"To get the right word in the right place is rare achievement."After fanciful talk about being nominated postmaster general of San Francisco in this chatty letter to his shipmate, Emma Beach, Clemens thanks her for taking the time in her busy schedule to write him a long letter. He then delves into a discussion of fine art of writing: "To get the right word in the right place is rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself. ... Any body can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them, without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
"I cannot afford to expose my want of cultivation too much. Neither can I afford to remain uncultivated." After declaring he owes Henry Ward Beecher three dollars, Clemens returns to Emma's critique of old master paintings, which she fears he will lampoon in Innocents Abroad, as he had with everyone on board the Quaker City and everything they encountered on the cruise. " 'Do I suppose that you are going to tell me about those pictures & go into ecstasies over them, only that I may make fun of them?' Now what can you mean by such conduct as those? Don't you accuse me of such things. Put you to all that trouble a task which you have done so well & with such an honest good will and with such self-evident earnestness & then make fun of the subject of it? ... I have joked about the old masters a good deal in m y letters, but nearly all of that will have to come out. I cannot afford to expose my want of cultivation too much. Neither can I afford to remain uncultivated. ... With your letter to be guided by, I can talk learnedly about Murillo, & appreciatively, withal ... That will rather surprise Mrs. Fairbanks, who looks upon me as a heretic in art." Mary Mason Fairbanks was also on the Quaker City excursion, acting as a correspondent for her husband's newspaper the Cleveland Herald. She and Clemens grew close on the trip: she helped edit his travel letters—but more importantly—"Mother Fairbanks" (as Clemens affectionately called her) had a civilizing effect on this brash young man from the wild, wild West.
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