Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Admits
US Military Books “make me swear!”
SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS, “MARK TWAIN” (1835-1910). American Author and Humorist.
September 28 (no year), Autograph Letter Signed, “S L Clemens,” One page, 8.75” x 5.5”, Octavo, from Hartford, Conn., written in pencil to “Mrs. Parker,” Very Fine. The “S L Clemens” signature is very clear, measures approximately 2” long. This entire Letter being very easily readable having typical light mailing folds and minor traces of prior mounting in its four reverse corners. Here, Samuel Clemens writes, in full:
“Hartford, Sep. 28. --- Dear Mrs. Parker: --- No, I don’t like to read US books; they make me swear. And I can’t publish a story – or other work – because we are full of military literature for several years yet. I greet you again with pleasure; you were a good audience all by yourself. -- Truly Yours, (Signed) SL Clemens”.
According to the 7th Edition, published January 2009, of the “Sanders Autograph Price Guide” their listed value for a Samuel Clemens ALS with excellent content can rise to a lofty $19,000 as per prior auction sales records. This very personal content and somewhat opinionated Letter is certainly a reference to the avalanche of Civil War literature that flooded the American publishing market in the years following war. In addition to first-person and fictional accounts of nearly every battle, many of the aging generals and statesmen who shaped the outcome of the war had taken to writing memoirs of their war experiences during their twilight years. In fact, Twain himself had collaborated with Ulysses S. Grant in writing the General’s own memoirs!
As a Missourian during the Civil War, Twain served in the militia to defend his state in the event of a Union invasion, but his unit was disbanded after a very short period of service. It’s possible that his reference to “US books” in the present letter shows him taking issue with Unionist writings specifically; however, it’s more likely that he is siding against war literature in general.
For most of his life, Twain remained opposed to war as a “wanton waste of projectiles”, and later wrote in his autobiography, “Before I had chance in another war, the desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away.”