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Scott Holmes
Mark Twain and most anything Geographic
Mark Twain and most anything Geographic


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I have been intermittently been working on my Twain's Geography web project and recently added a section on his visit to Benares, India now known as Varanasi. This section is pretty much a cut and paste affair from Following the Equator and Ian Strathcarron's book, The Indian Equator, which provides an excellent comparison of Twain's visit to the Raj and contemporay India.
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This is the first of six chapters concerning Mark Twain in Bombay
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
Humor is subjective. I had previously thought that Mark Twain’s departure from Washoe was prompted by the community’s reaction to the Miscegenation Hoax. Now, I expect he would have departed in any case, events related to the Sanitary Fund only expedited his departure. It seems there were those within his profession as reporter that disapproved of his sense of humor.
“Never before, in a long period of newspaper intercourse—never before in any contact with a contemporary, however unprincipled he might have been, have we found an opponent in statement or in discussion, who had no gentlemanly sense of professional propriety, who conveyed in every word, and in every purpose of all his words, such a groveling disregard for truth, decency and courtesy, as to seem to court the distinction only of being understood as a vulgar liar. Meeting one who prefers falsehood; whose instincts are all toward falsehood; whose thought is falsification; whose aim is vilification through insincere professions of honesty; one whose only merit is thus described, and who evidently desires to be thus known, the obstacles presented are entirely insurmountable, and whoever would touch them fully, should expect to be abominably defiled.”
(From one of the “anonymous articles” published in the Union on 21 May)
SLC to James L. Laird, 21 May 1864, Virginia City, Nev. (UCCL 00079), n. 2. <;style=letter;brand=mtp#an2>

James E. Caron, in his book “Mark Twain Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter”, spends a good deal of time on just what might be expected of journalists and newspaper reporters, and the difference between Sam Clemens and Mark Twain. “By the end of February 1863, two roles for Mark Twain as narrator had emerged in the work of Sam Clemens,… the respectable and the unsanctified newspaper reporters.” The respectable “denotes a competent, clever observer who nevertheless turns a comic phrase or employs tall-tale conventions...” The unsanctified “entails the clown and the fool in Clemens’s comic journalism.”
Washoe Mark Twain was playing with comic dynamite. Caron establishes a schema, or spectrum, of Clemens’ writings: “Reporting, reporting with a dramatic or comic flair, burlesquing reporting, fictionalizing events for comic purposes, making up stories to rail at your friends and annoy your enemies...” and “only a short step remains to a final category: ‘reporting yarns,’ or hoaxes.”
Clemens’s final hoax in Washoe, the miscegenation hoax, appears to be quite serious but it was not his most serious difficulty to come from Gridley’s flour sack. Caron notes that “Had Clemens confined his joking about the Sanitary Fund to the crack about miscegenation, his impending troubles would have been limited to mollifying the women of Carson City, but he had more tricks in his bag of comic abuse.”
There was a competition between the “Virginia City Daily Union” and the “Virginia City Territorial Enterprise” to see who would bid the most for the sack.
“The other day the Daily Union gave $200, and I gave $300, under instructions from the proprietors always to ‘go them a hundred better.’ To-night the Union bid $100, and I bid $150 for the Enterprise. I had to go to the office to make up my report, and the Union fellows came back and bid another $100. It was provoking, because I had orders to run our bid up to $1,000, if necessary, and I only struck the Union lightly to draw them on. But I guess we’ll make them hunt their holes yet, before we are done with them.”
SLC to Jane Lampton Clemens and Pamela A. Moffett, 17 May 1864, Virginia City, Nev. (UCCL 00077), n. 18. <;style=letter;brand=mtp#an18>

