[by Frank Mayo]
Why did I make a drama of Mark Twain's story of
Ah! that question unlocks the doors of memory and
awakens a thousand recollections. I am back in the early
sixties, in that great mining-camp of Virginia City, in the
At that time I was the "leading" man of Maguire's
Opera-house of San Francisco, the stock company of which
embraced the names of Julia Dean Hayne, Agnes Booth,
Charles Thorne, Louis Aldrich, and J.B. Booth. This company
was sent up to Virginia City to open the new opera-house
which had just been built there.
Here I first made the acquaintance of Samuel L. Clemens,
who was then beginning to earn fame for his nom de
guerre of Mark Twain as a writer on the staff of the
Territorial Enterprise, of which Joseph T. Goodman
was the editor.
It was through Goodman, between whom and Twain there
existed a deep and sincere affection, and which since that
time it has been my fortune to share, that I met Twain.
This meeting was epoch-making in my life and professional
career. I was then twenty-four years old, the
impressionable time of life, when friendships are founded
to endure. Ah! that country was young, too, and beginning.
Think of it: John Mackay, a miner, earning his living with
his pick and shovel; Flood & O'Brien, keepers of a
second class bar-room in Frisco, where the best drinks
could be got for a "bit," the smallest coin in use; Sharon,
a teller in a bank; James G. Fair, a lawyer of few briefs;
"Lucky" Baldwin, the owner of a livery-stable; Francis Bret
Harte, a writer on a weekly paper! At Sacramento, the great
railroad group of Huntington, Crocker, Stanford, and
Hopkins were then dealing in hardware, provisions, and
other commodities, and not even dreaming of
across-continent rails. The events in the lives of these
men in their rise to wealth, fame, and power form a greater
drama than was ever written.
It was in these days that my friendship for Mark Twain
was founded -- a friendship which has not faltered until
this time. And as well for "Joe" Goodman. And so closely
were these two men associated that I have never been able
to think of one without the presence of the other.
Ten years later I produced Davy Crockett in the
East, and all that is sweet, wholesome, and lovable -- the
happy, frank, open nature in the title role -- is based on
my conception of the nature and character of Joe Goodman;
and all that is quaint and humorous was taken from that
other friend of the trio, Mark Twain. And during all the
years of my playing Davy Crockett there was not a
night that these men were not present with me.
A strong desire had always possessed me to play
something written by Mark Twain. On a cold drizzly day in
February, 1894, late in the afternoon, I was making my way
toward the Players Club, when I saw, crossing toward me on
Fourth Avenue, the familiar face of Mark Twain. Greeting
him, I said, "Step into this doorway, Sam."
Looking up at the face of the house, the doorway of
which I had indicated, with his inimitable drawl Twain
replied: "Frank, haven't you made a mistake? They don't
sell it in here!"
"I shan't detain you long, Sam, for you must be going
somewhere, since you are out in this weather," I said. "I
want to take one of your stories and write a play around
"Which one?" he asked.
"What is the matter with 'Pudd'nhead Wilson'?" I asked
in turn, and then added, "I have read two numbers."
"Well," said Sam, "go ahead. I am going to a supper, and
must hurry away. But you can have 'Pudd'nhead.""
"But about the terms?" I asked.
"Oh, we'll settle that later. Come down to the club any
time between eleven and midnight, and we'll talk it over."
He moved away, and turned to say, "You write the play,
Frank -- write anything you like; you needn't submit it. I
know it'll be good. I'll arrange that you shall have the
In a moment more he was lost in the mist, and that is
all that was said between us on the subject.
Very shortly after this conversation I began the labor
of turning his story into a play. Just when the character
of Pudd'nhead Wilson and Mark Twain became to me one and
inseparable I cannot now tell. Perhaps it was on the first
reading, but now as I look upon it I doubt if there ever
was a moment in my mind when they were two separate
individuals. And in it -- I mean the writing -- I lost my
own identity, and seemed to become the hand and instrument
of Mark Twain.
The result is before the world, and New York has passed
judgment upon it. This is how and why I dramatized