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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

Frank Jenkins to Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41865)

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university club

370 fifth avenue

Mar. 31st 84

Mr. S. L. Clemens, Hartford Ct.

Dear Sir:—

Upon Christmas day I gave to each of my seven daughters an autograph album.[1] The little ones will give me no rest until I secure for them your signature.

May I trespass upon your well known good nature to the extent to ask you for seven copies of your autograph?

My eldest child has View Page
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met with great success with her collection having obtain at private sale the autographs of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakspeare, Milton, and Martin Farquhar Tupper[2]—and she insists that her collection will not be complete without yours—

You will pardon, I am sure a comparative stranger for making this request.[3]

Yours very truly

Frank Jenkins


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Mr. S. L. Clemens, | Hartford, | Conn. [postmarked:] new york apr 1 7 30 am e 84 [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Stranger—good

Explanatory Notes

1. A fabrication—Jenkins was unmarried. [back]
2. Martin Farquhar Tupper, the English poet and moralist, serves as the butt of several jokes in this series of letters. Tupper, best known for his long series of blank-verse meditations, Proverbial Philosophy (1867–1876), though popular, was considered a paragon of banality and sentimentalism by the literati of Clemens's circle. Clemens on several occasions made Tupper the butt of a joke in his correspondence and in his writings. As early as 1865 Clemens passed on an indictment of his poetry by a Harper's editor: “Don't poor Martin Tupper Farquhar fondle his platitudes and think they are poems?” In The Gilded Age, his name was given to a sickly but sweet lapdog. In notes for a speech in Montreal in 1881 he jotted down a joke stating that in England Tupper is known as Solomon-&-Water (brandy and soda). [back]
3. In his letter to the Biographical Record of the Class of 1874 in Yale College (1912), Jenkins claimed Clemens, Warner, Hutton, and Stedman among the many friends and acquaintances he gained through his friendship with Henry Ward Beecher (129). [back]

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

Frank Jenkins  (1851–1913)

Jenkins was born in Boontown, N.J., and graduated from Yale in 1874. He moved to New York City, where he boarded with fellow April Fool letter writer Horatio C. King, and through that connection soon became Henry Ward Beecher's secretary. He was connected with the Christian Union in various capacities, including as publisher in 1878–79, and then joined a banking firm, advancing to senior partner. However, the firm went into receivership in 1890. After two more failed ventures in managing mines in Minnesota and Cuba, he formed the Jenkins Coal Company. Through his association with Beecher and his memberships in the Lambs and Players Clubs, he formed acquaintances with Warner, Hutton, Stedman, and Clemens, as he claimed in a letter to the Yale alumni club. Clemens's annotation on Jenkins's envelope identifies him as a “stranger” in 1884. Jenkins never married. He died of Bright's disease at his home in the Hotel Ansonia in 1913.