In response to the Union’s second bid of $100, Clemens published the following item in the Enterprise of 18 May:
“How Is It?—While we had no representative at the mass meeting on Monday evening, the Union overbid us for the flour—or at least ex-Alderman Bolan bid for that paper, and said that he would be responsible for the extra hundred dollars. He may have an opportunity, as we are told that the Union (or its employés, whichever it is,) has repudiated the bid. We would like to know about this matter, if we may make so free. “
SLC (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). 1864. “‘How Is It?’ in ‘How Is It?’—How It Is.” Virginia City Union, 19 May, 2. Reprinting the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise of 18 May, not extant.
On 19 May the Virginia City Union had responded with a long and bitter editorial that reprinted “How Is It?” and included a 17 May receipt for the Union’s sanitary-fund contributions, pointing out that the Enterprise had not yet fulfilled its own pledges, a “characteristic” omission:
“When a question is first sounded it inhales much of the wind of the occasion, bubbles up high, shows out empty, braggart-like, and then goes down sniveling or sneering. In the instance of patriotism and philanthropy its sensibility is excited while the drums beat, then it is irrepressibly prominent and liberal. Returning to the even course of its instincts, it regrets its gifts and sublimates its manners into the most contemptible self praise, introduced through falsifying insinuations against its neighbors.”
Calling the Enterprise’s insinuations “despicable” and without “parallel in unmanly public journalism,” the Union charged: “Such an item could only emanate from a person whose employer can find in his services a machine very suitable to his own manliness” (“‘How Is It?’—How It is,” Virginia City Union, 19 May 64, 2). Clemens immediately replied with an Enterprise editorial, which provoked the responses he protests in the next letter.
SLC to Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens, 20 May 1864, Virginia City, Nev. (UCCL 00078), n. 3. <;style=letter;brand=mtp#an3>

To James L. Laird
21 May 1864 • Virginia City, Nev. Terr. 
(Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, 24 May 64, UCCL 00079)
Enterprise Office,
Saturday, May 21, 1864

James Laird, Esq.—Sir: In your paper of the present date appeared two anonymous articles, in which a series of insults were leveled at the writer of an editorial in Thursday’s Enterprise, headed “How is it?—How it is.” I wrote that editorial.
Some time since it was stated in the Virginia Union that its proprietors were alone responsible for all articles published in its columns. You being the proper person, by seniority, to apply to in cases of this kind, I demand of you a public retraction of the insulting articles I have mentioned, or satisfaction. I require an immediate answer to this note. The bearer of this—Mr. Stephen Gillis—will receive any communication you may see fit to make.
SLC to James L. Laird, 21 May 1864, Virginia City, Nev. (UCCL 00079). <;style=letter;brand=mtp>
The animosity continued to spiral seemingly out of control, with invectives such as “cowardly sneak”, “craven carcass”, and “unmitigated liar”. Challenges to duels were issued.
Sam Clemens determined that the time was ripe for his departure from Washoe.
To Orion and Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens
25 May 1864 • Virginia City, Nev. Terr. 

Va, Wednesday A.M.
My Dear Bro.
Don’t stump for the Sanitary Fund—Billy Clagett says he certainly will not. If I have been so unlucky as to rob you of some of your popularity by that unfortunate item, I claim at your hands that you neither increase nor diminish it by so fruitless a proceeding as making speeches for the Fund. I am mighty sick of that fund—it has caused me all my d—d troubles—& I shall leave the Territory when your first speech is announced, & leave it for good.
I see by the Union of this morning, that those ladies have seduced from me what I consider was a sufficient apology, coming from a man open to a challenge from three persons, & already awaiting the issue of such a message to another—they got out of me what no man would ever have got, & then—well, they are ladies, & I shall not speak harshly of them. Now although the Union folks have kept quiet this morning, (much against my expectations,) I still have a quarrel or two on hand—so that this flour sack business may rest, as far as Carson is concerned. I shall take no notice of it at all, except to mash Mr Laird over the head with my revolver for publishing it if I meet him to-day—otherwise, I do nothing. I consider that I have triumphed over those ladies at last, & I am quits with them. But when I forgive the injury—or forget it—or fail to set up a score against it, as opportunity offers—may I be able to console myself for it with the consciousness that I have become a marvellously better man. I have no intention of hunting for the puppy, Laird, Mollie, but he had better let me have 24 hours unmolested, to get cool in.
But for Heaven’s sake give me at least the peace & quiet it will afford me to know that no stumping is to be done for the unlucky Sanitary Fund.
Yro Bro
SLC to Orion and Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens, 25 May 1864, Virginia City, Nev. (UCCL 00081). <;style=letter;brand=mtp>

