Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884
Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge
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James B. Pond to
Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41970)
james b. pond,
general agent and manager,
everett house, corner 4th avenue and 17th street, new york.
Everett House, New York, March 31, 188 4 .
My dear “Mark”
You will excuse me for troubling you especially on a subject that is “the celebritie's bore,” but I have devoted a good deal of my life to the collection of autographs of great people, and only need yours to complete the most remarkable book of the kind ever compiled in this country. I began when quite a youth. The first name^autograph^ in the book is that of Benedict Arnold which my grandfather inherited and handed down to me. I have such names as Victor Hugo, Gladstone, Prince Napoleon, Bradlaugh, Matthew Arnold (a descendent of Benedict), R D’Oily Carte, Arthur Sullivan, John L Sullivan (his cousin), Garrison, Phillips, Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe," Joaquin Miller, Outlaw Reid, Eli Perkins, Tony Pastor, Geo. W. Cable, Geo W Cable's Physician, Hon. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) and many hundred others. So you can readily see that I have a very reasonable excuse ^for asking^for for yours.
Please write two (2) copies if you please, as I have a niece who is a great admirer of yours & who is getting up a collection. Write them on Gilded age paper, or cauls, if not too much trouble. Thanking you in advance for this great (to me) favor. I am
Your obt servant
James B. Pond.
Full size in new window S. L Clemens, Esq | (Mark Twain) | Hartford | Conn. [rule] [return address:] james b. pond | everett house | new york [postmarked:] new york mar 31 2 pm d [tornaway] [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Good | one here
▮ Copy-text: MS, Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).
George Washington Cable (1844–1925)
George Washington Cable, a writer from New Orleans who fought for the Confederacy, was best known for his realist novels about Creole life, such as The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (1880) and Dr. Sevier (1882). Having heard about Cable's work from William Dean Howells, Clemens met him in New Orleans in 1882, an encounter he described in chapters 44 and 47 of Life on the Mississippi. The winter following his April Fool joke, he and Clemens went on their tour throughout the United States in which they alternated reading from their works. While the tour was a success, Clemens elaborated in a letter to Howells about his and Cable's "curious experience" together: "You will never never know, never divine, guess, imagine, how loathsome a thing the Christian religion can be made until you come to know & study Cable daily & hourly. Mind you, I like him; he is pleasant company; I rage & swear at him sometimes, but we do not quarrel; we get along mighty happily together; but in him & his person I have learned to hate all religions. He has taught me to abhor & detest the Sabbath-day & hunt up new & troublesome ways to dishonor it" (27 February 1885 to William Dean Howells, MS in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library). Clemens may have been responsible for the rumors about Cable's stinginess during his stay with the Clemenses in the winter of 1884 that appeared in the Boston Herald on 7 May 1885; Clemens denied knowing anything about the "professional newspaper liar" when Cable asked him to refute the damaging story, and encouraged him to let it go. Cable did succeed in getting a retraction, but Clemens's relationship with Cable soured afterward (N&J3, p. 154).
Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)
Henry Ward Beecher was the renowned liberal pastor of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, and the author of several popular books. He was also a social activist who promoted abolition, temperance, and women's rights. Clemens met him in the winter of 1868, and admired his congeniality even when pointing out his flimsy convictions (which would culminate in the Beecher-Tilton adultery trial of 1875). Clemens also published the sketch "Rev. Henry Ward Beecher's Farm," which was published in Sketches (1872) and A Curious Dream (1872). They exchanged letters and kept a mostly pleasant acquaintance; Clemens usually saw Beecher when he visited his sister Isabella Hooker, who was Clemens's neighbor and close friend in Hartford. A tricky publishing venture at the end of Beecher's life also revealed Clemens's ambivalence toward the celebrity pastor. On 3 January 1887 Charles Webster informed Clemens that Beecher was considering an autobiography: “Beecher seemed to think that it might be a pretty good thing to do, and he also seemed to think that other things being equal, he would rather have us publish it than any one else. . . . I do not love Beecher any more than you do, but I love his money just as well, and I am certain that that book would sell.” (Beecher had also been advanced a substantial sum by Webster to complete his Jesus, Life of the Christ, which he also did not finish.) Beecher's death complicated these publishing plans, and in 1888 Clemens settled for the unprofitable biography completed by his son William and son-in-law Samuel Scoville (N&J3, pp. 272, 276).
James B. Pond (1838–1903)
James Burton Pond was a decorated Civil War officer and lecture manager who fought with John Brown in 1846 in Kansas, and against Quantrill's gang in Missouri. In 1874 he formed the Pond Lyceum Bureau, having spent some years managing acts on his own in Salt Lake City, followed by a stint with the Redpath Lyceum Bureau. By 1884 he had managed Henry Ward Beecher, Wendell Phillips, Matthew Arnold, and George Washington Cable. Pond wrote several books and articles about his experiences on the lecture circuit, including A Summer in England with Henry Ward Beecher (1877) and Eccentricities of Genius (1900).