Autobiography of Mark Twain (9 page)

BOOK: Autobiography of Mark Twain
There was a long—a 3 hour dictation this morning, when M
Clemens used letters as a subject. . . . It was beautiful to hear the laughter from the porch; the King’s rich laugh, the biographer’s falsetto delight & the stenographer’s chirping gurgle
—it made a lovely song.
I stole out to sit on a wicker thing in the hall & watch & listen. The King in white—the biographer in soft grey & the stenographer in dark blue, with a kitten in her lap.

In late May Clemens also began in earnest the job of reading and correcting the four months’ accumulation of TS1, which by then consisted of over seven hundred pages (through the dictation for 11 April). He revised the typescript in black ink, only rarely in pencil, making relatively few changes in wording—at least after the first ten dictations—and he consistently made a smattering of changes or corrections to spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing. For the most part Hobby seems to have learned, directly or indirectly from Clemens, how he preferred to spell and punctuate. Inevitably there were mistakes, especially in proper names (“Katie” instead of “Katy,” “Susie” instead of the preferred “Susy,” “Twitchell” instead of “Twichell”). And with a backlog of hundreds of pages typed before he began his review, Clemens inevitably found repetitive errors. Lyon noted in her journal:

Day after day M
Clemens is harassed and tormented when he is reading the dictated matter by continually coming across Hobby blunders, & the worst one—the most exasperating one is where she invariably corrects M
Clemens, writing “one thousand” or “one hundred,” where he has said “
thousand”, or “a hundred.” Today it passed the limit of his
endurance. Through his tightly shut teeth he damned that “hell-fired word” until he was tired; & then he went for “that idiot!”—“that devilish woman! I’d like some one to take her out & have her scalped and gutted!”—

He had found (and corrected) over two dozen instances of this trivial but irritating error. One can only hope that he alerted Hobby to her mistake in a less ferocious mood.

S. S. McClure and Syndication

Clemens’s correction and revision of TS1 was given a special impetus by S.S. McClure, founder of McClure’s Syndicate and
McClure’s Magazine
, who offered to pay Clemens a dollar per word for the right to syndicate fifty thousand words from the autobiography. As Clemens reviewed Hobby’s typescripts and some of his pre-1906 texts, he began noting likely candidates for McClure’s proposed syndication. For instance, the blue-penciled notation “M
” is written at the top of the first page of the 1904 “Villa di Quarto” typescript, and the same or a similar notation can be seen on several other pages of TS1 prepared between January and March 1906. Still other dictations were marked “
for MC.”

Clemens was not, however, free to accept McClure’s bid. He had signed an exclusive contract with Harper and Brothers on 22 October 1903, which prohibited his publishing with another firm any of his “books, writings or works now existing or which may hereafter be created.” It further stipulated that all “miscellaneous articles accepted for magazines or periodicals shall be paid for at the rate of thirty cents a word.” Even so, on 27 May Clemens kept Lyon busy for two hours taking notes while he outlined “a course of action to be followed out in his scheme of breaking away from the Harper Contract & selling 50000 words to M
Clure for $50000.
to be syndicated.” His interest in publishing with McClure was more than financial, however. He had an express desire to see the selections “go into the papers—even into the Hearst papers—to reach his ‘submerged clientele.’”
He further explained to Rogers,

I’d like to see a lot of this stuff in print before I die—but not the
of it, oh no! I am not desiring to be crucified yet. Howells
the Auto will outlive the Innocents Abroad a thousand years, & I
it will. I would like the literary world to see (as Howells says) that the
of this book is one of the most memorable literary inventions of the ages. And so it is. It ranks with the steam engine, the printing press & the electric telegraph. I’m the only person who has ever found out the right way to build an autobiography.

Rogers, however, did not favor accepting McClure’s offer. Believing that the Harper contract was “so valuable that they would seize the opportunity of breaking the arrangement if it were possible,” he urged Clemens not to “think of anything that will vitiate” it.

“The Final (and Right) Plan” (June 1906)

On 10 June Clemens wrote to a friend, “I’ve stopped dictating—tired of it. I’ve stopped reading autobiography & admiring it—tired to death of it!”
Clemens’s lack of enthusiasm must have been merely a passing mood, however, since he did not in fact stop dictating or “reading autobiography.” From 11 to 14 June he dictated every day (as well as on six more days before the end of the month), while he continued to read and revise TS1, working his way through the backlog of over nine hundred pages by 21 June. And it was also at this time that he decided to return to a task that he had begun the previous winter but suspended in May: reviewing his earlier manuscripts, including his preliminary attempts at autobiography. On 8 June he sent Paine to the house at 21 Fifth Avenue to fetch the cache of manuscripts that he had gathered together for use in the biography as well as for his copyright scheme.
Many years later, Lyon annotated a copy of Paine’s edition where “The Tennessee Land” began, explaining that “in the winter of 1905–6” Clemens pursued his idea of using “autobiographical notes to be added to each volume on its copyright expiration, thus creating a new volume with its new copyright to be extended for 14 years. . . . He asked me for the notes he wrote in 1870 & later—& here is the beginning.” It is also likely that at about the same time she heard Clemens read the manuscript of what Paine titled “Early Years in Florida, Missouri.” She noted in Paine’s edition, “Mr Clemens called for this MS. which he read aloud to me; often deeply moved by memories his voice momentarily lost in emotion.”

Paine arrived back in Dublin on the thirteenth with a “small steamer trunk” of manuscripts. On 22 June Lyon wrote in her journal:

. . . & then after luncheon we sat on the porch & M
Clemens read the very first autobiography beginning,
a bit
written many years ago
about 1879
—44 typewritten pages, & telling of his boyhood days, & the farm, &
the joys of living in
It is a beautiful
bit of poetry—it is full of pictures & the afternoon was very very lovely
He was deeply moved as he read on & on.

