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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

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G. W. Sheldon per Telegraph Operator to Samuel L. Clemens
1 April 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS, copy received: CU-MARK, UCLC 41994)

the western union telegraph company.

Received at 3371884.

Dated New York

To Samuel L. Clemens

Please send us your autograph for Fifth Edition of Commercial Advertiser [1]

G W Sheldon,

City Editor


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S. L. Clemens | City [return address:] Western Union Telegraph Co. | Pay no Charges to Messenger unless written in Ink in Delivery Book | No. 211 [stamped:] western union | tel. co. | apr 1 1884 | hartford, ct. [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Ed Advertiser

Explanatory Notes

1. This joke essentially assigns the autograph to oblivion. Nineteenth-century newspaper editions generally comprised standard, late, extra, and Sunday editions. [back]

Textual Commentary

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

Persons Mentioned

George W. Sheldon  (1843–1914)

George William Sheldon, art critic and author, graduated from Princeton University in 1863 and spent a year as a medic in the Union Army. He worked as an instructor of languages and literature for a decade at Princeton and then at Union Theological Seminary. From 1876 to 1882 he was an art critic for the New York Evening Post, and from 1884 to 1886 the dramatic critic of the New York Commercial Advertiser. He held a concurrent post on the staff of Appleton & Co., for whom he wrote elaborately illustrated art books such as American Painters (1879), Hours with Art and Artists (1882), and Artistic Homes (1882). A year after the April Fool episode, an unsolicited $300 subscription to Artistic Homes was a great cause of consternation to Clemens (see SLC's 8 February 1885 letter to Olivia Clemens, MS in CU-MARK; and 8 February 1885 to Charles L. Webster, MS in Vassar).