“A Pen Warmed-Up in Hell”

Well, my book is written—let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn’t be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can’t ever be said. And besides, they would require a library—and a pen warmed-up in hell.

— Letter to William Dean Howells, 22 Sept 1889

Thoughts and ideas did burn in Mark Twain. He expressed his views about society and his attitudes towards civilization and humanity throughout his work. He lent his name in support of many causes and wrote extensively on a number of social issues, including: race relations and prejudice, colonialism and imperialism, patriotism and war, politics, religion, anti-vivisectionist causes, and women’s suffrage. He was a keen observer, and a wise and satirical commentator.

Samuel Clemens was a man of many thoughts—frequently offering contradictory or inconsistent opinions that evolved over time. First he was enthusiastically in favor of the Spanish-American War, and then he was vehemently opposed to the American imperialism it represented. He criticized the greed and hypocrisy of the wealthy in The Gilded Age and elsewhere, yet he could also fantasize about the acquisition of sudden wealth in stories like “The 1,000,000 Bank-Note.”

Though he became less of a humorist and more of a pessimist as he aged, Mark Twain also continued to voice strong opinions against cruelty and social injustice until the end of his life.

Mark Twain. A Curious Dream and Other Sketches. Selected and revised by the author. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1872.
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The story “A Curious Dream” was first published in the Buffalo Express—the newspaper co-owned and edited by Clemens from August 1869 to January 1871—as a social satire written to expose the neglect of local cemeteries. Mark Twain’s sketch shamed Buffalo citizens into making improvements and inspired national reform movements. This British edition is an example of a Victorian Yellowback, the inexpensive and highly commercial paperback editions of popular books sold in railway station bookstalls.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Christian Science: With Notes Containing Corrections to Date. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1907.
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Largely a synthesis of the articles he published in The Cosmopolitan on this topic, Mark Twain delivered a humorous, but scathing, attack on the then new and rapidly growing Christian Science religion and its founder, Mary Baker Eddy. He opposed what he perceived as Eddy’s duplicity and the negative influence the popular religion might have on American politics.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. King Leopold’s Soliloquy. Boston: P. R. Warren Company, 1906.
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King Leopold II of Belgium was given rule over the “Free State of Congo” in 1885 by the Berlin Conference. By 1905, his abuse of the native population had attracted wide protest. Mark Twain wrote this satire at the behest of Edmund Dene Morel, head of the British Congo Reform Association. He declined any pecuniary return from this work and remained heavily involved in Congo reform for the next two years.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Europe and Elsewhere. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1923. First edition.
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A collection of thirty-five previously uncollected or unpublished sketches written between 1872 and 1908, Europe and Elsewhere included Mark Twain’s famous sketch “The War Prayer,” an indictment of war that took particular aim at patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war. Written in March 1905, it was left unpublished after it was declined by Harper’s Bazaar.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. To the Person Sitting in Darkness and Concerning the Rev. Mr. Ament. Privately printed, 1926.
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Originally published in the North American Review in February 1901, this essay reflects Mark Twain’s anti-imperialist views and his bitter opposition to American foreign policy in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. The title is an ironic reference to Matthew 4:16—“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. A Dog’s Tale. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1904. First American edition.
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Written largely to please his daughter Jean, who supported anti-vivisectionist causes, this story was the last piece of writing that Mark Twain would complete at Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. A Horse’s Tale. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1907. First edition. Presentation copy inscribed by Twain: “Dear Miss Edith—It isn’t a case of forgetting, but only of procrastination. Sincerely yours, M. T. April 21/08.”
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A Horse’s Tale was written for the benefit of Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske, an actress and animal rights activist. Mrs. Fiske had written to Clemens after reading A Dog’s Tale, urging him to do something to save the horses that were killed during bull fights.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. What Is Man? New York: De Vinne Press, 1906. First edition. Numbered 122 out of an edition of 250 copies.
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In 1906 Clemens had What Is Man? printed privately and anonymously. The work received very little attention until just after Clemens’s death when the New York Tribune published a feature article about the work.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. London: Chatto & Windus, 1900. Inscribed “To Lady Stanley, with the Kindest regards of the Author, London, August 24/00.”
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First published in Harper’s Magazine in December 1899, this collection of stories and essays reveals a turn towards more pessimistic views characteristic of Mark Twain’s later writings. This copy is inscribed to Lady Stanley, the wife of British explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley. Clemens and Stanley had crossed paths professionally and socially since 1867. In 1897, London’s Savage Club elected Clemens, Stanley, and the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) as honorary lifetime members.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1906. First edition. Presentation copy inscribed by author: “To Mrs. William R. Coe a Merry Christmas! December 25, 1906.” Includes the following quotation: “Taking the pledge will not make bad liquor good, but it will improve it. M. T.”
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The last miscellany published in his lifetime, The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories is a collection of thirty-eight stories spanning his career, from “Advice to Little Girls” written in 1865 to the title story in 1904.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. The 1,000,000 Bank-Note. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1917. First separate edition.
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Written in 1892 as Clemens struggled to escape financial ruin, the story was first published in Century magazine in January 1893. The million-pound note—representing wealth that cannot be spent—evokes a hopeful fantasy at a time when Clemens was having difficulty securing credit to save his publishing company and protect his Paige typesetter investments.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

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