and literature. The following correspondence reveals the fine diplomacy which made the name of John Hay known throughout the world.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Washington, June 21, 1880.
Are you in Cleveland for all this week? If you will say yes by return mail, I have a masterpiece to submit to your consideration which is only in my hands for a few days.
Yours, very much worritted by the depravity of Christendom,
The second letter discloses Hay's own high opinion of the effort and his deep concern for its safety.
June 24, 1880
My dear Gunn:
Here it is. It was written by Mark Twain in a serious effort to bring back our literature and philosophy to the sober and chaste Elizabethan standard. But the taste of the present day is too corrupt for anything so classic. He has not yet been able even to find a publisher. The Globe has not yet recovered from Downey's inroad, and they won't touch it.
I send it to you as one of the few lingering relics of that race of appreciative critics, who know a good thing when they see it.
Read it with reverence and gratitude and send it back to me; for Mark is impatient to see once more his wandering offspring.
In his third letter one can almost hear Hay's chuckle in the certainty that his diplomatic, if somewhat wicked, suggestion would bear fruit.
Washington, D. C.July 7, 1880
My dear Gunn:
I have your letter, and the proposition which you make to pull a few proofs of the masterpiece is highly attractive, and of course highly immoral. I cannot properly consent to it, and I am afraid the great many would think I was taking an unfair advantage of his confidence. Please send back the document as soon as you can, and if, in spite of my prohibition, you take these proofs, save me one.
Very truly yours,
Thus was this Elizabethan dialogue poured into the moulds of cold type. According to Merle Johnson, Mark Twain's bibliographer, it was issued in pamphlet form, without wrappers or covers; there were 8 pages of text and the pamphlet measured 7 by 8 1/2 inches. Only four copies are believed to have been printed, one for Hay, one for Gunn, and two for Twain.
"In the matter of humor," wrote Clemens, referring to Hay's delicious notes, "what an unsurpassable touch John Hay had!"
HUMOR AT WEST POINT
The first printing of 1601 in actual book form was "Donne at ye Academie Press," in 1882, West Point, New York, under the supervision of Lieut. C. E. S. Wood, then adjutant of the U. S. Military Academy.
In 1882 Mark Twain and Joe Twichell visited their friend Lieut. Wood at West Point, where they learned that Wood, as Adjutant, had under his control a small printing establishment. On Mark's return to Hartford, Wood received a letter asking if he would do Mark a great favor by printing something he had written, which he did not care to entrust to the ordinary printer. Wood replied that he would be glad to oblige. On April 3, 1882, Mark sent the manuscript:
"I enclose the original of 1603 [sic] as you suggest. I am afraid there are errors in it, also, heedlessness in antiquated spelling—e's stuck on often at end of words where they are not strictly necessary, etc..... I would go through the manuscript but I am too much driven just now, and it is not important anyway. I wish you would do me the kindness to make any and all corrections that suggest themselves to you.
"S. L. Clemens."
Charles Erskine Scott Wood recalled in a foreword, which he wrote for the limited edition of 1601 issued by the Grabhorn Press, how he felt when he first saw the original manuscript. "When I read it," writes Wood, "I felt that the character of it would be carried a little better by a printing which pretended to the eye that it was contemporaneous with the pretended 'conversation.'
"I wrote Mark that for literary effect I thought there should be a species of forgery, though of course there was no effort to actually deceive a scholar. Mark answered that I might do as I liked;—that his only object was to secure a number of copies, as the demand for it was becoming burdensome, but he would be very grateful for any interest I brought to the doing.
"Well, Tucker [foreman of the printing shop] and I soaked some handmade linen paper in weak coffee, put it as a wet bundle into a warm room to mildew, dried it to a dampness approved by Tucker and he printed the 'copy' on a hand press. I had special punches cut for such Elizabethan abbreviations as the a, e, o and u, when followed by m or n—and for the (commonly and stupidly pronounced ye).
"The only editing I did was as to the spelling and a few old English words introduced. The spelling, if I remember correctly, is mine, but the text is exactly as written by Mark. I wrote asking his view of making the spelling of the period and he was enthusiastic—telling me to do whatever I thought best and he was greatly pleased with the result."
Thus was printed in a de luxe edition of fifty copies the most curious masterpiece of American humor, at one of America's most dignified institutions, the United States Military Academy at West Point.
"1601 was so be-praised by the archaeological scholars of a quarter of a century ago," wrote Clemens in his letter to Charles Orr, "that I was rather inordinately vain of it. At that time it had been privately printed in several countries, among them Japan. A sumptuous edition on large paper, rough-edged, was made by Lieut. C. E. S. Wood at West Point —an edition of 50 copies—and distributed among popes and kings and such people. In England copies of that issue were worth twenty guineas when I was there six years ago, and none to be had."
FROM THE DEPTHS
Mark Twain's irreverence should not be misinterpreted: it was an irreverence which bubbled up from a deep, passionate insight into the well-springs of human nature. In 1601, as in 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,' and in 'The Mysterious Stranger,' he tore the masks off human beings and left them cringing before the public view. With the deftness of a master surgeon Clemens dealt with human emotions and delighted in exposing human nature in the raw.
The spirit and the language of the Fireside Conversation were rooted deep in Mark Twain's nature and in his life, as C. E. S. Wood, who printed 1601 at West Point, has pertinently observed,
"If I made a guess as to the intellectual ferment out of which 1601 rose I would say that Mark's intellectual structure and subconscious graining was from Anglo-Saxons as primitive as the common man of the Tudor period. He came from the banks of the Mississippi—from the flatboatmen, pilots, roustabouts, farmers and village folk of a rude, primitive people—as Lincoln did.
"He was finished in the mining camps of the West among stage drivers, gamblers and the men of '49. The simple roughness of a frontier people was in his blood and brain.
"Words vulgar and offensive to other ears were a common language to him. Anyone who ever knew Mark heard him use them freely, forcibly, picturesquely in his unrestrained conversation. Such language is forcible as all primitive words are. Refinement seems to make for weakness—or let us say a cutting edge—but the old vulgar monosyllabic words bit like the blow of a pioneer's ax—and Mark was like that. Then I think 1601 came out of Mark's instinctive humor, satire and hatred of puritanism. But there is more than this; with all its humor there is a sense of real delight in what may be called obscenity for its own sake. Whitman and the Bible are no more obscene than Nature herself—no more obscene than a manure pile, out of which come roses and cherries. Every word used in 1601 was used by our own rude pioneers as a part of their vocabulary—and no word was ever invented by man with obscene intent, but only as language to express his meaning. No act of nature is obscene in itself—but when such words and acts are dragged in for