Letters to Livy

[While on the tour MT wrote letters to his wife, Olivia, almost every other day. Eighteen of his letters are included in Dixon Wecter's Love Letters of Mark Twain, and it is from that selection that the following excerpts have been taken. Most of the letters were written in hotel rooms, before or, more often, just after his performance. They are signed "SAML."]

from New York, Saturday [November 22], after midnight --

Livy dear, only a line to say we finished the eighth performance for this week in Brooklyn Academy of Music at 10 this evening, & then came over the Bridge & home. Tired to death, & hungry. Disposed of two great chops, 3 eggs, fried potatoes, & a bottle of ale. I eat a big breakfast every morning & a big supper every night, & am growing fat. We got up at 6 this morning, & have talked to two huge houses in Brooklyn to-day. Mr. Beecher & the Sages were there tonight & Dean came behind the scenes.


from Grand Rapids, December 13 --

Only one word, my darling, to say we have ridden the whole day in the train, & now I am in bed for an hour to rest me before going on the platform. You & the children have been in my mind all the day, & I have been very homesick & still am. I ate a lot of chestnuts that I found in my overcoat pockets, & that brought the children very near to me, for all three of them contributed to that stock. I love you, dear, & the time seems very long, that remains yet betwixt us & meeting.


from Pittsburgh, December 29 --

Well, mamma, dear, the child is born. To-night I read the new piece -- the piece which Clara Spaulding's impassibility dashed & destroyed months ago -- & it's the biggest card I've got in my whole repertoire. I always thought so. It went a-booming; & Cable's praises are not merely loud, they are boisterous. Says its literary quality is high & fine -- & great; its truth to boy nature unchallengeable; its humor constant & delightful; & its dramatic close full of stir, & boom, & go. Well, he has stated it very correctly. It took me 45 minutes to recite it, (didn't use any notes) & it hadn't a doubtful place in it, or a silent spot. Ah, if it goes like that in its crude rude state, how won't it go when I get it well in hand? I make 2 separate readings of it, & Cable sings a couple of songs in the middle.

Come to think, I guess Clara never heard this -- nor you either: I got disgusted, that night, before I got to this, I think. This is merely the episode where Tom & Huck stock Jim's cabin with reptiles, & then set him free, in the night, with the crowd of farmers after them with guns.


from Paris [Kentucky], New Year's --

Livy darling, we have had a most pleasant evening here -- in a region familiar to Ma when she was a girl some seventy or eighty years ago. Whenever we strike a Southern audience they laugh themselves all to pieces. They catch a point before you can get it out -- & then, if you are not a muggins, you don't get it out; you leave it unsaid. It is a great delight to talk to such folks.


from Chicago, January 18 --

We've had an immense time here with these three big audiences in this noble Central Music Hall. But for the fearful storm, we would have turned people away from the doors. It is a beautiful place, & you should have seen that alert & radiant mass of well-dressed humanity, rising tier on tier clear to the slope of the ceiling. Last night was the greatest triumph we have ever made. I played my new bill, containing The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (cut it down & told it in 13 minutes -- quickest time on record) & Tom & Huck setting Jim free from prison -- 25 minutes -- but it just went with a long roll of artillery-laughter all down the line, interspersed with Congreve rockets & bomb shell explosions, from the first word to the last -- & then after a thrice- repeated crash of encores, I came back & talked a ten-minute yarn (Gov. Gardiner) -- on the stage 35 minutes, you see, & no harm done -- encored again after the encore, & came back & bowed. And mind I tell the old Jumping Frog swept the place like a conflagration. Nothing in this world can beat that yarn when one is feeling good & has the right audience in front of him.

We've got a new plan, & it works. Cable goes on at the very stroke of the hour, & talks 15 minutes to an assembling house, telling them not to be concerned about him & he won't be troubled. And so, with all the encores, we have in no instance been on stage a minute over 2 hours. The good effect is beyond estimation. (And privately, another thing -- only half the house hear C.'s first piece -- so there isn't too much of C any more -- whereas heretofore there has been a thundering sight too much of him.)


from Columbus, February 10 --

Livy darling, rode all day in a smoking car, yesterday, stopping every 30 yards, arrived here in a rain storm about 2 hours after dark, jumped into evening dress in a desperate hurry & came before a full OperaHouse of the handsomest people you ever saw, & made them shout, & tore them all to pieces till half past 10, & not an individual deserted till the thing was over. I have been 3 months learning my trade, but I have learned it at last, & now I would rather stand before such an audience as that than play billiards. After the show (& a hot supper) Pond & I did play billiards until 2 A.M., & then I scoured myself in the bath, & read & smoked till 3, then slept till half past 9, had my breakfast in bed, & now have just finished that meal & am feeling as fine as a bird.