On May 29th, Sam Clemens left town. The competing newspapers and the husbands of the Carson City Ladies were glad to see him go but disdain for Twain was apparently rather short lived. He returned two years later, October and November of 1866, after having achieved a measure of fame from his letters and lectures on the Sandwich Islands. He gave lectures to packed houses in Virginia City and a “roaring crowd” in Carson City. He returned to Carson City again in April of 1868 to give lectures on his journey aboard the Quaker City.
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The suit may be white but it's definitely not the same style as Twains - neither is Wolfe's writing.
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
Other than Dimsdale’s book, cited by Twain in Roughing It, I first became aware of the origin of Twain’s writings about Jack Slade from Gary Scharnhorst’s book, but he did not include the citations. I found them in the Mark Twain Project’s archives, first in the notes on Roughing It and then in the Letters Section. Sam requested of Orion all he could remember of their learning about Slade:

“Please sit down right away & torture your memory & write down in minute detail every fact & exploit in the desperado Slade’s life that we heard on the Overland—& also describe his appearance & conversation as we saw him at Rocky Ridge station at breakfast. I want to make up a telling chapter from it for the book—& will put it in the Publisher too, as soon as the agents begin to canvass.”

“SLC to Orion Clemens, 10 March 1871, Buffalo, N.Y. (UCCL 02453).” In <i>Mark Twain’s Letters, 1870–1871.</i> Edited by Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, and Lin Salamo. Mark Twain Project Online. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 1995, 2007. <;style=letter;brand=mtp>, accessed 2018-05-12.

Orion’s response:

“I don’t think we heard of Slade till after we had left Rocky Ridge Station—the last before reaching South Pass station where the clouds looked so low, where we saw the first snow, and where a spring with waters destined for the Atlantic stood within a man’s length (or within sight) of another spring whose waters were about to commence a voyage to the Pacific. There was nothing then in a name to attract us to Slade, and yet I remember something of his appearance while totally forgetting all the others. Perhaps the driver’s description caused the difference. We got there (to R R Station) about sun up. There were a lot of fellows, young and rough in a room adjoining that in which we sat. —if indeed it was not in the same room. They were washing in a tin pan, joking, laughing and chaffing each other, and kept it up at the table. I don’t remember what they said, or anything they said, but I believe the subject was their hostelry and silly trifles. I think Slade got to the table after every body else did, and shewed good appetite for the bacon slices, &c. I think he was about your size, if any difference rather shorter and more slender. He had gray eyes, very light straight hair, no beard, and a hard, looking face seamed like a man of 60, though otherwise he did not seem over thirty. I think the sides of his face were wrinkled. His face was thin, his nose straight and ordinarily prominent—lips rather thinner than usual—otherwise nothing unusual about his mouth, except that his smile was attractive and his manner pleasant. Nothing peculiar about his voice. It does not leave a pleasant recollection.—but I don’t know in what respect—it was neither very fine nor very coarse. My impression is that he was a division agent, from Overland City to Salt Lake.—having two several conductors under him. The one who wanted us to lend him a pistol, I think had about two hundred miles or 240 miles of the road. Slade was not a conductor. He had the conductors and drivers under him. They were a wild and desperate set, and the contractors on the Butterfield line (It seems to me that was the name of the old weekly or monthly line there and when the new daily line came on that he (Butterfield) took his stock south and ran the southern overland route through Santa Fe.,) kept him a long time after they knew of his infernal deviltry, because he was the only man conductors, drivers and station men held in awe. It seems to me we had got down off the Rocky mountains—no, now may be it was before we reached the foot of the last ridge on this side, after all, that the driver commenced telling about Slade. I was sitting outside with the driver. I don’t recollect whether you were sitting with us or inside, and I told you afterwards. Any how it was getting late, we were on level ground and hasting to make the next station, when the driver pointed out to me (or us) a corral and told us that there had been a fight there. Some spaniards were keeping the station. They were contumacious in some way and Slade brought some of his men over from other stations. The Spaniards used their corral as a fortification, but Slade’s party was victorious. There were several, but he killed them all. One of them had a squaw wife and two little children. Sladefastened them up in a house (or the house) and setting fire to it burned them to death, swearing none of the breed should live. There had been bad blood between him and the Spaniards some time. Once they got him fastened up in the station by fastening the door when he was in, mounting guard and giving him half an hour to prepare for death. He entreated them to permit him to bid farewell to his wife. They finally consented that he might send for her. He dispatched a note for her by the pony express which seems to have come along about the right time. She came immediately on horseback and was allowed to enter his room. For a wonder he seems to have been caught without his arms, and that he only needed a visit from his wife to supply the deficiency, for soon after her arrival he issued with her from the station, having a pistol in each hand, with which he defied his guards, and mounting the horse with his wife galloped away.

