FROM the note-book:
February 25. Arrived in Stockton 5 P.m. Home again home again at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco — find letters from Artemus Ward asking me to write a sketch for his new book of Nevada Territory Travels which is soon to come out. Too late — ought to have got the letters three months ago. They are dated early in November.
He was sorry not to oblige Ward, sorry also not to have representation in his book. He wrote explaining the circumstance, and telling the story of his absence. Steve Gillis, meantime, had returned to San Francisco, and settled his difficulties there. The friends again took up residence together.
Mark Twain resumed his daily letters to the Enterprise, without further annoyance from official sources. Perhaps there was a temporary truce in that direction, though he continued to attack various abuses — civic, private, and artistic — becoming a sort of general censor, establishing for himself the title of the “Moralist of the Main.” The letters were reprinted in San Francisco and widely read. Now and then some one had the temerity to answer them, but most of his victims maintained a discreet silence. In one of these letters he told of the Mexican oyster, a rather tough, unsatisfactory article of diet, which could not stand criticism, and presently disappeared from the market. It was a mistake, however, for him to attack an Alta journalist by the name of Evans. Evans was a poet, and once composed an elegy with a refrain which ended:
Gone, gone, gone —
Gone to his endeavor;
Gone, gone, gone,
Forever and forever.
In the Enterprise letter following its publication Mark Twain referred to this poem. He parodied the refrain and added, “If there is any criticism to make on it I should say there is a little too much ‘gone’ and not enough ‘forever.’”
It was a more or less pointless witticism, but it had a humorous quotable flavor, and it made Evans mad. In a squib in the Alta he retaliated:
Mark Twain has killed the Mexican oyster. We only regret that the act was not inspired by a worthier motive. Mark Twain’s sole reason for attacking the Mexican oyster was because the restaurant that sold them refused him credit.
A deadly thrust like that could not be parried in print. To deny or recriminate would be to appear ridiculous. One could only sweat and breathe vengeance.
“Joe,” he said to Goodman, who had come over for a visit, “my one object in life now is to make enough money to stand trial and then go and murder Evans.”
He wrote verses himself sometimes, and lightened his Enterprise letters with jingles. One of these concerned Tom Maguire, the autocrat manager of San Francisco theaters. It details Maguire’s assault on one of his actors.
Roused to ire,
Lighted on McDougal;
Tore his coat,
Clutched his throat,
And split him in the bugle.
For shame! oh, fie!
Will you thus skyugle?
Why curse and swear,
And rip and tear
The innocent McDougal?
Of bones bereft,
Almost, you’ve left
Vestvali, gentle Jew gal;
And now you’ve smashed
And almost hashed
The form of poor McDougall
Goodman remembers that Clemens and Gillis were together again on California Street at this time, and of hearing them sing, “The Doleful Ballad of the Rejected Lover,” another of Mark Twain’s compositions. It was a wild, blasphemous outburst, and the furious fervor with which Mark and Steve delivered it, standing side by side and waving their fists, did not render it less objectionable. Such memories as these are set down here, for they exhibit a phase of that robust personality, built of the same primeval material from which the world was created — built of every variety of material, in fact, ever incorporated in a human being — equally capable of writing unprintable coarseness and that rarest and most tender of all characterizations, the ‘Recollections of JOAN of ARC’.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00