Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

Thomas Bailey Aldrich to Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • Boston, Mass.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41851)

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editorial office of the atlantic monthly, boston.

March 31st, 1884

My dear Clemens:

I am making a collection of the autographs of our distinguished writers, and having read one of your works, “Gabriel Conway,”[1] I would like to add your name to the list. I have already a large collection, embracing personal letters from Geo. Francis Train, Dr. Holland, Barry Gray, Daniel Pratt, the great American Traveller, Count-Joannes and the late (too late) Charles J. Guitiau.[2] So you see that you will be in good company.

Everlasting yours

T. B. Aldrich.

Hon. S. L. Clemens

alt

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Hon. S. L. Clemens, | Hartford, | Conn. [return address:] the atlantic monthly, | 4 park street | boston. [postmarked:] boston mass mar 31 84 3 30 pm [and] hartford, conn. rec'd mar 31 1884 8pm

Explanatory Notes

1. A novel by Bret Harte that was largely considered a failure. [back]
2. George Francis Train (1829–1904) was an eccentric entrepreneur who inspired the character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Late in life he suffered from Bright's disease, and his diminished mental capacities led to accusations of insanity. Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1891) was a writer nationally renowned for his advice books who also wrote under the pen name “Timothy Titcomb.” He was also a cofounder of Scribner's Monthly, and he not only admired but personally encouraged Emily Dickinson and her poetry. "Barry Gray" was the pen name for Robert Barry Coffin (1826–1886), author of Out of Town: A Rural Episode, among other books. He was a frequenter of Pfaff's cellar in New York City, where he was known to associate with the likes of Artemus Ward and Walt Whitman. Later in life he worked as a clerk at the New York Customs House, where he befriended fellow employee Herman Melville, to whom he affectionately inscribed four of his books ("Old 'Barry Gray' Dead," New York World, 12 June 1886, 5; Melville, Correspondence [Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University and the Newberry Library, 1993], 418). “General” Daniel Pratt Jr. (1809–1887) was a prolific author and lecturer who was known to ostentatiously introduce himself as "the great American traveler!" (see, for example, “Some Hit And Miss Chat,” New York Times, 7 September 1885, 2). "Count Joannes" was the stage name for George Jones (1810–1879), an English-born actor who became a prominent (and outlandish) lecturer in the United States after an 1864 appearance at the Cooper Institute. Charles Guiteau (1841–1882) assassinated Grover Cleveland but was also a failed writer. [back]


Textual Commentary

Copy-text:The Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).

Persons Mentioned

Thomas Bailey Aldrich  (1836–1907)

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was best known for his poems and stories about New Hampshire, where he was born and raised, including his novel The Story of a Bad Boy, which was a forerunner for Tom Sawyer. He met Clemens in 1871. He served on the editorial staff of the Evening Mirror, Home Journal, and Saturday Press. From 1861 to 1862 he served as Civil War correspondent for the New York Tribune. In 1865 he married Lilian Woodman and moved to Boston, where James R. Osgood had offered him the editorship of Every Saturday, a post he held until 1874. He succeeded William Dean Howells as editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1881, a position he retained until 1890. While Clemens was not initially enthusiastic about Aldrich's work, he often provided advice (see his letters of 15, 16, 24, 25 March 1874 suggesting changes in his novel Prudence Palfrey, L6, 74–82, 89–95). They remained lifelong friends. In his 1904 sketch “Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Bailey Aldrich,” Clemens wrote that Aldrich “never had his peer for prompt and pithy and witty and humorous sayings” (AutoMT1, 229, 539 n. 229.8).