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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

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J. Hyatt Smith to Samuel L. Clemens
28 March 1884 • Brooklyn, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41833)

95 Hart st.

Brooklyn N.Y.

March 28 1884


My dear Sir,

I have not had the honor of a personal acquaintance,[1] and yet I may be permitted to say that I have long counted you among my most intimate friends. For many years you have made your home in my house, and many an evening have you spent in the social circle at my fireside. Again, I may say that we folks know you and love you as a painter, and your charming pictures of real life will ever have the post of honor on our best of all walls.

Presuming upon this intimacy I write this note to solicit your autograph to complete your presence in my family.

Confident that you will View Page
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grant the request, I thank you now for the very kind favor, and subscribe myself,

Your friend and admirer

J Hyatt Smith

P.S. If you should for any reason deny my request, please write me a note to that end & I will, with great regret ^for the denial^, still count myself your friend.[2]


To S. L. Clemens Esq.


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S. L. Clemens Esq. | Hartford | Conn. [postmarked:] brooklyn mar 31 11 pm 1884 n.y. [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] P. S. Good [rule] | J. Hyatt Smith

Explanatory Notes

1. Hyatt Smith's social circle in Brooklyn would, however, have intersected at several points with Clemens's. See the network graph that accompanies this edition. [back]
2. This old ploy of autograph hunters elicited special mention in Clemens's Sun interview. A very early example of an autograph hunter's victim's voluntarily sending what is essentially an autograph note refusing an autograph is the response of Irish statesman and popular leader Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), who was largely responsible for the Catholic Emancipation of 1829: "Sir, I am so tormented by applications for my autograph that I make a rule never to give one. Yours, &c." ("Irish Bull," New York Herald, 14 January 1836, 35). [back]

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

Rev. J. Hyatt Smith  (1824–1886)

Born in Saratoga, N.Y., John Hyatt Smith was educated by his schoolmaster father, then sent to Detroit to work as a clerk. There he was a close friend of Anson Burlingame, who later befriended Clemens in Hawaii. Smith studied for the ministry when he wasn't clerking. After ordination in 1848 he served as a Baptist minister in Poughkeepsie, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Philadelphia before he accepted a position at the Lee Avenue Church in Brooklyn. Smith ran as an independent Republican for a seat in the US House of Representatives and served from 1881 to 1883. In December 1883 he was called by a congregational council presided over by Edward Beecher (brother of Henry Ward Beecher) to fill a temporary pastorship at the East Congregational Church in Brooklyn, where he remained until his death.