<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Fragment of a letter from Mark Twain to Orion Clemens - Feb. 6, 1862
Mark Twain Letters

Fragment of a letter from Mark Twain to Orion Clemens

NEW ORLEANS, February 6, 1862.

Mark Twain Orion Clemens

... She's a very pleasant little lady—rather pretty—about 28,—say 5 feet 2 and one quarter—would weigh 116—has black eyes and hair—is polite and intelligent—used good language, and talks much faster than I do.

She invited me into the little back parlor, closed the door; and we were alone. We sat down facing each other. Then she asked my age. Then she put her hands before her eyes a moment, and commenced talking as if she had a good deal to say and not much time to say it in. Something after this style:

MADAME. Yours is a watery planet; you gain your livelihood on the water; but you should have been a lawyer—there is where your talents lie: you might have distinguished yourself as an orator, or as an editor; you have written a great deal; you write well—but you are rather out of practice; no matter—you will be in practice some day; you have a superb constitution, and as excellent health as any man in the world; you have great powers of endurance; in your profession your strength holds out against the longest sieges, without flagging; still, the upper part of your lungs, the top of them is slightly affected—you must take care of yourself; you do not drink, but you use entirely too much tobacco; and you must stop it; mind, not moderate, but stop the use of it totally; then I can almost promise you 86 when you will surely die; otherwise look out for 28, 31, 34, 47, and 65; be careful—for you are not of a long-lived race, that is on your father's side; you are the only healthy member of your family, and the only one in it who has anything like the certainty of attaining to a great age—so, stop using tobacco, and be careful of yourself..... In some respects you take after your father, but you are much more like your mother, who belongs to the long-lived, energetic side of the house.... You never brought all your energies to bear upon any subject but what you accomplished it—for instance, you are self-made, self-educated.

S. L. C. Which proves nothing.

MADAME. Don't interrupt. When you sought your present occupation you found a thousand obstacles in the way—obstacles unknown—not even suspected by any save you and me, since you keep such matters to yourself—but you fought your way, and hid the long struggle under a mask of cheerfulness, which saved your friends anxiety on your account. To do all this requires all the qualities I have named.

S. L. C. You flatter well, Madame.

MADAME. Don't interrupt: Up to within a short time you had always lived from hand to mouth-now you are in easy circumstances—for which you need give credit to no one but yourself. The turning point in your life occurred in 1840-7-8.

S. L. C. Which was?

MADAME. A death perhaps, and this threw you upon the world and made you what you are; it was always intended that you should make yourself; therefore, it was well that this calamity occurred as early as it did. You will never die of water, although your career upon it in the future seems well sprinkled with misfortune. You will continue upon the water for some time yet; you will not retire finally until ten years from now.... What is your brother's age? 35—and a lawyer? and in pursuit of an office? Well, he stands a better chance than the other two, and he may get it; he is too visionary—is always flying off on a new hobby; this will never do—tell him I said so. He is a good lawyer—a, very good lawyer—and a fine speaker—is very popular and much respected, and makes many friends; but although he retains their friendship, he loses their confidence by displaying his instability of character..... The land he has now will be very valuable after a while—

S. L. C. Say a 50 years hence, or thereabouts. Madame—

MADAME. No—less time-but never mind the land, that is a secondary consideration—let him drop that for the present, and devote himself to his business and politics with all his might, for he must hold offices under the Government.....

After a while you will possess a good deal of property—retire at the end of ten years—after which your pursuits will be literary—try the law—you will certainly succeed. I am done now. If you have any questions to ask—ask them freely—and if it be in my power, I will answer without reserve—without reserve.

I asked a few questions of minor importance—paid her $2—and left, under the decided impression that going to the fortune teller's was just as good as going to the opera, and the cost scarcely a trifle more—ergo, I will disguise myself and go again, one of these days, when other amusements fail. Now isn't she the devil? That is to say, isn't she a right smart little woman?

When you want money, let Ma know, and she will send it. She and Pamela are always fussing about change, so I sent them a hundred and twenty quarters yesterday—fiddler's change enough to last till I get back, I reckon.


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