James Burton Pond Collection: Twain Letter


Mark Twain to William Dean Howells


Wellington Court, Knightsbridge, London
Jan 25, 1900

Dear Howells,
   If you got half as much as Pond prophesied, be content and praise God--it has not happened to another. But I am sorry he didn't go with you, for it is marvelous to hear him yarn. He is good company, cheery and hearty, and his mill is never idle. Your doing a lecture tour was heroic. It was the highest order of grit and you have a right to be proud of yourself. No amount of applause or money or both could save it from being a hell to a man constituted as you are. It is that even to me, who am made of courser stuff.
   I knew the audiences would come forward and shake hands with you--that one infallible sign of sincere approval. In all my life, wherever it failed me I left the hall sick and ashamed, knowing what it meant.
   Privately speaking, this is a sordid and criminal war, and in every way shameful and excuseless. Every day I write (in my head) bitter magazine articles about it but I have to stop with that. For England must not fall. It would mean an inundation of Russian and German political degradations which would envelop the globe and steep it in a sort of Middle Age night and slavery which would last till Christ comes again. Even wrong--and she is wrong--England must be upheld. He is an enemy of the human race who shall speak against her now.
   Why was the human race created? Or at least why wasn't something creditable created in place of it? God had his opportunity. He could have made a reputation. But no, He must commit this grotesque folly--a lark which must have cost him a regret or two when He came to think it over and observe effects. For a giddy and unbecoming caprice there has been nothing like it till this war. I talk the war with both sides--always waiting until the other man introduces the topic. Then I say, "My head is with the Briton but my heart such rags of morals as I have are with the Boer--now we will talk, unembrrassed and without prejudice." And so we discuss, and have no trouble.

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