done enough for a preliminary; I will finish to a magazine presently. How do you like my style?"


"I think it is admirable. It is exceedingly simple and direct and lucid, and it has a special and unusual feature which is golden -- that is the word, golden!'

"What is that?"

"You hardly ever use a long word."

"Ah, you've noticed it!" Do you guess the secret of that?"

"No, but if you would tell me" --

"I'm paid by the word -- do you get the idea?"

"Well, no I believe I don't."

"I'll show you. In a newspaper you are paid by 'space' -- that is your term for it. The longer the words the more space you occupy and the greater is your cash reward. Naturally you hunt the dictionary for long words -- it's bread and butter. And naturally you get the habit of using lucrative, vast words -- the sesquipedalian habit, so to speak. But when you are paid by the word you can't afford long ones, you understand -- it's just simply impoverishing. The family would starve. Would you ever catch me saying 'unincomprehensibility'? Not at twenty cents a word, and don't you make any mistake about it! By my enforced habit of using only the shortest discoverable words I should break that nine jointed monster up into modest little, wee, single words and get as much as a dollar and a half out of him. Do you get the idea now?"

"By my halidom, yes -- and it is just great, too!"

"I thought you would be able to see it. Do you know in German literature the average word measures twenty-two syllables? You divine the reason?"

"I do; they pay by space there."


"That's it. It has ruined the language. They are starting a College of Journalism here. Let them look into that matter. Let them inculcate in the young student the principle of charging always by the word. It will result in a noble simplicity of style; it will be the salvation of our beautiful language. Even at twenty cents it will do it; even at that figure it will cramp the average word down to five letters. I would to God somebody would give me a chance to show what kind of a shrinkage I could put on our long words at a dollar a squeeze! Must you go? Don't go. Sit down and let me unshackle my tongue and give you an exhibition. I will undertake to financially embarrass your paper before I break out my spinnaker."

"I thank you most kindly, but I am afraid I must be going. Are you going to the banquet?"

"I wish I could, but I have to go home. I wish I could see Sir Thomas. He is the only Englishman I have never seen, except Lord Roberts. Gallant men, both."

"What are you going to Italy for?"

"By order of the doctors. It is to get back my wife's health."

"When do you sail?"

"October 24, in the Princess Irene -- North German Lloyd."

"A good ship?"

"I designed her myself."

"That settles it. Goodby."



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