Once Slade had a quarrel with a huge teamster, and in apparent excess of courage dared the latter to fight. Whether the teamster had got him “covered” first, or whether Slade was afraid of the result on some other account, he proposed that each should throw away his pistol and fight a fair fist fight. The teamster agreed and the pistols were flung one side; but the moment the teamster’s pistol left his hand Slade sprang for the pistols, obtained both and shot the teamster dead.
Slade had a desperate fight at Overland City with Julian a Frenchman. Sladehad a pistol and the Frenchman a shot gun. He was as desperate a man as Slade, and forced the latter to retreat into a house where he took refuge behind a door which stood ajar. They shot at each other through the door, and Slade was so badly wounded about the body that he was confined to his bed several weeks. Julian improved the opportunity to leave for the purpose of avoiding Slade’s vengeance. He went to Pikes Peak and was gone about six months. He returned and was captured by Slade or his friends near one of the stations., and bound to a tree. Then Slade cut off his ears, tantalized him, poured out invectives on him, shot so as barely to miss him several times, and after torturing him half an hour in these ways, killed him.
I don’t know how he came to leave that road, but he went to Montana, where he was hanged by a vigilance committee. I believe his offence was belonging to a gang of horse thieves and robbers, with some particular murder laid to his charge. On the scaffold he was unmanned by terror and begged piteously for life.

Charlie Kincaid had a rough time on that old mail route with the Indians once. If you want it I guess Mollie will remember something about it.

I have done the best I could on Slade—told all I can remember—and more than I recollect distinctly or feel entirely certain of—trusting that it would be practically near enough correct.”

"Item 3 OC to SLC, 1871," in Roughing It : an electronic text. 2016 <;style=work;brand=mtp;>
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
Robert Stewart, in an email to Twain-L (Thu, 10 May 2018), makes a compelling argument that Twain’s forest fire was not as destructive as his description in “Roughing It” would have us believe.

“Shelly limits Clemens' fire at 200 acres, a number far short of Twain's description. Two hundred acres is just under a third of a square mile. Over two thousand would be closer (640 acres to the square mile) However, to say it burned down the forest is a gross overstatement. There is every indication, even in Clemens' 1961 post fire letter, that it was a brush fire in the forest. He would not have returned a few days after the fire to post fresh claim notices for burned trees, nor would the Timber Barons of the 1870s have bothered with dead trees.”
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
Point Counter Point on Jack Slade: Recollections and fabrications by Twain and Burton

