Description

    Inscribed by Mark Twain
    Verifying a Case of "Mental Telegraphy"

    [Mark Twain]. William Wright as "Dan De Quille". History of the Big Bonanza. An Authentic Account of the Discovery, History, and Working of the World Renowned Comstock Silver Lode of Nevada. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1877. Unknown previous owner's inquiry for Samuel Clemens written on the front free endpaper: "Is there any truth in / the newspaper story / that you planned / this book for the / author before you / knew he had written / it?" With Samuel Clemens's response written beneath in ink holograph: "Yes, it is true, / Mark Twain." "Introductory" by Mark Twain. Octavo. Frontispiece, numerous plates and in-text illustrations. Publisher's blue gray cloth with gilt titles on spine. Spine color faded, boards lightly rubbed and soiled, spine ends bumped. Hinges cracked, small bookplate and bookseller's pencil notes on front pastedown, front endpaper discolorations, few pages with light edge wear, creases, and small corner bends. Housed in a quarter blue morocco, clam shell book box with five raised bands and gilt lettered leather title label on its spine. Very good. From the collection of Donald Carter.

    More Information:

    The inscriptions in the book refer to a fascinating case of what Clemens would term "mental telegraphy." Wherein he had the idea that his friend William Wright (a fellow writer and editor from the Virginia City, Nevada newspaper Territorial Enterprise) should compose a book about the history of the Comstock Silver Lode. Clemens prepared to dispatch the letter with his suggestions, when he received a request for advice from Wright about how to publish the same book Twain was about to suggest.

    In a letter to William Wright (writing as "Dan De Quille") dated 29 March 1875, Clemens wrote:

    "Dear Dan-

    Wonders never will cease. When the postman came this morning I recognized your handwriting [& ]said to my wife, "Now you shall see that human sympathies can stretch their influences further across a continent (with unbroken force), than the telegraphic spark can. (The spark must be repeated midway). I will tell you the contents of this letter without breaking the seal; & yet I have held no communication with this friend in eleven years. This letter will ask advice & information of me about publishing a book concerning the Comstock [load], one feature of which shall be a chapter or two about the Big Bonanza. The reason this letter has been written, is, that less than five days ago, I wrote to Dan suggesting that he write this very book! My mind suggested it to his mind, for my letter to him has not been mailed, yet because I have also written my publisher & am [waiting] for his answer before I start Dan on a book which may possibly not be wanted.

    "[Then] I broke the seal & read passages to her which showed that I had correctly stated what the contents would be.

    "Next I went & got my own letter out of the pigeon-hole & surprise No. 2 came! to wit: Your letter to me was dated March 22; mine to you was dated March 24-two days later. So it was your mesmeric current that had flowed across the mountains & deserts three thousand miles & acted upon me, instead of mine flowing westward & acting upon [ you. So ] you were the originator of the idea. Now as I dropped my work & began to act on the very instant that the notion occurred to me, (that [is], on the very day, possibly the very moment you were writing me-for I called the carriage & went down to my publishers on the 22d, & again on the 23d, & then wrote you on the 24th (because I despaired of catching the publisher in) three things are plainly established-namely:

    "1st Mesmeric sympathies can flash themselves 3000 miles within the space of 12 hours-possibly instantly. (What hour of the day did you write me?)

    "2d They come clear through, & don't have to be repeated at way stations between, like land telegraphy.

    "3d-They travel from west to east, not from east to west.

    "However, this point on No. 3 is not well taken, because there isn't any proof that they don't travel westwardly upon occasion.

    "I mean to get my letter from Bliss, so you can see by the postmark that I did write him on the 24th & am not now stacking up a fanciful lie for you.

    "Keep this present letter of mine. Maybe we can utilize it in some [way."

     

    ( SLC to William Wright (Dan De Quille), 29 March and 4 Apr 1875, Hartford, Conn. (UCCL 11611). <http://www.marktwainproject.org/xtf/view?docId=letters/UCCL11611.xml;style=letter;brand=mtp>)



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