Clemens may have been considering which of his early reminiscences he liked well enough to add to the autobiography, if only to enlarge its bulk. A few days earlier (17 June) he had written a long letter to Howells in which he referred to yet another way to expand his text, this one taking advantage of posthumous publication:

There’s a good deal of “fat.” I’ve dictated, (from Jan. 9) 210,000 words, & the “fat” adds about 50,000 more.
The “fat” is old pigeon-holed things, of the years gone by, which I or editors didn’t das’t to print. For instance, I am dumping in the little old book which I read to you in Hartford
about 30 years ago & which you said “publish—& ask Dean Stanley to furnish an introduction; he’ll do it.” “(Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.”) It reads quite to suit me, without altering a word, now that it isn’t to see print until I am dead.

And, in a postscript, he added: “I’ve written a short Preface. I like the title of it: ‘Spoken from the Grave.’ It will prepare the reader for the solemnities within.”

The manuscript of this preface (whose subtitle is “As from the Grave”) and a draft of the title page survive in the Mark Twain Papers, as does a typed copy of the title page, on which Clemens drafted a series of notes specifying restrictions and conditions for publishing the autobiography. He then decided to add to his short “Preface” by enlarging on these notes. Addressing his “editors, heirs and assigns,” he dwelt at facetious length on how successive editions could include more and more of his (supposedly shocking) “sound and sane expressions of opinion.”

It is now clear that by the time Clemens read aloud the “44 typewritten pages . . . telling of his boyhood days, & the farm” on 22 June, he had already decided to use that sketch to begin the
. He wrote a one-page preface called “An Early Attempt” to introduce it, then followed that with a single page instruction: “Here insert the 44 old type-written pages.” This “old” typescript has been lost, but we now know that it was a typed copy of the manuscript he called “My Autobiography [Random Extracts from It],” written in Vienna in 1897–98. It is not known when this (now missing) typescript was prepared, but it was probably no later than 1900.

At about the same time he also decided to further illustrate the evolution of his ideas about autobiography by including some of the dictations produced in Florence in 1904. To frame these he wrote a matching preface called “The Latest Attempt,” characterizing them as examples of “the right way” to do an autobiography. And he made one more change, adding “The Final (and Right) Plan” and an epigraph (“What a wee little part of a person’s life . . . ”).
The result was a three-part preface, concluding with the “Preface. As from the Grave” (divided into three sections), followed by the introductory note “Here begin the Florentine Dictations.”

The present edition prints this extensive front matter, complete and in the sequence that
Clemens intended, for the first time. All of the material was known to Paine (his penciled page numbers are on the manuscript pages). But he apparently realized that it interfered with his own plan for the autobiography: a sequence of early sketches and the Florentine Dictations in the order of their composition, followed by a selection of the Autobiographical Dictations from January through April 1906. He included the epigraph and the first section of “As from the Grave” at the beginning of his first volume, placing “The Latest Attempt” before the Florentine Dictations but calling it “Author’s Note.” He omitted entirely “An Early Attempt” and the second and third sections of “Preface. As from the Grave.”
The prefatory pages, all in the Mark Twain Papers, are shown in sequence on the facing page and reproduced in facsimile in
figures 2

Since the “44 old type-written pages” are admittedly lost, how can we be sure that they were in fact a copy of “My Autobiography [Random Extracts from It]”? And how can we tell which of the six surviving Florentine Dictations were intended to follow “As from the Grave”?

The multiple typescripts of the January–August 1906 dictations hold the answer to both questions.

Two More Typescripts: TS2 and TS4

In his postscript to the 17 June letter to Howells, Clemens had said: “I think Miss Lyon told you the reason we couldn’t send you the Autobiography—there’s only one typed copy, & we had to have it for reference, to guard against repetitions. The making of a second copy is now begun; & so, we can presently begin to mail batches of it to you.”
TS1 had been begun without any provision for a carbon copy. But Howells’s and Twichell’s interest in seeing the text earlier in April, and McClure’s interest in late May, made it increasingly clear that duplicates were vitally needed—hence the decision to begin a carbon copy of TS1 from that point, certainly no later than 11 June.
But that still left more than eight hundred pages of dictation in a unique copy, much of which had been revised.

Clemens’s postscript shows that by 17 June “a second copy” had been commissioned. In fact, not one but two typed copies of TS1 were begun in mid- to late June, soon after the various prefaces had been created: the first typed by Hobby (TS2) and the second by an unidentified typist (TS4). These sequences are distinguishable by their differences in pagination and by minute differences in their typists’ styles. Collation demonstrates that TS2 and TS4 were both copied independently from the recently revised TS1, not one from the other. Both TS2 and TS4 originally began with the “Random Extracts” text, but both omit the “Early Attempt” preface written for it. TS4 includes the other three-part preface and four of the Florentine Dictations (“John Hay,” “Notes on ‘Innocents Abroad,’” “Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Bailey Aldrich,” and “Villa di Quarto”), and TS2 originally did so as well. But only parts of TS2 for these early texts survive: gaps in it (shown by missing page numbers) cannot always be certainly reconstructed, but all surviving evidence shows that the missing pages were identical in content to those of TS4, which is the only complete record of these initial elements in Clemens’s plan. This conjecture explains why the page numbers for the January-August 1906 dictations in TS2 and TS 4 are different from each other and consistently higher than the page numbers of TS1 for the corresponding dictation. TS 1
with the Autobiographical Dictation of 9 January, having been started
Clemens decided to include any of the early material.

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