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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

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Laurence Hutton to Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41955)

New York
31st March 1884

Samuel L Clemens Esq

Dear Sir

My great admiration for your character, as a man and of your genius as a writer, must be my excuse for addressing you. I am no ordinary autograph hunter. There is nothing mean about me. In my collection are the M.S.S. of all my own books. May I ask that you will make it a perfect collection by adding to it the original of one of your latest & most charming works—Jean for instance.[1]

Please forward to my address as below & oblige

Yours Very Respectfully

Laurence Hutton

229 W 34 thStreet.


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[in upper left:] Personal Samuel L. Clemens | Hartford | Conn. [postmarked:] new york mar 31 2 30 pm e 84 [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Hutton [rule] | Wants | child

Explanatory Notes

1. Jean was Clemens's third daughter, age three. Clemens continued to poke fun at Hutton over this request, addressing him in a letter as “My Dear Son-in-law that-was-to-have-been” (SLC to Hutton, 7 December 1885, MS in CU-MARK). Clemens revealed the cause for this lost opportunity in a letter of 22 December 1884: Months ago, fully aware of the relations existing between you & my daughter, I was shocked & grieved to discover that she had transferred her affections to a kitten, I would have written you & exposed her treason, but I could not break your heart & so I lingered, hoping that you or the kitten would die, & so disburden me of my shame & sorrow. (SLC to Hutton, 22 December 1884, MS in CU-MARK) [back]

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

Laurence Hutton  (1843–1904)

Editor and critic Laurence Hutton, one of a handful of friends whom Clemens addressed in letters by his nickname (“Larry”), served as drama critic of the Daily Evening Mail from 1872 to 1874 and literary critic of Harper's Magazine from 1886 to 1898. He compiled several important dramatic compendia, e.g., Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States, 5 vols. (1886–87), which he coedited with Brander Matthews. He was a founding member of the Authors and Players Clubs and of the American Copyright League. Hutton was also a notorious collector of death masks and association copies.