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BURLINGTON HAWKEYE, February 7, 1878, p. 1.
How the "Yarn" Editor of a Journal Feeds His Pup and Keeps House.
New York Sun.
HARTFORD, Jan. 25. - Wishing to obtain Mark Twain's views on the probability of a war between England and Russia, I went to the office of the Courant expecting to find him at his desk. To my surprise, I was told that he had not been in the office for near a fortnight. Then I called at the door of his astonishing residence in the outskirts of the city. The domestic informed me that I would find Mr. Clemens in the back yard. When I approached the celebrated humorist he was sitting on an inverted washtub, trying to teach a frowsy little terrier to catch crackers in its mouth. Twain had his hat full of oyster crackers. The dog stood on its hind legs and snapped with much perseverance, but with only a moderate degree of skill, at the bits tossed by the master. To set a good example, Twain tossed every third or fourth cracker up in the air, catching it in his own mouth as it descended, and never missing. I complimented him upon his surprising dexterity.
"Oh," said he, carelessly, "a great deal can be accomplished by practice. Here Jo!"
"Is your dog named Joseph?"
"I call him Jo Cook because I can't quite understand him. There are depths in that dog's nature that I haven't fathomed."
"Don't you consider that you are neglecting your professional duties? They told me at the office that you hadn't been seen there for a fortnight. No journalist can expect to give his paper a consistent tone when he indulges in such protracted absences. Matters at Washington are interesting just now, and the Eastern question has assumed a new and critical phase; and yet here you are, out in the back yard, tossing oyster crackers to a small dog. I ask you, sincerely as a friend, can you hope to succeed as an editor if you continue to act thus?"
"Young fellow," said Clemens, with great seriousness of manner, "did you swallow that yarn?" "Didn't I tell you," said Twain, after a brief pause --- "Didn't I tell you just as you were getting up (at last!) to go, that the story was told, not for publication, but merely as a guarantee of good faith?"
"Yes, you told me that, but at the same time you took the trouble to wink hard with your left eye, and nobody knows better than yourself the significance of a wink under such circumstances."
He led the way into his study and carefully locked the door. It is a strange apartment. The floor was littered up with a confusion of newspapers, newspaper cuttings, books, children's toys, pipes, models of machinery and cigar ends. Twain's method is to drop everything when he is done using it, but he will let nobody else interfere with the arrangements of his study. "I am naturally lazy," he says, "and I wish to conquer the detestable habit of imposing on myself a certain amount of domestic work. I take care of the room myself." In one corner stood a stack of his self-gumming scrapbooks. The invention, I am told, is the source of a considerable income to Mr. Clemens. On the mantel where the bust of Calvin stood until Mark destroyed it with a poker in a moment of religious frenzy, I noticed a pitcher that looked as if it had contained beer. On the table were many manuscript sheets of Mr. Clemens' unfinished historical work, "The Mother-in-Law in All Ages."
Seating me on top of the scrapbooks, and himself on the only chair that happened to be in the room, Mark Twain began his confession.
"I am aware," said he, "that the world regards me as a proud, cold, haughty being, too far above the level of average humanity to be actuated by human weakness. This is not so. I am a creature of impulse, sensitive to the opinions of others, and eager for appreciation. You look incredulous. You don't believe me?"
There was an earnestness in his tone that inspired confidence, and I told him so.
"Latterly," he continued, "I have been down in the mouth. I began to think my luck was down on me. My speech at the Whittier dinner didn't exactly take. I meant it merely as a cheerful conceit, and yet people wouldn't laugh. My article in the Atlantic containing the joke about the two dying soldiers quarreling for the first choice of coffins, seemed to fall flat. A good many well-meaning people refused to see it in the spirit intended. I got gloomy. I smoked all day and almost all night. I thought that humor was played out in America. I had nearly resolved to go to Constantinople, offer my services to the sublime porte, and be a light-hearted bashi-bazouk, when it occurred to me to test public sentiment, and see whether my fellow citizens cared for me still. Well, I threw out this feeler."
"Perhaps it was weak; perhaps I was rash, thoughtless -- but do you blame me? The response of the press of America was astonishing. The kind things they said of me, the encouragement they gave me in my supposed enterprise, their invariably flattering comments upon my genius and personal beauty renewed and restored me. They are good fellows, after all, these newspaper editors, and, really, now, I should like to be one of them, if I thought I had the mental capacity."