When I first recorded the chapters from “Roughing It” devoted to Jack Slade, there were children in the virtual world audience of Second Life. They were quickly gone, likely repelled by the level of violence. Twain’s tale of breakfast with the desperado is quite colorful, almost entirely fictional. It seems the Clemens brothers did share breakfast with Mr. Slade but without any knowledge of who he was or his deeds. According the Gary Scharnhorst, “The Life of Mark Twain, The Early Years”, Twain begged of his brother Orion, “Please sit down right away & torture your memory & write down in minute detail every fact & exploit in the desperado Slade’s life that we heard on the Overland--& also describe his appearance & conversation as we saw him at Rocky Ridge station at breakfast,”. Orion’s response was limited.

While in Buffalo, NY in 1870, Twain, writing his book, was seeking more information about Jack Slade. He wrote to the Postmaster of Virginia City, Hezekiah L. Hosmer:

Dear Sir:

Four or five years ago a righteous Vigilance Committee in your city hanged a casual acquaintance of mine named Slade, along with twelve other prominent citizens whom I only knew by reputation. Slade was a “section-agent” at Rocky Ridge station in the Rocky Mountains when I crossed the plains in the Overland stage ten years ago, & I took breakfast with him & survived.

Now I am writing a book (MS. to be delivered to publisher Jan. 1,) & as the Overland journey has made six chapters of it thus far & promises to make six or eight more, I thought I would just rescue my late friend Slade from oblivion & set a sympathetic public to weeping for him.

Such a humanized fragment of the original Devil could not & did not go out of the world without considerable newspaper eclat, in the shape of biographical notices, particulars of his execution, etc., & the object of this letter is to beg of you to ask some one connected with your city papers to send me a Virginia City newspaper of that day if it can be done without mutilating a file.”

“SLC to the Postmaster of Virginia City, Mont. Terr. ..., 15 Sept 1870, Buffalo, N.Y. (UCCL 00506).” In Mark Twain’s Letters, 1870–1871.";style=letter;brand=mtp

From a note in the Mark Twain Project’s annotations of this letter: “Hosmer’s reply is not known to survive, but it seems likely that he sent Clemens, or referred him to, Thomas J. Dimsdale’s The Vigilantes of Montana(1866). The book, based on articles Dimsdale had published in the Virginia City Montana Post in 1865–66, was a primary source for Clemens’s account of Slade in Roughing It.

Slade and his wife Molly lived at the Horseshoe Creek Station, forty miles northwest of Fort Laramie, far to the east of Rocky Ridge Station. Richard Burton reported at length on his visit to this station:

There was little to remark, except that the country was poor and bad, that there was clear water in a ravine to the right, and that we were very tired and surly. But as sorrow comes to an end as well as joy, so at 9:30 PM we drove in somewhat consoled to Horseshoe Station, - the old <i>Fer a Cheval,</a> - where one of the road agents, Mr. Slade, lived and where we anticipated superior comfort.

We were <i>entiches</i> by the aspect of the buildings, which were on an extensive scale - in fact, got up regardless of expense. An ominous silence, however, reigned around. At last, by hard knocking, we were admitted into a house with the Floridian style of veranda previously described, and by the pretensions of the room we at once divined our misfortune - we were threatened with a "lady." The "lady" will, alas! follow us to the Pacific: even in hymns we read, -

