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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

George Washington Cable to Samuel L. Clemens
29 March 1884 • Chicago, Ill.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41836)

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the grand pacific hotel.

jno. b. drake & co. proprietors

chicago, Mch 29, 1884.

Mr. Mark Twain:

I have been a devoted admirer of your works for the last sixty years. My life has been worth living ever since you began to write. Should you ever cease writing I should commit suicide on receiving the intelligence. Let me assure you, however, that I do not say these things to play upon your vanity. I do not believe you have any. No man who has the least spark of vanity could write your books

I implore you for your autograph. Do not, I beseech you, refuse my request. I have, already, 9,999. I want one more. Just one, dear, gentle, blessed St. Mark! This will reach you on the 1st of April. I shall expect an answer by the 3d. Yours passionately

G. W. Cable

N.B. Every fellow furnish his own stamps.


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Mr. S. L. Clemens | Hartford | Connecticut [return address:] sent from | the grand pacific hotel, | chicago. [postmarked:] chica[go] ... ill mar 29 645 [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Cable | mentionable

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

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).