". . . of course in my story"

[This is obviously in reply to a letter from Mary Fairbanks (whom MT had been calling "Mother" since 1867). She always tried to keep MT's irreverence inside genteel bounds, objecting to his attitude toward the "Old Masters" in Innocents Abroad, and obviously anxious about his intentions toward "old England" in the book he was writing now. How sincerely "Saml" meant this reply is a question for which critics have never been able to agree on an answer.]

            Hartford Nov. 16/86
Dear Mother Fairbanks:

The story isn't a satire peculiarly, it is more especially a contrast. It merely exhibits under high lights the daily life of the times & that of to-day; & necessarily the bringing them into this immediate juxtaposition emphasizes the salients of both. Only two or three chapters of the book have been written, thus far. I expect to write three chapters a year for thirty years; then the book will be done. I am writing it for posterity only; my posterity: my great grandchildren. It is to be my holiday amusement for six days every summer the rest of my life. Of course I do not expect to publish it; nor indeed any other book -- though I fully expect to write one other book besides this one; two others, in fact, if one's autobiography may be called a book -- in fact mine will be nearer a library.

Of course in my story I shall leave unsmirched & unbelittled the great & beautiful characters drawn by the master hand of old Malory (if he drew them -- at any rate he gave them to us) -- I am only after the life of that day, that is all: to picture it; to try to get into it; to see how it feels & seems. I shall hope that under my hand Sir Galahad will still remain the divinest spectre that one glimpses among the mists & twilights of Dreamland across the wastes of the centuries; & Arthur keep his sweetness & his purity, and Launcelot abide & continue "the kindest man that ever strake the sword," yet "the sternest knight to his mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest;" & I should grieve indeed if the final disruption of the Round Table, & the extinction of its old tender & gracious friendships, & that last battle -- the Battle of the Broken Hearts, it might be called -- should lose their pathos & their tears through my handling. . . .

. . . Good-bye, & love from us all.                         Saml.

SOURCE: Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks, ed. Dixon Wecter (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1949)