<i>Now let the Prophet's heart rejoice,
His noble lady's too.</i>

Our mishap was really worse than we expected - we were exposed to two "ladies," and of these one was a Bloomer. It is only fair to state that it was the only hermaphrodite of the kind that ever met my eyes in the United States: the great founder of the order has long since subsided into her original obscurity, and her acolytes have relapsed into the weakness of petticoats. The Bloomer was an uncouth being, her hair, cut level with her eyes, depended with the graceful curl of a drake's tail around a flat Turanian countenance, whose only expression was sullen insolence. The body-dress, glazed brown calico, fitted her somewhat like a soldier's tunic, developing haunches which would be admired only in venison; and – curious inconsequence of woman's nature! - all this sacrifice of appearance upon the shrine of comfort did not prevent her wearing that kind of crinoline depicted by Mr Punch upon "our Mary Hanne." The pantalettes of glazed brown calico, like the vest, tunic, blouse, shirt, or whatever they may call it, were in peg-top style, admirably setting off a pair of thin-soled Frenchified patent-leather bottines, with elastic sides, which contained feet large, broad, and flat as a negro's in Unyamwezi. The dear creature had a husband: it was hardly safe to look at her, and as for sketching her, I avoided it, as men are bidden by the poet to avoid the way of Slick of Tennessee. The other "lady," though more decently attired, was like women in this wild part of the world generally - cold and disagreeable in manner, full of "proper pride," with a touch-me-not air, which reminded me of a certain Miss Baxter
Who refused a man before he axed her

Her husband was the renowned Slade: -

Of gougers fierce, the eyes that pierce, the fiercest gouger he.

His was a noted name for "deadly strife"; he had the reputation of having killed his three men; and a few days afterward the grave that concealed one of his murders was pointed out to me. This pleasant individual "for an evening party" wore the revolver and bowie-knife here, there, and everywhere. He had lately indeed had a strong hint not to forget his weapon. One M. Jules, a French trader, after a quarrel which took place at dinner, walked up to him and fired a pistol, wounding him in the breast. As he rose to run away Jules discharged a second, which took effect upon his back, and then without giving him time to arm, fetched a gun and favored him with a dose of slugs somewhat larger than revolver bullets. The fiery Frenchman had two narrow escapes from Lynch-lawyers: twice he was hung between wagons, and as often he was cut down. At last he disappeared in the farther West, and took to lodge and squaw. The avenger of blood threatens to follow him up, but as yet he has taken no steps.

It at once became evident that the station was conducted upon the principle of the Western hotel-keeper of the last generation, and of Continental Europe about AD 1500 - the innkeeper of "Anne of Geierstein" - that is to say, for his own convenience; the public there was the last thing thought of. One of our party who had ventured into the kitchen was fiercely ejected by the "ladies." In asking about dormitories we were informed that "lady travelers" were admitted into the house, but that the ruder sex must sleep where it could - or not sleep at all if it preferred. We found a barn outside; it was hardly fit for a decently brought-up pig; the floor was damp and knotty; there was not even a door to keep out the night breeze, now becoming raw, and several drunken fellows lay in different parts of it. Two were in one bunk, embracing maudlingly, and freely calling for drinks of water. Into this disreputable hole we were all thrust for the night: among us, it must be remembered, was a federal judge, who had officiated for years as minister at a European court. His position, poor man! procured him nothing but a broken-down pallet. It was his first trip to the Far West, and yet, so easily are Americans satisfied, and so accustomed are they to obey the ridiculous jack-in-office who claims to be one of the powers that be, he scarcely uttered a complaint. I for one grumbled myself to sleep. May gracious Heaven keep us safe from all "ladies" in future! - better a hundred times the squaw with her uncleanliness and civility.
(The City of the Saints: p 91-95)
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
The long way to St. Joseph: Gary Scharnhorst reports, in The Life of Mark Twain, The Early Years, that by taking the river boat on the Missouri "the Clemens brothers avoided the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, which would have saved time if not money, because as a wartime asset it invited attack." He says that Horace Greeley had completed the journey across the state in twelve hours two years earlier. Richard Francis Burton did not mention this railway in his book, The City of the Saints.
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Scott Holmes commented on a post on Blogger.
The debate about the location of Twain's campsite remains of local interest, at least. Signs of his forest fire are all but gone with the general clear cutting and development throughout the area. Tahoe is not the Tahoe that Twain knew. I've recently been made aware of this essay by Shelley Fisher Fishkin. It would seem that Twain is not the only literary giant guilty of arson.
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