Clemens was able to write pretty steadily that summer in Nauheim and turned off a quantity of copy. He completed several short articles and stories, and began, or at least continued work on, two books —‘Tom Sawyer Abroad’ and ‘Those Extraordinary Twins’— the latter being the original form of ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’. As early as August 4th he wrote to Hall that he had finished forty thousand words of the “Tom Sawyer” story, and that it was to be offered to some young people’s magazine, Harper’s Young People or St. Nicholas; but then he suddenly decided that his narrative method was altogether wrong. To Hall on the 10th he wrote:
I have dropped that novel I wrote you about because I saw a more effective way of using the main episode — to wit, by telling it through the lips of Huck Finn. So I have started Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer (still 15 years old) & their friend the freed slave Jim around the world in a stray balloon, with Huck as narrator, & somewhere after the end of that great voyage he will work in that original episode & then nobody will suspect that a whole book has been written & the globe circumnavigated merely to get that episode in in an effective (& at the same time apparently unintentional) way. I have written 12,000 words of this new narrative, & find that the humor flows as easily as the adventures & surprises — so I shall go along and make a book of from 50,000 to 100,000 words.
It is a story for boys, of course, & I think it will interest any boy between 8 years & 80.
When I was in New York the other day Mrs. Dodge, editor of St. Nicholas, wrote and offered me $5,000 for (serial right) a story for boys 50,000 words long. I wrote back and declined, for I had other matter in my mind then.
I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys, but will also strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.
Now, this story doesn’t need to be restricted to a child’s magazine — it is proper enough for any magazine, I should think, or for a syndicate. I don’t swear it, but I think so.
Proposed title — New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
He was full of his usual enthusiasm in any new undertaking, and writes of the Extraordinary Twins:
By and by I shall have to offer (for grown folks’ magazine) a novel entitled, ‘Those Extraordinary Twins’. It’s the howling farce I told you I had begun awhile back. I laid it aside to ferment while I wrote Tom Sawyer Abroad, but I took it up again on a little different plan lately, and it is swimming along satisfactorily now. I think all sorts of folks will read it. It is clear out of the common order — it is a fresh idea — I don’t think it resembles anything in literature.
He was quite right; it did not resemble anything in literature, nor did it greatly resemble literature, though something at least related to literature would eventually grow out of it.
In a letter written many years afterward by Frank Mason, then consul-general at Frankfort, he refers to “that happy summer at Nauheim.” Mason was often a visitor there, and we may believe that his memory of the summer was justified. For one thing, Clemens himself was in better health and spirits and able to continue his work. But an even greater happiness lay in the fact that two eminent physicians had pronounced Mrs. Clemens free from any organic ills. To Orion, Clemens wrote:
We are in the clouds because the bath physicians say positively that Livy has no heart disease but has only weakness of the heart muscles and will soon be well again. That was worth going to Europe to find out.
It was enough to change the whole atmosphere of the household, and financial worries were less considered. Another letter to Orion relates history:
The Twichells have been here four days & we have had good times with them. Joe & I ran over to Homburg, the great pleasure-resort, Saturday, to dine with friends, & in the morning I went walking in the promenade & met the British ambassador to the Court of Berlin and he introduced me to the Prince of Wales. I found him a most unusually comfortable and unembarrassing Englishman.
Twichell has reported Mark Twain’s meeting with the Prince (later Edward VII) as having come about by special request of the latter, made through the British ambassador. “The meeting,” he says, “was a most cordial one on both sides, and presently the Prince took Mark Twain’s arm and the two marched up and down, talking earnestly together, the Prince, solid, erect, and soldierlike, Clemens weaving along in his curious, swinging gait in a full tide of talk, and brandishing a sun-umbrella of the most scandalous description.”
When they parted Clemens said:
“It has been, indeed, a great pleasure to meet your Royal Highness.”
The Prince answered:
“And it is a pleasure, Mr. Clemens, to have met you — again.”
Clemens was puzzled to reply.
“Why,” he said, “have we met before?”
The Prince smiled happily.
“Oh yes,” he said; “don’t you remember that day on the Strand when you were on the top of a bus and I was heading a procession and you had on your new overcoat with flap-pockets?”132
132 [See chap. clxiii, “A Letter to the Queen of England.”]
It was the highest compliment he could have paid, for it showed that he had read, and had remembered all those years. Clemens expressed to Twichell regret that he had forgotten to mention his visit to the Prince’s sister, Louise, in Ottawa, but he had his opportunity at a dinner next day. Later the Prince had him to supper and they passed an entire evening together.
There was a certain uneasiness in the Nauheim atmosphere that year, for the cholera had broken out at Hamburg, and its victims were dying at a terrific rate. It was almost impossible to get authentic news as to the spread of the epidemic, for the German papers were curiously conservative in their reports. Clemens wrote an article on the subject but concluded not to print it. A paragraph will convey its tenor.
What I am trying to make the reader understand is the strangeness of the situation here — a mighty tragedy being played upon a stage that is close to us, & yet we are as ignorant of its details as we should be if the stage were in China. We sit “in front,” & the audience is in fact the world; but the curtain is down, & from behind it we hear only an inarticulate murmur. The Hamburg disaster must go into history as the disaster without a history.
He closes with an item from a physician’s letter — an item which he says “gives you a sudden and terrific sense of the situation there.”
For in a line it flashes before you — this ghastly picture — a thing seen by the physician: a wagon going along the street with five sick people in it, and with them four dead ones.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00