THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

not content with mere signatures, he wanted a whole autograph LETTER.

I furnished it–in type-written capitals, SIGNATURE AND ALL.

It was long; it was a sermon; it contained advice; also reproaches.

I said writing was my TRADE, my bread-and-butter; I said it was

not fair to ask a man to give away samples of his trade; would he

ask the blacksmith for a horseshoe? would he ask the doctor for

a corpse?

Now I come to an important matter–as I regard it. In the year

’74 the young woman copied a considerable part of a book of mine

ON THE MACHINE. In a previous chapter of this Autobiography I

have claimed that I was the first person in the world that ever had

a telephone in the house for practical purposes; I will now claim–

until dispossess–that I was the first person in the world to APPLY

THE TYPE-MACHINE TO LITERATURE. That book must have been THE

ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER. I wrote the first half of it in ’72,

the rest of it in ’74. My machinist type-copied a book for me

in ’74, so I concluded it was that one.

That early machine was full of caprices, full of defects–devilish ones.

It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues.

After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character,

so I thought I would give it to Howells. He was reluctant, for he

was suspicious of novelties and unfriendly toward them, and he remains

so to this day. But I persuaded him. He had great confidence in me,

and I got him to believe things about the machine that I did not

believe myself. He took it home to Boston, and my morals began

to improve, but his have never recovered.

He kept it six months, and then returned it to me. I gave it away

twice after that, but it wouldn’t stay; it came back. Then I

gave it to our coachman, Patrick McAleer, who was very grateful,

because he did not know the animal, and thought I was trying to

make him wiser and better. As soon as he got wiser and better he

traded it to a heretic for a side-saddle which he could not use,

and there my knowledge of its history ends.



It is almost a fortnight now that I am domiciled in a medieval

villa in the country, a mile or two from Florence. I cannot speak

the language; I am too old not to learn how, also too busy when I

am busy, and too indolent when I am not; wherefore some will

imagine that I am having a dull time of it. But it is not so.

The “help” are all natives; they talk Italian to me, I answer

in English; I do not understand them, they do not understand me,

consequently no harm is done, and everybody is satisfied. In order

to be just and fair, I throw in an Italian word when I have one,

and this has a good influence. I get the word out of the morning paper.

I have to use it while it is fresh, for I find that Italian words

do not keep in this climate. They fade toward night, and next

morning they are gone. But it is no matter; I get a new one out

of the paper before breakfast, and thrill the domestics with it

while it lasts. I have no dictionary, and I do not want one;

I can select words by the sound, or by orthographic aspect.

Many of them have French or German or English look, and these are

the ones I enslave for the day’s service. That is, as a rule.

Not always. If I find a learnable phrase that has an imposing look

and warbles musically along I do not care to know the meaning of it;

I pay it out to the first applicant, knowing that if I pronounce it

carefully HE will understand it, and that’s enough.

Yesterday’s word was AVANTI. It sounds Shakespearian, and probably

means Avaunt and quit my sight. Today I have a whole phrase:

SONO DISPIACENTISSIMO. I do not know what it means, but it seems

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Categories: Twain, Mark