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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

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Helena Modjeska to Samuel L. Clemens
1 April 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41993)


Dear Mr. Clemens

Before I leave for Europe I want to tell you how sorry I have been for not seeing you this time when I paid a short visit View Page
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to Hartford.[1]

Mrs. Clemens told [me] you were not well then.[2] I hope you feel better now and will be able to grant my request.

I know it will be rather an annoyance, but, Oh! I wish so much to possess Mark Twain’s autograph.

Will you, pray, send it to me under View Page
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the following address:

Wielmożna Helena Chłapowska


w Krakowie

Na ulicy Mikołajskiej w domie

W-go Myśliwca.

Na ręce Wielmożnej Jósefy


Europe. Austria Galizien,

Via Berlin—Breslaw, and oblige,[3]

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Your great admirer,

Helena Modjeska[4]

April 1st 1884.


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S. L. Clemens Esqre | Hartford | (Conn.) [postmarked:] u.s. ◇◇◇◇apr 1 ◇◇◇ [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Modjeska

Explanatory Notes

1. Modjeska finished a three-week engagement in New York on 1 March, appeared for one matinee at the Madison Square Theater on 6 March, and performed in New Haven on 17 March, which places her visit to Hartford around 16 March. She left for Europe on 7 June for a sixteen-month farewell European tour, which included appearances in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Saint Petersburg, and Krakow ("On the Crowded Steamers," New York Sun, 8 June 1884, 1). [back]
2. Clemens had been suffering from gout. See SLC to Osgood, 20 March 1884. [back]
3. The editors thank UC Berkeley librarian Liladhar Pendse and UCLA professor Roman Koropeckyj for their help with this letter. The final transcription and translation were kindly provided by Professor Koropeckyj, who translates as follows: Wielmożna [form of honorific address] Helena Chłapowska (Modrejewska) w Krakowie [in Krakow] Na ulicy Mikołajskiej w domie W-go Myśliwca [On Mikołajska St. in the home of Mr. Myśliwiec] Na ręce [for] Wielmożnej Jósefy Bendowej [mother of M, who was born after the death of the latter’s husband, Szymon] Europe. Austria Galizien Berlin—Breslaw [back]
4. Fellow April Fool letter writer Clara Louise Kellogg credits her correspondence with Jeannette Gilder, upon seeing Modjeska perform in Sacramento, with the arrangements that led to Modjeska's eastern tour (Memoirs of an American Prima Donna, 282). Once in New York, Modjeska was embraced by the Gilder-de Kay circle. (See, for instance, Charles de Kay, "Modjeska," Scribner's Monthly, [March 1879]: 665–71). [back]

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

Helena Modjeska  (1840–1909)

Helena Modjeska, whose name on her birth certificate was Jadwiga Benda, was baptized Helena Opid in Krakow. She took as her stage name a simplified version of the stage name of her first husband, Gustaw Zimajer, who went by “Gustaw Modrzejewski.” Under his management she solidified her reputation as the leading tragic actress on the Polish stage. In 1875 she emigrated to California with her second husband, Karol Bozenta Chlapowski. She eventually made her way to the New York stage, with the support of the Gilder circle. After three years in London she returned to New York with further accolades. She retired from the stage in 1907 (Modjeska, Memories and Impressions of Helena Modjeska [New York: Macmillan, 1910]; New York Times, 9 April 1909).