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Roughing It in the West and Hawaii, 1861-1866

"Variegated vagabondizing"

Late in his life Clemens explained why he had gone to Nevada in 1861: "When the war broke out . . . , I had been a pilot a couple of years or more, and was receiving so sumptuous a wage that I regarded myself as a rich man. I was without occupation now; the river was closed to navigation. . . . My elder brother was appointed Secretary of the new Territory of Nevada, and as I had to pay his passage across the continent I went along with him to see if I could find something to do out there on the frontier." In Roughing It (1872) he wrote, "I envied my brother. . . . Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and maybe get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time."

Receipt for overland stagecoach fare
25 July 1861
The Clemens brothers traveled by steamboat up the Missouri River to St. Joseph, where they boarded an overland stagecoach bound for Carson City, Nevada. Although this receipt for their stagecoach fare, issued by the Central Overland and Pike's Peak Express Company, was made out to Orion, it was Samuel who provided the funds. The initial $300 payment was to be supplemented by an additional $100 within thirty days, for a total fare of $200 each. The stagecoach was drawn by six horses, which were changed every ten miles at stations along the route. The trip from St. Joseph to Carson City was about 1700 miles, and took twenty days of nearly continuous travel. The passengers slept in the coach, stopping only for meals and an occasional brief rest. Clemens recalled in Roughing It, "Even at this day it thrills me through and through to think of the life, the gladness, and the wild sense of freedom that used to make the blood dance in my veins on those fine overland mornings!"
Orion Clemens describes the journey
8 and 9 September 1861
Orion kept a journal during the stagecoach trip, and copied it into a letter to his wife, Mollie, who had remained behind in Keokuk, Iowa. In 1870 and 1871, while writing Roughing It, Samuel used Orion's actual journal (now lost) to help him recall the details of the trip, to which he devoted the first twenty-one chapters. The letter is cross-written, to conserve paper.
Thursday, Aug. 1. . . . About midnight, at a station we stopped at to change horses, a dispute arose between our conductor and four drivers who were at the Station. The conductor came to me for a pistol, but before I could hand it to him, one of the men came up and commenced cursing him. Another then came up and knocked the conductor down, cutting a bad gash in his upper lip, and telling him he would have killed him then if he had had his boots on, and would have killed him then if he reported him. I had not heard the fuss before the pistol was called for, and supposed it was for the Indians, who, it was said, would be dangerous along this part of the road. The four drivers were drunk.
Note from Clemens to the postmaster
27 April 1867
Clemens's humorous note to the "Postmaster" on this 1867 letter from New York to the poet Charles Warren Stoddard recalls his encounters with Indians on the overland stage route six years earlier.

"The d—dest country under the sun"

Deeds for mining claims; a stock certificate
1861, 1863
Nevada was in the grip of "silver fever," and Clemens was soon "inoculated with the disease." In early September he traveled to the Esmeralda Mining District, where he purchased fifty feet in the Black Warrior ledge. This investment cost $500, but he undoubtedly made only a small advance payment, perhaps in return for labor on the ledge. The other deed, dated 16 November 1861, is in Orion's handwriting, and records the brothers' purchase of twenty feet in the Farnum Lode, in the Van Horn Mining District, for $200. The stock certificate, for five shares in the Sonora Silver Mining Company, is made out to "S. Clements" and dated 1 August 1863. So far as is known, none of these investments proved profitable.

San Francisco
"Heaven on the half shell"

Clemens writes home about San Francisco
4 June and 18 July 1863
Clemens stayed at the Occidental Hotel at Bush and Montgomery streets (and later at the nearby but more opulent Lick House), dined at fine restaurants, attended the opera and the theater, and moved in the best society. In these two letters he describes his enjoyment of the city and reassures his mother and sister that such high living has not corrupted his morals.
My visit to San F is gradually drawing to a close, and it seems like going back to prison to go back to the snows & deserts of Washoe, after living in this Paradise. . . . I have lived like a lord—to make up for two years of privation, you know.

.   .   .   .

I never gamble, in any shape or manner, and never drink anything stronger than claret or lager beer, which conduct is regarded as miraculously temperate in this country.
Photographs of the Occidental Hotel and Lick House dining room
San Francisco, 1860s, 1871
"To a Christian who has toiled months and months in Washoe . . . . verily the Occidental Hotel is Heaven on the half shell," Clemens told his Enterprise readers. Writing to his mother and sister in June 1863 he boasted, "When I invite Rice to the Lick House to dinner, the proprietors send us champaign and claret, and then we do put on the most disgusting airs."

