You are viewing the archived content of Scholarly Editing, Volumes 33 – 38 issued between 2012 and 2017. Go to the new site.

Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

Henry Ward Beecher to Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • Brooklyn, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41855)

View Page
Full size in new window

henry ward beecher, brooklyn, n.y.

March 31, 1884

My dear Mr. Clements

Although I am myself ^a^ very curmudgeon about answering autographe letters, yet, as usual with selfish people, I want others'—and your reputation for kindness in this respect emboldens me to ask for a double one, viz for real name & pseudonym.

Henry Ward Beecher


View Page
Full size in new window
S. M. Clemen^t^s Esq | Hartford | Conn. [postmarked:] new-york mar 31 2 30 pm 84 [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] H W Beecher [rule] | mention | use it

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

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).