that fact that I own a machine. I have entirely stopped using
the typewriter, for the reason that I never could write a letter
with it to anybody without receiving a request by return mail that I
would not only describe the machine, but state what progress I had
made in the use of it, etc., etc. I don’t like to write letters,
and so I don’t want people to know I own this curiosity-breeding
A note was sent to Mr. Clemens asking him if the letter was genuine
and whether he really had a typewriter as long ago as that.
Mr. Clemens replied that his best answer is the following chapter
from his unpublished autobiography:
1904. VILLA QUARTO, FLORENCE, JANUARY.
Dictating autobiography to a typewriter is a new experience for me,
but it goes very well, and is going to save time and “language”–
the kind of language that soothes vexation.
I have dictated to a typewriter before–but not autobiography.
Between that experience and the present one there lies a mighty gap–
more than thirty years! It is sort of lifetime. In that wide interval
much has happened–to the type-machine as well as to the rest of us.
At the beginning of that interval a type-machine was a curiosity.
The person who owned one was a curiosity, too. But now it is the
other way about: the person who DOESN’T own one is a curiosity.
I saw a type-machine for the first time in–what year? I suppose it
was 1873–because Nasby was with me at the time, and it was in Boston.
We must have been lecturing, or we could not have been in Boston,
I take it. I quitted the platform that season.
But never mind about that, it is no matter. Nasby and I saw
the machine through a window, and went in to look at it.
The salesman explained it to us, showed us samples of its work,
and said it could do fifty-seven words a minute–a statement
which we frankly confessed that we did not believe. So he put
his type-girl to work, and we timed her by the watch. She actually
did the fifty-seven in sixty seconds. We were partly convinced,
but said it probably couldn’t happen again. But it did.
We timed the girl over and over again–with the same result always:
she won out. She did her work on narrow slips of paper, and we
pocketed them as fast as she turned them out, to show as curiosities.
The price of the machine was one hundred and twenty-five dollars.
I bought one, and we went away very much excited.
At the hotel we got out our slips and were a little disappointed
to find that they contained the same words. The girl had economized
time and labor by using a formula which she knew by heart.
However, we argued–safely enough–that the FIRST type-girl must
naturally take rank with the first billiard-player: neither of them
could be expected to get out of the game any more than a third or a
half of what was in it. If the machine survived–IF it survived–
experts would come to the front, by and by, who would double the girl’s
output without a doubt. They would do one hundred words a minute–
my talking speed on the platform. That score has long ago been beaten.
At home I played with the toy, repeated and repeating and repeated “The
Boy stood on the Burning Deck,” until I could turn that boy’s adventure
out at the rate of twelve words a minute; then I resumed the pen,
for business, and only worked the machine to astonish inquiring visitors.
They carried off many reams of the boy and his burning deck.
By and by I hired a young woman, and did my first dictating (letters,
merely), and my last until now. The machine did not do both capitals
and lower case (as now), but only capitals. Gothic capitals they were,
and sufficiently ugly. I remember the first letter I dictated.
it was to Edward Bok, who was a boy then. I was not acquainted
with him at that time. His present enterprising spirit is not new–
he had it in that early day. He was accumulating autographs, and was
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135