After a pleasant vacation from his duties Clemens returned to Virginia City. But by May 1864 he was ready for a complete change, and he moved to San Francisco, where he was hired as the local reporter for the Morning Call for forty dollars a week. He worked long hours on this job—"an awful slavery for a lazy man"—until October, when he "neglected [his] duties and became about worthless," and was given "an opportunity to resign."

Notebook entry about the "Jumping Frog" story
February 1865
In early December 1864 Clemens went to Jackass Hill to stay with friends who were pocket mining for gold. For several weeks in January and February, Clemens and his companions stayed at nearby Angel's Camp, in Calaveras County. Confined indoors by the continuous winter rain, they listened to miners and other residents telling tales from the local folklore. Clemens recorded several of these in his notebook, which later became the source of much material for literary works that span his career. The first note he used is shown here.
Coleman with his jumping frog—bet stranger $50—stranger had no frog, & C got him one—in the meantime stranger filled C's frog full of shot & he couldn't jump—the stranger's frog won.
[Written in blue ink across the preceding passage:]
Wrote this story for Artemus—his idiot publisher, Carleton gave it to Clapp's Saturday Press.
Clemens writes home about the "Jumping Frog" story
20 January 1866 [misdated 1865]
Artemus Ward, a well-known humorist, asked Clemens for a contribution to his forthcoming book, to be issued in New York by George Carleton. Clemens wrote "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" and sent it east, but it arrived too late to be included in the book. Carleton forwarded it to the editor of the New York Saturday Press, where it was published in November 1865. The sketch "set all New York in a roar," but Clemens himself was ambivalent about it. Although here he calls it "a villainous backwoods sketch," in early 1867 he included it as the title sketch of his first book. Then less than two years later he told his fiancée, "Don't read a word in that Jumping Frog book, Livy—don't. I hate to hear that infamous volume mentioned." In December 1869, however, he confided to her that he thought it "the best humorous sketch America has produced yet."

For much of 1865, Clemens earned a meager income from occasional newspaper letters and sketches. He recalled in Roughing It, "When my credit was about exhausted, . . . I was created San Francisco correspondent of the Enterprise, and at the end of five months I was out of debt, but my interest in my work was gone. . . . I wanted another change. The vagabond instinct was strong upon me. Fortune favored and I got a new berth and a delightful one. It was to go down to the Sandwich Islands and write some letters for the Sacramento Union."

"The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean"

Notebook entries about the Sandwich Islands
July 1866
Clemens kept copious notes on his experiences and observations in the islands, which he used for preparing his travel letters to the Union. Here he records a "Honolulu joke by Ed. Burlingame" (the son of Anson Burlingame, the U.S. minister to China): "If a man ask thee to go with him a mile, go with him, Twain." Clemens was at first delighted with this joke—a pun on Matthew 5:41, "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain"—and for a time used it in his lectures, but its constant repetition in the newspapers ultimately made him loathe it.

Clemens's letters for the Union were widely read: "I returned to California to find myself about the best-known honest man on the Pacific coast. Thomas McGuire [Maguire], proprietor of several theaters, said that now was the time to make my fortune—strike while the iron was hot—break into the lecture field! I did it. I announced a lecture on the Sandwich Islands, closing the advertisement with the remark: 'Admission one dollar; doors open at half past seven, the trouble begins at eight.' "

Sandwich Islands lecture notes
September-October 1866
Clemens's lecture on the Sandwich Islands, which he first delivered in San Francisco on 2 October 1866, was a rousing success. Over the next seven years he gave one or another version of it nearly a hundred times throughout the United States and in England. Although no complete manuscript of any version survives, among the Mark Twain Papers are nearly ninety pages of working notes, partial drafts, and fair copies. Shown here is the first page of an early version. At the top left Clemens noted, "85 pages—1 hour." Between the lines are revisions and additions in pencil.
Purchased from the Margaret I. and Augusta M. Higginson Fund in 1994 in honor of Willis S. Slusser upon his retirement as a member of the Council of The Friends of The Bancroft Library.

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