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<<Mark Twain Day By Day: 1886

Browning Reader – Too Many Books to Publish – Webster’s Neuralgia is a Pain
English as She is Taught – Soul & Entrails – Beecher Advance, Beecher Dead
Embezzler Nabbed – Question the Queen – Another Troublesome Dinner

1887 – Sometime early in the year, Sam agreed to take charge of a Wednesday Browning
reading circle, made up mostly of ladies. They would meet every week in Sam’s billiard room.
(See Mar. 22 to Fairbanks.) Paine writes:

The Browning readings must have begun about this time. Just what kindled Mark Twain’s
interest in the poetry of Robert Browning is not remembered, but very likely his earlier
associations with the poet had something to do with it. Whatever the beginning, we find him,
during the winter of 1886 and 1887, studiously, even violently, interested in Browning’s verses,
entertaining a sort of club or class who gathered to hear his rich, sympathetic, and luminous
reading of the Parleyings — “With Bernard de Mandeville,” “Daniel Bartoli,” or “Christopher
Smart.” Members of the Saturday Morning Club were among his listeners and others — friends
of the family. They were rather remarkable gatherings, and no one of that group but always
vividly remembered the marvelously clear insight which Mark Twain’s vocal personality gave
to those somewhat obscure measures. They did not all of them realize that before reading a
poem he studied it line by line, even word by word; dug out its last syllable of meaning, so far
as lay within human possibility, and indicated with pencil every shade of emphasis which
would help to reveal the poet’s purpose. No student of Browning ever more devoutly persisted
in trying to compass a master’s intent — in such poems as “Sordello,” for instance — than
Mark Twain. Just what permanent benefit he received from this particular passion it is difficult
to know [MTB 846].
Sam inscribed a two-volume The Poetical Works of Shelley to Livy: Livy L. Clemens / Hartford
/ 1887 [MTP from Butterfield catalog July 16, 1997; See Gribben 640].
Sometime during the year, Sam wrote an apology for Livy’s inability to furnish Miss Collins’
table “one of it’s [sic] finest & best decorations.” Livy was not well [MTP].
Also this year, Sam wrote “An Adventure in the Remote Seas,” which was printed
posthumously as “Which Was the Dream?” (1968) [Camfield, isterin.].
About this year, Sam also wrote a long letter to an unidentified woman about not having a
system for his memory:
But I had no system; — and some sort of rational order of procedures is of course necessary to
success in any study. Well, Loisette furnished me with a system. I cannot undertake to say it is
the best, or the worst, because I don’t know what the other systems are. What I do know, is, that
a trial of the system quickly convinced me that I had a memory; and that all I needed to do, to
make it useful, was to pay ATTENTION when I was giving it a thing to keep, and then HAVE

Loisette doesn’t make memories; he furnishes confidence in memories that already exist. Isn’t
that valuable? Indeed it is to me [MTP]. Note: Professor Loisette taught a “system of memory”
at his Fifth Avenue location in New York. Several times throughout the year he ran ads, using,
among others, Mark Twain ‘s recommendation. His real name was Marcus Dwight Larrowe;
he had known Sam in Nevada.
Also about this year, Sam wrote a one-liner to the Walt Whitman fund:
What we want to do is make the splendid old soul comfortable [MTP].
Note: Sam contributed at least twice to funds for Whitman; one time for a horse and carriage
(See Aug. 6, 1885); the other for a house (See May 28, 1886).
Sarah Knowles Bolton’s Famous American Authors (1887) included a section (pages 365-
386), “Mark Twain” [Tenney 16; Gribben, Appendix A 910]. Bolton begins by quoting Critic:
“Within the past-half century, he has done more than any other man to lengthen the lives of his
contemporaries by making them merrier.” Thus says the “Critic.” But he has done vastly more
than this [365].
Note: this biographical section is remarkable for the ground covered at this early date.
Howells is quoted. Sam’s championing of the oppressed Chinese is mentioned. It contains
several references to Roughing It, Tom Sawyer, A Tramp Abroad, The Gilded Age, “Old Times
on the Mississippi,” as well as synopses of Sam’s careers as riverboat pilot, miner (including
the “blind lead” episode), newspaper reporter, lecturer, author, publisher, and inventor.
Routledge’s World Library published an abridged edition of Innocents Abroad [Tenney 16].
Knapp & Co. published an anonymous thumbnail biography, “Life of Mark Twain,” that was
inserted in packs of Duke’s Cigarettes. This was one of a series, “Histories of Poor Boys Who
Have Become Rich and Other Famous People.” The cited source says this “date is inferred
from the fact that the biography describes Twain’s life through October 1886. Duke’s Cigarettes
also published a series of biographies on Civil War generals” [“Some New Paths in Twain-
Collecting,” Firsts the Book Collector’s Magazine, Sept. 1998, Vol. 8 No. 9 p.46].
Books published by Charles L. Webster & Co. In 1887.

Cox, Samuel Sullivan, Diversions of a Diplomat in Turkey
Crawford, General Samuel Wylie, The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter,
Custer, Elizabeth, Tenting on the Plains; or, General Custer in Kansas and Texas
Hancock, Almira Russell, Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock
Kalakaua, David, The Legends and Myths of Hawaii: The Fables and Folk-lore of a
Strange People
O’Reilly, Father Bernard, Life of Pope Leo XIII
Caroline B. Le Row wrote two letters, fragments of which are in the MTP along with the note:
“This folder contains portions of 3 different letters to SLC. One is a copy of a letter to an
unknown correspondent which was probably enclosed in a letter to SLC. The contents of each
letter suggest a date before April 1887, when Clemens published his article about English As
She is Taught in the Century. The article subsequently became his introduction to the book.”
[Note: this file examined at the MTP in April, 2008 — the letter fragment from the “unknown
correspondent” is definitely Le Row’s hand.]
From the first:
It’s all right, my dear Mark Twain. I hated to tease you, and felt altogether to [“]numerons.” I
don’t like to “ride a free horse to death,” and particularly object to “crowding the mourners.”
But though I could truthfully parody old Adam’s assertion and say “Mr. Dunham tempted me
and I did write,” I will refrain and not even assert that I did right. As for your immense
generosity in writing the Century article — well, I have no words with which to thank you



Day By Day Acknowledgment

Mark Twain Day By Day was originally a print reference, meticulously created by David Fears, who has generously made this work available, via the Center for Mark Twain Studies, as a digital edition.