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October 15 Monday – In Hartford Sam wrote to Orion about the typesetter; letter not extant but referred to in Orion’s Oct. 19 [MTP].

Sam also responded to Rev. George Bainton’s Oct. 6 letter. Bainton had asked if Sam used any particular methods in his composition work, and Sam’s answers are instructive and insightful into his thoughts on composition theory.

If I have subjected myself to any training processes — & no doubt I have — it must have been in this unconscious or half-conscious fashion. I think it unlikely that deliberate & consciously methodical training is usual with the craft…

Sam felt that various “bricks” were laid in the mind, such as confusion when confronting a too-long sentence, and speculates what the writer then does:

Unconsciously he accustoms himself to writing short sentences as a rule. At times he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure that there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he is done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent, with half of its arches under the water, it will be a torchlight procession.

Well, also, he will notice, in the course of time, as his reading goes on, that the difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug & the lightning. After that, of course, that exceedingly important brick, the exact word…. So I seem to have arrived at this: doubtless I have methods, but they begot themselves; in which case I am only their proprietor, not their father [MTP].

Note: This letter first printed in The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, Personally Contributed by Leading Authors of the Day. Compiled and Edited by George Bainton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1890, pp.85-88.

Sam’s notebook entry (Also see Oct. 14 entry):

October 15/88. Special officer Heise goes on duty to-day noon at $2.73 a day, regular policeman’s wages, as he says, & as Mr. Smith told me last night. He will patrol the yard & frontage in uniform from 7 every evening & discourage the tramps — & is to stay until I get up my electric street-lamp. Let go Oct. 27 [MTNJ 3: 427].

Frederick J. Hall had recently consulted with book agents in Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, and St. Louis. He wrote to Sam of perceived changes in the marketplace for war books:

There is one thing this trip has convinced me of vizwar literature of any kind and no matter by whom written is played out. We have got to hustle everlastingly to get rid of 75,000 sets of Sheridan. I had set my mind on 100,000 sets but am forced to lessen this figure. There is not a man today who could write another book on the war and sell 5000 in the whole country [MTNJ 3: 430n78].

Note: Sam’s notebook entry on or about this date speculated on his future with Webster & Co. :

  1. If my Dec 31 Sher[idan] proves to be unprofitable, demand a reconstruction of contract placing power in my hands where it belongs. Refusal? Go into court [430].

    Demand dissolution. Go into Court.

  2.  Can I be held for debts made beyond the capital? I will buy out or sell out.

Since the spring of ’86 the thing has gone straight downhill toward sure destruction. It must be brought to an end Feb. 1 at all hazards. This is final [430-1].

John H. Morrison in Hartford asked Sam for help to raise a banner on Signoury St. for the Young Democrats of the Second Ward. Sam wrote, “Brer W. Answer him simply Yes. And sign it per W.” [MTP].

Arthur H. Wright for Webster & Co. wrote to Sam that they had on hand $1,766.09; nothing new; Hall had not returned from his trip west. At the bottom of the typed letter, Wright’s hand: “PS Have just rec’d a telegram from Mr. Hall from St. Louis will be in N.Y. City on Wednesday” [MTP].

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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.