467
467
Clemens, Samuel L.
Estimate
4,0006,000
LOT SOLD. 3,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT
467
Clemens, Samuel L.
Estimate
4,0006,000
LOT SOLD. 3,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

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New York

Clemens, Samuel L.
Autograph letter signed ("Clemens"), 4 pages, Buffalo, 20 December [1870, recipient's date docket on p. 4], to his publisher Elisha Bliss, discussing plans to send his friend and drinking buddy John Henry Riley to South Africa to collect notes for a book in the style of Innocents Abroad; remnants of guards on left margins.
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Catalogue Note

"I'll set it down red hot, & that book will just make the 'Innocents' look sick!" When Clemens learned about the South African diamond rush, he envisaged that a popular account would be a huge commercial success, and determined to write a book on the subject without going there himself. He invited his friend John H. Riley, whom he had met in the 1860s in San Francisco where they both were newspaper reporters, to collect notes for a book that Clemens would write in the style of Innocents Abroad.  The trip was less than successful: Riley worked for three months in the diamond fields without finding a single gem. By the time he returned to America, Clemens's enthusiasm for the project had waned and never used Riley's notes (some nineteen pages). "Have just read over, approved & signed that contract & it will go to you to-night. Riley is my man ... He sails Jan 4 for Africa ... I have roomed with him long & have known him years. He has 'roughed it' in many savage countries & is as tough as a pine-nut. He is the very best man in the entire United States for this mission—& when he comes back & tells me his story ... I'll set it down red hot, & that book will just make 'Innocents' look sick!"

In closing, Clemens asks after his brother Orion whom Bliss had hired in October 1870 to edit a company magazine. During his brief tenure, Orion alerted his brother to Bliss's questionable accounting practices regarding Clemens's royalties. Nevertheless Clemens remained with the American Publishing Company until Bliss died and later published with his son Frank.  The suspicion that Bliss had cheated him returned to rankle him in 1906, when he savaged Bliss as a "tall, lean, skinny, yellow, toothless, bald-headed, rat-eyed professional liar and scoundrel" who "never did an honest think in his life, when he had a chance to do a dishonest one" (quoted in Rasmussen, Mark Twain A to Z, p. 38). 

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

|
New York