For purposes of copyright another trip to Canada was necessary, and when the newspapers announced (May, 1883) that Mark Twain was about to cross the border there came one morning the following telegram:
Meeting of Literary and Scientific Society at Ottawa from 22d to 26th. It would give me much pleasure if you could come and be my guest during that time.
The Marquis of Lorne, then Governor-General of Canada, was the husband of Queen Victoria’s daughter, the Princess Louise. The invitation was therefore in the nature of a command. Clemens obeyed it graciously enough, and with a feeling of exaltation no doubt. He had been honored by the noble and the great in many lands, but this was royalty — English royalty — paying a tribute to an American writer whom neither the Marquis nor the Princess, his wife, had ever seen. They had invited him because they had cared enough for his books to make them wish to see him, to have him as a guest in Rideau Hall, their home. Mark Twain was democratic. A king to him was no more than any other man; rather less if he were not a good king. But there was something national in this tribute; and, besides, Lord Lorne and the Princess Louise were the kind of sovereigns that honored their rank, instead of being honored by it.
It is a good deal like a fairy tale when you think of it; the barefooted boy of Hannibal, who had become a printer, a pilot, a rough-handed miner, being summoned, not so many years later, by royalty as one of America’s foremost men of letters. The honor was no greater than many others he had received, certainly not greater than the calls of Canon Kingsley and Robert Browning and Turgenieff at his London hotel lodgings, but it was of a less usual kind.
Clemens enjoyed his visit. Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne kept him with them almost continually, and were loath to let him go. Once they took him tobogganing — an exciting experience.
It happened that during his stay with them the opening of the Canadian Parliament took place. Lord Lorne and the principal dignitaries of state entered one carriage, and in a carriage behind them followed Princess Louise with Mark Twain. As they approached the Parliament House the customary salute was fired. Clemens pretended to the Princess considerable gratification. The temptation was too strong to resist:
“Your Highness,” he said, “I have had other compliments paid to me, but none equal to this one. I have never before had a salute fired in my honor.”
Returning to Hartford, he sent copies of his books to Lord Lorne, and to the Princess a special copy of that absurd manual, The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English, for which he had written an introduction.
[A serious work, in Portugal, though issued by Osgood (’83) as a joke. Clemens in the introduction says: “Its delicious, unconscious ridiculousness and its enchanting naivety are as supreme and unapproachable in their way as Shakespeare’s sublimities.” An extract, the closing paragraph from the book’s preface, will illustrate his meaning:
“We expect then, who the little book (for the care that we wrote him, and for her typographical correction), that maybe worth the acceptation of the studious persons, and especially of the Youth, at which we dedicate him particularly.”]
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00