He has talent and knows it, and he goes into his fight eagerly and
with energy and determination–all alone, preferring to be alone.
That pathetic letter which comes to you from the incapable,
the unhelpable–how do you who are familiar with it answer it?
What do you find to say? You do not want to inflict a wound;
you hunt ways to avoid that. What do you find? How do you get out
of your hard place with a contend conscience? Do you try to explain?
The old reply of mine to such a letter shows that I tried that once.
Was I satisfied with the result? Possibly; and possibly not;
probably not; almost certainly not. I have long ago forgotten all
about it. But, anyway, I append my effort:
I know Mr. H., and I will go to him, dear madam, if upon reflection
you find you still desire it. There will be a conversation.
I know the form it will take. It will be like this:
MR. H. How do her books strike you?
MR. CLEMENS. I am not acquainted with them.
H. Who has been her publisher?
C. I don’t know.
H. She HAS one, I suppose?
C. I–I think not.
H. Ah. You think this is her first book?
C. Yes–I suppose so. I think so.
H. What is it about? What is the character of it?
C. I believe I do not know.
H. Have you seen it?
C. Well–no, I haven’t.
H. Ah-h. How long have you known her?
C. I don’t know her.
H. Don’t know her?
H. Ah-h. How did you come to be interested in her book, then?
C. Well, she–she wrote and asked me to find a publisher for her,
and mentioned you.
H. Why should she apply to you instead of me?
C. She wished me to use my influence.
H. Dear me, what has INFLUENCE to do with such a matter?
C. Well, I think she thought you would be more likely to examine
her book if you were influenced.
H. Why, what we are here FOR is to examine books–anybody’s book
that comes along. It’s our BUSINESS. Why should we turn away
a book unexamined because it’s a stranger’s? It would be foolish.
No publisher does it. On what ground did she request your influence,
since you do not know her? She must have thought you knew her
literature and could speak for it. Is that it?
C. No; she knew I didn’t.
H. Well, what then? She had a reason of SOME sort for believing you
competent to recommend her literature, and also under obligations
to do it?
C. Yes, I–I knew her uncle.
H. Knew her UNCLE?
H. Upon my word! So, you knew her uncle; her uncle knows her literature;
he endorses it to you; the chain is complete, nothing further needed;
you are satisfied, and therefore–
C. NO, that isn’t all, there are other ties. I know the cabin
her uncle lived in, in the mines; I knew his partners, too; also I
came near knowing her husband before she married him, and I DID
know the abandoned shaft where a premature blast went off and he
went flying through the air and clear down to the trail and hit
an Indian in the back with almost fatal consequences.
H. To HIM, or to the Indian?
C. She didn’t say which it was.
H. (WITH A SIGH). It certainly beats the band! You don’t know HER,
you don’t know her literature, you don’t know who got hurt when
the blast went off, you don’t know a single thing for us to build
an estimate of her book upon, so far as I–
C. I knew her uncle. You are forgetting her uncle.
H. Oh, what use is HE? Did you know him long? How long was it?
C. Well, I don’t know that I really knew him, but I must have
met him, anyway. I think it was that way; you can’t tell about
these things, you know, except when they are recent.
H. Recent? When was all this?
C. Sixteen years ago.
H. What a basis to judge a book upon! As first you said you knew him,
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