<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Letter from Mark Twain to W. D. Howells - Sep. 14, 1876
Mark Twain Letters

Letter from Mark Twain to W. D. Howells

Sept. 14, 1876.

Mark Twain W. D. Howells

MY DEAR HOWELLS,—Yes, the collection of caves was the origin of it. I changed it to echoes because these being invisible and intangible, constituted a still more absurd species of property, and yet a man could really own an echo, and sell it, too, for a high figure—such an echo as that at the Villa Siminetti, two miles from Milan, for instance. My first purpose was to have the man make a collection of caves and afterwards of echoes; but perceived that the element of absurdity and impracticability was so nearly identical as to amount to a repetition of an idea.....

I will not, and do not, believe that there is a possibility of Hayes's defeat, but I want the victory to be sweeping.....

It seems odd to find myself interested in an election. I never was before. And I can't seem to get over my repugnance to reading or thinking about politics, yet. But in truth I care little about any party's politics—the man behind it is the important thing.

You may well know that Mrs. Clemens liked the Parlor Car—enjoyed it ever so much, and was indignant at you all through, and kept exploding into rages at you for pretending that such a woman ever existed—closing each and every explosion with "But it is just what such a woman would do."—"It is just what such a woman would say." They all voted the Parlor Car perfection—except me. I said they wouldn't have been allowed to court and quarrel there so long, uninterrupted; but at each critical moment the odious train-boy would come in and pile foul literature all over them four or five inches deep, and the lover would turn his head aside and curse—and presently that train-boy would be back again (as on all those Western roads) to take up the literature and leave prize candy.

Of course the thing is perfect, in the magazine, without the train-boy; but I was thinking of the stage and the groundlings. If the dainty touches went over their heads, the train-boy and other possible interruptions would fetch them every time. Would it mar the flow of the thing too much to insert that devil? I thought it over a couple of hours and concluded it wouldn't, and that he ought to be in for the sake of the groundlings (and to get new copyright on the piece.)

And it seemed to me that now that the fourth act is so successfully written, why not go ahead and write the 3 preceding acts? And then after it is finished, let me put into it a low-comedy character (the girl's or the lover's father or uncle) and gobble a big pecuniary interest in your work for myself. Do not let this generous proposition disturb your rest—but do write the other 3 acts, and then it will be valuable to managers. And don't go and sell it to anybody, like Harte, but keep it for yourself.

Harte's play can be doctored till it will be entirely acceptable and then it will clear a great sum every year. I am out of all patience with Harte for selling it. The play entertained me hugely, even in its present crude state.

Love to you all.
Yrs ever,

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